Layers Loom Large (Circles and Lines AutoCAD Tutorial)

9 Apr, 2007 By: Lynn Allen

Get the maximum layer productivity possible in AutoCAD 2008.

Rumor has it that the third-most-popular command is the Layer command (or accessing the Layer dialog). For those of you wondering about the top two commands, they are (sadly) Undo and Zoom. Although this survey was conducted a few releases ago, the importance of managing layers is still a big challenge today, and it can gobble up valuable design time if not handled properly. AutoCAD 2008 has added some fabulous tools to improve the entire layer experience, and we all can benefit from them.

As Autodesk adds more functionality, the Layer Properties manager keeps growing larger. With the new additions in AutoCAD 2008, you now have 17 columns to deal with -- more than you'll ever want to use. Below you can see the plethora of layer columns in the default AutoCAD 2008 Layer command.

AutoCAD 2008 adds four new columns to the Layer dialog box.

Because you'll probably want to use the four additional columns that are new to AutoCAD, you should consider turning off some of the less-used columns. AutoCAD 2008 now lets you control the visibility and order of the columns so you can customize dialog boxes to meet your specific needs.

To begin, simply right-click on a column header and select Customize from the right-click menu. You'll see the new Customize Layer Columns dialog box. I turned off Status, Lineweight, VP Plot Style and Description so that I have the same number of layer columns I had in AutoCAD 2007. It's the same rule my mother taught me about my closet . . . if I get something new, I have to throw out something old -- although I admit to not always following this rule.

Use the Customize dialog box to select the layer columns you want to display.

You also can turn a layer column on or off quickly from the shortcut menu as shown below, although I prefer the dialog box method. Here you'll also find the ability to maximize one or all of the columns and to restore all of the columns back to their default structure. You'll see my trademark black-on-yellow lettering below as well -- something a well-known Microsoft speaker once taught me to improve readability.

The right-click menu gives you control over layer columns.

Control the order of the columns simply by dragging and dropping -- it just doesn't get any easier than this! If you prefer, you can do this in the Customize Layer dialog box.

Use the New Layer VP Freeze in All Viewports tool to quickly create new frozen layers.
A new layer creation tool in the Layer dialog box creates a new layer that is automatically frozen in all viewports. You'll find this new option sitting right next to the New Layer button below or in the right-click shortcut menu.

You also can select an existing layer, right-click and freeze it in all viewports as well. You'll find that the new Rename option in the shortcut menu comes in handy, although I prefer to use the F2 key to quickly rename selected layers.

Of course the marquee change with layers in AutoCAD 2008 is the ability to override color, linetype, lineweight and plot style per viewport. Yes, I said per viewport! This change is going to make your lives so much easier in paper space. Simply activate the desired viewport, execute the Layer Properties manager and use the new VP Color, VP Linetype VP Lineweight and VP Plot Style columns to work your magic! These setting overrides affect the active viewport only, helping reduce time-consuming workarounds pre-AutoCAD 2008.

If you want a layer to display red in one viewport and yellow in another, you can easily do this with the new VP Color column without duplicating your design data. There's no need to fear these new columns; if you make some mistakes, you can always remove the overrides.

Many new options are available in the Layer shortcut menu.

To help you keep everything in order, you'll find that any layer that has overrides assigned to it displays with a different background color than those that don't. The new, extremely long system variable, VPlayerOverridesMode (phew!), lets you temporarily ignore the overrides for viewing and plotting purposes.

One caveat here: These viewport overrides only affect the display of objects properties that are set as ByLayer. Consequently, if you set an override but find some objects disobeying their settings, they must not be on the ByLayer train.

To eliminate this confusion and frustration, Autodesk added in a great new command called SetByLayer. This command lets you modify many properties at once, but the real prize is that it works on objects within blocks as well, including those pesky nested blocks.

Use the SetByLayer command to quickly change object properties to ByLayer.

For those of you addicted to the Layer States Manager but tired of having to enter the Layer Properties manager to get to it, you'll be pleased to know you now can access this powerful command directly. Use the new LayerState command (LAS for short) or select the tool from the Dashboard Layer control panel.

New import options let you grab layer states directly from DWG, DWT and DWS files along with the traditional LAS files. You can view and edit layer states from attached external references as well. You also can apply layer states as viewport overrides. Is your head spinning yet?

Let me simplify this. You create a layer state with all the colors, linetypes and lineweights you frequently assign to a specific viewport. Double-click in the viewport, start the LAS command and select this layer state. All these settings quickly transfer to this viewport only as overrides, and you are done! The key here is selecting the Apply properties as a viewport overrides option. You can even choose the valuable Turn Off Layers Not Found In Layer State option for a perfect finished result.

Use the LayerState command to quickly add overrides to your viewport layers.

If I've lost you here, take a deep breath and read through this column again. If that still doesn't help, you probably just need to try it for yourself when you upgrade to AutoCAD 2008. It's really very simple and straightforward -- I promise! You'll find the new layer additions in AutoCAD 2008 are really powerful and a piece of cake -- layered cake, that is.

Until next month, happy AutoCADing!

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