Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 11, No. 35)

1 Oct, 2006

Untitled Document

What's New at

Stop by Cadalyst Discussion Forums
Cadalyst's discussion forums include CAD Manager, CAD Questions, Hot Tip Harry and Product Reviews. Check them out today to find the CAD advice you need and see what your peers are saying about their software, their jobs and more.

Calling All CAD Managers!
Cadalyst reminds all CAD managers to be sure to participate in Robert Green's 2006 CAD Manager's survey. As always, participants are assured that data will not be shared with anyone and their personal identity will not be disclosed.

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:

  • How Much Speed Do You Need? When it comes to wide-format scanning, today's high-end performance is more than enough for the typical AEC or GIS office.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Site Allows Users to Test Applications in Development
Autodesk introduced Autodesk Labs, a Web site that provides free, early access to prototype, experimental and beta applications and technologies, giving customers a voice in the development of products and services. Beta applications now available include a public trial of Google Earth Extension for AutoCAD-based applications; a translator for sharing AutoCAD DWG and Bentley MicroStation 2D V8 DGN files; a Web client for viewing DWF files without downloading any software; a utility for storing a copy of vaulted data; and a technology preview that allows users to convert nonnative 3D parts into fully featured Inventor parts. Users do not have to be Autodesk customers to try the technology at Autodesk Labs. The free beta software is not intended for mission-critical projects and is not supported.

New ACES User Group Launched
KETIV Technologies, an Autodesk reseller and training and support center, announced the formation and sponsorship of the ACES (Autodesk Civil Engineering Solutions) user group of Southern California. The group aims to provide civil engineers with a forum where they can network with fellow professionals, learn best practices from other CAD users, and share tips about Autodesk Civil 3D, Land Desktop and other tools. Registration is free.

Axiom Releases Online GEOPAK Criteria Training Library
Axiom released a new edition to its GEOPAK series of e-learning solutions, GEOPAK Criteria library, which trains users to create or modify the criteria to produce project-specific cross-sections of a proposed design. Axiom states that by doing all the courses in GEOPAK Criteria library, a user will become proficient at using the tools needed to create cross-sections, compute Earthwork and create PlanSets. Axiom is a provider of MicroStation software utilities.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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 Your Favorite Tools
In reference to the tip about setting up toolbars that ran in the September 25 edition, reader Richard J. Wenner suggests, "Another way to accomplish this without using LISP or profiles is to use the Work Space tools available in AutoCAD 2006. (I'm not sure if it is offered in 2005.) Once your toolbars are displayed how you want them, select Save Current As from the pull-down menu and rename it. Now when you open any drawing, you can choose the work space that fits your needs. When I'm checking coworkers' drawings, this is handy because I only need three toolbars open. When I'm producing drawings, I have 16 different toolbars on screen."

Follow-Up to Rename Those Layers
In the September 25 edition there was some debate on how to get a drawing from a client or an outside source to plot correctly. Joe Balcer's solution is to ask for the CTB file from clients.

Reader Michael S. Jensen agrees and suggests, "Why not just get the AutoCAD plot style table (CTB or STB) from the other firm? We are an MEP firm that deals solely with outside architectural, structural and civil firms, and we ask for the plot style table to be able to plot the drawings correctly. Depending on the outside firm's type of plotter, a few of the lineweight settings may need to be tweaked to work with a plotter; but once that's done, you should never have to do it again for that firm's drawings. With renaming the layers and such as called for in the tip, this would have to be done each time you receive updates from the outside firm (which could be up to two to three times a week). ... By the way, using AutoCAD's eTransmit command, sending the plot style table is usually done without even thinking about it."

Excel and AutoCAD
Reader Brian Benton reminds us that it's easy to use Excel in conjunction with AutoCAD. He states that even though the latest versions of AutoCAD can create fields and tables, using Excel in conjunction with AutoCAD brings many benefits, and it's easy to apply. You can create a list of anything (drainage structures, pipe fittings, buildings, acreages, a bill of materials) in Excel, import that file into an AutoCAD file and link the two so if you update one, the other is then updated simultaneously. No more wondering which one has the correct information!

Follow these simple instructions:

  • Open the spreadsheet.
  • While in the spreadsheet, select the fields you wish to have in the CAD file drawing.
  • Right-click with the mouse, then select Copy.
  • Open the CAD file.
  • Click on Edit.
  • Click on Paste Special.
  • Select the Paste Link bullet. A selection option should appear to match your spreadsheet type, such as Excel.
  • Highlight the correct one, and then select OK. This inserts your selected spreadsheet area into the file.
  • Select the spreadsheet and right click on the properties to adjust size, etc., to fit your drawings needs.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: The patrol agrees that this is a very useful, albeit an underutilized tool. One thing to keep in mind is revision control. It might be best to change any data through the drawing rather than the spreadsheet. By doing this you ensure that any changes are covered by the latest revision on screen. If you don't update the drawing, then strict controls need to be in place so that when the spreadsheet is changed, the automatic change to the drawing is flagged.

Viewport Lock
Longtime AutoCAD user Terry Holt sent in this tip highlighting a routine he discovered on the Web written by Paul Kirrill of KDCAD (Kirrill Design -- PC & CAD Consulting). Terry says, "One of the biggest gripes I have is opening someone else's drawing and the viewports aren't locked. I found an AutoLISP routine that locks and unlocks viewports and changes the color of the viewport to bylayer when unlocked and cyan when locked. With locked viewports, I can work in model space through a viewport, zooming and panning without changing the scale of the viewport. The change in color lets me know if they are locked or not. This is by far the most used AutoLISP routine that I have." Download VPLOCKER.LSP in this week's code file.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Members of the Cadalyst Tip Patrol who reviewed this tip had different reactions. One patroller found that the LISP works well, but has these comments: It does lock or unlock the viewports. I used it quite a bit last week. However, if you want to work in model space from paper space, using the Maximize Viewport button at the bottom left of the screen is more efficient and won't mess up your scale. It might be helpful if this routine were linked to a function key. Another improvement would be a message that displays the action just taken. My viewports are on their own layer, named Vport, so I can turn them all off and not look at them. On the other hand, there are a lot of people who just place them on the Defpoints layer so they can be viewed live.

Another patroller adds more about using AutoCAD 2007's Maximize Viewports instead of this routine: "Once your viewports are rotated and scaled as desired, they can all be locked and you can cycle through viewports at will -- zoom, pan, add and delete entities before switching to the next viewport and the like. This works equally with locked or unlocked viewports. Once finished, you can click the Maximize Viewports button to return to full paper space with all viewports returned to their original setup. The only drawback with this is that you may need to set dimscale, etc., if you want to add any scaled items such as dimensions and text.

"If you must add dimensions through a viewport, one undocumented option is to set dimscale to zero. Then when you make a viewport active from paper space, its scale factor is applied to the dimscale so you can flit from one scaled viewport to another of a different scale and add dimensions as needed. Unfortunately, Maximize viewports does not have this feature."

Avoid Keystrokes
Engineering drafter Karen Tomajko is a dedicated mouse user who tries to avoid keyboard strokes as much as possible, she says. Every time she has to use a different computer with a regular mouse, she is reminded why she appreciates her five-button mouse. Her favorite feature involves programming the thumb button (on the left side of the mouse) as the Escape key. She challenges everyone to use this setup for a day and then try to go back to using the Escape key. Her other buttons are set up as follows for CAD efficiency:

  • Left (1): Click/select
  • Right (2): Context menu/alternate select
  • Wheel (3): Zoom (pan when held down)
  • Left thumb button (4): Escape
  • Right thumb button (5): Forward
  • Middle button (6): Double-click

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: One patrol member states, "I wouldn't be without my five-button optical mouse. I have had my left thumb button also programmed to Escape for some time now. Unfortunately, when I recently updated my mouse along with Microsoft Intellipoint 4 and, horror-of-horrors, the Escape option had been removed from the list. I quickly uninstalled v4 and went back to my original version, which works fine anyway. I hope there are no CAD operators out there still working without an optical wheel mouse."

MicroStation Tip – Faster Keyins with AccuDraw
MicroStation users, when you are typing values in AccuDraw, did you know that you can use the semicolon or the colon as the working units separator? No need to use the shift key, so you can keep your hand on the mouse. Want to draw a line segment 1'-4"? With AccuDraw running, place the first point, lock to an axis and type 1;4 and then the data point. 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.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Deals & Freebies

Kubotek Offers Incentive Program for KeyCreator
Kubotek USA, a creator of geometry-based CAD software, launched a fall program offering a price incentive for CADKEY users who switch to KeyCreator CAD design software. "Play to Win!" allows CADKEY users to receive the latest release of KeyCreator software, plus 12 months of software maintenance while saving as much as 50% off the standard list price. The program is also offered to users of early releases of KeyCreator. This campaign is available in North and Central America for a limited time.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Books & Training

Autodesk Releases New 2007 Titles
Autodesk Press introduced a number of new reference works for AutoCAD:

  • Harnessing AutoCAD 2007, by Thomas Stellman and G.V. Krishnan
  • AutoCAD 2007: A Problem-Solving Approach and Customizing AutoCAD 2007, by Sham Tickoo
  • Using AutoCAD 2007 Basics and The Illustrated AutoCAD 2007 Quick Reference, by Ralph Grabowski
  • AutoCAD 2007 3-D Modeling: A Visual Approach and AutoCAD 2007 Tutor for Engineering Graphics, by Alan J. Kalameja
  • AutoCAD 2007 For Architecture, by Alan Jefferis, Mike Jones and Tereasa Jefferis
  • Mastering Autodesk Architectural Desktop 2007, by Paul F. Aubi
  • Accessing Autodesk Architectural Desktop 2007, by William G. Wyatt
  • Autodesk Inventor 11 Essentials Plus, by Daniel T. Banach, Travis Jones and Alan Kalameja.

> Back to Top

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The Week's New CAD and Related Products

Hardware: Rapidly Operational Virtual Reality
Fakespace introduces transportable dual-mode stereoscopic visualization system.  Read more

General Software: Project Clock CE Version 2
CyberMatrix has updated its time-tracking PDA software; time reports can now be filtered for a specific client, project or task.  Read more

AEC: Proliance Version 3.5 Meridian Systems' update supports latest Microsoft and Brava technologies. Read more

GIS: CartoPac Data Interchange for ArcGIS
Extension from Spatial Data Technologies eliminates the task of converting data or exporting them to another software application before going into the field. Read more

MCAD: Agile e6
Latest version of Agile Software's PLM solution features internationalization, improved intellectual property security and support for Microsoft SQL Server 2005. Read more

MCAD: eDrawings Professional
SolidWorks unveils a new version of its collaboration tool with support for users of Microsoft Office, AutoCAD and Google SketchUp.  Read more

iKnowledge Solutions to offer individual modules of its product data quality software for CATIA users in aerospace industry.  Read more

Tormach milling machine cuts iron, steel, titanium and chromium alloys. Read more

> Back to Top

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Mark Your Calendar

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

Avatech Executive Breakfast Seminars
Various dates and locations
Avatech Solutions will host this series of complimentary executive breakfast seminars, which will focus on effective implementation strategies, executive business issues and Autodesk technology as they relate to increasing profits and productivity. Read more

Datamat Group Tech Expo
October 6, 2006
Uncasville, Connecticut
This fifth annual event comprises speakers and sessions in tracks including Mechanical/Manufacturing and Architectural/Building. Autodesk evangelist and blogger Heidi Hewett will deliver the keynote address, "Getting the Most Out of AutoCAD 2007 -- 10 Best Features and the Move into 3D." Read more

ASUG Fall Symposium Series
Various dates and locations
ASUG (Americas' SAP Users' Group) is hosting a Fall Symposium series to educate members on a wide variety of SAP solutions, including mySAP PLM, Human Capital Management, Enterprise Asset Management, solutions for the public sector and upgrading to mySAP ERP. All ASUG members and licensed SAP customers are encouraged to attend. Read more

Rhino 4.0 in Architecture -- "Shape to Fabrication"
November 8, 2006
London, United Kingdom
This technology update day will include information on the upcoming Rhino 4.0 release, presentations and in-depth architecture and engineering Rhino user stories. Read more

ASTM Committee E57 on 3D Imaging Systems
January 28-30, 2007
Costa Mesa, California
ASTM Committee E57 on 3D Imaging Systems meets twice each year to address issues related to 3D imaging systems, which include, but are not limited to, laser scanners (also known as LADAR or laser radars) and optical range cameras (also known as flash LADAR or 3D range cameras). Read more

BE Conference 2007
April 29-May 3, 2007
Los Angeles, California
Bentley's BE Conference offers attendees hours of accredited learning, a variety of networking opportunities and technology updates across all industries and disciplines. Read more