Random AutoCAD Tips and Tricks for All (Circles and Lines AutoCAD Tutorial)

31 Aug, 2008 By: Lynn Allen

These nuggets of good advice can save time and effort.

I recently added a new presentation to my repertoire called "60 AutoCAD Tips in 60 Minutes." Essentially, I am presenting an average of one AutoCAD tip per minute for the crowd. (Consequently, they really have to pay attention!) While writing the documentation for this presentation, I thought I might share some of these tips with my Cadalyst readers.

Waiting even three extra seconds for a command to open or process seems like an eternity when you are on a tight time schedule (plus it's boring). While computers have become incredibly speedy and efficient over the years, there are still plenty of steps you can take inside of AutoCAD to ensure the fastest experience possible.

Although not all of these tips will be new to you, I hope you will find a good nugget or two to improve your everyday AutoCAD drawing life. Heads up: These tips are random and all over the place.

Disabling the Status Column on the Layer Properties Manager
Several releases ago, Autodesk added the Status Column to the Layer Properties Manager. The goal behind this command was simple: Add an additional column that would let the user know visually if the layer was being used or not (meaning it was referenced somewhere or it had objects on it). If the layer wasn't being used, then you could delete it — all within the Layer command.

That all sounds peachy, right? Although this new column was added with good intentions, the result was painful from a time standpoint. Every time the Layer command was executed, AutoCAD would comb through all the layers and objects in the drawing to determine the proper values for the Status column. Those users who had large drawings with many layers found themselves sitting around waiting for AutoCAD to go through this painful process. The end result was that the Layer dialog box could take much longer to open. Because we find ourselves popping in and out of the Layer command frequently, this feature quickly became a bug! And because the Layer command is the third most frequently used command in AutoCAD, you can imagine the uproar.

The next release of AutoCAD corrected this problem with a new toggle for turning off the status column. The new Indicate Layers in Use option appeared on the front of the Layer Properties Manager. By default this setting was off. If you turned it on, the status column would be activated and you would find yourself waiting yet again.

Toggling on Indicating Layers in Use could potentially slow down your work.

What if you really do want to delete some layers while in the Layer dialog box? Well, you can turn this toggle on, wait a few seconds for the Status column to come alive and be accurate, delete the layers that are not in use, and then turn that pesky toggle right back off!

Note: Who says we have to delete layers in the Layer command? Better yet, why not just use the Purge command? Then you don't have to deal with any of these settings.

Right up until AutoCAD 2008, this setting was on the very front of the Layer dialog box, making it all too easy for people to turn it on accidentally (and consequently slow themselves down). AutoCAD 2009 moved this option to the Layer Settings option to further protect the unknowing user from accidentally turning it on.

The moral of the story: If you or your colleagues are battling with a slow Layer Properties Manager, check to ensure the Status column isn't active.

Faster Move and Copy Commands
We use the Move and Copy commands all day long, and yet I am amazed how few of you out there realize that you are forcing an extra click in the command. And hey, let's face it — those clicks really add up!

Let's say we want to move an object five units to the right. Most of us would execute the Move command, select the object, select a base point, and then input @5<0 or @5,0. Right?

Take a look at the actual Move prompt:

Specify base point or [Displacement] <Displacement>:

Notice that Displacement is clearly the default. Rather than select a base point and then key in the displacement (which requires an @ symbol as well), you can actually just key in the displacement value right there like this:

Specify base point or [Displacement] <Displacement>: 5,0

This will bring you to the second prompt of:

Specify second point or <use first point as displacement>: (hit enter)

If you simply press Enter, you will bypass the second question and your objects will be happily moved over five units to the right (positive x direction). The tricky thing here is remembering to hit that extra Enter. You could have also input 5<0 for the displacement value.

If you go this route, you will save the extra click on the screen of basepoint, and you won't need to key in that @ symbol either! Give it a try, and you'll see what I mean.

Shift to Turn Ortho On
Sure we all know how to turn Ortho on/off with the F8 key or by selecting one of the toggles on the status bar, but did you know there is a speedy temporary means of doing it as well? Let's say you are moving an object in a vertical direction and you realize your Ortho isn't on. Simply hold down the Shift key as you are moving the object, and Ortho will come on temporarily. When you release the Shift key, you'll find that Ortho returns to its previous setting.

Use OSNAPZ To Replace Z Value with Current Elevation
Often when we are working in 3D, we find ourselves using our object snaps. When we use our osnaps in 3D, AutoCAD will grab the x, y, and z values of the object. On occasion, we might wish for the x and y of the selected point, but prefer to use the current elevation as the z value. The system variable OSNAPZ to the rescue!

Simply set OSNAPZ to a value of 1 and you'll be good to go!

And one last tip for the road:

I Want to See the Frame But I Don't Want to Print It!
In order to select and edit an attached image, DWF, OLE object, or DGN file, you need to turn on the associated frame. But often when we print, we want those frames to be turned off. Flipping the various system variables on and off (1 and 0) can be tedious and irritating. AutoCAD 2008 introduced a fantastic new option that keeps the frame on the screen for editing but doesn't print the frame.

Simply set the appropriate system variable, (IMAGEFRAME, DWFRAME, OLEFRAME, or DGNFRAME) to a value of 2, and you will be in great shape.

So there you have a few random tips to think about. Until next month, happy AutoCADing!

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