Step Savers in AutoCAD 2005

31 May, 2004 By: Lynn Allen

These (sometimes subtle) improvements help you work faster.

BECAUSE I'VE BEEN TOURING the United States and Canada doing presentations about AutoCAD 2005, it should be no surprise that it's on the forefront of my brain. Consequently, I'm going to digress from my paper space articles to write about some of the more subtle changes in AutoCAD 2005. You're going to hear about the big items such as the Sheet Set Manager, fields, and tables from different sources-but it's the subtle improvements to everyday features that I often find the most appealing. Remove one tedious step from a command I use all day and I'm one happy camper. It's also these smaller changes that we often have a hard time tracking down. This month, I've done some of the legwork for you.

1 The default in the AutoCAD 2005 Copy command is Multiple copies. Older versions required you to type M to make more than one copy, but no longer! It may take you a while to break the habit, but no worries-the Copy command still works if you key in M.

2 The Revcloud command added to AutoCAD 2004 now has a calligraphy option (figure 1).

 Figure 1. The Revcloud command offers a new calligraphy option.
Figure 1. The Revcloud command offers a new calligraphy option.

3 A great new Osnap (more like a keyboard modifier) lets you to grab the midpoint between two points. Type in M2P or MTP , and AutoCAD prompts for the two points and returns the midpoint. You can also select this option from the Osnap cursor menu. Geometric Calculator fans will recognize this as the MEE function.

4 Have you ever tried to hatch an area that you swear is closed but AutoCAD tells you isn't? Bhatch has a Gap Tolerance option that permits crosshatching areas that are not closed. Talk about a headache cure!

5 Bhatch also has a Draworder option that lets you indicate the draworder of the crosshatch pattern. Let's face it-you usually want the hatching to display behind the boundary for easy selection purposes.

6 Have you ever wished AutoCAD would ignore the object snaps of all the individual segments of a hatch pattern? The new OSNAPHATCH system variable does exactly that! Setting OSNAPHATCH to 0 (the new default) tells the object snap function to ignore hatch patterns. Setting it to 1 tells AutoCAD to take them into consideration. This top-secret addition isn't even documented in the Help function!

7 The Zoom command has an option called Object. You pick one or more objects, and AutoCAD zooms in on the selection set. This is perfect for those times you accidentally zoom out to outerspace and need to zoom back.

8 The 3dclip command has some nice improvements. Not only can you resize the box (which has typically been very, very small), you can also pan and zoom while in the command.

9 How would you like your open drawings to display along the Windows Taskbar? The new system variable TASKBAR (clever name) does that when it's set to 1.

10 A new Express Tool called EditTime lets you track your drawing time to the second. You can turn the timer on and off and even specify a timeout period. If there's no activity for that length of time, AutoCAD turns the timer off automatically. Time information is stored with the drawing file, and you can access it via Visual LISP.

11 Two new Express tools appear on the menu-otherwise, you might not have known about them. Overkill removes duplicate objects from your drawing and combines overlapping line and arc segments. It's great for correcting instances such as a line on top of another line, an arc on a circle, and too many vertices in a polyline. This powerful command is a great help in keeping your drawings clean and ensuring you don't get extra-heavy lines during plotting.

12 The second new Express tool is Flatten. This tool takes your 3D drawing and converts it to 2D-all elevations and thicknesses are changed to 0. Unlike many traditional methods of converting drawings from 3D to 2D, it preserves much of the original drawing intelligence. The resulting 2D objects maintain as much of the original colors, layers, linetypes, and object types as possible.

13 If you prefer your external references to be overlaid as opposed to attached, the system variable XREFTYPE changes the default. Set XREFTYPE to 1 for Overlay, 0 for Attach.

14 If you wish AutoCAD would set up the x,y offset for printing relative to the lower-left corner of the piece of paper rather than to the printable area, you can specify this in Options under the Plot and Publish tab (figure 2).

Figure 2. New printing settings let you decide the x,y offset reference.
Figure 2. New printing settings let you decide the x,y offset reference.

15 As a CAD manager, have you ever wanted to turn off the ability of your team to customize toolbars and palettes? The system variable TBCUSTOMIZE turns off the Customize command when set to 0.

16 My favorite new feature, the Maximize Viewport option, is awesome! Double-clicking on a viewport now fills the screen with the viewport for editing purposes. You can pan and zoom to your heart's content. When you minimize the viewport (a new button on the status bar), it returns to the original display. While the viewport is maximized, the background colors change to those you use in model space so you feel right at home. This is a definite crowd-pleaser!.

17 You can now trim a hatch pattern-hoorah!

18When you a copy an object, the new object maintains the same draworder capabilities as the original. This is true for any command that creates new geometry, such as Chamfer, Fllet, and Array.

19 How about another quick way to move and copy objects-even faster than grips? Highlight the objects and then, holding your right mouse button down, drag them to the desired destination. A short menu displays (figure 3).

Figure 3. Direct object editing is a quick way to move and copy.
Figure 3. Direct object editing is a quick way to move and copy.

20 Now you can easily add a background mask to text and dimension text. Select background mask from the shortcut menu in Mtext for text, and set the Fill color to background in the Dimension Style dialog box for dimensions.

21 You can add all kinds of engineering symbols to your text in the Mtext dialog box. These symbols are also available from the shortcut menu. No more searching through Character Map!

22 A new command called Texttofront brings all your text and dimension text to the top of the draworder stack.

23 Ddedit works on text, mtext, and attribute text.

24 You can create groups in the Layer Manager dialog box. In fact, it automatically puts xref layers into groups for you!

25 There's an Apply button in the Layer dialog box so you don't have to exit to see the results.

26 A new setting in the View command lets you save the current layer states along with the view.

27 And last, but not least, AutoCAD performs background plots so you can continue to use AutoCAD while plotting.

Phew! This is a very quick hit list of many of the new features in AutoCAD 2005. Even if you haven't upgraded yet, save this list for when you do, to ensure you're getting the absolute most out of your product. Until next month-happy AutoCAD-ing!

Lynn Allen is the AutoCAD technical evangelist for Autodesk in San Rafael, California, and the author of AutoCAD 2002: Inside and Out from CMP books. E-mail

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