Perfect Paper Space, Part 1

9 Apr, 2004 By: Lynn Allen

Here’s your map to paper space.

EVEN AFTER 12 YEARS, the most frequently requested articles are those on paper space. So, after many moons (and many pleas from readers), it's time to dust off these tips and update them to reflect the new features in AutoCAD 2005.

A great deal of confusion still surrounds paper space, as evidenced by the extremely large turnout at Autodesk University for the "Lost in Paper Space" class (perfectly taught by Dan Abbott). There are also many different theories regarding the proper route to perfect paper space. I'll attempt to present the pros and cons of all sides and let you decide what works best for you.

If you've so far ignored the world of paper space-for whatever reason-I implore you to stop living in denial and embrace the world of layouts. Though initially paper space was like a trip to the dentist, through the years Autodesk has removed the barriers, lightened the lingo, and made the transition from model to paper nearly painless. Paper space used to be hidden in the magical system variable TILEMODE, but now it's a simple click of a layout tab away.

Model Space: The Early Days
In the beginning, Autodesk invented model space and it was good. In model space you draw everything one to one, exactly the size it is in real life. You insert a border relative to the final scale factor of your drawing and multiply text heights, linetype, and dimension scale factors to accommodate this world of drawing one to one. When it's time to plot, you instruct AutoCAD to scale down your drawing to fit on the paper. We spend time multiplying up, only to turn around and divide back down.

In addition to the perpetual math equations, you also run into issues when you need to plot multiple views of a 3D object. Creating details means copying existing geometry and scaling it (more math and linetypes and dimension variables are a veritable labyrinth), and plotting at different scale factors becomes a nightmare.

Enter Paper Space (Layouts)
Many releases later (even I've forgotten which release), Autodesk created paper space and it was also good. Though a kludge at first, it's been fine-tuned over the years to become easier and easier to use. Viewports are the windows to geometry. You draw your text exactly the size you want it to plot, borders are inserted at the size you created them, and you get to plot 1-to-1. We have officially entered the world of WYSIWYG. The confusion enters when you try to figure out what geometry belongs in which world. There are still a few scale factors to contend with, layer issues, and more.

Draw Your Design
When you begin a new drawing, you most likely find yourself in model space, as indicated by the model tab in the lower left corner of the drawing editor. Unless you've turned it off, the trusty UCS icon points out the x- and y-direction, and you're probably drawing on a black background. Most of your time is typically spent in model space. Here you create your geometry 1-to-1, exactly the size it is in real life, as mentioned earlier. Don't worry about annotations, title blocks, dimensions, hatches, and the like at this point. Just focus on the actual design geometry. When you've completed your design and need to print a drawing, that's the time to make the move to paper space. You can always return to model space later for any design changes.

Proceed to Paper Space
Select the first layout tab in the lower left corner of your drawing. Right-click on that tab to rename it to a more descriptive name such as Elevations or Site Details. After you select a layout tab, AutoCAD asks you to provide page setup information for your layout. Here you select a plotter, plot style table, a variety of plot options, and the final paper size in the Page Setup Manager. This is streamlined in AutoCAD 2005 (figure 1).

Figure 1. AutoCAD 2005 introduces a streamlined Page Setup Manager.

You are asked to set these parameters when the Show Page Setup Manager for New Layouts checkbox is selected in the Options command. This is the default setting. The information you select here directly affects your layout.

After you exit the Page Setup dialog box, your new drawing area resembles a piece of paper (the size you indicated in Page Setup). Your background color is now white, and the dashed rectangle indicates the area of the drawing that is printable. Drawing outside the dashed rectangle creates objects that won't display on the final plot. You may already have a paper space viewport on your screen with some of your geometry from model space shining through. This is determined by another setting in the Options command display tab: Create Viewport in New layouts.

A Word about Viewports
AutoCAD uses two distinctly different types of viewports: the viewports you create while in model space using the Vports command, and the viewports you create while in paper space using the Mview command. You use both types of viewports to view your model from different views, but they behave very differently.

In model space you must tile the viewports you create. They lie side by side and fill up the entire display area. They are restricted to being rectangular at all times. When in model space you can plot only one viewport at a time-one of the main reasons you need paper space. The viewports you create in a layout don't follow the same rules-they can be many different shapes and sizes. They can lie on top of each other, inside each other, overlap, and so forth. You can copy, move, stretch, and erase paper space viewports. Paper space viewports are actually considered objects. There is a method and madness to properly setting up your paper space viewports, which we'll postpone until my next column.

Prepare to Plot
Let's set up your first layout or drawing sheet just how you want it to plot. Insert a full-sized border along with a title block. Fill in the title block with any additional text information using the actual text height. Now, go get your model, if you don't already have a paper space viewport displayed on your screen.

Using the Mview command, create a simple rectangular viewport by selecting two opposing corners within your border. You should now be able to see your model geometry. What scale factor is your geometry at? Your guess is as good as mine-you'll need to set the desired scale factor yourself (it's not PsychicCAD). You can easily set the scale factor by highlighting the viewport and selecting Properties from the shortcut menu. Those of you using AutoCAD 2004 and earlier can just double-click on the viewport to get the same result. The Properties palette shows the Scale Factor option, as seen in figure 2.

Figure 2. You set the Scale Factor option in the Properties palette.

You can select from the standard list of scale factors or key in your own.

Hot Tip. The Viewport toolbar makes setting the scale factor a piece of cake! Simply select the scale factor from the pull-down list.

Next Time
This is just the 10,000-foot view of paper space. Next month, we'll dive into more of the nitty-gritty to make sure your path to perfect paper space is an easy one! Until next month, happy AutoCAD-ing!

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