Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 13, No. 25)

7 Jul, 2008

This Week's Software Tips

Congratulations, June Winner!
Mike Parr won the June drawing for the $100 prize. Mike's tip, Move Objects Using Grips, was published in the June 2 edition. Submit Your Tip (see guidelines below) 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 send a $100 gift card to its author.

Polylines from Metes and Bounds
Mark Branin sent Metes and Bounds Polyline Input, an Excel tool he created to help create polylines in AutoCAD from metes and bounds. "If I have a printed survey or legal description, this tool saves me hours of time," Mark said. Instructions for use are included in the file.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: We love it! No need for VBA code or Excel linking. All the work is done in the Excel spreadsheet. One little modification: On cell G26 of the spreadsheet, simply hit the Enter key. Include this cell in the clipboard copy list (Crtl+C), as Mark states. When pasted in the Command line, that extra polyline won't show. For those interested, Wikipedia offers a brief synopsis of Metes and Bounds.

Mirrored Text Workaround
Glen Sinclair wrote to tell us about problems with attributes in mirrored blocks. "A mirrored block treats the attribute as text, so the Mirrtext trick works fine until you need to change the text height or style or even color. To update the text properties, you need to run the Attsync command. This will update the text fine, but if the block is mirrored, this will remind the text it is inside a block and it will come out mirrored!

"The workaround is to change the scale x value into the positive (i.e., from -1 to 1) then set the rotation back to 0. When dealing with rotation and UCSs with these blocks, I have found setting the text rotation in the Enhanced Attribute Editor back to 0 is sometimes needed. (If it's on 0, you may need to replace with 1, then change back to 0.)

NOTES FROM CADALYST: We ran this tip past Steve Johnson, author of Cadalyst's "Bug Watch" column. Steve explains, "While this behavior almost certainly isn't what you might want AutoCAD to do, it's not exactly a bug, either. The Attsync command updates a block insertion's attributes to match the block definition, discarding any changes that may have been made to the attributes in that block insertion. According to Help:

Warning: Attsync removes any format or property changes made with the Attedit or Eattedit commands. It also deletes any extended data associated with the block, and might affect dynamic blocks and blocks created by third-party applications.

"It's not explicitly stated, but those discarded changes include the unmirroring that was done by AutoCAD during the Mirror command if Mirrtext was set to 0 at the time."

Note: These follow-up tips have not been tested by the Cadalyst Tip Patrol.

Follow-Up: Align Crosshairs to Odd Angles
Continuing our record feedback to the Align Crosshairs at Odd Angles tip (see June 23 and June 30 editions), Warren Trost sent in SNAPA.LSP, which works in blocks and xrefs, he says. He warns, "There is still sometimes a flaw when picking an lwpolyline inside an xref, but to me that is a minor nuisance. This will also pick the chord or perpendicular point of an arc."

Ken Largent wrote to remind readers that changing the rotation of crosshairs is not the same thing as changing the coordinate system. "While defining a different coordinate system may change the rotation of the crosshairs, it also changes the origin. When working in a team environment, the one thing that needs to remain constant is the origin. If someone else needs to reference the drawing you are working on and needs it to line up with theirs, it must have the same origin. By changing the UCS, you are in effect changing the origin, and the drawings won't line up all by themselves."

Cord Struckman responded, "Some refer to using the UCS from Object tool. It is important to understand that this will redefine the base point of the file. It will be set to the base point of the selected object. Most often, people are not aware of this fact. If this is not desired, you need to reset the base to 0,0,0 manually."

Bryan Nakkan followed up on the follow-up tip about Snapang: "Rather than pick an angle, I use Snapang, Near, Near to select the angle, picking two points on a line that is already at the desired angle for the crosshairs."

Follow-Up: Dynamic Block Visibility States
Cord Struckman also commented on the dynamic block tip from the June 30 issue. "I am personally not very comfortable having catalysator geometry in a block," he says, referring to the advice about embedding detail in the block at a very minute scale relative to other parts of the block.

Cord recommends another approach, which he believes works in AutoCAD 2006 or 2007 and later. "Use the Reverse Lookup parameter in the block editor. It looks like the visibility parameter. Each individual combination of the various parameters — of which the author seemed to have many — can be accessed by giving each a name and defining it in a lookup table with a meaningful name. It is important that Allow Reverse Lookup is selected in the Lookup Properties.

"I submit ROOF-SLOPE_REVERSE-LOOKUP.DWG with a roof slope block that uses this concept in a very simple way. More parameters and possible combinations in a block certainly increase the number of reverse lookups. Programming the block takes more time, and it is not the most interesting job to do, but the end user should appreciate the ability to access a specific combination of parameters instantly.

"I must say that the dynamic blocks are one of the few features that were really thought through from the beginning. Thanks, Autodesk."

MicroStation Tip: Printing Combined Key-ins
With so many plot drivers, pen tables, and setup options to choose from, users sometimes struggle to standardize plots. Key-ins were made available in MicroStation v8 2004 Edition that, when combined, can automate printing for the user, which will help standardize printing. Read more

Today's MicroStation tip courtesy of The Envision Group.

Submit Your Tip button

Submit Your Tip 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 send a $100 gift card to its author. Please remember:

  • Submit only code and other tips that are your original work (or provide the original source so we can include proper credit).
  • Tell us which software version you use.
By submitting code, you grant Cadalyst the right to print and distribute your 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.

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, Kevin Sawyer, and Billy Wooten.

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Deals & Freebies

Plastic Injection Simulation Software
Simpoe SAS is offering e-Simpoe 2008, a free downloadable version of Simpoe's flagship plastic injection simulation software product Simpoe-Mold. According to the company, e-Simpoe will provide basic filling simulation functionalities, including melt front animation, to take into account manufacturing constraints early into the design stage of plastic parts. Read more

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

Hardware: HP xw4550 Workstation
HP AMD processor-based workstation includes the Quad-Core AMD Opteron processor. Read more

MCAD: Clarizen v2.1
On-demand project management software now includes an open application programming interface. Read more

MCAD: VariCAD 2008 v2
Updated mechanical CAD system enables the use of 2D tools in 3D space for editing profiles of 3D solids and creation of new solids, and more. Read more

CAE: e-Simpoe 2008
Simpoe SAS product is a free, downloadable version of Simpoe-Mold, the company's flagship plastic injection simulation software. Read more

CAM: Pictures by PC v3.2
Professional engraving tools from Schott Systeme enable the design and machining of company logos, recycling symbols, and more. Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

Webcast: Introduction to AutoCAD Electrical 2009
July 9, 2008
10:30 a.m. CT
This Webcast, presented by Applied Engineering, will show how specialized tools in AutoCAD Electrical can make users more productive. The deadline to register is July 8, 2008. Read more

Webinar: Image to Map — Turn up Your Stereo
July 10, 2008
11 a.m. and 8 p.m. EDT
This ERDAS interactive demo will highlight the ArcMap platform. A new suite of tools will also be introduced, including the Terrain Editor for ArcGIS and FeatureAssist for ArcGIS. Read more

Webinar: Rapidly Connect and Share Your World
July 16, 2008
11 a.m. EDT
This webinar will highlight ERDAS TITAN, a geospatial data bridge providing access to multiple public and private data resources, and enabling that data to be accessed in a variety of desktop applications. Read more

Webcast: Improving Data Management with Autodesk Productstream
July 16 and August 20, 2008
11:00 a.m. CT
This Webcast will demonstrate how Autodesk Productstream can be used for file organization, design reuse, design revisions, 2D and 3D file viewing, and more. Presented by Applied Engineering. Read more

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on

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AutoCAD Tips!

Lynn Allen

In her easy-to-follow, friendly style, long-time Cadalyst contributing editor and Autodesk Technical Evangelist Lynn Allen guides you through a new feature or time-saving trick in every episode of her popular AutoCAD video tips. Subscribe to the free Cadalyst Video Picks newsletter and we'll notify you every time a new video tip is published. All exclusively from Cadalyst!

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