Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 11, No. 17)

7 May, 2006

What's New at

Cadalyst Discussion Forums Have a New Look — and a new URL
Cadalyst's CAD Manager, CAD Questions and Hot Tip Harry Discussion Forums have moved to a new location. Visit today to update your bookmarks, check out the new look and find out what's on the minds of other CAD professionals.

Cadalyst Daily Update
For all the latest news and new products, subscribe to Cadalyst Daily e-newsletter. Plus, every issue includes a feature you won’t find anywhere else – hardware and CAD software reviews, success stories, AutoCAD tips and much more! Here’s a sample of what you missed in the past week:

  • Taming the File Flood: Avionics manufacturer uses PLM to tap into the vast resources of its own company files, saving millions
  • Enlisting in Apple Boot Camp: Experts from Autodesk, auto-des-sys and Nemetschek discuss the realities of running Windows-based CAD on a Mac


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Live Blog: Architecture of Sustainability Conference
Organizers of the Architecture of Sustainability conference invite readers to follow daily Web postings about the conference and to share comments and observations on the conference blog site. Sponsored by the AIA Committee on Design and AIA Committee on the Environment, the conference is taking place May 4-7, 2006, in Washington, D.C., and Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

VectorWorks Users Can Directly Import Google 3D Warehouse Models
Nemetschek North America reports that its VectorWorks Design Series is compatible with content in the new Google 3D Warehouse, allowing users of VectorWorks Architect, Landmark, Spotlight and Designer v12 immediate access to the SketchUp-format 3D content that users anywhere can upload to the digital warehouse. According to the company, thousands of SKP models are available free for VectorWorks and other users to import directly into their designs.

Online Library for Industrial Suppliers
ThomasNet has launched an enhanced online library, including an updated press room that provides free white papers, information on industrial market trends and news that the company says will help its users compete more effectively online. One white paper highlights the results of a recent ThomasNet-Google study that looks at the online habits of industrial buyers. Also featured is a daily industrial blog with a biweekly newsletter.

Maplesoft Launches Podcast Series
Maplesoft, a provider of engineering software, has made available a podcast series called MapleCasts. The series includes technical tips for Maplesoft products as well as interviews with notable personalities. The 20-minute biweekly MapleCasts follow a variety show format. Episode 1, "In the Beginning" -- about the early days of MapleSoft and Maple software development challenges -- is available for download in iTunes, MP3 and streaming formats.

Geospatial Technology Surveys Launched
GITA (Geospatial Information & Technology Association) has begun collecting data for its eighth annual Geospatial Technology Report, which focuses on the complexity, direction and completeness of GIS projects around the world. Users with active GIS implementations are invited to complete the online survey; the deadline is June 2. Organizations that complete the survey will receive a free copy of the report.

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This Week's Software Tips

Yet Another Approach to Quick-Load LISP Routines
Responding to recent tips about quick-loading seldom-used LISP routines into AutoCAD using file drag-and-drop and keyboard shortcuts, Steve Weichel sends a third option:

"For a 'button guy' like me, there is only one way to go. I create buttons for LISPS I seldom use. First, this keeps all my LISP routines in one directory of my choice. It also helps me remember which routines I have because they are always on my screen.

"Create a folder for all your LISP routines. If you place the folder on a network, anyone in your office can use the LISP routines. Next I create a button on a toolbar and place a macro into that button. This is nice because I can create my own symbol for the button and, better yet, if other people use it in a network setting, they can make a symbol of their choice as well. Don’t forget to add that directory to your search path so AutoCAD will see it. Here is an example:

^C^C(load "c:/dalmatian/dfi2004/sclcircl") sclcircl

"With this macro, the command is not only loaded but the command is started all in one click of the mouse! Granted, it loads the routine every time you click the button, but with today’s computers it happens in the blink of an eye."

More About Updating Multiple Titleblocks
Following up about last week's advice about updating multiple titleblocks, Randy Fisher writes, "To update multiple titleblocks, open any one of the layouts, select the titleblock using SSX and use Attout to save selection set P, following the prompts. Import this tab-delimited file into Excel and make corrections. Then save as a delimited text file and use Attin to export it back into the drawing. One caution is that Excel can format numbers for you; scale ratios can become decimals and leading or trailing zeros can be dropped."

On the same subject, V. J. Franke writes, "Along the thread of titleblocks, xrefs or blocks, we use a titleblock DWG for each project. Therefore, project information has to be entered only once and can be easily updated for all sheets. (Yes, title blocks are in paper space). Each titleblock also has a separate block of attributes for the standard text of the titleblock, which can be inserted in the final DWG (over the xref'd title DWG) for specific sheet information. (This block is used in the project and each individual DWG)." In simple terms, it goes like this:

  • A standard DWG holds the "block," logo and so forth, including the attribute block, so project information can be entered.
  • Each project titleblock is created by adding project-specific information to the standard DWG. 
  • Project drawing sheets can xref the titleblock. (You can use multiple paper space layouts as necessary in each DWG).
  • Individual sheet information is entered in the attribute block that's inserted in the DWG.

"This approach seems this gives us the best of both worlds. We are a subconsultant (electrical engineers), so we often have a client's titleblock to use. It takes only a few minutes to create the attribute block and doing so simplifies life from then on."

Benjamin R. Young writes, "Ivanhoe Tejeda is on the right track with titleblocks in paper space, but it's much easier to just create a DWT with all the layers, states and borders set up in paper space already. I agree with Matthew Samario that Xrefing in titleblocks is not the way to go. I keep the borders of the titleblocks in paper space in my DWT file, then copy and paste the titleblock from model space into paper space. This way I can be have virtually any paper size and scale I need with about 30 seconds worth of work. Being a building systems contractor, I don’t have the luxury of using the same paper size for every project I do, so this comes in handy when you have to insert your drawings into an architect’s drawing set.

"I am lucky in that I use a CAD add-on package called SprinkCAD [for fire sprinkler system design] that updates information in the titleblock for me, so I keep the titleblock in paper space until I’m finished drawing, as it won’t update the blocks in paper space. Any small changes that come later can be edited in by hand with ease."

Don Boyer writes regarding the question of editing attributes for large numbers of files: "I'm not a programmer so I use a [general-purpose batch-scripting tool for AutoCAD] called Hurricane for AutoCAD. It allows me to create scripts that I can apply to any number of drawings -- and it does a whole lot more than edit attributes."

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom
Bill Karkula sends a tidy little tip that sounds as fun to use as it is practical.

"Ever want to zoom extents and then back out just a little? I programmed a quick button to do that. It works great!"


Excellent Additions to Your LISP Collection
Whether you drag-and-drop, type or click to load your LISP, you'll want to add at least a few of these handy routines to your collection, generously provided by Derek Beals. Click here to download the ZIP file.

  • ARC-LENGTH.LSP draws an arc at the length and radius you input at the Command line.

  • MATCH-ANGLE.LSP rotates an object to match the angle of another. (The rotated object must be at zero degrees.)

  • MULTIPLE-POST-INSERTIONS.LSP works something like the Divide with Block command, Beals says, but is based on two points, which could be anywhere on a line, not necessarily the end points. It splits the distance between two objects depending on the maximum distance between the objects. For example, Beals explains, "We have a maximum design for our posts at 60" on center, so I can pick the two points and input the maximum distance of 60". [The routine] divides by that many then rounds up and copies the selected object that many times."

  • ROTATED-COPY.LSP is "really cool," Beals comments. It copies and rotates based on a base point/angle, at different angles, "unlike rotated array."

  • NEW LISP TEMPLATE.LSP: Beals says he and a buddy use this template when creating a new LISP routine. "The template includes all these cool little non-LISP functions we have come up with, so we don't have to physically load them every time -- functions such as Tangent, Squaring a number, Fixx (opposite of fix), and probably my favorite non-LISP function, Getarc."

Send us your tip or shortcut for your favorite CAD software. If we publish it, we'll send you a “Cadalyst: CAD the Way You Want It” t-shirt.

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Deals & Freebies

Free Web Player for 3D Content Sharing
Caligari, a producer of 3D modeling and animation software, announced the release of truePlay, a free web player for sharing interactive 3D objects, scenes and worlds. truePlay reportedly allows participants to open, enter and interact with 3D scenes sent to them via download or e-mail and also works online so multiple participants can join the same 3D space in real-time. Applications include design engineering, education, biomedicine, design and illustration, and games development.

Free Plugin for 3ds Max
EON Reality, a provider of interactive visual content management software, has released EON Raptor, a free plugin that enables users to display and interact with 3ds max content in real-time using intuitive controls. The software reportedly allows simple interactive behaviors to be authored rapidly without leaving 3ds max. The completed application can be published to a Web page for viewing with a browser, exported to a stand-alone file for viewing with the free EON Viewer application or exported to EON Professional for further editing.

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Opportunities & Honors

Winners Announced in FIRST Robotics Championship
At the FIRST Robotics Competition Championship at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta in late April, the winning team was an alliance of student teams that included the ThunderChickens of Utica Community Schools, Sterling Heights, Michigan; Northern Knights of Loyola High School, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; and RoboWizards of McKee Vocational High School, Staten Island, New York. The high-school-level competition drew more than 1,130 teams from the United States, Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, Israel, Mexico and the United Kingdom and culminated a series of regional competitions held over the past several weeks. It was founded by Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway Human Transporter, to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology. Click here to read the full report.

San Jose Civic Center Wins Award
Technology consulting firm Shen Milsom & Wilke earned a top award for its work at the San Jose Civic Center in the fourth annual ARCHI-TECH AV Awards, sponsored jointly by the International Communications Industries Association and ARCHI-TECH magazine. The competition honors the creative and effective integration of technology into design projects. The winners were chosen from more than 45 international entrants representing commercial, institutional and governmental building design.

3D Environment Competition
e-on software is sponsoring the Vue 3D Environment Competition. The contest is open to all Vue users. Creators of the winning images will have their entries displayed online and will receive prizes in association with 3D World magazine and Cornucopia3D. Five leading figures in the world of 3D graphics will serve as judges. Submissions will be accepted from May 15 through June 15, and winners will be announced on July 1.

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Books & Training

Russian AutoCAD Books
Two Russian-language AutoCAD books are available from BHV-Petersburg Publishing House. AutoLISP and Visual LISP Inside AutoCAD (960 pages), by N. Poleshchuk and P. Loskutov, discusses programming in AutoLISP language and its Visual LISP extension as well as how to use AutoCAD 2005-2006 object model, ActiveX techniques and reactors. AutoCAD: Application Development, Tuning and Customization (992 pages), by N. Poleshchuk, covers tuning and customizing AutoCAD 2005-2006 as well as modern programming tools applicable to AutoCAD. Each book is accompanied by a CD with examples. Both are available from Russian online booksellers.

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

Hardware: PHANTOM Omni
SensAble Technologies releases a haptic device for 'virtual clay modeling' using the company's FreeForm software. Read more

General Software: I-View CAD v2
Alias releases update of 3D pipe modeling application with new productivity features. Read more

General Software: DFS
Adenium Systems' document fulfillment system integrates with Meridian Systems' Prolog software. Read more

Visualization: Hexagon v2
3D modeler upgrade is DAZ's first software release following its acquisition of Eovia. Read more

Visualization: Gelato Pro v2
NVIDIA releases GPU-accelerated software for high-performance rendering. Read more

AEC: SmartPlant 3D v6.1
Intergraph's plant design and engineering software now supports Oracle and Microsoft database platforms. Read more

Facilities Management: TRIRIGA v9
Updated enterprise workplace management application suite helps organizations manage and optimize the workplace. Read more

GIS: IMAGINE Easytrace
Leica Geosystems Geospatial Imaging releases add-on to IMAGINE Essentials for capturing vector information from a digital source. Read more 

VX releases software to turn digital images into 3D models. Read more

MCAD: FreeForm v9
SensAble Technologies releases updated version its 3D organic modeling software. Read more

MCAD: FeatureMILL3D 2007
Delcam updates machining software with increased calculation speeds for 3D toolpaths and improved surface finishes. Read more

MCAD: TopSolid'Progress 2006
Missler Software introduces a CAD module for tool design. Read more

CAE: LMS SCADAS Mobile and LMS Test.Xpress
LMS releases new solutions for noise and vibration testing and engineering. Read more

CAE: Femap v9.2
UGS updates finite-element modeling software with improved assembly handling capabilities. Read more

CAE: STAR-Design v4.04
CD-adapco upgrades its computational fluid dynamics software for product design evaluations. Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

Cadalyst'scomplete list of upcoming industry events is always available on our Web site.

Accelerate Your Ideas
Various dates and locations
Autodesk series of events will introduce and demonstrate its manufacturing solutions, including Autodesk Inventor v11, AutoCAD Electrical 2007, AutoCAD Mechanical and Autodesk’s Data Management solutions. Read more

Large-Format Document Management
Various dates
IDEAL offers webinars every Tuesday and Thursday on large-format scanning and document-management problems. An interactive question and answer session is included. Read more 

Transforming Product Development for Small & Medium Business
May 17, 2006, 12 p.m. ET
The Product Development Company will host a webcast designed to educate small and medium businesses on how to transform product development to drive growth and lower costs. Read more 

QA/QC for GIS Data
June 5-6 and June 14-15, 2006
ESRI Learning Center, Redlands, California
ESRI’s instructor-led classes help users stay current on software and learn new skills to help optimize the GIS workflow. Read more 

Interior Motives Design Conference 2006
June 6-8, 2006
London, United Kingdom
Organized by Interior Motives magazine, this second Interior Motives Design Conference is designed for designers and experts from the world of car design and automotive technology to share ideas and developments. Read more 

Data Production and Editing Techniques
June 7-9, 2006
ESRI Learning Center, Redlands, California
ESRI’s instructor-led classes help you stay current on software and learn new skills that will optimize your GIS workflow. Read more 

June 8, 2006
Marina Village Conference Center
San Diego, California
This is an official Autodesk User Group International (AUGI) learning and networking event designed to help you gain knowledge and skills you can apply immediately to solve existing challenges and make you more productive. Read more 

Working with ArcGIS Network Analyst
June 8-9, 2006
ESRI Learning Center, Redlands, California
ESRI’s instructor-led classes help you stay current on software and learn new skills that will optimize your GIS workflow. Read more 

2006 NAFEMS UK Conference
June 14-15, 2006
Cheshire, United Kingdom
NAFEMS, the International Association for the Engineering Analysis Community, will hold its 2006 UK conference for the analysis and simulation industries covering FEA (finite-element analysis), CFD (computational fluid dynamics) and associated technologies. The two-day event will focus on the future challenges in all aspects of engineering simulation. Read more 

Introduction to the Multiuser Geodatabase
June 29-30, 2006
ESRI Learning Center, Redlands, California
ESRI’s instructor-led classes help you stay current on software and learn new skills that will optimize your GIS workflow. Read more 

Rapid Manufacturing 1st International Conference
July 5-6, 2006
Loughborough University, United Kingdom
Conference will feature industrial applications and academic research currently used in rapid manufacturing -- the use of additive layer manufacturing techniques for end-use parts. Read more

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