Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 11, No. 36)

8 Oct, 2006

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What's New at

Good, Bad or Ugly?
Check out the new "Comments" feature on Cadalyst's Web sites. Scroll to the bottom of each article to view other readers' comments and post your own.

New Product Reviews Discussion Forum
Cadalyst's new Product Reviews Discussion Forum provides links to our latest hardware and software reviews and lets users post their own feedback and experience with those products. If you're in the market for new technology, check out the Product Reviews Discussion Forum today.

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:

  • Transcending Typical Design: Interior designer calls on 3D CAD to create an innovative retail environment -- much of which appears to float.

GIS News and Information
Cadalyst 's sister Web site is a complete online resource for all things GIS, including GIS and mapping, civil engineering, surveying, GIS news and more.



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M2 Technologies "Manufactures" New Web site
M2 Technologies is now offering clients a new e-learning Web site that includes free access to its Productivity Improvement Center, which houses Web-based tutorial demonstrations of instructor-led e-learning courses for Autodesk Inventor, AutoCAD Mechanical and AutoCAD. The Web site will also offer technical tips and tricks, white papers and other valuable industry information as well as a full library of fee-based, instructor-led tutorials.

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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 Excel and AutoCAD
The October 2 newsletter's tip concerning linking AutoCAD and Excel brought in numerous comments and suggestions:

  • Michael Jarosz agrees with the Cadalyst Tip Patroller's thoughts about making sure that changes in Excel are physically noted in the drawing. He says, "Although AutoCAD and Excel can be linked, I question the wisdom of using this feature, at least where contract documents are concerned. Once drawings are released for bid and/or construction, it's essential that any changes be graphically noted on the drawings and officially reissued. This usually requires 'bubbling' the drawing and the issue of a bulletin or other official notification. Changes that happen automatically in Excel may easily go unnoticed in the actual drawing."
  • Lloyd Beachy suggests embedding an Excel file instead of linking it. An embedded object is only accessible through the AutoCAD drawing and eliminates any problems with revision control. You can embed a spreadsheet by simply selecting Paste instead of Paste Special, he says. To make changes, double-click on the spreadsheet to open Excel.
  • Reader Chris Lease agrees with Brian Benton that cutting and pasting into AutoCAD from Excel works great, but finds that it does have limitations. When using his office HP DesignJet plotter, for some reason it defaults to plotting the drawing upside down. If he's plotting a 22" x 34" drawing on 36" wide paper, the leading edge gets the extra paper, which must be trimmed. To avoid this, he usually plots upside down and the extra paper goes to the binding edge. However, OLE objects (such as cut and paste Excel spreadsheets) don't rotate, and come in upside down. In addition, he finds there is a size limitation per pasting, and he must do multiple cut-and-pastes with OLE objects to get all the data in if he has a large spreadsheet. He's taken to using the Paste Special option on the Edit pull-down menu, and importing the spreadsheet as AutoCAD entities, which brings it in as a table. From there, it's fairly simple formatting to get the desired result, there's no size limit and he can plot them upside down.

Follow-Up to Viewport Lock
In reference to the tip about globally locking and unlocking viewports in the October 2 newsletter, reader Michael Gilroy adds that at his office, users typically lock all viewports once the sheet's composed and most of the viewports arranged. Rather than shutting off the viewports layer, he says, they set their viewports to color 250, which is a dark gray. This ghosts in the viewport, and they can still resize it as needed. Importantly, the visibility of the viewport is subtle and doesn't visually interfere with assessing the sheets composition. Because they typically have all the viewports frozen early on in the drawing, they've added a toolbar button and keyboard alias to do a point-and-shoot toggle to lock and unlock a viewport for zoom xp editing.

Carey Casey has a different way to work in model space through a viewport. Casey says, "I create a layout tab for each sheet in my hard-copy set. This tab stays in paper space. Following each sheet tab are tabs for each viewport on that sheet. These tabs stay in model space, which is where I work. This way, I can pan and zoom without affecting my sheet layout."

Follow-Up to Avoid Keystrokes
Regarding the joys of using a five-button mouse when working in AutoCAD, a tip introduced in the October 2 newsletter, we received quite a few comments.

  • Jack Foster writes that instead of setting a mouse button to function as an Escape key, he prefers to set one to Enter. Doing this, he can easily interrupt any AutoCAD command he's using as well as use that button in other programs.
  • Keith King had the same problem with the Intellipoint 4 driver that our Tips Patroller mentioned. To get around the problem, he set the keystroke CTRL[ (Control + left bracket) for use with one of the buttons and he can now use the button for ESC.
  • Frederick T. Wawra says that one of the best purchases he's made is a mouse with has two thumb buttons on the left. He says, "For those of us who make good use of our PGP file and don't mind using the keyboard, hitting the ESC key is no big deal. I've programmed my primary thumb button on the mouse for ortho mode (F8) and the secondary one for osnap mode (F3). This saves a lot of hunting and pecking on the keyboard for things that I do a lot in the course of a drawing."
  • Louis Lipnos has been using his thumb button as the Escape key for years, he tells us. However, in the past several months, if he exits out of AutoCAD, he has to reprogram the button, although all the other buttons retain their function. He's  hoping fellow Tips & Tools Weekly readers might have some advice.

Length-y LISP
This AutoCAD Release 11-era AutoLISP routine from Steve Lewis and Steve Knopf keeps on ticking. It returns the total length of multiple lines and arcs. They wrote the routine because the city had "dumb" maps showing water, sewer, storm drains and the like, and they needed to retrieve the lengths of different sizes of pipes for their finance department. By layering in order (by pipe size) and filters, this routine made the job a snap. Knopf still uses it for many take-offs other unusual requests. Download LENGTH.LSP from this week's code file.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: This code works as advertised, although one of the Patrollers offered a few suggestions to update it.

Download LENGTH-REVISED.LSP for these changes:

  • The variable name "type" was replaced because "type" is an AutoLISP function.
  • The list of local variables was updated to include all the variables.
  • An "if" statement was added to trap an empty selection set.
Download LENGTH2.LSP to see how this LISP can be consolidated. Our Tip Patroller created a duplicate function using about a quarter of the code of the original.

Automatic Pan
Danny Comsa writes in with this tip. When using the Pan command and starting it with either P or the mouse button, you must keep resetting the pan pick point when it gets to the edge of the screen so you can see what is off the screen. Comsa suggests pressing the CTRL key with the Pan command. This forces the Pan to move automatically in the direction you move the mouse -- there are eight indicators to help you see the directions picked, he says. The faster you initially move the mouse, the faster the auto-pan works.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Patrollers agree that this is a good tip. In addition, one adds that you can get the same result by holding down CTRL and holding down the middle wheel mouse button. Of course, if you want the classic Pan command, type –P and press Enter. You are prompted to specify a base point of displacement followed by specifying a second point. With Ortho on or off, you can type in the distance as you would with the Copy or Move command.

Go Ahead, Ask Inga!
For those of you who use MicroStation, is another great site to keep in mind for questions and furthering your general MicroStation knowledge. Inga, a self-proclaimed MicroStation Therapist, offers myriad topics that you can easily search by category, date and title. Sign-up is quick, easy and free.

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

White Paper Explores Digital Manufacturing
CIMdata, a consulting and research firm, has made its recently published white paper, Manufacturing Goes Digital, available at no cost on its Web site. The report provides an introduction to digital manufacturing and its role, the pressures that motivate its use and an overview of the benefits companies have experienced. It discusses how manufacturers today are being challenged more than ever and how they are addressing these challenges. The report goes on to describe how digital manufacturing solutions are based on an integrated set of software capabilities that utilize a digital product model.

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Opportunites & Honors

Bentley Sponsors Scholarship Competition
The BE (Bentley Empowered) Conference will be held April 29-May 3, 2007, in Los Angeles, California. During the conference, the student competition winners of four $1,000 scholarships will be announced. Bentley is accepting contest entries in the categories of Architecture; Engineering (Civil, Structural or Geospatial); Hydro-Engineering; and High School/Middle School PowerDraft. The submission deadline is March 7, 2007. Winners will be selected by a panel of jurors made up of professional engineers and university professors. Each winner's school will also receive a computer loaded with Bentley Systems software.

SIGGRAPH 2007: Call for Papers and Volunteers
SIGGRAPH 2007, the 34th International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, to be held August 5-9 in San Diego, California, is looking for contributors and volunteers for programs. For details, requirements and approaching deadlines for participation, visit

Geomagic Wins Tibbetts Award
Geomagic, a software and services company, has won a 2006 Tibbetts Award from the Small Business Technology Council, a nonpartisan, nonprofit industry association of companies dedicated to promoting the creation and growth of research-intensive, technology-based U.S. small business. Tibbetts Awards are given annually to companies, projects, organizations and individuals judged to exemplify the best in SBIR (Small Business Innovative Research) Program achievement. Geomagic has been awarded several SBIR grants for its technology leadership in digital shape sampling and processing over the years, the company reports.

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Books & Training

New Book: Sheet-Metal Unfolding for SolidWorks
Sheet Metal Guy released the third book in its sheet-metal series, which focuses on sheet-metal unfolding. The book provides step-by-step instructions on how to use SolidWorks 2007 sheet-metal features. For a limited time, advance orders will receive more than 20% off of the list price.

New Book: Geometrical Dimensioning for Design and Manufacturing
Butterworth-Heinemann, a division of Elsevier, has released Geometrical Dimensioning and Tolerancing for Design, Manufacturing and Inspection by Georg Henzold, former deputy director of Seimens. The book presents the state-of-the-art of geometrical tolerancing and serves as a reference and guide for all professional engineers, designers, CAD users, quality managers and anyone else involved in the creation or interpretation of CAD plans or engineering designs and specifications. It also covers the latest ISO and ANSI/ASME standards.

AutoCAD 2007 Courseware
ProSoft has released a pair of new AutoCAD 2007 titles that go hand-in-hand. The first, AutoCAD 2007 Fundamentals Reference Manual, provides detailed introduction for the tools, concepts and workflows a new user must master to become proficient with AutoCAD 2007. This book is intended to be a companion volume to the AutoCAD 2007 Fundamentals Exercise Workbook that offers step-by-step, hands-on exercises. Topics include working with drawing files, the AutoCAD drawing environment, viewing and zooming tools, object snapping, basic and precision drawing tools, layers, annotating and dimensioning drawings, external reference files, plotting and many others.

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

Hardware: NVIDIA Quadro Plex 1000
Dedicated visual computing system is designed to interface with standard workstations, servers for demanding graphics applications.  Read more >>

AEC: Bentley Building Electrical Systems V8 XM Edition
Modeling software release adds an enhanced 3D symbol libraries and an enhanced graphical user interface to the design and document production features of the 2004 edition.  Read more >>

AEC: WinEst 2006, Version 9
WinEstimator has updated its cost estimating software with optional modules, integration options and new features. Read more >>

AEC: GuidSIGN 4.4
New version of Transoft's solution for designing highway signs is compatible with AutoCAD 2007 and MicroStation XM. Read more >>

AEC/GIS: CivilCAD 2006
Sivan Design's upgrade designed for surveying, road planning and design, water engineering, real-time 3D simulation and more. Read more >>

General Software: Pinion Receiver 4.0
Updates to Pinion Software's security solution include native support for PTC Pro/ENGINEER files and new CAD Viewer applications.  Read more >>

MCAD: EDS Product Lifecycle Management
EDS offers combinations of its systems and application integration capabilities with UGS' PLM software and services.  Read more >>

MCAD: ICEM Surf 4.6
Version 4.6 of surface design suite to be released in November. Read more >>

MCAD: Solid Edge Version 19 Update
UGS improves motion simulation and animation capabilities in its Velocity Series CAD component. Read more >>

MCAD: 3DQuickForm Version 2
SolidWorks solution codeveloped by 3D QuickTools and ESI Group for the metal stamping industry. Read more >>

CAE: Metalforming Solutions Suite for CATIA R17
Forming Technologies releases CAA-based applications designed to reduce downstream changes in sheet metal components. Read more >>

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Mark Your Calendar

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

October 12, 2006
Coventry, UK

SMARTEAM users will meet at this user forum to learn how to maximize the effectiveness of their SMARTEAM PLM investment. Industry speakers will include representatives from Avery WeighTronix and Magellan Aerospace; both companies will share how SMARTEAM has helped them to manage business critical information and disseminate it throughout the enterprise. Read more

IBM Information on Demand 2006
October 15-20, 2006
Anaheim, California
This information management event is designed for business and IT executives, managers, professionals, DBAs and developers. Both a 2.5-day business leadership track (with 180 sessions) and a 4.5-day technical track (with 650 sessions) are available. Read more

Webinar: Autodesk Inventor
October 17, 2006
Attendees to this complimentary one-hour Webcast will learn how Inventor can boost performance. The webinar will also include a demonstration of Inventor in action and tips for users. Read more

Adobe Acrobat PDF Central Conference
November 6-9, 2006
Council Bluffs, Iowa
This conference comprises both a main conference -- including more than 24 sessions presented by Adobe representatives and other industry experts – and a "mini-conference" for those new to PDF or still investigating PDF possibilities. Read more

GIS in Financial and Electronic Crimes Training
November 8, 2006
Washington, D.C.

At the GIS in Financial and Electronic Crimes breakfast, attendees will learn how GIS is uniquely positioned to model the patterns and trends in white collar crime, and how financial and electronic crimes data must be captured, stored and exploited to provide utility to the law enforcement and intelligence communities. Read more