Cheat Sheets

24 Feb, 2010 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager's Toolbox: Paper-based lists can do more than provide a handy reminder at the grocery store — they can give your users quick access to frequently used information.

Do you sometimes scribble down information on a notepad so you can refer to it while you're on the phone? Ever make a handwritten grocery list and shove it in your pocket so you won't forget the pasta sauce? Of course you have; we all use "cheat sheets" to remember things.

My thinking is that if cheat sheets come in handy in daily life, they should work really well in the office for your CAD users, too — despite the fact that in this computer age, paper lists are frowned upon. Admittedly, what I'm giving you here is more a tip than a tool, but it is nonetheless a helpful aid you can leverage in your day-to-day CAD management environment.

Creating a Cheat Sheet

I typically create my cheat sheets in Microsoft Word, simply because it is so easy to control the size and fonts, but I've heard some people swear that it's easier to align columns when using Excel. I'll let you decide which tool to use, based on your own preferences. Here's the recipe for what comes next.

Add content: Now add the information you want to include in your cheat sheet. Perhaps you'd like to list current projects and which detail libraries to use, along with pertinent network paths. Maybe you'd like to publish a list of common annotation scaling factors for text and detail bubbles. Questions and confusion could certainly be reduced if you listed the names of common network printing devices, right? Whatever the information may be, start typing it in.

Format: Now format your cheat sheet so it is small, yet readable. I really like making cheat sheets tall and skinny so they can be taped onto the sides of users' monitors. Some CAD managers like to create a single sheet with every conceivable piece of information to sit on the user's desks or bulletin boards. Choose the format that works for your office environment.

Print and laminate: Now print the cheat sheets out and get them laminated with clear plastic. You can purchase your own laminating machine, or go to a nearby office store to have it done at a reasonable cost. Laminating makes the cheat sheet permanent, so it won't be quickly discarded or become frayed with use.

Revise: After you create your first cheat sheet, keep track of any questions you're asked often, and include the answers to those questions in the next version. After all, isn't it easier to revise a cheat sheet than to repeatedly answer the same question verbally?

At every place I've worked, I've tried to create cheat sheets to answer common user questions. In almost all cases, users liked having the cheat sheets, and even told me what to include in the next version! Try it — I bet cheat sheets will work for you too.

Do you have a helpful tip or item for the CAD Manager's Newsletter? Send it to me at If I use your tip in the newsletter, you'll receive a cool Cadalyst prize!

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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