Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 11, No. 28)

6 Aug, 2006

Untitled Document

What's New at

New Cadalyst Discussion Forum: Product Reviews
Now you have the opportunity to speak your own opinion about Cadalyst's hardware and software reviews and share your experience with these products with other Cadalyst readers. Our new Product Reviews Forum links you to the latest Cadalyst Labs and First Look Reviews, then lets you add your own two cents as well as see what other users think. Check it out today.

Looking for a New Job?
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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:

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Rendering Software in Beta Testing
A new version of NVIDIA's Gelato software for 3D content creation is in beta form, with commercial release planned for fall 2006. NVIDIA reports that the final-frame rendering software includes easier texture baking and full support for Maya bake sets, faster ray tracing, improved stereo rendering, a modified Mango plugin and other new features. In addition, a new online community has been launched for artists and animators using NVIDIA Gelato software. To participate in the Gelato 2.1 software beta program, e-mail NVIDIA creates products for computing, consumer electronics and mobile devices.

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This Week's Software Tips

Follow-ups to Draw Pipe Ends
Kevin Sawyer adds to the July 31st tip on drawing pipe ends by offering up two AutoLISP programs that he's used for years:

PIPEBRK.LSP draws 3D ends similar to those in the original tip but with a couple of enhancements.

  1. You can select your lines in any direction, clockwise and counter-clockwise.
  2. It works with any UCS rotation.
  3. "If your pipe has a line drawn across the end, you can convert this line to a pipebreak by selecting it," Kevin explains. "There is a small bug here that I haven't had time to troubleshoot. If the line is drawn in a counter-clockwise direction, the resulting pipebreak is reversed. I find it quicker to simply mirror the break in the moment rather than debug the routine. Some day I'll get to it -- after all, I only wrote this five years ago!"
  4. The break is made up of a single continuous polyline rather than separate arcs.

BRKLN.LSP is a similar routine but draws a simple zig-zag break line (albeit a snazzy one) which automatically acts as a trim boundary. You can also convert an existing line into a break line as above (this one works fine), and it works with rotated UCS.

The routines include a couple of subroutines that usually sit in the MNL component of our customized CUI just to make the routines self-contained. Also, users may need to add a line to save their SETVARS at the top of the code and reset it at the end. See comments in the code itself.

The original author of last week's tip, Leonid Nemirovsky, has a few suggestions in response to the Tip Patrol comments: "To the Patroller who likes blocks, I suggest having Dynamic Block handle different pipe diameters and directions of curves, but keep in mind that this is a lot of work even with a simple block. I prefer to do things parametrically when possible. Then I just have to run the program and supply a minimum amount of information, and the program does the rest. This little program was written first for AutoCAD Release 12 and it still works."

Follow-up to Use Wildcards to Rename
In reference to July 31st edition's key-in control, reader Rui Rosario Colaco reminds users that you don't need to type the whole name of a layer, such as Baseplan-3499-1F|A-ELEC*. Just typing*A-ELEC* should do the trick.

Toolbar Shortcut for Floor Plans in AutoCAD LT
Brett Barkman, an AutoCAD specialist and instructor at Antonelli College in Cincinnati, Ohio, offers a tip for AutoCAD LT users. He explains: Users are always asking me for shortcuts when creating floor plans. I've taught them to use the Double Line (Dline) command to draw walls. Because this is all done from the Command line, I put together some macros to make the process faster. Due to the settings that accompany this command, making one click is better than typing in the command, then setting the width and, finally, the dragline (which can be confusing to novice users). With a single button on a toolbar, users never have to worry about missing a crucial setting.

This custom toolbar has four buttons, with each button's macro that sets the width and dragline, allowing the user to begin drawing walls immediately. For example, the first button is for drawing a wall that is six inches thick with its dimensions based on the inside of a room. Depending on which direction you decide to draw, you can set the dragline setting in the button to right or left to follow the correct dimensions of a room (inside vs. outside).

The buttons are set up to create six-inch walls drawn to the inside and outside, and 4" walls to the inside and outside. Because I teach my students to draw in a counter-clockwise direction, the buttons are set up to match. If a user is accustomed to creating walls by going clockwise, flip-flop the dragline settings in the buttons. This saves a lot of time when creating walls in AutoCAD LT.

In addition, if you add the Osmode command to the end of the double line macro buttons, you can turn on some running object snaps as well. Whenever an LT user runs the DOUBLE LINE command, the Osnap button is temporarily suspended, which makes is hard to snap to anything. This turns them back on.

Download WALLS_rev2.ZIP from this week's code files. You'll find menu files: CUSTOM1.MNU, *.MNS, *.MNR and *.MNC and button images: dline_6_left.bmp, dline_6_right.bmp, dline_4_left.bmp and dline_4_right.bmp. Copy these into a logical location and load into AutoCAD LT using the MENULOAD command. A menu group called CUSTOM is loaded with one toolbar called Walls.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: The Dline command is included only in AutoCAD LT, so this sequence of specialized commands is pertinent to this particular discipline. The Mline command could be a sufficient substitute outside of AutoCAD LT.

Keyboard for AutoCAD
Leonid Nemirovskyalso wrote to tell us he found a new keyboard to use with AutoCAD. He explains: "I previously wrote about a Saitek gamers keyboard I use for AutoCAD that has three levels of nine programmable keys (27 in all) making it easy to assign macros, AutoLISP and the like to them. This is a great keyboard that's easy to program and can be used for both right- and left-handed users. The only problem is, to get to the second and third layers of keys, you have to hold down an extra button. Now there's a new keyboard on the market, the Logitech G15. It's designed primarily for gamers, but it works great with AutoCAD. It has three levels of 18 easily programmable keys and you don't have to hold the extra key to go to next level; just select and you're set. You can also set an extra button to start AutoCAD or any other application. I'm also able to use the keyboards with my other programs that I use on a daily basis."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: The Patrol reminds folks that using these sorts of keyboards can defeat AutoCAD's heads-up interface -- although Len states that after practice, he's at a point where he doesn't look down very often. Our patroller suggests the Saitek Pro Gamer Control Unit and the Belkin Nostromo Speedpad n52 as alternatives. He doesn't have hands-on experience with the Saitek model, but finds the Speedpad n52 easy to program, and both can be used by touch.

Keyboard Assignments
After several recent requests from coworkers, Mitchell Hirschklau developed an AutoCAD 2006 format drawing (and PDF) that illustrates the default keyboard assignments in 2006. Please see the files ACLT-2006CADALYSTKEYBOARD.DWG and ACLT-2006CADALYSTKEYBOARD2006-07-18.PDF in this week's code file.

This Week's SolidWorks Tips
Thanks to SolidWorks training developer SolidProfessor for sending the following tips this week for Tips & Tools Weekly readers. This will be our last week highlighting these tips. Go to SolidProfessor for more information on its SolidWorks tutorials.

  • Mate Diagnostics: Shows you how to use the Mate Diagnostics command to resolve mate issues.

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.

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

Free Automatic 3D Tracking Plugin
Autodesk and image creation software developer REALVIZ are offering free copies of REALVIZ's automatic 3D tracking plugin software, MMTrack, to Autodesk 3ds Max and Autodesk Maya users who register. The offer will run through August 1, 2007. MMTrack for both 3ds Max and Maya enables the integration of computer-generated elements into live-action footage by computing the 3D motion of the camera or the scene from the footage itself, feeding it directly into 3ds Max and Maya. Users who take advantage of this offer will automatically receive free upgrades to forthcoming releases of MMTrack for the duration of the offer period.

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Books & Training

Online Training for COSMOSWorks Users
COSMOS Companion is a series of short-subject online presentations designed to provide in-depth information on topics relevant to using COSMOSWorks, the CAE partner to SolidWorks. The series aims to help users gain more insight and efficiency in their product design. The 20-30 minute Webcasts are held on Wednesdays at 11 a.m. PT and are also available afterward as a video download or PDF. Viewers who participate in the live sessions can e-mail questions that will be answered during the program. The Webcasts are designed for users who have completed the basic instructor-led training or have equivalent experience.

CFD Learning Site Up and Running
CD-adapco, a provider of CFD (computational fluid dynamics) software and engineering services, announced its new on-line tutoring service. STAR-Tutor was launched to train CD-adapco's user base in specialist applications or improve their CFD knowledge. The sessions run at regular intervals and last from one to three hours. Topics covered in the sessions include CFD 101: Best Practices; turbulence modeling; integrated thermal management; heat transfer; external aerodynamic modeling; advanced meshing; combustion; and parametric design studies using STAR-Design. One-on-one sessions are also available.

Free Tutorials for AutoCAD 2007 is offering free tutorials for AutoCAD 2007. The 46 tutorials, each divided into four levels, cover the basics on through 3D modeling and rendering. Each tutorial is followed by a short quiz. The site also includes sample drawings, links, surveys and other features. Tutorials for AutoCAD 2005 are also online and are available in Spanish.

AutoCAD 2007 Book Describes 3D Environment
AutoCAD 2007 and AutoCAD LT 2007 Bible (1,252 pages, $49.99) is the seventh edition of the AutoCAD Bible books by Ellen Finkelstein. The book explains the program's enhanced 3D capability. Each section ends with a step-by-step exercise that allows the reader to work with the feature and learn by doing. The book comes with a CD-ROM that includes an AutoCAD 30-day trial, a variety of third-party software and drawings that go with the exercises.

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

Hardware: Overdrive PC Core2.SLI and Core2.X-Fire
New systems incorporate Intel Core 2 Duo processors. Read more

Hardware: ZScanner 700
New handheld model from Zc Corporation offers portability and minimizes need for postprocessing of data. Read more

Hardware: NextDimension Portable Engineering Workstation
NextComputing adds option for AMD 940-based processors.  Read more

General Software: Katchall Archive v2.0
InventThings upgrades backup utility designed to recover any version of a CAD design or supporting documentation. Read more

Visualization: HYPERDRIVE
BUNKSPEED's new add-on for UDRIVE is designed for creating photographic imagery of 3D digital models in real time. Read more

Visualization: Autodesk 3ds Max 9
Latest upgrade supports 64-bit technologies. Read more

Visualization: Ozone 3
e-on software to update plugin for creating atmospheric effects in 3ds Max, Maya, CINEMA 4D, LightWave and XSI. Read more

Visualization: RAM Advanse 8.0
Structural analysis solution includes modules for continuous beams, retaining walls, tilt-up walls. Read more

AEC: CADWorx 2007
COADE's latest plant design automation solution offers enhanced modeling tools and interoperability between 2D process diagrams and the 3D model. Read more

GIS: GeognoSIS.NET 6.3, mSIS 6.2, and Cadcorp SIS OS MasterMap ITN Manager
Cadcorp to release a route-planning support product and new versions of its Internet/intranet-based and mobile GIS software. Read more

MCAD: NI Motion Assistant 2.0
National Instruments updates software for prototyping single- and multi-axis motion control systems. Read more 

MCAD: GrafiCalc AT 2007
GEOMATE releases next-generation predictive engineering software.  Read more

OPTIS adds optimization toolbox to improve lit appearance simulations in CATIA V5 designs. Read more

MCAD: ShipConstructor 2006
3D modeling software suite is said to be first to combine parametric tools and relational database. Read more

CAM: GibbsCAM 2006
Computer-aided machining software offers numerous new features and enhancements. Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

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

Virtual Construction Conference
August 21­-22, 2006
Budapest, Hungary 
Presentations from such companies as Webcor, Navisworks and Oracle will explore how companies are employing Virtual Construction technologies and processes. Read more

Webcast: The Product Lifecycle Collaboration Benchmark
August 22, 2006 
Michael Lynch, CEO of Right Hemisphere, and Jim Brown, vice-president and service director of Aberdeen Group, will present best-in-class practices in 3D publishing of product communications and the results of the Aberdeen Group white paper, "The Product Lifecycle Collaboration Benchmark Report -- The Product Profitability 'X' Factor." Read more

2006 International Highway Engineering Exchange Program (iHEEP)
September 10-14, 2006
Williamsburg, Virginia
This iHEEP event will include a technical program designed to promote the best practices of the transportation engineering and information technology communities. Read more 

FME Worldwide User Conference
September 21-22, 2006 
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Safe Software will host the first FME Worldwide User Conference, providing GIS professionals, database managers, and FME users with an overview of FME's latest capabilities. Read more

A/E Project Management Fundamentals
September 25-October 3, 2006 
This four-part virtual seminar will cover everything a new project manager needs to know, including an introduction to project management, work planning and scheduling, budgeting, and project execution. Read more

2006 Association of Computer-Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA) International Conference
October 12-15, 2006 
Louisville, Kentucky
This four-day event, with a topic of "Synthetic Landscapes/Digital Exchange," will include lectures, software workshops, exhibits, and research presentations by international leaders in digital design. Read more

FIATECH Member Meeting
November 7-8, 2006 
Denver, Colorado
During FIATECH's Annual Member Meeting, members will receive research results and deliverables that the organization's projects have produced this year, plan project activities for 2007 and network with industry leaders. Read more