A-rray of Sunshine

29 Oct, 2011 By: Lynn Allen

Circles and Lines Tutorial: More visual, smarter, and easier to modify, these new associative arrays are a bright spot in AutoCAD 2012.

Editor's note: This article was originally published in the Fall 2011 issue of Cadalyst magazine.

For as long as I can remember, AutoCAD has had the Array command. Although it has been updated along the way, those updates are nothing compared to the array overhaul you'll find in AutoCAD 2012. These new crowd-pleasing associative arrays are much more visual, smarter, and easier to modify. You'll also find that they are a one-stop shop for both 2D and 3D arrays.

Best of Both Worlds

Let's say we have a room full of chairs we need to lay out. The Array command is a natural choice. We indicate the number of rows, number of columns, and the distance between the chairs, and the Array command does a beautiful job; our chair layout looks perfect.

But, what happens if we need to make changes to those chairs? What if we need to change the distance between them or change the number of rows and columns? The traditional Array command would definitely let us down here. Most likely, we'd have to erase all the added chairs and start again. In the past, once an array was complete, AutoCAD had no idea the objects were part of an array and they were all treated as individual objects.

Not so with the updated Array command in AutoCAD 2012! Now, you can easily make changes to the arrayed objects after the fact. You can change the number of rows, columns, and distance between the chairs — as many times as you like. An array in AutoCAD 2012 knows it's an array, even after the command is finished. The icing on the cake is that you can still manipulate the objects of the array individually. It's the best of both worlds!

Follow the Path

But wait — there's more! Now, there's a new associative Path Array command in AutoCAD 2012, found on the Home tab of the ribbon.

The new Path Array command is
located on the Home tab of the ribbon.

Taking a closer look, let's array a block of a tree along a spline curve.

Use Path Array to array the tree block along the spline.

After selecting the object to array (the tree) and the path (the spline), indicate the number of items (trees) and the distance between the items. This new array is very visual, and you can see a preview of the array as you construct it. A final Enter accepts the path array and creates your array.

Parameters of an Array

Whenever you select your array, you can see that the context-sensitive ribbon automatically changes to give you all of the parameters of your array.

All the information about your array displays on the ribbon.

This information is completely editable and is one of the easiest ways to modify your array. Here you can change the number of items, the distance between the items, the number of rows (maybe I do want multiple rows of trees), and the levels (should you want to array trees in the z-direction as well). You can easily edit the original arrayed source object or replace it altogether.

Measure and Divide Array

Over the years, many of us have figured out that you can also use the kludgy Measure and Divide commands to array an object along a path. If you've used either of those commands, you'll be one step ahead because this new path array lets you indicate Measure or Divide. With Measure, you specify the distance between the objects in the array and the objects may or may not traverse the entire path. With Divide, you indicate the number of objects and AutoCAD 2012 calculates the distance needed to evenly distribute the objects along the entire length of the path.

Easy to Modify

You'll find a few handy grips popping up here and there to help you manually modify your array. One such grip lets you control the distance between the arrayed objects.

Handy grips make it easy to modify your array.

How do you modify individual components of the array? While pressing the magical Ctrl key, you can select individual objects, then edit them as usual without affecting the rest of the array. If things go terribly wrong with your object editing, you can always reset the array.

If you must modify the path, the arrayed objects follow. It just doesn't get much better than that!

I only had time to cover the new Path Array, but you'll find the updated Rectangular and Polar arrays just as easy to work with. Give these new associative arrays a try — you are going to love them! Until next month, Happy AutoCAD-ing!

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