Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 12, No. 20)

4 Jun, 2007

What's New at

Cadalyst Introduces CAD Video Gallery
Visit Cadalyst's new CAD Video Gallery for exclusive CAD software tips, how-to's and more! Now playing: Autodesk Inventor 2008 highlights. Coming in late June: AutoCAD tips and tricks with Lynn Allen.

Cadalyst Announces Latest All-Star Awards Winners
Cadalyst All-Star Awards honor the best of the best -- the most outstanding among all software and hardware products that earned Highly Recommended ratings from Cadalyst Labs over the past six months, as published in Cadalyst magazine and Cadalyst Daily e-newsletter. Check out the June 2007 winners now live online!

Cadalyst June Print Content Now Live Online
A fresh batch of Cadalyst Labs reviews, CAD Central news, Cadalyst exclusive columns and much more is ready to view on

Cadalyst's Exclusive AutoCAD Tutorials for June Now Live Online
The latest editions of all your favorite AutoCAD tutorials, including Steve Johnson's "Bug Watch," Lynn Allen's "Circles and Lines" and Bill Fane's "Learning Curve" are now available on

New Quick Poll: Are You Experienced?
The latest Cadalyst Quick Poll is live online. This month, we want to know how many years' experience you have using CAD software. Take the poll (go to any page of and scroll down to find the Quick Poll in the margin), then check out how you compare with your CAD peers in "Cadfidential" in the July edition of Cadalyst magazine.

Cadalyst Daily Update
For all the latest news and new products and updates about the newest features on, subscribe to the Cadalyst Daily e-newsletter. Plus, every Monday we bring you a full-length feature article you won't find anywhere else -- hardware and CAD software reviews, success stories, interviews, event reports, AutoCAD tips and more! Here's a sample of what you missed recently:


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This Week's Software Tips

Send us your tip, code or shortcut for your favorite CAD software. If we publish your tip, we'll send you a Cadalyst t-shirt, and each month Cadalyst editors will randomly select one published tip and award a $100 gift card to its author. Please submit only code and other tips that are your original work (or provide the original source so we can include proper credit) and tell us which software version you use. By submitting any tip or code, you grant Cadalyst the right to print and distribute that tip or code in print, digitally and by other means. Cadalyst and individual authors retain all rights to the code; published code is not to be used for commercial purposes.

Toggle Dashboard
Frequent tipster Leonid Nemirovsky (who tells us his AutoLISP Web site is celebrating its tenth birthday!) offers this small but excellent tip that should work in AutoCAD 2008.

"To save space on the desktop, create the Toggle for Dashboard command. Type CUI at the Command prompt, locate the Dashboard command and drag it to Keyboard Shortcuts / Shortcut Keys section, assign it a shortcut key from the Properties window under Access. It's as simple as that. I usually assign NUMPAD keys to extra commands like this because I don't use NUMPAD for inserting numbers. By doing this, it only takes one keystroke to toggle the Dashboard on and off."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Both Patrollers give this tip a big thumbs-up. One adds that it is particularly useful if you customize your interface. "Keep track of your changes and document what you have done, how you have done it and how to repeat the process at a later date if necessary."

Sheet Set Tips
Leonid Nemirovsky also offers a couple of handy sheet set tips that he's using in AutoCAD 2008:

Tip 1. If you use a drawing layout in a sheet set, you can't use it in another sheet set. Normally, to use it in another sheet set, you must remove it from the previous one, which isn't very convenient. However, there is a way around it! In the drawing, create a copy of the desired layout. Right-click on the layout, select Move or Copy, check the Create a Copy box and click OK. Now you can use Layout Copy in another sheet set.

Tip 2. Once you create and name a sheet set, there are several cool things you can accomplish. To begin, let's name a new, blank sheet set MYSHEETSET, open it and highlight the name. Right-click and select Properties. In the Sheet Set Properties dialog box, you can set Project Number, Project Name, Project Phase and Project Milestone. If you need more information, click the Edit Custom Properties button and add more.

Now you can insert fields in the title block where appropriate instead of regular text, or replace some of the attributes (in the Field dialog box, select All and find SheetSet under Field names). Then, use it for your drawings as usual.

When done, add drawings to the sheet set. If a project number changes down the road or the project phase changes from A to B, update these properties in the Sheet Set Properties dialog box and resave the sheet layouts. All the drawings will update accordingly.

Len credits David Allison for helping him figure out all the details.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: The tips passed muster with our Patrollers, one of whom comments, "Sheet sets are relatively new. I haven't used them to their full potential only because I still work with architectural firms that aren't investing time in changing their well-established standards of producing construction documents."

Attach Details to Site Plans
Paul Dempsey, who uses AutoCAD Architectural Desktop 2006 and Architecture 2008, offers this tip. "I've found 'FIELDs to be an awesome use of already available information from OBJECTIDs. But I couldn't automate the process with LISP, until I came across the following.

"I developed the following code after reading an article by Lee Ambrosius in AUGI World's September/October 2006 issue. So, thanks Lee, for the inspiration. Also note that all these measurements and settings are metric.

"This code attaches angle and length information to site plan boundaries, solving the problem of manually typing and rotating text to match linework, especially in big complex sites."

;; Survey line information using Field function
(defun c:Surv1 ( / ent strField objID)
;; Select a line
(setq ent (entsel "\n Select Line..."))
(princ "")
(setq ent (car ent)
ent1 (entget ent))
;; Obtain the object Id from the selected entity
(setq objID (vla-get-objectid (vlax-ename->vla-object ent)))
;; Create the Field expression
(setq strField
(strcat "%<\\AcObjProp Object(%<\\_ObjId "(rtos objID 2 0)">%).Length \\f \"%.30q0%zs8\">%"" ""%<\\AcObjProp Object(%<\\_ObjId "(rtos objID 2 0)">%).Angle \\f \"%au1\">%")
;; Use the -MTEXT command to create a single line text object with
;; Field expression
(setq SC (getvar "DIMSCALE"))
(setq HT (* SC 2.5))
(setq PT1 (getpoint "\nPick Text location... ")
E1 (cdr (assoc 10 ent1))
E2 (cdr (assoc 11 ent1))
ANG1 (angle E1 E2)
DEG (atof (angtos ANG1 0 2))
PT2 (polar PT1 ANG1 (* HT 10))
(command "_mtext" PT1 "H" HT "R" DEG PT2 strField "")
;; Exit quietly

"If you have created file libraries of styles using member names, such as 310UB40 (W12x27), this is additional code for inserting AEC member names when labeling elements. I use it for structural plans and the like, so that if a member is amended at any stage, the labeled text is automatically updated. It's a great way to avoid errors."

;; Structural Member Text Field
(defun c:STRF ( / ent strField objID)
;; Select a structural member
(setq ent (entsel "\n Select Member..."))
(princ "")
(setq ent (car ent))
;; Obtain the object Id from the selected entity
(setq objID (vla-get-objectid (vlax-ename->vla-object ent)))
;; Create the Field expression
(setq strField
(strcat "%<\\AcObjProp Object(%<\\_ObjId "(rtos objID 2 0)">%).StyleName>%")
;; Use the -MTEXT command to create a single line text object with
;; Field expression
(defun RTD (nbrOfRadians)
(* 180.0 (/ nbrOfRadians pi))
(setq SC (getvar "DIMSCALE"))
(setq HT (* SC 3.5))
(setq PT1 (getpoint "\nPick Text location... ")
PT2 (getpoint PT1 "\nPick Text Angle...")
ANG1 (RTD (angle PT1 PT2))
D1 (distance PT1 PT2)
PT3 (polar PT1 ANG1 D1)
(command "_mtext" PT1 "H" HT "J" "ML" "R" ANG1 PT3 strField "")
;; Exit quietly


NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Paul's code worked as described for the Tip Patrol. One Patroller offers this feedback: "The first LISP code works as described, although there are some global variables that should be declared local. As a general note, you can get the complex field syntax by creating a field. When you set the parameters to your liking, don't press OK in the dialog box right away, but look in the lower part of it. As an example, this code would create a field that prints the color of a line:

%<\AcObjProp Object(%<\_ObjId 2130318456>%).TrueColor \f "%tc2">%

"Of course, as shown in the code above, you have to insert the ObjectID of the object in question programmatically." The second LISP code also works, the Patroller reports, but he couldn't produce a valid result because he doesn't have an Architectural Desktop drawing with member objects.

Correction: Explore to Drawing Folder
In the follow-up note concerning jumping to a drawing folder in the May 21 edition, the system variable should have been specified as REMEMBERFOLDERS. The final "S" makes a difference. We apologize for any confusion.

MicroStation Tip: Converting a Complex Chain to a Single Element
Question: Is there a way to convert a complex chain to a single element?

Answer: If the complex element doesn't contain any arcs, convert it to a shape using the Modify Element tool. Ensure that the Smartline Modification settings are set to minimize the number of linear elements, then snap the same vertex twice. Then reset so the element is not altered in appearance.

Axiom offers many MicroStation Tips on its Web site.

Tips & Tools Weekly software tips for AutoCAD are reviewed by Cadalyst staff and the Tip Patrol before publication. Use all tips at your own discretion, please, and watch later editions of this newsletter for updates and corrections. We're sorry, but editors and Tip Patrol members cannot provide assistance with technical problems; please refer to Cadalyst's Hot Tip Harry-Help discussion forum.

Sincere thanks to our volunteer Tip Patrol members: Brian Benton, Don Boyer, Mitchell Hirschklau, R.K. McSwain, Don Reichle, Kevin Sawyer, Ivanhoe Tejeda and Billy Wooten.

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Deals & Freebies

Free Report Touts Visualization in PCB Process
Cimmetry Systems announced the release of a Cimmetry-sponsored research report by Aberdeen Group that highlights the importance of implementing enterprise visualization capabilities in printed circuit board (PCB) design. Titled Printed Circuit Board Design Integrity -- The Key to Successful PCB Development, the report states that best-in-class manufacturers are twice as likely to incorporate electronic design document viewing and collaboration capabilities into the printed circuit board design process.

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Opportunities & Honors

SolidWorks Honors Student Designers
SolidWorks Corporation named an international slate of winners in its inaugural World Design Contest for students and professors. As in the professional version of the World Design Contest, prizes in the academic competition were awarded in three categories: models, photorealistic images and animations. To view all the winning designs, visit the winner's gallery on the SolidWorks Web site.

Randal E. Bryant Receives IEEE Award
The IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) has named Randal E. Bryant, University Professor and Dean of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, as the recipient of its 2007 Emanuel R. Piore Award in recognition of his seminal contributions to the simulation and verification of electronic systems. The award recognizes outstanding contributions in the field of information processing as they relate to computer science. The award will be presented to Dr. Bryant at the 44th ACM/IEEE Design Automation Conference in San Diego on June 5, 2007.

Daratech Updates GIS Market Study
Daratech is asking geospatial professionals to participate in its GIS/Geospatial Markets and Opportunities Study for 2007. The report will describe the structure, size and scope of the industry and will provide information about existing and emerging markets and marketing strategies of the leading vendors. To participate in the study, contact Marcin Lella at 617.354.2339, ext. 2408;

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Books & Training

Revit Architecture 2008 Workbook
ProSoft released its Revit Architecture 2008 Fundamentals Exercise Workbook ($99), which provides an introduction to Autodesk Revit Architecture 2008 design software. The courseware takes readers through a realistic workflow to design and model an office building and is reportedly appropriate as a self-training tool or for a three-day instructor-led training class.

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

General Software: Acrobat 3D Version 8
New Adobe release enables users to convert 3D CAD files -- including large assemblies of more than 500MB -- into a PDF document. Read more

General Software: Astoria On-Demand
SaaS-Based data management tool can support internal and external customer requirements for technical information reuse and maintainability.  Read more

General Software: TurboCAD Professional 14
Software from IMSI/Design supports architectural and mechanical CAD.  Read more

General Software: TrueView 2008
Autodesk product translates a single or a batch set of drawings for any AutoCAD or AutoCAD-based drawing file format. Read more

Visualization: Stitcher Unlimited 5.6
Latest update from REALVIZ adds Mac Universal Binary and HDR compatibility.
Read more

Visualization: AC3D 6.2
Inivis product supports 3D navigation and export to Google Earth.  Read more

Visualization: trueSpace 7.5, V-Ray 1.5
Caligari offers 3D modeling, rendering and animation software at pre-release pricing through June 8.  Read more

 AEC: JetStream Version 5.4
NavisWorks Software for 3D building, plant and marine design review features Autodesk 2008 compatibility. Read more

Interface from Cadcorp and Steria provides police access to Cadcorp SIS digital mapping and GIS information. Read more

CAE: Simulation Option for Knights Camelot CAD Navigation
Magma's PVC Checker simulates SEM voltage contrast inspection to speed failure analysis of device circuitry. Read more

 CAE: Direct Coupling Interface
Dassault Systemes' SIMULIA platform allows users to communicate third-party physics codes directly with Abaqus FEA software for multiphysics simulation. Read more

CAM: NX CAM Express 5
UGS PLM CAD-neutral NC programming application features Free Flow Machining technology. Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

eSeminar: Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional for AEC Professionals
June 6, 2007
10 a.m. PT
This 2-hour overview will cover the following 4 topics, exclusively for AEC professionals: creating interactive digital forms, attaching forms to database workflows, using optical character recognition, and protect design and confidential information. Read more

Shoe and Conceptual Design Seminar
June 6, 2007
Boston, Massachusetts
IDSA (Industrial Designers Society of America) Boston Chapter and Luxology will sponsor this evening seminar featuring Luxology's Learning Tools Division manager, Andy Brown. The session will include extensive use of modo 3D modeling, painting and rendering software. Read more

CAD Triple Play -- An Afternoon of Baseball and CAD
June 20, 2007
Schaumburg, Illinois
Graphics Systems will sponsor the first annual CAD Triple Play Event. Held at Alexian Field, the event will offer free seminars on SolidWorks, COSMOSWorks and DriveWorks. Following the seminars, attendees are invited to a free tailgate party and picnic, and then to attend the baseball game between the Schaumburg Flyers and the Joliet Jackhammers. Read more

Dassault Systemes DEVCON Conference
June 26-27, 2007
Paris , France
“Reach New Frontiers” is the theme of this year’s DEVCON, the Dassault Systemes Developer Conference. Participants will learn about DS’s latest key technology advancements and breakthroughs and receive PLM implementation and methodology tips to accompany PLM Business Transformation and deployments. Read more

Material World New York
September 25-27, 2007
New York, New York
This official event of the American Apparel & Footwear Association marks the third edition of Material World New York. Eco-Friendly, Performance, Product Lifecycle Management and Design Technology categories will be emphasized with dedicated educational programming, special promotions and new product resources. Read more

DELMIA 2007 Customer Conference
October 3-4, 2007
Dearborn, Michigan
"Manufacturing in Motion" is the theme of Dassault Systemes' 2007 DELMIA Worldwide Customer Conferences. These annual conferences provide a forum for representatives of various industries to exchange ideas and information about the impact of digital manufacturing in product creation. The conference will also be held October 16-17, 2007 in Stuttgart, Germany, and November 7-8, 2007, in Yokohama, Japan. Read more

COMSOL Conference 2007
October 4-6, 2007
Newton, Massachusetts
At the third annual conference on multiphysics simulations, organized by COMSOL, scientists and engineers learn how multiphysics technology is being adopted for a wide span of applications in industry and academia. Keynote addresses and more than 70 user presentations will be presented by leaders in the field. Read more

COFES 2008
April 10-13, 2008
Scottsdale, Arizona
Sponsored by Cyon Research, the 9th Annual Congress on the Future of Engineering Software brings together the community of engineering software vendors, developers, resellers, analysts and users for private and public discussion in a relaxed and informal but intense atmosphere. Read more

Autodesk University
November 27-30, 2007
Las Vegas, Nevada
Autodesk University offers more than 500 learning opportunities including advanced classes, hands-on labs, business-management solutions and strategies, and more. An Exhibit Hall features cutting-edge tools and services from leading application developers and strategic partners; briefings by Autodesk executives and product managers on key business trends, product futures, and company direction; and social events. Read more

Click here to view the complete calendar of events at

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AutoCAD Tips!

Lynn Allen

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 free Tips & Tools Weekly e-newsletter and we'll notify you every time a new video tip is published. All exclusively from Cadalyst!
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