Do You Know Your Options?

30 Jun, 2003 By: Lynn Allen

As AutoCAD releases come and go, the pesky Options dialog box just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Have you taken the time to make sure you're up on the latest powerful settings? Or do you leave them just as they are from release to release? Join me as we take a quick tour of the settings that reside in the Options command.

Did you know that if you hit the New icon to start a new drawing in AutoCAD 2004, you're actually executing the new QNEW command? The QNEW command uses your default template file and launches you straight to the command line in your new drawing--no questions asked! (Let's face it--we hate it when anything gets between us and our command line!) You set the default template file in the Files tab in the Options dialog box. Simply go to Drawing Template Settings > Drawing Template Filename for QNEW, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. You can set up your default template file in the Files tab.

Let's say you have faithfully upgraded to AutoCAD 2004, but are working with a client that still has AutoCAD 2000. Do you find it difficult to always remember to save in the AutoCAD 2000 format? Under the Open and Save tab, you can set AutoCAD to remember to save the files to the AutoCAD 2000 format by default. In the Save as dropdown list, you'll find a variety of formats you can save to, including a Release 12 DXF file. (Yikes!)

I don't know about you, but I often use the File pulldown menu to quickly open a recently used drawing. AutoCAD 2000i allows us to bump the number of recently used drawing files that AutoCAD will display from four to nine. That will give you five more drawing files to choose from. This is also done in the Open and Save tab of Options. While you're at it, check to see if the "Display full path title" checkbox is selected. This will ensure the drawing editor will display the complete directory for your current drawing.

An older but extremely important setting in this same tab is the "Retain changes to xref layers" option. If you find yourself constantly resetting the layers of your attached external references you can dramatically reduce your stress level simply by turning this feature on! This sets the good old VISRETAIN system variable we coveted immensely when it was added to AutoCAD; it forces AutoCAD to remember all that hard work you did in the Layer dialog box.

A couple of other notable settings in the Open and Save tab include the Automatic Save setting (be sure to set that to a decent increment, such as 15 minutes). I personally detest the Proxy objects dialog box and prefer to have that turned off (lower right corner of the dialog). The new Security Options button permits you to save a password with your drawing file. You can even select your encryption provider and key length. (Double yikes!) If you don't want anyone viewing the drawing properties, you can encrypt those as well, to ensure they remain top secret. This huge wish list goes to prove that you should be careful what you ask for (because you might get it). If you forget your password, you are out of luck! There is no backdoor by design. Let's face it--if there were a back door, 15 minutes after the product ships, there'd be a password to unlock the hacker programs in the black market. So write down any and all passwords and keep a backup copy (which, hopefully, doesn't ask for a password when launched).

You'll also find that you can attach digital signature in the Security Options dialog. AutoCAD attaches your personal digital signature after you save and exit the drawing. There is much to discuss about the world of digital signatures (see my previous article in CADENCE, March 2003, "Guard Your Drawings with Digital Signature)."

What's Your Preference?

Moving along to the User Preferences tab, you'll find the new powerful Right Click customization options. If you were frustrated in AutoCAD 2000 because the right button on your mouse suddenly switched from Enter to displaying the shortcut menu, then you'll be happy to know that now you can have the best of both worlds. AutoCAD 2004 allows you to turn on a time-sensitive right click. A quick right click will give the Enter you know and love, but holding the mouse button down a bit longer will display the shortcut menu. You decide how long "a bit longer" should be (it's measured in milliseconds), as seen in Figure 2.

Figure 2. In Version 2004, you get the best of both worlds: you can keep the customary right click Enter option, and also set up a time-sensitive right click access to the shortcut menu.

A Conundrum for Einstein

I love the dropdown list for "Default settings when units are set to unit-less." This value takes effect when you bring in a block that doesn't have any predefined, inserted unit set. Here you have the opportunity to really mess with your coworkers by setting your units to "parsecs," "light years," or "astronomical units." Come on, do any of you out there use those settings in your design (do share)? And how exactly does one mix parsecs with inches? I think even Einstein would scratch his head on that one!

Also in the User Preferences tab is the new Hidden Line Settings dialog, as seen in Figure 3. We never had much control over the world of HIDE in the past; we accepted just what AutoCAD was willing to give us. But now you can exercise a bit more control over your 3D Hide environment. Would you like your hidden lines to display? Perhaps use a dashed linetype of a different color? Would you like AutoCAD to take your text into consideration when hiding or ignoring it? How about a polyline to display intersecting faces? What color would you like that polyline to be? All of these settings can be controlled in the new Hidden Line Settings dialog in AutoCAD 2004 (very cool)! I recommend trying a variety of different settings to fully understand all the new choices within this robust dialog.

Figure 3. With the new Hidden Line Settings dialog, you'll have greater control of the hide function.

The Profiles tab, last but not least, provides you with the golden opportunity to save all of your tried-and-true settings to a profile for easy access. This is especially important if you find yourself in a situation where you need to share your computer, because separate profiles ensure that little or no bloodshed occurs. If you find yourself on projects where different settings are needed, then definitely create additional profiles.

Though I have only touched on a few of the settings in the Options dialog box, hopefully you found one or two that were new to you. Until next month, happy AutoCADing!

More News and Resources from Cadalyst Partners

For Mold Designers! Cadalyst has an area of our site focused on technologies and resources specific to the mold design professional. Sponsored by Siemens NX.  Visit the Equipped Mold Designer here!

For Architects! Cadalyst has an area of our site focused on technologies and resources specific to the building design professional. Sponsored by HP.  Visit the Equipped Architect here!