Circles and Lines: AutoCAD 2007's New 2D Updates

8 May, 2006 By: Lynn Allen

Get the most out of your software.

Whenever a new release of AutoCAD comes along, some subtle changes get little press but are of value to AutoCAD users everywhere. This month I'll discuss some of the less-known new features that have nothing to do with 3D (which everyone will be talking about) to help ensure you get the most out of your software. If someone doesn't inform you about these added extras, how can you take advantage of them?

Figure 1. Use the new Clean Screen icon to remove clutter from the AutoCAD drawing editor.
User Interface Changes
I'll ignore the vast amount of 3D UI changes and concentrate on the standard ones. A new icon -- Clean Screen -- is located at the right end of the status bar, as seen in figure 1. Clean Screen does exactly as the name implies -- it clears the screen of all user interface elements, except the status bar, menu and command prompt.

To free up more screen real estate, turn off the model space and layout tabs and then reference them from the status bar. Simply right-click on one of the tabs and select Hide Layout and Model tabs (figure 2). You can easily access the tabs from the status bar -- the black icon represents the model tab, the white represents the paper space layout tab. If you have additional layouts, select the pair of triangles to bring up a shortcut menu (figure 3).

Figure 2. Hide your model or layout tabs by right-clicking on them.

Figure 4. Store several palettes at one time on the side of the screen.
Figure 3. It's easy to move from one tab to another via the status bar.
AutoCAD 2007 now has 14 palettes (yikes!). New UI tools make it easy to keep multiple palettes on the screen without taking up much drawing space. You can anchor several docked palettes at a time (figure 4), and when you need them, they fully expand (much improved over previous releases). Simply right-click on the palette and select Anchor left or Anchor right from the shortcut menu.

You also can choose to display just a small icon of the palette for quick access (figure 5).

Figure 5. Right-click to display the icons only of the palettes.

For those of you who have been brave enough to forgo the Command line and use the new Dynamic Input feature in AutoCAD 2006, you'll appreciate that invalid entries no longer are deal breakers. The dynamic input box now turns to red and permits another chance at getting the input correct (hoorah!).

Finally some new system variables correlate with the new dimensioning features that came out in AutoCAD 2006. Plus, two new arrowhead blocks also are available -- Origin2 and Small (figure 6).

Figure 6. AutoCAD 2007 has two new arrowhead blocks.

In AutoCAD 2006, the updated MTEXT editor displayed the text for editing exactly the size it was on the screen. If you were zoomed out too far, too bad for you, the text was too small to see. Of course you could zoom in on it, but many users wanted this to happen automatically. Now with AutoCAD 2007 if the system variable MTEXTFIXED is set to 2, when you double-click on multiple-line text that's too small to see, the editor automatically displays the text at a legible size. When set to 0 or 1, the text isn't resized.

You also can use Shift + Tab to un-indent an indented level (such as bullets).

In the past, if you where in model space and tried to select an object in paper space (or vice versa) for field input, you found it impossible to do so. Users had to go to great lengths to get around this obstacle. AutoCAD 2007 now permits such behavior. Fields also support AutoLISP variables for you serious techies.

System Variables
Yes, there are changes . . . and yes there are more system variables (just when you thought there couldn't possibly any more!).

Veteran AutoCAD users will appreciate the new DTEXTED setting. Before AutoCAD 2006, you could put multiple strings of text all over your drawing while in the DTEXT or TEXT commands. After keying in the first string (and without leaving the command), you simply moved the mouse to another location and selected a new spot. The text prompter moved to the new location and you could type more text. It was a great way to place many single line text strings very quickly. You also could move from text block to text block by using the Tab key. Shift + Tab moved backwards through the text blocks.

Along comes AutoCAD 2006 with the new in-place text editor. Unfortunately, the new text editor broke the functionality explained above (what is up with that?). The only way to get the old functionality back was to set DTEXTED to 0, which essentially turned off the new text editor. Quite a drag, and I remember being one of the first to alert the AutoCAD team that their cool new editor broke one of my favorite text tips. During my presentations, I used to say you had to pick your poison -- a cool new text editor or the ability to create multiple individual text strings at one time.

Enter AutoCAD 2007 with a new setting for DTEXTED that gives us the best of both worlds -- the ability to place text strings in multiple locations within the TEXT command and the ability to use the new text editor! Just set DTEXTED to 2.

This variable now controls the warning information that displays when you open a drawing that wasn't created by an Autodesk product. A setting of 2 will display the information at the command line, 3 will display the dialog box shown in figure 7.

Figure 7. Set DWGCHECK to 3 to control the warning information that displays when you open a drawing not created by an Autodesk product.

If you've ever used Autodesk Inventor, you know that the zoom wheel on the mouse zooms in the opposite direction of AutoCAD. If you bounce between the two programs, this changing rotation can drive you absolutely crazy! I speak from experience here. AutoCAD 2007 gives you a new option of syncing the two by simply setting the system variable zoom wheel to 1.

This column provided just a sampling of some of the less-known new 2D features in AutoCAD 2007. Give them a try -- you might just find a few time-saving techniques that give you more time to enjoy your latte.

Until next month . . . Happy AutoCADing!

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