Feeling at Home in AutoCAD 2000

30 Sep, 1999 By: Lynn Allen

I always feel trepidation about new releases of AutoCAD. What changes will be made? Will they be for better or worse? Will the learning curve be high or low? For those of you who've been following my column through the years, I'm sure you've read these words before when Release 13 and Release 14 came out. Because I was such an avid DOS user, Release 13 was a shock to my system, and it took months before I felt I knew my way around the product. Release 14, on the other hand, was an easy transition thanks to the improved stability and well thought-out enhancements. But what is AutoCAD 2000 like?

By now many of you have upgraded to the latest release of AutoCAD. Since the first thing you encounter when opening up a new release is the user interface, it seems natural to begin there. This month, I'm going to take a look at the 2000

Figure 1. Here is an overall view of the AutoCAD 2000 drawing editor.
user interface and show you some of the cool new features you might not stumble over on your own.

Figure 1 shows the standard, out-of-the-box view of the AutoCAD 2000 drawing editor. I highlighted a couple of the obvious changes right off the bat-the model and layout tabs in the lower-left hand corner of the screen along with the new lineweights drop-down list off of the object properties toolbar. You'll also notice the clearly distinguishable drawing name in the upper left-hand corner of the drawing area. Of course the first thing to do is hit the maximize button (the one within the drawing area), which gives you a tad more drawing room. This also pushes the drawing name to the upper left-hand corner of the drawing editor right next to the AutoCAD 2000 program name. I haven't figured out a way to get AutoCAD 2000 to default to this setting. Have any of you?

Let's start at the top of the drawing editor and work our way down. We'll start with the pulldown menus.

The AutoCAD 2000 Pulldown Menus
I'm still convinced the pulldown menus are one of the most popular modes of AutoCAD transportation. It can be very frustrating to load a new release only to find that the pulldown menus are completely rearranged. To Autodesk's credit, they left the main structure of the pulldown menus alone in AutoCAD 2000. A first glimpse shows only two major changes: the Bonus tools menu of AutoCAD Release 14 now says Express Tools (only a name change, so don't panic) and the new Windows pulldown accommodates MDI functionality (the No. 1 AutoCAD Wishlist item for about four years). For those of you who are still new to the realm of techie acronyms, MDI stands for Multiple Document Interface, and it permits you to open more than one drawing at a time. This added capability comes with viewing decisions such as tiling or cascading. You'll also find the new features and commands sprinkled among the appropriate menus along with a few double-cascades, which I never really care for since they make me feel I'm getting a workout.


Figure 2. When right clicking on an existing toolbar button, the toolbar menu appears.
It's taken me awhile to warm up to toolbars, but I'm slowly becoming a fan. There are a couple of new toolbars that I strongly recommend you check out. To display all of the toolbars available to you, right click on any existing tool. This will bring up the menu shown in Figure 2. You no longer right-click on a tool to bring up the toolbar dialog for customizing. Now, you select Customize from this new menu to bring up the toolbar dialog.

A couple of cool new additions to the toolbar world include the updated Dimension toolbar that now makes it easy to switch from one dimension style to another, as

Figure 3. The new Dimension toolbar in AutoCAD 2000 also displays the current dimension style.

Figure 4. The updated Viewport toolbar makes it easy to set viewport scale factors.

Figure 5. The new Shade toolbar contains the various persistent shading options.

Figure 6. The new 3DORBIT commands can be found on the 3DORBIT toolbar.
shown in Figure 3. It also includes the awesome new QDIM command. Figure 4 shows the new Viewports toolbar that makes it super simple to assign scale factors to viewports in Paper Space (which is about a million times easier than setting the XP factor in the ZOOM command). You'll also find the new Polygonal viewport option in this toolbar. The new Shade toolbar makes it easy to turn on the persistent shading options now available for those of you who are into 3D drawing. And the new 3Dorbit toolbar lets you play with the ultimate fun command 3DORBIT. Even if you are not into 3D, you really must spend a few minutes playing with the Continuous orbit option! It's pure fun, and when you spend so much time using AutoCAD for mundane purposes, you owe it yourself to have a little CAD fun every once in awhile.

The actual look and feel of the toolbars is a tad different as well. You'll notice that the individual tools now have a flat appearance, and they lift as you move your cursor over them. You'll also notice the new separator lines that serve

Figure 7. The new Toolbars have flat buttons, grab bars and separator bars.
the obvious purpose of separating, and the new grab bars that make it much easier to grab docked toolbars for moving them around on the screen, as shown in Figure 7.

For those of you with super high resolution screens who prefer to use the large icons, I have bad news for you. They don't really exist in AutoCAD 2000. Selecting the large icon checkbox in the toolbar dialog only blows up the smaller icons, making them large and grainy. I doubt you'll be happy with the end result. I use large icons all the time for presentation purposes, and I was bummed out when I found this minor but irritating bug.

Now, let's move on to the Model and Layout tabs in the lower left-hand corner of the drawing area.

I suspect the main goal behind adding these new tabs to the drawing editor is to encourage those who haven't ventured into the world of Paper Space to take that first step. No longer do you need to know the magic command Tilemode to wander back and forth between Paper Space and Model Space because now it's just a tab away. One reader asked me why Autodesk felt the need to put Excel into AutoCAD, which I suppose one might think is the case at first sight. I can assure you it's not Excel, just a simple new mechanism to go from one space to another. By default, any new drawings come complete with one Model Space tab and two layout tabs (named Layout1 and Layout2). It's easy to rename, delete and add new tabs by right clicking on any of the tabs. If you like to use the screen slider bars to pan and zoom, you'll find you can expand the slider bar right over any of the tabs you create. Should you do this, you can use the arrows next to the Model tab to move through the model and layout tabs.

The Status Bar
There are a few additions to the AutoCAD 2000 toolbar. Other than the standard coordinate display, Ortho, Snap, Grid, Osnap and the Model Space/Paper Space toggle, you'll find the new Polar, Object tracking (Otrack) and Lineweights (LWT). You'll also find that the Tilemode option has been removed now that you have the new Layout tabs.

The coolest thing about the Status Bar in 2000 is that it only takes a single click to toggle versus the double click R14 required. A simple little change, but those clicks add up!

I'll run through a quick summary of the new status bar additions here, and then revisit them in more detail in a future column. The new Polar option turns on the new polar snap facility. This is a nice addition to Ortho that permits you to easily snap to a user-defined angle. Let's say I needed to draw a rectangle at a 45-degree angle; I could set my polar angle to 45, and I'd find an auxiliary angle snapping capability that could snap to 45-, 135-, 225- and 315-degree increments.

Object tracking takes tracking (introduced in R14) to the next level. AutoCAD 2000 displays visual tracking lines, making it easier to work off of object snaps from other objects.

The new Lineweight option is used to turn off the visual display of lineweights. When off, your objects display without taking lineweight information into consideration, so they'll most likely display using a lineweight of 0.

Table 1. The New Function Key Settings

F1 Help
F2 Flip Screen
F3 Osnap
F4 Tablet (Did they really need to move this from F10?)
F5 Isoplane
F6 Coords
F7 Grid
F8 Ortho
F9 Snap
F10 Polar
F11 Object Tracking

My only beef with the new status line is that I sometimes have a hard time telling if my toggles are on or off. I felt the differential was much clearer in Release 14 (or maybe I just need new glasses). I find myself hitting the option just to see if it's on or not. (Am I alone here guys?)

For those of you who are still using the function keys to toggle most modes on and off, I've included the latest function key settings in Table 1.

I'd also like to mention the new Command syntax. I've always felt AutoCAD didn't do well with consistency in command structure. With AutoCAD 2000 this has changed. Let's take a look at the new command sequence for the CIRCLE command:

Command: Circle

Specify center point for circle or [3P/2P/Ttr (tan tan radius)]:

Specify radius of circle or [Diameter]:

Can you see a difference in the way the commands are laid out? The default (which in previous releases was always displayed in the greater than/less than symbols <>) is now spelled out up front. The default for Circle is Specify center point for circle. Additional options are displayed within the rectangular brackets. If you draw a circle and re-enter the command, you'll still see the radius of the last circle drawn within the greater than/less than symbols as shown here:

CIRCLE Specify center point for circle or [3P/2P/Ttr (tan tan radius)]:

Specify radius of circle or [Diameter] <1.1404>:

This isn't a huge change but one you should take note of. Instructors will be grateful because now all the AutoCAD commands follow a similar structure. This should make it easier for new users to learn AutoCAD. Mind you this doesn't change the way you use the commands themselves, just the way they're displayed on the screen.

In addition to these changes to the User Interface, you'll find a ton of new right-click menus. Depending on where you right click, you'll get completely different results. If you right click over the drawing area while in a command, you'll get a shortcut menu that contains the command options (along with a few other things). For example, if you right click over the drawing area when you're not in a command, you'll get a completely different menu. The AutoCAD Engineering team was quoted as saying, "When all else fails, right click!" I strongly recommend trying out the many different right-click menus.

I hope this whirlwind tour helps you feel more comfortable inside of the AutoCAD 2000 environment, and I hope you'll figure out how to make yourself at home in it as I have! Until next month...

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