LT On-line: Lesson 161 Jul, 2001 By: Mark Middlebrook
A Plotting Primer
Page 1: Plotting primer
Despite the increasing
number of offices with a computer (or two) on every desk, many people
still want to work with printed drawings. This month we begin a series
of lessons that will help you tame the plotting beast in AutoCAD LT (and
in AutoCAD). The procedures described here work with AutoCAD LT 2002 and
2000 (including 2000i), as well as with the corresponding AutoCAD versions.
A word on terminology:
Plotting originally meant creating hard-copy output on a device that was
capable of printing on larger sheets, such as D-size or E-size, that measure
several feet on a side. Printing meant creating hard-copy output on ordinary
printers-dot matrix or laser, in those days-that used ordinary sized paper,
such as A-size (letter-size, 8.50 x 110) or B-size (ledger-size, 110 x
170). These days plotting and printing are two words for the same procedure
Now that you have
the lingo down, you must face the unfortunate fact that plotting an AutoCAD
drawing is considerably more complicated than printing a word processing
document or spreadsheet. CAD has a larger range of plotters and printers,
drawing types, and output procedures than other computer applications.
AutoCAD LT tries to help you tame the vast jungle of plotting permutations,
but you'll find that you must take some time to get the lay of the land
and clear a path to your desired hard-copy output. These lessons will
help, and reading them is a lot less dangerous than swinging a machete
a major facelift-and heart and brain transplants-in AutoCAD and LT 2000.
The Plot dialog box and many plotting concepts differ completely from
earlier versions. If you were familiar with plotting in an older version,
such as AutoCAD Release 14 and earlier, or AutoCAD LT 98 and earlier,
then "everything you know is wrong," as the old Firesign Theatre
skit said. Plotting in AutoCAD LT 2000 and 2002 is more flexible, powerful,
and rational than plotting in previous versions. However, it is not simple.
Whether you're new to AutoCAD LT plotting or are struggling to understand
the changes from a previous version, this series of lessons should help.
with the system
One of the complications you face in your attempts to create hard copies is that AutoCAD LT has two distinct ways of communicating with your plotters and printers. Operating systems, and the programs that run in them, use a special piece of software called a printer driver to format data for printing and then send it to the printer or plotter. When you configure Windows to recognize a new printer connected to your computer or your network, you're installing the printer's driver. AutoCAD LT, like other Windows programs, works with the printers you've configured in Windows. AutoCAD calls these system printers because they're part of the Windows system.
But AutoCAD LT, unlike
other Windows programs, can't leave well enough alone. It turns out that
some output devices, especially some larger plotters, aren't controlled
very efficiently by Windows system printer drivers. For that reason, AutoCAD
comes with specialized nonsystem drivers (drivers not installed as part
of the Windows system) for plotters from companies such as Hewlett-Packard,
Xerox, and Océ. These drivers are kind of like nonunion workers.
They ignore the nice, tidy rules for communicating with Windows printers
in order to get things done a bit more quickly and effectively.
Windows system printer drivers usually is easiest, and they work well
with many devices-especially devices that print on smaller paper, such
as laser and inkjet printers. However, if you have a large plotter, you
may be able to get faster plotting, better plot quality, and more plot
features by installing a nonsystem driver. To find out more, choose Contents|Drivers
and Peripherals|Use Plotters and Printers in the AutoCAD 2002 online Help
Note: AutoCAD LT 2000
and 2002 have a major exception to the "nonsystem drivers give better
results than system drivers" rule. Hewlett-Packard plotters work
better with the new Windows system driver that Autodesk includes on the
AutoCAD 2002 CD. For instructions on installing the new system printer
driver, navigate to the Windows System Drivers|HP folder on the CD, choose
the subfolder that corresponds to your language and operating system,
and read the README.TXT file contained therein.
For now, you should make sure AutoCAD LT recognizes the devices you want to use for plotting. Here's how:
AutoCAD LT and open an existing drawing or start a new, blank drawing.
Tools|Options to open the Options dialog box, then click the Plotting
3. Click the drop-down arrow to view the list just below the Use As Default Output Device option, as shown in figure 1.
|Figure 1. Plotting options in AutoCAD LT.|
that the list includes two kinds of devices designated by two tiny icons
to the left of the device names. A little laser printer icon, with a sheet
of white paper coming out the top, indicates a Windows system printer
configuration. A little plotter icon, with a piece of paper coming out
the front, indicates a nonsystem (that is, AutoCAD-specific) configuration.
The nonsystem configuration names always end in PC3, because they're stored
in special AutoCAD Printer Configuration version 3 files.
4. Verify that the
list includes the printers and plotters that you want to have available
If it doesn't, choose
Start|Settings|Printers, launch the Add Printer wizard, and follow the
instructions. If your printer isn't in the default Windows list, cancel
the wizard and hunt down the driver disk that came with your printer,
or download the current driver from the printer manufacturer's Web site.
5. Choose the output
device that you want to make the default for new drawings.
6. Click OK to close
the dialog box and retain any changes that you made in the
If you need to create nonsystem driver configurations, use the AutoCAD 2002 Plotter Manager Add-A-Plotter wizard (from the AutoCAD LT File menu, choose Plotter Manager). This wizard is similar to the Windows Add Printer wizard, so if you can add an ordinary printer in Windows, you can probably add a nonsystem plotter configuration to AutoCAD 2000. When you complete the wizard steps, AutoCAD saves the information in a PC3 file. The wizard can import some settings from older AutoCAD R14/LT 98 PC2 (version 2) and AutoCAD R12/LT 95 PCP (version 1) files.
A Plotting Primer
Page 1: Plotting primer
Page 2: A simple plot
Autodesk Technical Evangelist Lynn Allen guides you through a different AutoCAD feature in every edition of her popular "Circles and Lines" tutorial series. For even more AutoCAD how-to, check out Lynn's quick tips in the Cadalyst Video Gallery. Subscribe to Cadalyst's Tips & Tricks Tuesdays free e-newsletter and we'll notify you every time a new video tip is available. All exclusively from Cadalyst!
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