Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 11, No. 25)

16 Jul, 2006

Untitled Document

What's New at

Get the Code! for July
Cadalyst’s July code from Hot Tip Harry is now available for download. Brock Narum earned $100 for this month's top tip, No Plotting Layers List, which presents a quick display of the layers that won’t plot in the current drawing. Leonid Nemirovsky was June's top tip provider, with some winning code for editing text.

To submit code and other CAD tips, e-mail All authors whose tips are published in the monthly Hot Tip Harry column receive a Cadalyst t-shirt, and the top tip each month earns a $100 prize!

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:

  • 3D All Around: Machinery maker KVAL discovers companywide benefits using Lattice 3D file-compression technology to share large SolidWorks files
  • CAD Goes Hollywood, Part 1: VectorWorks helps set designers achieve sometimes-unrealistic demands of the television industry
  • Book Review: Mastering Piranesi: Excellent how-to manual will assist new and veteran users of this popular rendering and visualization software



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IDEAL Offers 3D CAD Printer Services to AEC, GIS Users
IDEAL, the U.S. distributor of the Contex DESIGNmate 3D printer, announced that is now offering 3D CAD services to complement the DESIGNmate 3D printer for the AEC, GIS and reprographics markets. These services include 3D CAD file preparation and conversion of 2D CAD files or paper files to printer-ready 3D CAD files. IDEAL's CAD services guarantee that the models will print correctly, the company reports.

AutoCAD Technical Podcast
Robert Lupo created CADCast, a podcast blog that offers tips, tricks, tutorials and techniques to the AutoCAD user community. The enhanced podcasts feature dynamic screen shots that change with the content; some installments contain video. Recent podcasts addressed Block Libraries, File Organization and Places in AutoCAD. Each podcast also includes a CADCast QuickTip.

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This Week's Software Tips

Introducing Cadalyst's New Tip Patrol
Loyal readers of Tips & Tools Weekly might have noticed the increase in the quantity of CAD tips published each Monday. Now we're working to increase the quality of those tips as well! Beginning with today's issue, all original tips will be tested and approved before publication by members of the new Cadalyst Tip Patrol. Many thanks to our excellent volunteer panel members, all tried-and-true tips authors themselves: Don Boyer, Mitchell Hirschklau, R.K. McSwain, Don Reichle, Kevin Sawyer, Ivanhoe Tejeda, Billy Wooten and Ben Young.

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. 

Follow Up: More on Osnaps
Responding to the osnaps tip in "Zooming for Multiview Solids Drawings in AutoCAD," in the June 12 edition, Donald Reichle says, "I accomplish this same task using AutoLISP and the normal three-key identifiers for the osnaps I want during my coding. See USER.LSP and USER-UTILITY.LSP to see how I do this. This method isn't better than the others offered --  it's just a different way to accomplish the task at hand."

Follow Up: Pick a Percentage
Regarding "Pick a Percentage" from Douglas Kochel in the July 10 edition, I still use AutoCAD 2002 which doesn't have the Mid-between-two-points osnap option mentioned in the tip. I've been using Halfway, a user-defined AutoLISP function, since Release 9. Here's my solution, for others who don't get it built into their current version of AutoCAD.

(defun Halfway (/ Pnt)

   (mapcar '(lambda (Numbr1 Numbr2) (* 0.5 (+ Numbr1 Numbr2)))

      (setq Pnt (getpoint "\nPick 1st Reference Point: "))

      (getpoint Pnt "\nPick 2nd Reference Point: ")))

Of course, I'd hate to type Halfway everytime, so I've put the line:

   id_Halfway     [&Halfway](Halfway)

just after the line

   ID_From        [&From]_from

in the "***POP0 / **SNAP" menu.

This lets me invoke Halfway quickly by right-clicking on the mouse, followed by pressing the letter H on the keyboard or selecting Between on the popup.

I've never needed any proportion other than exactly halfway, hence I thought my version, which requires less user input, might be useful to other readers like me. Using the lambda function makes it more compact.

Follow Up: Arc-to-Circle Change-Up
In regard to this tip in the July 10 edition, Michael Schwartz and John Stine tell us that no AutoLISP is needed in the 2006 and 2007 versions, as the Join command accomplishes the same thing. Select Join and then the arc to be converted. Type L for cLose and the arc becomes a circle.

Two Leader Line Tips
Jeanne Aarhus
offers up two tips for leader lines. Use this first one to copy leader lines when you need to point to several locations from a single leader note.

ADD More Leaders (2002, 2004, 2005)
Step 1:  Select the Dimension Leader and select the grip at the arrow end of the line.

Step 2:  Hold down the SHIFT+CTRL keys and select a new arrow destination in the drawing.

You can continue to add additional leader arrows as needed while holding down the SHIFT+CTRL keys.

ADD More Leaders (2006)

Step 1:  Select the Dimension Leader and select the grip at the arrow end of the line.

Step 2:  Position your cursor at the new arrow destination in the drawing.

Step 3:  Press and hold the CTRL key when you click the new destination location.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: This is a good undocumented tip. To keep the cursor location from jumping around erratically when you add multiple leaders, it's better to hit Cancel once after creating the first leader, leaving grips in place. Then re-select the grip at the arrow end and with CTRL key pressed, select an additional leader location. Then repeat the process for each additional leader required.

Run the Circuit
Reader Glen Drake does a lot of circuit board layout work. When editing a previous layout, he often starts by exploding all the (nested) blocks to get a fresh start, although he doesn't want to lose polyline width or break down closed polylines into individual line segments. He wrote this AutoCAD VBA routine, Circuit, to recursively break down the blocks without exploding things too far, like the Explode command sometimes does.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Watch for adverse results when exploding any new dynamic blocks. Remember that it's best not to explode blocks unless it's absolutely nesessary.

A Circle is A Circle
Justin Marchiel reminds users that, "to create a polyline circle, first draw the circle, then use the boundary command inside the circle. The result will be a circular polyline."

CADALYST TIP PATROL NOTE: This would run better embedded in an AutoLISP routine that subsequently deleted the circle. Otherwise you end up with two entities, a circle and a polyline, on top of one another.

Fix Your 3Dorbit Problems
Bill Gilliss
uses 3Dorbit a great deal, but finds that it has two drawbacks in everyday use:

1) If the grid is on, 3Dorbit displays it as a busy mesh of lines.

2) If the UCS is other than World, the orbit option works unpredictably.

The following routine fixes these issues and shortens the command down to just typing 3.

(defun c:3 ( / oldgrid )

;; shortcut for 3DORBIT that turns off the annoying grid display

;; and fixes the unpredictability with UCS's other than WCS

  (setq oldgrid (getvar "gridmode"))

  (setvar "gridmode" 0)

  (command "ucs" "w")

  (command "3dorbit")

  (setvar "gridmode" oldgrid)

  (command "ucs" "p")


NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: We tidied the code a bit.

Fix Bad Habits
M. Newman
of Ireland wrote NullText in response to a bad habit that some of the CAD operators were developing in his office, "namely, opening text entities for edit and back-spacing to null value, then accepting the result. They mistakenly believed they were erasing the text entities. Not being able to see the null text, it built up in much the way that layer filters do over time. At some point, the drawings were so full of null text that a point selection took upwards of 10 minutes before AutoCAD would decide exactly which entity or point was being selected.

"The Bugwatch article regarding the use of '%%u' in dtext entities in AutoCAD 2006 reminded me of this routine. Although my NullText routine searches only for "", null entries, in both text and mtext entities, I'm sure that "%%u" could be added to the search list.

"Finally, if the routine finds and erases offending entities, it tells you, "All Null Text + MText Erased from current space." If it doesn't find a result, it does nothing."

CADALYST TIP PATROL NOTE: This is a useful routine for cleaning up drawings created in older versions of AutoCAD, but 2007 seems to have eliminated the occurrence of null text in drawings. We think it now ignores null or %%U inputs.

This Week's SolidWorks Tips
SolidWorks training developer SolidProfessor sends the following tips this week for Tips & Tools Weekly readers.

Image Transparency: Shows how images in sketches can have transparency applied.

Fillet Options: Explains the different fillet options.

Tips & Tools Weekly software tips for AutoCAD are reviewed by Cadalyst staff and the Cadalyst Tip Patrol before publication. Use tips at your own discretion, please, and watch later editions of this newsletter for updates and corrections. Many thanks to our volunteer Cadalyst Tip Patrol members: Don Boyer, Mitchell Hirschklau, R.K. McSwain, Don Reichle, Kevin Sawyer, Ivanhoe Tejeda, Billy Wooten and Ben Young.

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Deals & Freebies

Promotional Offers on Construction Project Software
Software provider Meridian Systems is offering special incentives on Prolog WebSite and Crystal Reports XI for Prolog to building owners and construction organizations that purchase Prolog Enterprise Packs in quantities of 10 or more. According to the company, Prolog Enterprise Packs make it easier to standardize on Prolog software for construction project management and allow for shared or pooled licenses across a fluctuating base of users. To receive specific pricing and promotion details, contact a local authorized Meridian reseller.

Free Trial Version of AliasStudio
Autodesk is offering a free trial version of AliasStudio. The special non-commercial-use version, called AliasStudio PLE (Personal Learning Edition), includes tutorials, lessons and a customized interface that highlight the techniques and tools required to start using AliasStudio software. AliasStudio PLE users are restricted to noncommercial applications through the display of a watermark on images and a special noncommercial file format.

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

Hardware: NextDimension FlexTop Mobile Workstation
Graphics engineering laptop now offers dual NVIDIA Quadro FX 3500 graphics cards.  Read more

Hardware: Mobile Workstation Modules for Extreme HD Graphics
Eurocom launches upgradable notebook VGA modules with 512MB video.  Read more

General Software: progeCAD 2006 Professional v6.1.9
ProgeSOFT upgrades CAD software features and compatibility.  Read more

General Software: FilePorter Web-Based File Transfer
New service helps overcome file-size limits imposed by some ISPs.  Read more

General Software: ProgeCAD DWG Viewer v6.1.9
Upgrade from ProgeSOFT includes redlining and markup.  Read more

GIS: SpatialDirect 2006 GB
Safe Software upgrades capabilities for delivering spatial data over the Web. 
Read more

GIS: Leica Virtual Explorer 3.1
Leica Geosystems upgrades 3D visualization tool.  Read more

MCAD: AliasStudio Personal Learning Edition
Autodesk upgrades free downloadable software for students and industrial designers.  Read more

MCAD: Airframe Design Environment
VISTAGY CAD system is said to be the first specifically tailored to designing and manufacturing airframes.  Read more

MCAD: solidThinking 7.0
EVOQE upgrades Windows- and MAC-compatible application for industrial and graphics design.  Read more

MCAD: Carline Add-On for IronCAD v9.0
New built-in capabilities designed to assist automotive assembly line designers.  Read more

CAE: ABAQUS for CATIA V5 Version 2.3
Upgrade from Dassault Systemes designed to improve enterprise collaboration in evaluating product performance.  Read more

Granta Design updates materials data management software for aerospace, defense, energy applications.  Read more

CAE: MD Patran
New system from MSC.Software offers advanced pre- and postprocessing for multidisciplinary analysis.  Read more

Latest version of 2D/3D system has been rebuilt from the ground up, company reports.  Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

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

Autodesk 2007 Manufacturing Solutions Premiere
July 20, 2006
Santa Clara, California
Hagerman & Company invites manufacturing professionals in the Bay Area to a free event to see Autodesk’s latest developments in manufacturing design and gain insights on how to integrate them into their company's existing design cycle. Read more

Agile Leadership Summit
July 26, 2006
Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Agile Leadership Summit is designed to help attendees of the Agile 2006 Conference discover how their organizations can adopt and scale Agile development practices. Read more

FME Asia Regional User Conference
August 8-10, 2006
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Participants in the FME Asia Regional User Conference will learn how to used FME to manage data format conversions, map coordinate system conversions, enterprise data integration, database loading, data quality assurance tests, batch conversions for automated processing and data exchange between CAD-based and GIS-based systems. Read more

Autodesk Inventor v11 Workshops
August 11, 2006
Charlotte, North Carolina; Greensboro, North Carolina; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Lexington, Kentucky
August 18, 2006
Richmond, Virginia
Avatech Solutions invites mechanical design professionals to participate in these free workshops to learn about moving 2D geometry-based objects over to 3D models using the latest Autodesk Inventor software. Read more

Southern California CAD Summit
August 24, 2006
Long Beach, California
This event includes more than 25 CAD-related educational sessions geared toward professionals in the civil, mechanical and architectural design, building, engineering and geospatial industries. Read more

DELMIA 2006 Worldwide User Conferences
October 11-12, 2006
Dearborn, Michigan 
October 18-19, 2006
Fellbach, Germany
October 31-November 1, 2006
Yokohama, Japan
Dassault Systemes announced its 2006 DELMIA digital manufacturing Worldwide User Conferences for representatives of various industries to exchange ideas and information about the impact of digital manufacturing in product creation. Read more