Reviving AutoCAD's Forgotten Function Keys

24 Aug, 2014

Maybe you’ve forgotten about them (or never learned to use them), but using your function keys to toggle important settings inside AutoCAD can really speed up your design process. With this video tip from Cadalyst and Lynn Allen, you’ll learn how to take advantage of all that the function keys have to offer.

Video Transcript

Hello there, this is Lynn Allen. Welcome to another AutoCAD Tips and Tricks, courtesy of Cadalyst magazine. Thank you so much for joining me.

Today we're going to talk about a feature that has been inside of AutoCAD since the very beginning of AutoCAD time. Yes, back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. This particular feature has to do with the Function keys on the keyboard. I find that people either forgot about how powerful the Function keys can be on the keyboard or they actually never learned them.

You probably know some of Function keys, and you may even use some of them. But we're going to take a tour of all of them. And I'm going to try to convince you that using them is going to make you a little bit faster. Okay. We all want to go faster inside of AutoCAD. Am I correct?

All right, let's take a look. So, as I mentioned I'm sure that you know some of them. I'm sure many of you have used F1 to go into Help. No big surprise, right? If you happen to be in a command and you hit F1, it will take you into the Help function of the command that you are in. All right, not rocket science. Unless you took a look at one of my earlier tips where I told you how to change F1 to be an Escape because some of us get cranky when we go to hit the Escape key and we miss it because we're a bad shot and we accidentally hit F1. But that's another tip from awhile back. You can look it up if you want to. So let's keep going.

So F2 shows you the Text window, so you can see what you've been doing. Very handy for those of you who are CAD managers if you want to see what the user has been doing. Sometimes it's a little scary. Right? So F2. And you can just hit the toggle on that to go back and forth. All of these are toggles.

If you hit F3, you'll see that it turns OSNAP on or off -- your Object Snap. Now I happen to have my OSNAPs on, you can see them showing up on the screen. Now I will say I think hitting F3 is faster than trying to do a right-click or trying to find it on the status bar. It's up to you. Your choice.

Now I hit F4, you will see that it turns the 3D Object Snaps on or off for those of you who work in 3D. Comes in handy. I think that's faster than trying to find it on the status bar. I'm just going to turn that off.

And then if I hit F5, well, you'll actually see that it doesn't do much right now. It changed my isoplane. But I am not in Isometric Drawing mode. So how do you get into Isometric Drawing mode? For those of you who want to do isometrics, you don't want to work in 3D, you go into Snap and you set the style to Isometric. So now you will actually see if I hit F5, it will switch me around from one isometric plane to the other. See I'm on the right, I'm on the left and so on. Let's undo that.

Incidentally, if you in AutoCAD 2015, there is a very cool tool called IsoDraft. If you click on that, it automatically sets your snap style to isometric and it puts you into the isoplane. So, so that will help you kill two birds with one stone. I do like that new tool. Otherwise, you have to set the snap style to isometric. Say that ten times fast. Hard to do. So that was F5, we're not quite halfway there.

So if I hit F6, you'll see that it turns the dynamic UCS on. That's for those of you who are also working inside of 3D. A nice way to quickly turn that on and off as you are designing.

If I hit F7, you will see that it turns the grid on or off. In the last three releases of AutoCAD, we changed the default so the grid was automatically on. If you don't like, F7 is a fast way to turn that on or off. We all like to work differently.

If I hit F8, it turns the ever-popular Ortho on, and I sincerely hope that you are using that. And I'm sure you know what that does. It allows you to force AutoCAD to draw orthogonally or to move things orthogonally or draw 90, 180, 270. I always use F8. Of all the function keys, I always use F8. I'm pretty sure you probably do too.

All right, and F9. If I go into F9 that will turn the Snap on and now as I'm drawing my line, you'll see that I'm kind of snapping to specific points along the way. So that just depends whatever you have your Snap setting to, but if you want to make sure that you don't draw below a certain increment, you can set you Snap to help you out. Probably don't use this as much as we used to, but some of you still use it. I'm going to turn the Snap off.

Okay, the next one F10 turns Polar on. Now if I come down here to the status bar and I click on the arrow, you will see I have my Polar Tracking set to 45. That just means that AutoCAD is going to make it a little bit more obvious when I hit the 45 degree angles. You can set it to any values that you want. You can set it to multiple values if you want to. It's just to help you draw objects or move objects at a specific angle. It's kind of an underutilized feature, but I think it's pretty powerful. If I go into the Line command now, you will actually see it's just a little bit easier for me to do anything that has to do with a 45-degree angle. It will let me do other angles as well, but it certainly makes it very easy for me to anything at a 45-degree angle increment. Okay, so that was F10.

F11 turns Object Snapping on. Hopefully you know what Object Snapping is. Very, very valuable. Object Snap Tracking, I should say. Very, very valuable feature. If I just do something like go into the Line command, and I want to start the Line command using the same -- in this case, it would be the x coordinate of the object up there, and I have Object Snap Tracking on, I can just hover over that object and you'll see that I'll start my line relatively to that x coordinate. Maybe I want to move this line and grab it relative to another coordinate like this one right up here, you'll see it's very easy to use Object Snap Tracking to grab the x or the y coordinate of existing objects on the screen. Saves you lots and lots of time.

All right, what does F12 do? I know you are on the edge of your seat. And it's not like you aren't sitting right in front of your computer and you can't hit F12 and try it for yourself. So let's see what F12 does. And you will see it does absolutely nothing. That means it's there for you to custom if you want. You can assign a command to F12. And maybe I'll show you how to do that on another day.

But that was a quick tour of the Function keys. If you are not using them, and there's a function that you use frequently, that's assigned to one of those Function keys, you should definitely use them. They are fast and speedy. Your left hand is hanging around with nothing to do anyway. Or maybe your right hand for those of you who are lefthanded. This will give you an opportunity to really go fast inside of AutoCAD. And let's face it, that's what we all want to do. Unless we get paid by the hour.

Thank you so much for joining me, and I will see you back here in two more weeks.

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