Modifying Object Properties with AutoCAD 2000

31 Oct, 1999 By: Lynn Allen

I doubt that too many of you will disagree with me when I say we spend more of our time editing in AutoCAD than we do actually drawing in it. Hence, editing functions are critical to our success as AutoCAD operators, so we want them better, faster and easier to use with each new release. The new Properties dialog in AutoCAD 2000 has been a big hit with those who have already jumped on the upgrade bandwagon. This month, let's take a thorough look at it to ensure you're getting the most out of this new powerful feature.

I'll be the first to admit that I loved the Properties button in AutoCAD Release 14. I used to joke that the paint was partially rubbed off of my Properties toolbar button I used it so often. As a quick refresher, the Properties button in AutoCAD Release 14 executed a LISP routine called AI_Propchk. If one object was selected, AI_Propchk would execute the DDMODIFY command. If more than one object was selected, it would execute DDCHPROP. DDMODIFY allowed you to change just about anything you wanted to change in an object–height, rotation angle, location and so forth. DDCHPROP only allowed you to change the object properties such as layer, color and linetype. This functionality was somewhat limiting in that even though you selected similar type objects, you could only edit their properties. For example, you couldn't use this command to change the size of four circles in your drawing to a specific radius unless you executed the command four times.

The New Property Dialog
Enter the new Property dialog in AutoCAD 2000. This modeless, sizeable dialog can come and go at the touch of a few keys. There are several different ways to grab it (my personal favorite is hitting Ctrl+1). By default this places the new Properties dialog on the left side of the screen. You can also select the new Properties tool from the Standard toolbar. It's located in two pulldown menus: Tools=>Properties or Modify=>Properties. For those of you who prefer using the command line, the PROPERTIES command also gets you there. You can also select the objects desired, right click and pick Properties from the shortcut menu.

If no objects are selected, you'll find the dialog displays. An indicator at the top tells you there are no selected objects. The general properties of the current drawing and viewport are displayed–the current layer, color, linetype, plotstyle, UCS and so on. You can also use this mode to change anything that isn't grayed out. So technically, you could use this dialog to change the current layer, turn off the UCSICON and so forth. You'll also notice there are two tabs on this dialog. You can choose to have the information displayed by category or alphabetized, whichever works better for you.

Of course, the true power of the command is demonstrated when objects are selected. Follow along with me by randomly drawing some circles, lines, polylines and so on. Be sure to include a few different layers to work with as well. Now, let's change the radius of multiple circles to .5.

I start by selecting the circles (do yourself a favor and work with PICKFIRST set to 1). You'll notice that at the top of the dialog it tells you how many circles you've selected. Unlike the Properties command in AutoCAD Release 14, I can modify any properties these four objects have in common. Since they're all the same type of object, I can modify the radius, diameter (in case you can't multiply by two), center point, the total area of each circle along with the standard object properties (layer, color, linetype). I can double click over the existing radius value and input a new one. An Enter or action taken in any other box forces the selected objects to update. You'll note that at the top of the dialog it indicates that there are four circles in the selection set.

Now it gets even better. Put a crossing window around all of the objects in your drawing. Notice that the options available for editing are dramatically reduced to just the general properties. The top of the dialog indicates that the entire selection set (All) consists of X number of objects. But here's my favorite part. Pick the dropdown list, and you'll see that all of the objects are broken down by object type. You can now select just the text, just the circles or just the polylines.

Have you figured out the possibilities here yet? Suppose you're handed someone else's drawing. Let's also say that this person has never heard of CAD standards, and objects are sprinkled all over the place on random layers. Your goal is to put the proper objects on the proper layer. Ugh! Well now it's much easier with the Object Properties dialog. Put a window around the entire drawing, select Text from the dropdown list and put all the text on the text layer. Continue by putting the dimensions on the dimension layer and so on. Or, maybe you prefer to be lazy while drawing (I can relate). Now it's easy, after the fact, to put the objects where they belong though you'll probably give your CAD Manager a heart attack.

You'll find that you can change the text height, obliquing angle or the actual text using this method. You can change any dimension variable for a particular dimension as well.

Right click on the dialog, and you'll get the shortcut menu. If you don't want the dialog to dock, turn the Allow Docking off. You can turn off the dialog by choosing the Hide option, selecting the X in the upper right-hand corner of the dialog, hitting another Ctrl+1 or executing the PROPERTIESCLOSE command. The Description option in the shortcut menu controls whether or not the Description section at the bottom of the dialog displays. If you are fairly familiar with all the different properties of an object, you may prefer to hide the description and use the extra room to display more properties (thus having to do less scrolling). The final option in the shortcut menu, Undo, is self-explanatory–it undoes the last event performed within the dialog.

To Be Improved
One of the only drawbacks with this command is its inability to pass a selection set to the command. This means you can't use the standard selection options such as previous, all, fence, crossing polygon, remove and so forth. You can only use pick, crossing window (right to left) regular window (left to right) as well as just using the Shift key to remove objects from the selection set.

Another point of confusion that I've seen is the lack of arrows in the dialog indicating a dropdown list. For example, to change objects from one layer to another you pick once in the layer box to display the arrow indicating there's a dropdown list. It takes another pick to get the dropdown list and one final pick to select the desired layer. That's one more click than the object properties toolbar requires (and every click counts!). I've also found that many users believe that since there are no arrows displayed in the box, there must not even be a dropdown list associated with that item. My guess is that if the box was filled with the dropdown list arrows, it would look too complex or confusing, and hence they were left out.

There are a few tricks to navigating through the dialog using keyboard keys. The Home key always takes you to the top of the properties list, and the End key takes you to the end of the properties list. For those of you who are extremely coordinated, you can also navigate to a specific property by hitting Control+Shift+ (the first character of the property you want to jump to). For example, Control+Shift+H would jump to the Hyperlink property. You may decide it's not worth the extra work and just stick to using your cursor.

You'll also find the new QUICK SELECT command icon in the upper-right corner of the dialog. This sends you to a light version of the FILTER command. This dialog makes it easy to further define a specialized selection set. For example, if you need to select all of the circles that have a radius larger than 2.5, QSELECT is the perfect path to take. Here you can select a specific filter, such as radius, and apply it to the current selection set.

If you want all the blue circles and the red lines, use the Quick Select filter twice. The first time you use it, indicate that you want all the blue circles, exit QSELECT and then reenter Quick Select. Now, specify that you want the filter to be red lines and then pick the option at the bottom of the dialog that says "Append to current selection set". This gives you a selection set that consists of blue circles and red lines. For those of you comfortable with the more robust FILTER command, you'll find this dialog a breeze to figure out.

I think you'll find the features in the new Properties dialog outweigh the comfy dialog we've been using for the past couple of releases. Be sure to give it a good try, and you'll soon wonder how you made it without it! Until next time.

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