Unraveling AutoCAD's CUI, Part 2 (Circles and Lines AutoCAD Tutorial)

31 Jan, 2008 By: Lynn Allen

Creating toolbars that are perfect for you.

I've always been a huge proponent of customizing the heck out of AutoCAD to suit your needs. Last month I kicked off a series of columns about customization by focusing on workspaces. This month I'll discuss one of the most popular tools you can personalize to suit your needs -- toolbars. Creating a custom toolbar of your most frequently used commands can speed up the drawing process significantly.

The first time you launch the CUI in any AutoCAD session, you'll notice it takes a few seconds to launch. After that it should pop up much faster. You'll find the Toolbar section of the CUI listed in the upper-left corner of the dialog box.

The existing toolbars are listed in CUI file tree.

Select New Toolbar from the shortcut menu to create your own toolbar from scratch.
After expanding the Toolbar section, you'll see a listing of all the existing toolbars in your loaded AutoCAD menu file. You can choose to customize an existing toolbar or to create a new one. Let's start by creating a new toolbar called Favorites. To do this, you'll right-click on Toolbars and select New Toolbar from the shortcut menu. Rename the new toolbar as Favorites or something along those lines.

Drag and Drop
Now it's just a matter of dragging your favorite commands from the Command List section of the CUI (lower-left corner) and dropping them underneath your new Favorites toolbar. The order in which you drop the commands will be the order they appear in the toolbar. To quickly find commands, you can use the new Search capability that lies at the very bottom of the Command List dialog box or you can key in the first character of the desired command and the listing will jump to all the commands that start with that character.

Drag and drop commands to customize your toolbar

I selected five of my favorite commands to add to my toolbar. The dynamic capabilities of the CUI allow me to move the tools around directly in the preview box. You can also delete tools by dragging them off the toolbar. You'll see this hysterical cloud-like icon indicating you're about to drag a tool off the toolbar. I believe it's supposed to simulate erasing dust (like from a chalkboard -- that's my guess anyway).

My Favorites toolbar is comprised of five frequently used commands.

You also can see that my new toolbar will be displayed in the Drawing editor (show vs. hide) and it is floating (not docked). Hit OK to save and exit the CUI, and your new toolbar should be displayed on the screen. If you want to customize your toolbar further, you can dynamically modify it in the Drawing editor as well (the way we all used to do it). Right-click on any of the tools in your new toolbar, select Customize from the shortcut menu and the new Quick CUI dialog box will pop up on the screen.

The QuickCUI command is an abridged version of the CUI command as it only displays the command list as seen below. (Frankly I don't find it very quick.) This will make it easy for you to drag and drop additional commands directly to your toolbar. You can add some spacers to your toolbar by grabbing a tool and nudging it over just a little. Don't drag the tools too far, or they'll end up falling off your toolbar. The figure below also shows how I added a couple of separators to my toolbar. The only advantage to adding separators is if you find yourself a bad shot and want it to be easier to select your tools (which also means you haven't been playing enough Xbox).

Right-click on an existing toolbar and select Customize to display the QuickCUI command.

You can also add separator lines inside of the CUI. Separators are indicated with two dashes.

You can manually insert separators in the CUI command.

Add a Flyout
Would you like to add a flyout to your nifty new toolbar? Adding a flyout is like having a toolbar within a toolbar. Here I've indicated that I

Adding a flyout is like adding a toolbar within a toolbar.
want to add a new flyout from the shortcut menu, and I've dragged a few Circle tools to my flyout.

In the early days of toolbars, we took great joy in going flyout happy. We would put flyouts within flyouts until our toolbars looked like a crossword puzzle!

Should you choose to add your own custom command (which we'll tackle another month) to your toolbars, you'll also need to create an icon that goes along with the new tool. If you want to create a nifty icon inside of the CUI, simply select a command that already has an icon attached to it and select Edit from the Button Image section in the upper-right corner of the dialog box. Then you can clear the existing image, turn on the grid if you like (I like), and draw away. The Button editor has four tools: a pencil tool that fills in the squares one at a time, a line tool, a circle tool, and an eraser tool. Regardless of the tool you choose, you will feel like a kindergartener when you try to use them. As you can see below, I am extremely talented in this department! You simply select your color and your weapon of choice and design away! After you've drawn your masterpiece, you'll want to save the icon to a file that resides in the Custom Icon Location (which it does by default) of

C:\Documents and Settings\<user profile name>\Application Data\Autodesk\<product name>\<release number>\<language>\Support\Icons

This location is defined in the Options command, Files tab. This step is extremely important or you will find your icons will disappear (and that has happened to all of us at one time or another). Any icons saved in the proper directory will also be migrated with subsequent releases, which is a good thing.

Use the Button editor to create your icons for your toolbars.

You also can use a more image-friendly program to design your toolbar icons. Just make sure you create the image in two different sizes: 16x16 pixels for the small buttons and 32x32 for the large buttons. Technically, any bitmap can be assigned to a button -- AutoCAD will just size it to fit. So, yes, you can assign a picture of your dog to a toolbar button.

Toolbars are easy to customize and yet they are a powerful means of speeding up your everyday drawing chores. Make yourself a toolbar of all your most frequently used commands so they are available at your fingertips when you need them. Give it a go -- you just might surprise yourself with your customization powers!

Until next month, happy AutoCADing!

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