AutoCAD 2004 Step Savers

31 Mar, 2003 By: Lynn Allen

AutoCAD 2004 is finally out and there is plenty of buzz around the new features. While everyone will be talking about the brand new major features such as Presentation Graphics and Palettes, I'm going to address some of the minor (yet powerful) new features that affect our everyday drawing life. These features are always my favorite because they remove needless clicks and steps from the most frequently used commands. For those of you who don't plan on upgrading anytime soon, save this article for the future. And be sure to hold on tight, because I am going to race right along.

One Step Saver at a Time

Many of these features come from the AUGI wish list (visit if you have no idea what I'm talking about). The ability to perform multiple redo has been high on the wish list for as long as I can remember. That wish has finally been granted. You'll find a drop-down list for undo and redo, as seen in Figure 1, for you to make certain you're undoing (or redoing) the proper commands. This new feature will eliminate a few extra steps (and expletives) in instances where, say, we undo too far back! Steps saved: one or more; not having to use expletives: priceless.

Figure 1. The new drop-down list for undo and redo ensures that you don't undo or redo too far in either direction.

The FILLET and CHAMFER commands have a new Multiple option that allows you to continue filleting or chamfering over and over (much like the TRIM command). This eliminates the tedious need to hit Enter to repeat the command. Steps saved: one (minimum).

A new system variable called PEDITACCEPT allows you to eliminate the annoying question "Object selected is not a polyline, would you like to turn it into one?" Hellooooo? I am in the POLYLINE editing command. Of course I want to turn it into a polyline! I will not miss that demeaning prompt anymore (and I doubt you will either). Be sure to set PEDITACCEPT to 1. Steps saved: one.

The DRAWORDER command has a better memory now. It no longer forgets the order of objects after you exit the drawing file. You can rest assured it will also remember the assigned order of objects in your blocks and xrefs as well. Steps saved: could be many (not to mention the aspirin you'll avoid taking).

During a preview of a Hatch (or the new Gradient Fill), if you like what you see, you can simply hit Enter to accept the result. You no longer need to go back into the dialog box and hit that final OK to accept. If you don't like what you see, simply hit Escape to return to the dialog box and make the appropriate changes. Steps saved: two.

The CLOSE command no longer refuses to work if you're in the middle of a command. Step saved: one. The new QNEW command launches straight into a new drawing without asking you for a template file. The default template file can be set in the OPTIONS dialog box, Files tab. Steps saved: one.

The Render Window can now be closed. This won't really save any steps--just save you the frustration of trying to figure out how to close that pesky window. Incidentally, you can now print rendered images.

Pan and Zoom no longer stop at the edge of the screen. You can move your mouse up and down or left and right, as far as your hand will reach (or until it falls off of the desk). What will you do for exercise now that you don't have to do those mouse push-ups anymore? Steps saved: one or more. Calories burned: 0.

The MATCHPROP command now works on viewports and polylines. This will allow you to quickly match up such things as polyline widths and viewport scale-factors. Steps saved: one or more.

You can roam around the layout tabs by using a Control+PageUP and Control+PageDown. Steps saved: depends on whether or not you're a keyboard addict.

My favorite feature from AutoCAD 2000--the awesome QDIM command--now takes advantage of the true associativity that came out in AutoCAD 2002. Steps saved when editing your smarter dimensions: one or more.

The PROPERTIES dialog box (now called a palette) contains attribute information for easy editing. Steps saved: one or more.

You can now control the display of hidden line settings for your 3D drawings from the Options dialog box, User Preferences tab, as shown in Figure 2. Now you get to decide what linetype and color you want your hidden lines to use. You'll also notice you can control whether or not text is included in HIDE operations. Steps saved: one or more.

Figure 2. You now have more control over the display of hidden lines in AutoCAD 2004.

Are you always looking for more precious screen real estate? The new CLEANSCREEN command (or Control+0) can be used to turn off everything except the menu, command line, drawing area, and the status bar. All toolbars and palettes will be eliminated from the screen. A Control+0 will bring them back. If you're in the mood for heavy-duty drafting and your drawing area is more precious than your toolbars, give this one a go! Screen real estate saved: 25 percent or more.

The Mirrtext system variable has finally been changed to default to 0 (or off). Finally, our text will default to NOT being mirrored from the MIRROR command. Steps saved: two.

No MTEXT There, Folks!

I'm not going to even start on MTEXT. There are so many improvements to this command that it'll take a column of its own. But realize that AutoCAD 2004 has granted one of the biggest wishes of all--you can now have tabs within MTEXT! Such excitement for such a little feature! No more faking indents and tabs by using the space bar. Steps saved: too many to count.

Figure 3. Now you can use the right mouse button to click Enter as well as access shortcut menus.

Last but not least, one of the cleverest additions to AutoCAD 2004. Remember when we used to use the right-mouse (or second-mouse) button to execute an Enter in AutoCAD Release 14? Then AutoCAD 2000 changed the right-mouse button to display the shortcut menus. Shortcut menus are cool and filled with robust commands, but many of us missed our right-click enter option. Well now you can have the best of both worlds. An awesome setting in the Options dialog, User Preferences tab allows you to assign a fast right-click to enter, as shown in Figure 3; at the same time, holding down the right button a little bit longer will call up a shortcut menu. How cool is that? You can modify the length of time required to access the shortcut menu to suit your preference. It will take awhile to get the hang of this new step saver, but you will love it once you do! Steps saved: one or more.

AutoCAD 2004 is filled with step savers. Each step saved adds up to time left for you to focus on the important things--your design, for instance. Until next month ... Happy AutoCADing!

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