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30 Nov, 2003 By: Lynn Allen

30 quick tips and tricks you can digest in 15 minutes or less.

I just finished a Webcast designed to help AutoCAD 2000 users catch up to AutoCAD 2004. In doing so, I was reminded of a number of cool tips and tricks that somehow fell by the wayside during the past few years.

That said, I thought I'd use my first column in Cadalyst as a quick brain dump of short AutoCAD nuggets that will help your everyday drawing life go just a little bit easier. These tips are easy to digest and implement, yet powerful time savers.

No doubt some of you already know quite a few of them, but I'll cross my fingers that you come across at least one that improves your work day tomorrow!

1.Use <Ctrl><Tab> to toggle between open drawings. I'm much too lazy to use the Windows pull-down menu to switch from drawing to drawing.

2.Use the Closeall command to close all your open drawings at once. If you use AutoCAD 2004, this feature works even if you're in the middle of a command in any of the sessions.

Figure 1. The Styles Toolbar makes it easy to switch back and forth between text and dimension styles (Tip #3).
3.You can use the new Styles Toolbar in AutoCAD 2004 to quickly switch between one text and dimension style to another. Be sure to add this toolbar to your desktop to save time (figure 1).

4.If you're tired of that annoying prompt in the Pedit command that reads: Object selected is not a polyline. Do you want to turn it into one? <Y>, turn that evil prompt off by setting the PEDITACCEPT system variable to 1.

5.Do you want to customize the sample text string that displays when you first enter AutoCAD 2004's updated Mtext command? You can set the MTJIGSTRING system variable to display your favorite football team, pet, whatever! Timesaver, no, but good fun nevertheless!

Figure 2. Use Layer Previous to undo the previous layer settings (Tip #6).
6.Use the Layerp command to undo the last settings made in the Layer dialog box without undoing anything else. It's super simple to snap the Layer Previous toolbar button, as shown in figure 2-it sits right next to the layer drop-down list.

7.I often use the Files pull-down menu to pull up a recently used drawing file. Be sure to change the default number of recently used files to list from 4 to 9 in the Options dialog box Open and Save tab so you have more to choose from.

8.Tired of hitting Grid by mistake on the Status bar? In AutoCAD 2004, right-clicking on the Status Bar lets you remove any of the existing buttons. If you don't use it, get rid of it!

9.Do you want your dimensions to have a slightly higher IQ? From the Options dialog box User Preferences tab, turn on Associative Dimensioning. This even makes your paper space dimensions smart!

10.Do you find yourself wading through directories searching for drawings? Be sure to include your most frequently used folders in the Open dialog box. Right-click on the far left of the dialog box to add and remove directories.

11.Don't forget you can now easily move between Trim and Extend. Press <Shift> while in Trim to switch to Extend, and vice versa.

12.Wish you could use the right-mouse button to execute <Enter> and still get those nifty shortcut menus? A new setting in the Options dialog box User Preferences tab under Right Click Customization gives you the best of both worlds. A quick pick acts like <Enter>, and holding down the mouse button yields the appropriate shortcut menu. Very cool!

13.The new Qnew command starts a new drawing-no questions asked! As long as you have a default template file set (Options dialog | Files tab), you'll find yourself with one less question to answer in life. When you select the New icon on the Standard toolbar in AutoCAD 2004, the Qnew command executes by default.

14.Try the new Revcloud command to highlight changes quickly and easily.

15.Need to open and edit an attached xref? Try the new Xopen command. It works much better then Refedit. You can also find this command in the shortcut menu that appears when you highlight an xref.

16.Say you've been asked to e-mail someone a drawing file that has many attached xrefs and images. Do yourself a favor and use the Etransmit command. This lets you strip out those pesky hard-coded directory paths so the recipient won't have any problems opening the file-and you won't get any mean phone calls. Etransmit is also smart enough to save your files back to a previous format should your client not be on the same AutoCAD release.

17.Are you constantly switching between various layer settings? Save some time by setting up layer states in the Layer command.

18.Don't forget the powerful Matchprop command for quick editing. Here you can match up hatch patterns, text styles, polyline widths, viewport scale factors, and more. Why do more work than you have to?

19.The quickest way to change existing text height is through the Textscale command. You don't even have to know the desired height if you can find another text object to match it with.

20.The quickest way to change the current text justification is with the Justifytext command.

21.Need to zap out a bunch of dimensions in a hurry? Try one of my personal favorites, the Qdim command. You won't believe how much time you save.

22.Are you a keyboard junkie? Did you know you can jump between layouts by pressing <Ctrl> and the page-up and page-down keys?

23. Isn't it frustrating when a viewport is embedded within another viewport and you can't figure out how to get inside? Use <Ctrl>-R to toggle among all your viewports.

Figure 3. This tool quickly sets a new current layer (Tip #24).
24.Switch to a new current layer at super speed by using the Make Object's Layer Current button on the Layer toolbar (figure 3).

25.Use the Saveas command to password-protect your drawing file. Select Tools | Security options. Be sure to write that password down because there's no way to retrieve it if you forget it!

Figure 4. New drop-down lists make it easier to control Undo and Redo (Tip #26).
26.Multiple Redo arrived with AutoCAD 2004, but did you notice the drop-down list added to both Redo and Undo in the menu bar? This makes it very clear which commands you want to undo and redo-thus avoiding accidents!

27.Try the Refedit command when you need to edit an existing block definition. It's the easiest method out there for editing existing blocks, and it removes much of the tedium for you. Incidentally, double-clicking on any block definition automatically takes you into Refedit.

28.Want to make a JPEG of your drawing file in a hurry? Try the new Jpgout command. There's also a Pngout and a Tifout command!

29.Tired of trying to hit that itty-bitty X in the upper right corner of the Properties and Design Center commands? Instead, use <Ctrl>-1 and <Ctrl>-2 to toggle those two frequently used commands on and off.

30.And my most important tip by far-get those magnificent Express Tools at any cost. Have a bake sale if you must. When you upgrade to AutoCAD 2004, you get all 100+ Express Tools for free. If you can't convince the powers that be to upgrade, scrape your pennies together and get them for yourself at the Autodesk e-store.

Well, that was a huge dose of tips in a very short time. I hope you found a few gems to incorporate into your routine. As many of you know, my column is generally a more detailed explanation about one solid topic. Don't panic! You'll still get those difficult topics explained in plain English here in Cadalyst. This was just a kickoff Tips and Tricks party to celebrate my move! I look forward to getting to know some of you new readers, and as always I welcome your feedback. Until next month, happy AutoCAD-ing!



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