Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 11, No. 19)

21 May, 2006

What's New at

Cadalyst's New Job Search Now Live!
Our new search tool offers a state-by-state list of CAD-related job openings, or you can customize a search to find your own list of U.S. job openings based on the keywords and locations you specify. Use the Job Search button on Cadalyst's Management, Manufacturing, AEC or GIS Web site or click here for a direct link. 

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 recently:

  • Ready to Roll: GIS-based Rapid Responder puts key information in the hands  of those who need it in a crisis

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New Web Site for AutoCAD Users
Mike Good has launched CAD Corner, a Web site he says is designed to make life a little easier for AutoCAD users. CAD Corner offers free downloadable LISP routines, blocks, details, text styles or hatch patterns. Visitors can upload their own items to share. The site also includes an AutoCAD forum for AutoCAD tips, tricks and tutorials.

Degree Program for Interior Planning with AutoCAD
Art Institutes International Minnesota is introducing an associate's degree program in Interior Planning with AutoCAD. The program aims to develop an entry-level drafter, focusing on building construction. Students will learn basics such as lettering, line work and drafting principles, as well as how to use codes specifications and reference materials. Training is also devoted to learning computer-aided drafting. The Art Institutes International Minnesota is one of The Art Institutes, with 32 educational institutions located throughout North America.

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This Week's Software Tips

Final Word On Quick-Loading Seldom-Used LISP Routines?
Following up on one tip last week about quick-loading seldom-used LISP routines in AutoCAD, R.K. McSwain advises, "Actually, you should avoid modifying the ACAD200?DOC.LSP file. Upgrades, reinstalls and repairs can overwrite this file with the program default file."

Steve Ashton adds: "Autodesk has provided the Autoload function for loading seldom-used routines. Create a file called ACADDOC.LSP containing a line similar to the example below for each program, and AutoCAD will load them if needed when you type the shortcut. A full description is available in AutoCAD Help .

(autoload "c:/cad/lisp/mend" '("mn"))

More About Automatic Layer Changes in AutoCAD
A few readers sent follow-up information about last week's tip from Corey L. Sorensen that automatically changes the layer to the one needed by adding a macro in front of the command macro.

Steve Weichel adds this note: "I have used that macro for years and found that we can refine it further to make it more user friendly. Take a look at the macro we use."

graphscr _dimlinear

"We don't change the layer using "s," but rather we use "m" for "make." This not only sets the layer current but also creates it if it doesn't yet exist. Not only do we set the layer, but we turn on the osnaps we prefer and change to the correct dimstyle. You can also set the linetype and color if you prefer."

Here is another example he uses for text with a leader. "In this case, we change the Dimensions style and layer and set our ortho to Off. Again, we use "m" rather than "s" to change the layer."


This last example is setting the layer and text style to be used.


Don Lorenzi writes that you can make automatic layers even better by adding the following to the end of your macro, and it will return you to your previous layer:

\\\;^C^C(setvar "clayer" xxx)  

If you are on a drawing layer and want to add a dimension then continue with your drawing, your macro would be the following, which will put your dimension on the DIM layer and return you to your previous layer.

^C^C-Layer;s;DIM;;^C^C_dimlinear\\\\;^C^C(setvar "clayer" xxx)

The number of back slashes you use depends on the command that precedes, Lorenzi says. Dimlinear needs four, while Dimaligned only needs three. While using this for Wipeout, the number of back slashes depends on how many points you want to select for the Wipeout box. The following gives you six points to select for your Wipeout box and then places you back on your previous layer:

^C^C(setq xxx (getvar "clayer"));-layer;set;WIPEOUT;;
^C^C_wipeout \\\\\\;^C^C(setvar "clayer" xxx)

Finally, Lorenzi explains, if you don't have a layer set up for dimensions, you can go a step further with the following code. It creates a layer called Dimensions with the color blue and a continuous linetype, asks for points for an aligned dimension, places your dimension on that layer, and then returns you to your previous layer. Variables can be changed to match your standards -- layer name, color and so forth.

^C^C(setq xxx (getvar "clayer"));^C^C(if(= nil (tblsearch "LAYER""DIMENSIONS"))(command"layer""n""DIMENSIONS"
-layer;set;DIMENSIONS;;_dimaligned \\\;^C^C(setvar
"clayer" xxx)  

Steve Connolley says, "I used to edit my toolbar buttons with a macro to switch to the correct layer for that command -- for example, Dimensions layer for dimensioning, Text layer for annotation. But recently I've started to use tool palletes for my most commonly used buttons. Try putting your most commonly used commands on to a tool pallete -- for example, Linear Dimension -- and edit its properties for layer, color, etc. This way, when you use the command, if the layer doesn't exist, AutoCAD will create it with your specified colors and so forth. If it does exist, AutoCAD will put it on the correct layer, but not switch from the one you're working on."

Correction: Export Uniformly Sized Raster Images from AutoCAD
Technical difficulties last week resulted in a bad link to Cliff Middleton's LISP routine for exporting uniformly sized raster images from AutoCAD. (Click here to download SSZ.TXT, then change file extension to LSP before use.) "We use it for creating images for engineering documentation," he notes. It sets the screen size in pixels. The default size is 640 x 480. To change this default, change the SCRWIDTH and SCRHEIGHT variables in the LISP code. Cadalyst apologizes for any inconvenience to readers.

Perfecting Aspect Ratios in Imported Images

Cadalyst thanks George Cox, who sends this handy tip to use when importing images into AutoCAD. "If you bring in an image to trace in AutoCAD, such as a scan of an original hand drawing, the image rarely has a perfect aspect ratio.  If you align or scale to a reference scale in x, you might find y to be slightly out of scale. As there is no way to correct this in an imported image, turn the image into a wblock. Then you can adjust the wblock properties until the y scaling is correct."

See and Control Layout Position and Size While in Model Space
Jean Cosyn sends this tip that he says is very helpful for working with large road plans or even in architecture. "It allows me to really see and align multiple drawings and mulitple layouts. 

"First, use your usual layouts (with frames and title blocks) or create them at the proper size. Frames can be rectangles or any other shapes (such as a rectangle minus a smaller rectangle in a corner for the title block) depending on your final layout appearance, which can differ from one country to another, or from one customer to another. Then, create a layer named No-plot (or similar in your layer structure) with properties that ensure nonplotting. (Check the box on the right in Layer Properties).  Make it current.

"On your final layout tabs, draw a polyline following exactly your frame or multiple frames.  Use the Cut command, select your no-plot polyline(s), then switch to model space.  There, you paste your no-plot polyline(s) and you can scale them to reach the wanted scale ratio.

"You can then move them to frame your model the way you want.  You can duplicate them, align them and so forth. The benefit is that you can see in model space the exact position of your layout frames.  They can even overlap and appear inside the model; this is no problem because it will not be printed.

"Finally, go back to your Layout tab, double-click in your model frame and use the Zoom command (with osnap) to zoom exactly on the corners of your model space frames. Now you have perfect coherence between your layouts and your model tabs."

SolidWorks Tips
SolidWorks training developer SolidProfessor sends the following tips this week for Tips & Tools Weekly readers:

  • Edge Flange Feature: Enhance your sheet metal design using the Edge Flange Feature in SolidWorks 2006.
  • Blocks: A primer on using blocks in SolidWorks.

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 CAD Downloads
Boldly displaying the slogan, "Free is Good," offers CAD shareware, freeware and free trial software. Currently available for free download are more than 5,300 files related to AutoCAD, Rhino, SolidWorks, 3ds Max, SketchUp and others. User ratings are displayed for each freebie. The site's Evaluation Center offers hundreds of software titles that users can test before purchasing. Visitors can register to receive a monthly e-mail list of new software added to the site.

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

Hardware: Leica ScanStation
Leica Geosystems introduces a 3D laser scanner with full FOV.  Read more 

Hardware: VG2021m Display
ViewSonic introduces LCD with slim bezel design and integrated multimedia speakers.  Read more 

General Software: Brava! and Net-It
IGC announces annotation, redaction support for Microsoft XPS format.  Read more 

Visualization: Security & Information People v1
ArchVision releases 3D RPC library of individuals dressed in security attire.  Read more

Visualization: AC3D v6
Inivis releases updated 3D modeler for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux operating systems.  Read more

AEC: e-SPECS v3.1
InterSpec updates specifications-management application.  Read more 

AEC: Affinity for ArchiCAD
Trelligence and Graphisoft integrate software for streamlined planning and design processes.  Read more 

AEC: FM:Interact
FM:Systems' workplace management software supports AutoCAD 2007.  Read more 

MWH Soft releases extension for comprehensive overland urban flood modeling.  Read more 

MCAD: ReadySketch
VX integrates parametric sketcher library in VX CAD/CAM to produce 3D models from predefined 2D sketches. Read more

SYCODE introduces mesh editing and modeling plug-in for Rhino.  Read more

CAE: SimulationX v2
ITI Dresden introduces tool for physical system simulation.  Read more

Training: Desktop
iKnowledge Solutions introduces learning system for tutorial users with limited Internet access.  Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

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

AutoCAD Tips and Tricks
June 1, 2006
Tampa, Florida
Avatech Solutions invites design professionals to a free event presented by Lynn Allen, Cadalyst columnist and Autodesk worldwide technical evangelist. Read more

Technology Trends in GIS and Printing
June 7, 2006, New York City
June 21, 2006, Detroit, Michigan
June 27, 2006, Boston, Massachusetts
June 28, 2006, St. Louis, Missouri
Hardware developer Oce is hosting this series of seminars on new technology trends in GIS and printing. Read more

Geospatial Research and Technology Seminar
June 11, 2006
Prague, Czech Republic
Part of BE Conference Europe 2006, this is a full-day, free event designed for all who use geospatial solutions to map, engineer, build, operate or maintain infrastructure. Read more

A/E Project Management Fundamentals Virtual Seminar
June 12, 14, 26 and 28, 2006
This four-part virtual seminar (2 p.m. ET) by ZweigWhite is designed to cover everything a new A/E project manager needs to know. Read more

Inland Empire ArchGIS User Group Meeting
June 15, 2006
Temecula, California
ArcGIS User Groups provide a forum for ESRI users to share experiences, exchange best practices and learn about new technology. Read more

2nd Annual Emerging Technologies, New Product Development & Marketing Innovations 2006
June 18-22, 2006
San Diego, California
This interactive MindXchange hosted by Frost & Sullivan examines and delivers real-world insights and case histories from seasoned product teams and emerging technology professionals. Read more

Collaborative Technologies Conference
June 19-22, 2006
Boston, Massachusetts
Conference program is designed to provide insight to help IT and business leaders develop and implement a collaboration strategy. Read more

Maui ArchGIS User Group Meeting
June 19, 2006
Wailuku, Hawaii
ArcGIS User Groups provide a forum for ESRI users to share experiences, exchange best practices and learn about new technology. Read more

Oahu ArchGIS User Group Meeting
June 21, 2006
Honolulu, Hawaii
ArcGIS User Groups provide a forum for ESRI users to share experiences, exchange best practices and learn about new technology. Read more

Hawaii Island ArchGIS User Group
June 23, 2006
Hilo, Hawaii
ArcGIS User Groups provide a forum for ESRI users to share experiences, exchange best practices and learn about new technology. Read more

Kauai ArchGIS User Group Meeting
June 26, 2006
Lihue, Hawaii
ArcGIS User Groups provide a forum for ESRI users to share experiences, exchange best practices and learn about new technology. Read more

AUGI CAD Camp -- Hawaii
June 29, 2006
Honolulu, Hawaii
Spec Systems hosts this AUGI (Autodesk User Group International) learning and networking event. Choose from 15 intense Autodesk product classes designed to provide productivity techniques you can apply immediately. Read more