Sit Back in Your Easy Chair (Circles and Lines AutoCAD Tutorial)

30 Nov, 2007 By: Lynn Allen

Set up AutoCAD 2008 so it's easy to use and offers as much screen real estate as possible.

When you're working with a software product day in and day out it's important to make it feel as comfortable as possible. You should customize it to suit your needs -- and, of course, for maximum productivity. What you like may not be exactly the way I like it - it's all about you! This month, I'll offer a few suggestions you might want to consider as you set up the perfect AutoCAD environment just for yourself.

Palettes AutoCAD 2008 comes with 12 different palettes. Some of these -- such as the Dashboard, Properties, and Sheet Set Manager -- should be available on your screen for quick and easy access. Of course, if you're greedy about your screen real estate, you aren't going to want these big mamas taking over your valuable drawing area. Past releases of AutoCAD let you dock your palettes, but the new anchoring feature is by far more effective and conserves more of that precious drawing space.

Notice in the first figure how I have five palettes anchored on the left side of the screen, but they take up very little space as they are each represented by a single icon. When I roll my mouse over the Properties icon, it fills up the entire display area for maximum usability. When I move my mouse away from the palette it rolls back up leaving me with plenty of room for my drawing. How do you anchor a palette? Simply right-click on the Palette vertical bar and select Anchor Left or Anchor Right from the shortcut menu.

Anchoring your favorite palettes on one side of the screen provides easy access and maximum visibility.

Anchored palettes take up very little room.

Model Space and Layout Tabs
Like it or not, those Layout tabs take up an entire line of space on your screen. What if you could move them down to the Status bar to free up that

Free up valuable space by sending your model space and layout tabs to the status bar.
space for your drawing? It's a little known fact that you can do exactly that. Right-click on any of the Model and Layout tabs and select Hide Layout and Model tabs from the shortcut menu. This sounds like it's going to hide them completely from sight doesn't it?

Not to worry. You can still access your Layout tabs from the status bar. The black icon sends you to model space (makes sense if you still use a black background in model space) and you can access any of your layouts by selecting the arrows next to the paper space icons.

Note: If you are one of those CAD users who plays the Layout Hokey Pokey, meaning you're constantly bouncing back and forth between layouts, you aren't going to like the extra pick required here.

Status Bar
Speaking of the Status Bar, be sure to remove any of the settings you aren't using! Right-click on the arrow in the far left corner to control which tools appear on your status bar. This option is very tricky to find. I'm guessing you probably don't use the Grid option. You probably don't use Dynamic UCS, if you aren't using any 3D functionality. I don't think Clean Screen is valuable enough to merit a place on my status bar. So, go ahead and remove those buttons from the status bar. This eliminates clutter and reduces the chances you'll select the wrong tool as you're working.


The lower right area of the AutoCAD screen contains the Tray Settings (far right) and the Drawing Status Bar.

For those of you using AutoCAD 2008, you'll find the addition of some new tools on the status bar that are valuable only if you plan on using the new Annotation Scaling features. If that's not your plan right now, declutter your screen even more by turning off the Drawing Status Bar. The first two icons of the status bar disappear.

Last, but not least, you also can turn off the icons that are considered part of the Tray. The three icons of the Tray (in order) inform you if you are logged into the Vault (a very cool data-management program that is free to AutoCAD users), if your toolbars are locked down (so you don't accidentally move them), and if you're working in a drawing that can be considered a true DWG file (meaning it was created in an Autodesk product). In most cases, you can live happily ever after without these displayed settings -- in my humble opinion. Remember to that if you turn off any of these things, it's easy enough to bring them back on your screen with a couple of clicks.

Some other options for setting up your screen include moving the Command line around or possibly even shortening it to free up screen real estate. I know some people who have narrowed down the Command line to half its original size and then use the extra room to store a couple of extra toolbars. You can even anchor the Command line to one side of the screen, just as we did with our palettes for maximum space saving. To me that's being just a little too efficient, as I like to see the Command prompt at all times.

Maximize Layer Productivity
Because we spend so much time in the Layer dialog box, be sure to customize it for maximum productivity. With the addition of so many columns over the years, you now must use the slider bar to get to the columns on the far right. For maximum productivity, I suggest two things: Get rid of any columns you don't use and move the ones you use most frequently to the left for easy access (the less you need to use that slider bar the better). In AutoCAD 2008, you can easily move the columns around simply by dragging and dropping the headers. You can also turn off any rarely used columns by right-clicking on a header and selecting Customize. Never fear -- you can always bring them back at a later date by selecting Restore all columns to defaults from the right-click menu.

Remove any extra columns in the Layer dialog box for maximum productivity.

Condense the Scale List
If you use paper space (which hopefully most of you do), then you are familiar with assigning scale factors to viewports. The list of possible scales is long and daunting, and I'm guessing you only use a handful of scale factors. Save some time by narrowing down that list using the Scalelistedit command. Remove all of the scales you don't use (it also helps eliminate the need to use the dreaded slider bar). If you work in imperial units, feel free to remove the metric scales or vice-versa. Once again, this is not a permanent change, and it can easily be reset back to its original state.

Use the Scalelistedit command to purge the long list into something more manageable.

Finally, when you get to the point where you have the perfect user interface, be sure to save it! Even if you are the only person using your computer, you're going to want to save your UI setup to a Workspace. Why? Because it makes upgrading to the next release of AutoCAD a breeze. AutoCAD is happy to migrate your workspace for you -- all you have to do is load it and you are ready to go! There's nothing more frustrating than loading the next release of AutoCAD and knowing you must set your easy chair up all over again! Workspaces can be found in the Tools pull-down menu.

Spend some time setting up the perfect CAD environment, and you'll find yourself working more efficiently and more comfortably. Think of this process as setting up your own personal office for efficiency. You know what you like and where you like things placed -- use this same idea when personalizing AutoCAD!

Until next month, happy AutoCADing.

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