Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 11, No. 32)

10 Sep, 2006

Untitled Document

What's New at

Get the Code!
 September code from Hot Tip Harry is now available for download. Pedro Ferreira earned $100 for this month's top tip, Center Line Profile, a powerful utility for highway design that creates a profile detail with given contours and a centerline to follow.

Cadalyst's September Exclusives Now Live Online!
The latest editions of all your favorite Cadalyst tutorials for AutoCAD and other popular CAD software, CAD Cartoon, Dialog Box (letters from readers) -- plus all the content from the September edition of Cadalyst magazine -- are now live on Check it out!

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:

  • Tip: AutoCAD's Big Problem: For years, AutoCAD hasn't worked well with large coordinates in civil engineering and survey drawings. Here, we offer some workarounds.


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Autodesk Offers Free Software, Design Resources to Students
Autodesk launched its Student Engineering and Design Community Web site, providing students with free access to downloads of Autodesk software for architecture, industrial design, civil engineering and mechanical engineering. Any student or faculty member with a valid education e-mail address can participate. The site also offers discussion forums, tutorials, job postings, a library of design software plugins and archives of industry news, articles, tips, links and other resources.

Autodesk Launches Mechanical Design Blog
Autodesk also announced a new area of its Manufacturing Community Web site called Drawing the Machine, a blog that focuses on 2D mechanical drafting and design. The blog will offer tips and tricks on how to optimize the features in AutoCAD Mechanical.  

Sheet Metal Guy Adds User Forum, AutoCAD Resources
Training book publisher Sheet Metal Guy is now hosting a forum to enable those in the sheet metal community to share their thoughts on topics such as CAD, CAM and other manufacturing topics. Users are encouraged to exchange problem-solving methods and offer solutions to questions asked by fellow members.

Sheet Metal Guy also launched a new section of its Web site dedicated to AutoCAD users. Updated daily, new resources include AutoCAD tips and information for modeling sheet metal parts, along with the latest news and information relative to AutoCAD and the sheet metal industry.

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This Week's Software Tips

Do you have a favorite tip or shortcut that you use every day in your CAD software? One that saves you time? Makes life easier? Share it with other readers and, if we publish it, we'll send you a “ Cadalyst: CAD the Way You Want It” t-shirt.

Follow-Up to Layer Control
Original author and Tip Patroller M. Newman disagrees with a fellow Patroller in the August 21 issue concerning the layer filtration methodology and naming protocols, explaining that from his perspective, it's not appropriate to detach an already established xref from a drawing. He states, “I work in a building services consultancy, where I regularly have to work with multiple xrefs provided by several sources used in several different layouts within the same DWG file, which can often lead to several hundred layers to track. In order to generate several different drawings, simultaneously, I often use multilayered blocks and Freeze in Current Viewport alternate sets of these layers in different viewports.”

“For example, my lighting blocks contain layers called -Reflected, -Lights and -Lighting_Text. Their use helps create lighting layouts or coordinated reflected ceiling plans, when combined with similar blocks for ventilation grilles, smoke detection or other ceiling-mounted devices. Often the entire mechanical services layouts (heating or ventilation) are xreferenced into my drawing. The state of various xreferenced layers, On/Off, Frozen/Thawed, Plot/No plot, colors, linetypes, Thawed/Frozen in current viewports and the like, would be lost to a drawing if an xref were detached from the drawing. This is unacceptable because several hundred layer states would again have to be reestablished. Saving the layer states through LMan or similar can’t account for future additional layers contained in the xrefs but, maintaining a path to an xref, even an unloaded one is preferable to detaching the xref because its presence momentarily inconveniences you.”

“The advice to place all xrefs on layer 0 doesn’t allow control over the visibility of multiple concurrently placed (such as overlapping) xrefs in the same viewport. Placing each xref on a separate layer lets you freeze the entire xref out of a viewport by freezing just the layer on which the Xref is placed. This saves having to freeze all an xref's layers in the viewport, just to make it invisible. Conversely, this makes it easier to make an xref, once more, visible in the same viewport. Freezing layers speeds up regeneration of the drawing and quickens the pick response, less entities to consider when several are frozen -- I believe this is why Freeze/Thaw was introduced originally to the layer properties.” 

Follow Up to Copy More Entities
Patroller Kevin Sawyer has more to add to the Cadalyst Tip Patroller’s LISP code in the August 21 edition. He states, “While this is primarily a very useful shortcut when copying nested entities, far better than the Express Tools macro, it falls a little short of being very, very useful. I often copy nested entities from architectural drawings to create the structure and hate offering a base point and second point (@) every time.”

“Rather than have the new entities created on the xref path prefixed layer, why not create them on a layer of the same name (if it exists) without the prefix? If it doesn’t exist, have the new entity created on the current layer. The way it is at the moment, the new entities are created on a layer that mimics the xref path/layer, which is not very friendly, especially if the donor xref is detached. If you want to use your newly created entities you’ll want them on your own named layers where you can control them within your CAD standards.”

“Once you look at the code, NOB.LSP, you’ll see how it can be further tweaked to suit your own situation and procedures.”

Correction to Notes from the Clipboard
Reader KenSchumacher realized when reading the tip concerning using the Clipboard viewer in the August 28 edition that the executable file we referred to should have been CLIPBRD.EXE, rather than VLIPBRD.EXE. The editors apologize for the mistake.

Follow Up to Toolbars
In response to the Tip Patrol’s admonition to be very careful when changing the CUI in the August 28 edition, reader Kevin Bellson says that when he copies an existing CUI file, such as in Land Desktop or AutoCAD Map, he copies the CUI and the DLL file with the same name so he has a starting point for the custom CUI. He then renames both to the custom name and in doing so keeps the originals safe.

Follow Up to LISP for AutoCAD Map
Fellow Tip Patroller R.K. McSwain respectfully disagrees with August 28 issue’s Patroller’s comments that "AutoCAD’s Help files are not the place to learn any type of LISP programming. Go buy a book instead."

He states, “I’ve never owned a third-party book on AutoLISP and have learned most of what I know about AutoLISP from the AutoCAD Help files (and their equivalent hard-copy versions back in Releases 12-14). I can certainly understand that the preceding tip generated the comment, but telling people that Autodesk's documentation is ‘not the place to learn AutoLISP’ isn't exactly fair.”

Open an AutoCAD Model Window
Paul Craig
uses two Dell 19" flat-screen monitors. He has a session of AutoCAD open with as many toolbars and buttons as possible on the right monitor screen and then a minimized model window on the left monitor screen. He wanted to make the model window automatically size to the left monitor while leaving the session open in Window state on both monitors.

Thanks to Tip Patrol member R.K. McSwain, Paul was able to insert the following code in his C:\Program Files\Autodesk\MDT 2006\Support\acad2006doc.lsp file — he usually uses AutoCAD 2006 instead of Mechanical Desktop. He typed in the Screensize command to find out approximately what size to use for the vla-put-width and vla-put-height and then tweaked the numbers to fit the monitors. This file reactivates every time you open a new drawing:.

This should work with regular AutoCAD 2006 (as well as other versions) and copy it to your \ACADDOC.LSP file — always save the original file before making any changes. Although you can modify ACAD2006DOC.LSP, it's not good practice because a service pack, reinstall or the like may overwrite this file. It's best to create and modify the user file ACADDOC.LSP. Also, *ACAD-DOC* is a global variable and should be released if it’s not going to be called again like this:

(vlax-release-object *acad-doc*)
;;;Open every document to fit left screen
(setq *acad-doc* (vla-get-activedocument (vlax-get-acad-object)))
(vla-put-windowstate *acad-doc* 1)
(vla-put-width *acad-doc* 1270.000)
(vla-put-height *acad-doc* 840.000)
;;;Drawing will zoom extents when it first opens
(command "_.zoom" "_e")

Load and Unload Xrefs
Tip Patroller Kevin Sawyer e-mailed to offer xref loading and unloading shortcuts.

“I like to work dynamically with my xrefs, constantly loading and unloading not only my own xrefs but third-party ones as well. As part of our procedures, all our xrefs are prefixed with
X-. When I xref in an architectural drawing, I prefix it Z- and if I also use a survey overlay, I prefix it as Y-. By doing this, in the layer manager all our standard layers appear above any xref layers and we can use the layer filters to manipulate particular xref layers. Knowing this procedure will help users better understand the following routines:

XU: This allows me to select the xref I want to unload on screen. I may want to unload the survey xref but leave the architectural.

XL: This reloads the xref unloaded by XU.

UX: This unloads all xrefs in my drawing, which is useful when selecting by window for cutting and pasting without picking up anything else.

RX: Now you’ll see why I prefix my different discipline xrefs. Typing RX followed by Z reloads all xrefs with the Z prefix or Y for the Y prefix and so on or I can type RX followed by Enter to reload ALL xrefs."

“As these routines are fairly short, I keep them in my ACADDOC.LSP along with many more labor-saving shortcuts."

“I know not everyone is a great fan of keyboard shortcuts, but in my opinion they are the most efficient method to improve productivity, and no other method of command input comes close. Couple this with a comprehensive list of hot keys and I fly through my work. It keeps my memory tuned, too! However, it’s easy enough to pop these onto some tool buttons.”

(defun C:XU() ; Unload selected xref
(setq xn(cdr(assoc 2(entget(car(entsel))))))
(command "xref" "unload" xn "")
(prompt(strcat "Xref " (chr 39) xn (chr 39) " unloaded. Use XL command to reload. "))
(defun C:XL() ; Reload the unloaded xref above
(if xn
   (command "xref" "reload" xn "")
   (prompt(strcat "Xref " (chr 39) xn (chr 39) " reloaded. "))
  (prompt "No XREF has been unloaded. "))
 (setq xn nil)(princ))

(defun C:UX ()(command "_xref" "u" "*"))
(defun C:RX ( / xn ) ; Select xrefs to reload
 (setq xn (strcase(getstring "\nEnter single xref prefix letter to reload or <ENTER> to reload all xrefs: ")))
 (cond((= xn "")(command "-xref" "r" "*"))
      (t(command "-xref" "r" (strcat xn "*")))

Editing Text Objects
Thanks to Kevin Thickett for his nice note, plus a tip to help with editing separate text objects. Kevin says, "Nice to see some good tips coming through. There have been a few over recent weeks that I've been able to use and this week was no exception."

"When editing many separate text objects, Ddedit is your friend. Use the alias DE to invoke the Ddedit command. It's handy for text because it works like the Multiple option of some other commands, leaving you in the Edit command between objects. What's more, it works on several different types of text: dtext, mtext, block attributes and even dimension text (but not tables, unfortunately). Of course, I know Cadalyst readers would never override a dimension, they'd only edit dimension text to add a note such as before folding or between centers.

"While we are on the subject of text. If you're like me, sometimes you have to copy old drawings into a new drawing. AutoCAD's Find and Replace function, on the Edit pull-down menu, is a great way to globally change every instance of a job number on the drawing."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: ED is the default alias, unless the user has customized the ACAD.PGP file via the following pull-down menu: Express/Tools/Command Alias Editor. It’s also possible to double-click on single-line text, multiline text and attributes to edit the contents. If you double-click on Dimensions, it opens the Properties palette.

MicroStation Tip – Automatically Export Cells From a MicroStation Cell Library to AutoCAD Block Files
When exporting cells to separate AutoCAD block files, CellManager’s new Export feature does away with the time-consuming, manual task of placing each cell that you want to export in a design file, dropping its complex status and then exporting it as an AutoCAD drawing file (DWG). In this how-to article, learn the simple steps involved in exporting MicroStation cells to AutoCAD block files using CellManager. Axiom offers many MicroStation Tips on its Web site.

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

UGS Releases Free Solid Edge 2D Drafting
UGS shook up the 2D CAD industry last week by announcing that its new Solid Edge 2D Drafting tool, valued at $995, will be available for download at no charge to users who register. Support and automatic upgrades are available for a nominal cost. The stand-alone product contains all Solid Edge 2D drawing functionality and is not limited by print restrictions or watermarks, UGS reports. Capabilities include drawing layout, diagramming, annotation and dimensioning controls that automatically comply with drafting standards such as ISO, ANSI, BSI, DIN, JIS and UNI. Wizards are provided to assist with file transfer from AutoCAD and other drafting applications. An engineering sketch pad allows users to sketch ideas and turn freehand sketches into accurate 2D dimension-driven (variational) drawings. UGS plans to provide Solid Edge 2D drafting in ten languages; only the English version is available now.

Geomagic Joins Creaform to Offer Educational Discounts
Geomagic, a software and services firm, and Creaform, a 3D digital technologies company, have teamed up to offer a new educational discount program. Design and engineering students can have access to technology currently used by engineering professionals in the aerospace, automotive, manufacturing, medical and consumer products industries at discounted educational prices. The program, available worldwide, will make available a minimum of 150 hardware and software kits at an 80% discount. Qualified educational institutions can order the kits directly from Creaform by contacting their offices in Canada at (418) 833-4446 or by e-mail at

Strata Releases Trial Version of Strata Foto 3D
Strata is offering a free trial version of Strata Foto 3D, a photo-based system for modeling real objects. Strata reports that Foto 3D allows a 3D model to be created quickly and inexpensively using standard digital cameras while requiring no technical skill or expensive hardware. Foto 3D exports standard file formats and connects to Strata 3D CX and other 3D packages. The model reportedly can also be imported into Strata Live 3D for interactive 3D display within a Web site, Flash file or an Adobe Acrobat PDF document without plugins. Strata is a provider of software for design professionals.

Leica Geosystems Opens New E-Commerce Online Store
A new e-commerce store is online to allow professionals to purchase construction, surveying, positioning and distance measurement products direct from the source. To help customers select the appropriate product, the site offers online training with demonstrations and tutorials. Customers also have access to special promotions offered exclusively through the site, as well as ongoing monthly specials and discounts. Other features include price checking, real-time order entry, tracking and status. Products available online include levels, pipe lasers, rotators and underground service locators.

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Opportunities & Honors

2007 ESRI User Conference Call for Papers
Topics for paper presentations are now being accepted for the ESRI International User Conference to be held June 18-22, 2007, in San Diego, California. Prospective presenters have until October 6, 2006, to submit an abstract that includes author contact information and a 50-150 word summary of the topic to be covered. Those who present papers at the conference will have their work published online and in the conference proceedings on CD-ROM.

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Books & Training

New Instructional Videos for Autodesk Revit
CDV Systems released the first of its new quarterly series of instructional videos for Autodesk Revit. The TLC (Technical Learning Courseware) videos are designed to help existing Revit users improve their advanced skills. Each TLC video comprises animated, sequential hyperlinked chapters and a hyperlinked index to specific topics and commands. The videos take the user step-by-step through many of the various scenarios that an AEC design professional may encounter when using Revit on a project. The first topic in the series is “The Family Editor Revealed.” Viewers can download the table of contents and a Getting Started video free of charge. CDV Systems is an Autodesk registered publisher that produces manuals, vBooks and TLC videos for the use of Revit and CodeBook.

Master’s Degree Offered in Visual Computing
Saarland University, located in southwest Germany, is offering a novel interdisciplinary master course of study entirely devoted to visual information processing. Potential students holding a bachelor’s degree in computer science, mathematics, physics, electrical engineering, mechatronics or a related field can apply. The program is coordinated by the Computer Science Department of Saarland University and is supported by the Departments of Mathematics, Mechatronics and Physics, as well as by the Max Planck Institute of Computer Science and the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence. The research-oriented international course of studies can be completed entirely in English. The normal duration of studies is two years (four semesters) with students starting in the winter or summer. Some grants for very gifted students are available.

SolidProfessor Releases Update Training 2007 For SolidWorks
Training provider SolidProfessor released its Update Training 2007 for SolidWorks. The self-paced multimedia training course is intended to help designers get the most out of their SolidWorks upgrade, which reportedly includes more than 200 customer-driven enhancements. Topics covered include general enhancements, sketching, parts and features, assemblies, drawings, detailing and sheet metal. The training is available as a download or a DVD-ROM.

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

Hardware: Active Archive Appliance
PowerFile unveils network system designed to improve access to archived data. 
Read more

Hardware: Permanent Storage Appliance
PowerFile solution keeps data archives online and active for decades.  Read more

Hardware: Steelhead Appliances
Riverbed Technology announces new additions to its line of systems for wide-area networking.  Read more

Hardware: NextDimension FlexTop
Portable graphics workstation now incorporates Dual PCI Express x16 slots. Read more

Hardware: Intuos3 4x6
Wacom introduces new pen tablet for photographers, designers and artists.  Read more

Hardware: HP xw9400 Workstation
New AMD Opteron-based system offers improved performance, lower power requirements.  Read more

General Software: DesignCAD 3D Max v17
CAD system for home professional designer includes new lighting features, enhanced OpenGL rendering and shading.  Read more

General Software: imageSynth for Adobe Photoshop
Plugin helps streamline process of creating tiling textures, synthetic images, backgrounds.  Read more

General Software: Subdo 1.6
Upgrade from VB2S adds PDF file import and export for creating interactive and animated 3D PDF documents.  Read more

AEC: BSD SpecLink Fall 2006
Building Systems Design and IHS add thousands of hyperlinks to IHS Standards Store for maintaining construction specifications.  Read more

AEC: Autodesk Revit Structure 4
Upgrade designed to streamline structural modeling, analysis and integration. Read more 

GIS: WaterGEMS V8 XM Edition
Water distribution modeling solution from Bentley Systems unifies modeling across MicroStation, ArcGIS, AutoCAD and stand-alone platforms.  Read more

MCAD: PLM Portfolio V5R17
Dassault Systemes and IBM upgrade line of software for collaborative product lifecycle management.  Read more

MCAD: Solid Edge V19
New release from UGS addresses innovation and collaboration for the entire value chain.  Read more

MCAD: ICE-flow Library 3.0
Upgrade from nCode improves speed and scalability in managing test and analytical engineering data.  Read more 

Renishaw's probing software can create machine tool inspection routines using original CAD part models.  Read more

Upgrade from DP Technology includes latest ESPRIT FX for advanced CAD-to-CAM feature exchange.  Read more

CAM: CimatronE v8
New version includes progressive die design, 5-axis production, NC preview and automated EDM setup.  Read more

CAM: GibbsCAM Machine Simulation
Option allows accurate verification of entire machine tool motion in virtual environment.  Read more

CAM: SolidCAM2007 R11
Upgrade of integrated CAM engine for SolidWorks offers expanded 3D milling via high-speed machining module.  Read more

New Rhinoceros-compatible plugin from MecSoft converts artwork into geometry suitable for machining.  Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

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

Webinar: Large-Format Document Management
Various dates in September
IDEAL offers webinars on large-format scanning, 3D printing, and document-management problems. An interactive question-and-answer session is included. Read more

“Project: Photoshop and Lightroom" Education Road Show
Various dates
The U.S. leg of Adobe's education road show will cover more than 25 colleges and art schools, giving students and educators direct access to Adobe Photoshop CS2 and Adobe Lightroom public beta. Read more 

UGS Digital Manufacturing Symposium
September 13-14, 2006
Dearborn, Michigan
This fourth annual event will include a full day of customer presentations on the benefits of digital manufacturing technology, implementation lessons learned and future plans. In addition, UGS will host technical sessions covering Tecnomatix software. Read more

Webinar: Adobe and Bentley
September 14, 2006, 2 p.m. ET
This webinar is intended for architects, engineers, CAD managers, project managers, IS/IT/MIS management and anyone else interested in delivering 3D data to a project team. Read more

ESRI ArcGIS User Group Meetings: California and Nevada
Various dates in October 2006
Various locations in California and Nevada
ArcGIS user groups provide a forum for ESRI users to share their experiences, exchange best practices and learn about new technology. These groups are open to all users of ESRI software and include regional groups both within and outside the United States. Read more

Fourth Annual SolidWorks Midwest User Group Conference
October 4-6, 2006
Racine, Wisconsin
The Fourth Annual SolidWorks Midwest User Group Conference will feature 25-30 user-focused presentations from expert users, application engineers and SolidWorks employees, as well as a keynote address delivered by SolidWorks CEO John McEleney. Read more 

October 10 and 12, 2006
Wisconsin and Minnesota locations
MasterGraphics will host the AUGI (Autodesk Users Group International) CAD Camp, which will feature more than 20 different sessions with targeted training from local and national industry experts and instructors. Read more 

SolidWorks/Excel Integration Using VBA-API
November 13-15, 2006
Encino, California
Three-day course addresses the development of CAD automation and application links, and will explain the process of creating data links between SolidWorks and Excel. Read more

Active RFID Summit
November 14-15, 2006
Atlanta, Georgia
The second Active RFID Summit comprises a two-day conference and exhibition, with Masterclasses providing in-depth tutorials on the days immediately prior to and following the event. Read more

Aerospace Design Expo 2006
November 14-16, 2006
Anaheim, California
Covering the civil, military and space industries, this is a design-based solutions and sourcing event for new technology, equipment and services. Read more

Facility Information Council Annual Meeting
December 5-7, 2006
Washington, D.C.
AEC-ST Federal has added the FIC (Facility information Council) Annual Meeting, a component of NIBS (the National Institute of Building Sciences), to its conference lineup. The NIBS FIC will present a series of educational sessions focused on the new National BIM (Building Information Modeling) Standard, with first releases due out at the end of December 2006. Read more