Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 11, No. 43)

3 Dec, 2006

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For all the latest news and new products, subscribe to the 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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Autodesk Enhances Peer Community Web Site
Autodesk announced upgrades to its Manufacturing Community Web Site. In addition to a monthly newsletter, the site now includes fully customizable content views, slideshow galleries of members' work, peer groups for networking and communication and enhanced search functionality, such as content tagging. The site is driven by peer feedback and contributions. Members are extensively involved in posting, ranking, submitting, commenting and participating. The site reportedly receives more than 10,000 page views and 200 new members per week.

PARTsolutions Content Now Accessible on Autodesk Site
PARTsolutions, a supplier of 3D digital product catalogs, announced that its Autodesk Manufacturing Content Warehouse has exceeded 50,000 downloads per month. One year ago, PARTsolutions and Autodesk formed a strategic relationship to deliver digital parts to the Autodesk Manufacturing Supplier Content Center, now located on the Autodesk Manufacturing Community Web site. The PARTsolutions Content Warehouse brings commercial content to the desktops of Autodesk customers, with PARTsolutions providing direct download of those commercial parts in several Autodesk formats, including Autodesk Inventor and AutoCAD native formats.

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This Week's Software Tips

Send us your tip, code 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, and each month Cadalyst editors will randomly select one published tip and send $100 to its author. Please submit only code and other tips that are your original work, or provide the original source so we can include proper credit. By submitting code to Cadalyst, you grant Cadalyst the right to print and distribute your code in print, digitally and by other means. Cadalyst and individual authors retain all rights to the code; published code is not to be used for commercial purposes.

Correction to Filter Objects with SSX
Last week’s software tips contained an error for Filter Objects with SSX, a tip about a Command line LISP file that comes with AutoCAD, which lets users filter objects and the like based on several parameters. The first two sentences of the instructions had some missing and misplaced parentheses. They should have read: "Load SSX.LSP while opening a session, or afterward using (load"ssx"). Type (SSX) at the Select Objects prompt and press Enter. You can then select an object and have all relative filters set, such as entity type, color, layer, etc." The remainder of the tip, which was correct, reads: "By pressing Enter again instead of selecting an object or text entity, the command offers several filter options. You can also incorporate this AutoLISP file into other LISP routines for simplified user input." We apologize for any confusion.

Filter Objects with SSX, Addendum
Reader Mark Premo offers this tip to use in conjunction with Filter Objects with SSX. “After using the SSX command to select the objects, you can edit all of them by immediately following the selection filter (SSX) with a command or express tool command, such as Change Layer, or even following it up with another LISP command such as CHT (the old Change Text command -- another of my favorites). When the command line asks you to select objects, type P (for previously selected objects), and the filtered objects are now ready for manipulation. This is very handy, and I often employ it to clean up other people's work when they don't follow standards.”

Brian Strandberg reminds Autodesk Civil 3D users that you can also use Select Similar. Simply left-click on an object, right-click to bring up the context menu and select the command. It adds all the other objects of the same type with the same properties (layer, color, etc.). He says it’s important to be aware of all the global selection options and use the one that’s appropriate for your situation.

Extreme Trims
Reader Tim Doyle has noticed that not many people refer back to some of the old, basic AutoCAD options, such as Fence. He often uses Fence to trim, extend and select multiple entities. Even if the Command line doesn’t prompt you for a selection method, you can often type in F to initiate the Fence option. Check out the Help files; no custom routines are required.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Our Patrollers agree this is a good reminder and offer some additional tips. When you use the Trim command, you can trim and extend in the same command. Just hold down the Shift and Ctrl buttons. Other commands that are useful are CP (Crossing Polygon) and WP (Window Polygon) to fence large portions of a drawing. Press F3 to turn off snaps while you create the polygon. You can also use the option of picking a point in space and window right or, better still, crossing left if selecting a single fence row of entities.

Brian Benton offers information on dimensioning in paper space and model space. He writes, “Some users say that you should never dimension in paper space because the viewport might move. But, if you dimension in model space, the model might move. Okay, granted this isn’t as likely, but it’s possible. Why limit your options because somebody might make a mistake that’s easily noticed? Dimensioning in paper space is easy -- you only have to make sure that certain settings are turned on. Why not use what you paid for?

“Set the DIMASSOC variable to 2. Then, in your Dimension settings, under the Fit tab, activate the Scale dimensions to layout (paper space). These settings let you dimension in paper space because together they scale the dimension to the proper length. Also, your arrows (or ticks) and your text will be the proper size.

“If your viewport does move, simply use one or both of these commands to fix it: Dimregen and Dimreassoc. Dimreassoc lets you to reassociate the dimension to whatever points you need. Just follow the prompts.”

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: One Tip Patroller who reviewed this tip shares that he dimensions in paper space whenever possible (or whenever the client allows it), as it’s the only way he likes to work with files.

Our second Patroller says, “With Dimassoc set to 2 and Dim settings scaled to layout, even moving the viewport or moving the model shouldn’t affect the dimensions in paper space, all thanks to the great new system variable DIMASSOC. However, not many people I know dimension in paper space. If you’re adding notes to your model, you may not want to go to paper space to find things clashing with dimensions in paper space. Having said that, I guess if you dimension in paper space, then it’s a fair assumption you notate in paper space also.”

He continues, “I believe the original intention of paper and model space was for users to enter all non-xref data in paper space so only a single text height, etc., was applicable. However, users soon realized the shortfalls with dimensioning in paper space and reverted to model space for notating and dimensioning while resetting dimscale to each scaled detail that was worked on. In my office, we have a customized toolbar based on typical scales used in our engineering, such as 1:10 and 1:20, together with a user scale for any not on the bar. These buttons preset the dimscale, ltscale and a universal variable name used throughout our in-house custom user interface and routines.”

Program Your Mouse, Revisited
Veteran AutoCAD user Dan Johnson was reading the October 2 edition of Tips & Tools Weekly, which included tips about changing the mouse button programming for AutoCAD. He has this to add:

"I use this feature on my Logitech MX-610 cordless laser multibutton mouse and have been using the following technique for about eight years after ditching my digitizer tablet. Unfortunately, I don’t remember where I got this technique, or I would give the credit as due.

"Any shortcut menu in the CUI file can be activated on-screen with a short DIESEL command that calls the menu name. This is a trick from the old-style menu days. I assigned F-key shortcuts to those DIESEL strings. Then in the Logitech SetPoint program, I added AutoCAD to the list of managed programs and assigned specific mouse buttons to those F-keys. I can just as easily call up those cursor menus by pressing an F-key. Also, any cursor menu can be assigned to the shortcut key and the shortcut key can be a key combination as well. The only real code needed is the DIESEL string that calls the cursor menu. For instance, my F7 key is assigned this DIESEL script:

"If you replace TDJ_MODES with any shortcut menu name, F7 brings up that menu. TDJ_MODES is one of my custom menus. You could add a shortcut key for Ctrl+Q to run the script


and that would bring up the Command menu when you press that key combination.
Then in SetPoint, assign Ctrl+Q to the Back button, and whenever you press that button while in AutoCAD, up pops the Command menu at the cursor. In the old menu system these were called POP menus for that reason. In the CUI editor, highlight a shortcut menu in the left pane and look in the right pane under the advanced section and look for the aliases listing. You’ll see the old POP menu name and the alias name separated by commas. I assume you can use either name in the script, but the non-POP name reads easier. The Help system describes how to create a shortcut key. The important element is to assign the above DIESEL script to the macro section in the shortcut key. Here are step-by-step instructions:

  • Determine the requirements of the cursor menu and build it from standard or custom commands in the CUI or use a built-in shortcut menu to get the feel first.
  • Create a custom command in the CUI that has the DIESEL expression as the macro. This expression calls the name of the shortcut menu from Step 1.
  • Create a shortcut key and assign the custom command to that key or key combination.
  • Assign a mouse button to that key combination that's specific to AutoCAD.
  • The AutoCAD Help system within the CUI is very clear about how to do these steps. It’s the DIESEL expression or script or macro that is the key.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Good tip. When I pensioned off my digitizer all those years ago, I wondered how I would ever manage with only a two- or three-button mouse. Thankfully, evolution has seen the humble mouse transform into a full-featured input device with multiple configurable buttons, optical reading (no moving parts) and, best of all, a wheel. Couple this with the programming above and you can improve it even further. It’s not limited to Logitech devices, either: Microsoft Intellipoint also lets you configure buttons specifically for AutoCAD, Microsoft Office and other programs, plus assign code to buttons.

Make Global Updates
Frequent tipster Leonid Nemirovsky (visit his AutoLISP Web site) sends this quick tip for AutoCAD 2007: "Sometimes in project-related drawings, you need to make global updates on the whole set of drawings, such as revision number or project ID, that are attributes in the title block. Usually, I have a profile related to the specific project and associated menu (CUI) with associated MNL file. In the MNL file, I add this code:

(setq $JOBNO "040362") (setq $REVISIONNO "2")

and the like, so these LISP variables load with the profile. In each drawing, in related attribute fields, I insert the field and select the LISP variables settings. Now, whenever a revision number changes, I just update the code in the MNL file so the number is updated on all the drawings. Change it from

(setq $REVISIONNO "2")


(setq $REVISIONNO "3")

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Our Patrollers agree this is a good tip, but remind us that it works only for projects that have the same revision number on all drawings. In addition, this approach will work efficiently only with a stand-alone AutoCAD setup assuming the variables are in the main CUI. If that's not the case, you must set these variables in your CUSTOM.MNL so you don’t affect everyone using an in-house menu. To avoid inherent problems with manipulating fields via an MNL file, be sure you have fairly rigorous controls in place to ensure compliance with your CAD standards.

MicroStation Tip: Flattened DWG?
Question: When I save a 3D DGN as a DWG, it seems to get flattened down to 2D when I reopen it in MicroStation. What gives?
Answer: MicroStation has an option that automatically forces 3D DWG files to be opened in 2D. If you don't know this option is turned on, you might be very surprised to find all your 3D DWG files -- including ones you just saved from a 3D DGN file -- flattened down to 2D! Further details are available online.

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

CADalytic Media Releases SpecifiCAD Beta for Autodesk
CADalytic Media has released a beta version of SpecifiCAD for Autodesk Revit Building 9.1 and has updated SpecifiCAD beta for Autodesk AutoCAD/Architectural Desktop, versions 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. The free beta release of SpecifiCAD is available immediately for Revit Building and AutoCAD/ADT. SpecifiCAD delivers building product data to the designer's desktop within the CAD/BIM environment. CADalytic plans to release a version for Bentley Architecture soon, and is working on a version for Google SketchUp. CADalytic Media is a provider of manufacturer and supplier building product content for designers.

ConVisia Seeks Construction Project Managers
ConVisia, a document management systems provider, announced it will give free service, training and support to as many as 50 project managers for a prescribed period of time. The selected individuals will help the company pilot its new project team collaboration service by providing "real-world feedback" on their experience with the company's service so it can continue to improve.

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Opportunities & Honors

Georgia Tech Students Rank First in National Design Competition
Dassault Systemes announced that Georgia Institute of Technology Design students used the company's DELMIA V5 and CATIA PLM software to design a training helicopter that took first place in the 23rd Annual Student Design Competition. The competition challenged entrants to design a two-seat, single-engine, turbine training helicopter. The competition, sponsored by the American Helicopter Society and Bell Helicopter, was open to graduate and undergraduate students, with separate awards for each category. Teams were judged on technical content, application and feasibility, originality and organization. The Georgia Tech team won first place in the graduate level category.

CMSC Society Announces Call for Papers
The CMSC Society is accepting submissions for white papers to be presented at the 23rd annual Coordinate Metrology Systems Conference (CMSC). The 2007 event will be held in Reno, Nevada, July 16-20, 2007. Metrology users from leading manufacturers and laboratories can submit proposals for application white papers covering their successful, efficient use of 3D coordinate measurement systems. All white paper presentations will be reviewed by CMSC and considered for publication in the Journal of the CMSC. CMSC is a society of users, service providers and OEM manufacturers of close-tolerance industrial coordinate measurement systems, software and peripherals.

3D InterOp Model Contest Deadline Extended
Spatial announced that the deadline for entering its 3D InterOp Model Contest has been extended to December 31, 2006. Acceptable entries must be part or assembly models created with CATIA V4, CATIA V5, Autodesk Inventor, SolidWorks, Pro/Engineer or Unigraphics CAD software. The entries should demonstrate the innovative use of all of the CAD system's design and documentation capabilities, including maximum use of assembly modeling, feature modeling, dimensioning and tolerancing. Submitted designs should include all relevant file types. Cash prizes are $5,000, $2,500 and $1,000 for  first, second and third place, respectively.

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Books and Training

UGS Teamcenter Book
Design Visionaries, an engineering consultancy and service provider, released a new book titled Teamcenter Engineering and Product Lifecycle Management Basics ($49.95), authored by Stephen M. Samuel, Eric D. Weeks and Mark A. Kelley. The book's topics include an explanation of PLM and how it works; how Teamcenter Engineering fits with other systems; basic, intermediate and advanced skills; and implementation of Teamcenter Engineering. The book is targeted at engineers who create the data, as well as those who need to review or rely on such information.

CADCIM Technologies Releases Two New Books
CAD/CAM textbook publisher CADCIM Technologies released Solid Edge V19 for Designers (688 pages) and SolidWorks 2007 for Designers($59, 816 pages). Both books were authored by Sham Tickoo, Purdue University Calumet. Solid Edge V19 for Designers introduces sketching and part modeling in Solid Edge, and then gradually progresses to cover assembly and drafting. SolidWorks 2007 for Designers explores the latest tools and techniques of the software package, covering all sketching, part modeling, editing, assembly design, and detailing and drafting techniques available in the software. Included with the books are free teaching and learning resources such as technical support, student projects, customizable PowerPoint presentations, an instructor's guide and drawing files of illustrations, tutorials and exercises.

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

Hardware: VX2235wm, VX2035wm and VX1935wm LCD Monitors
ViewSonic introduces lower-priced widescreen LCD displays for digital entertainment, business consumers.  Read more

Visualization: Stitcher Unlimited 5.5 DS
REALVIZ upgrade offers automatic stitching of two-shot fisheye photos.  Read more

Design Visualization: Anark Studio 4.0
Anark upgrades its flagship 3D content creation application.  Read more

AEC: e-SPECS 3.2
InterSpec's specifications system now integrated with MASTERSPEC MEP. 
Read more

MCAD: Add-Ins for SolidWorks
SYCODE launches a dozen import and export add-ins, each of which adds new commands to the application.  Read more

MCAD: 3D QuickForm Professional for SolidWorks
3D QuickTools releases professional version of its production design package for metal forming.  Read more

MCAD: Alibre Design 9.1 and Acrobat 3D Bundle
New version of Alibre Design Expert now available with Adobe PDF software. 
Read more

CAE: NEiFusion
Noran Engineering pitches professional-level simulation and analysis toolset to individual engineers.  Read more

CAE: Icepak 4.3
ANSYS upgrades electronics cooling design software.  Read more

CAE: SimOffice
MSC.Software introduces Windows Vista-compatible desktop simulation solution.  Read more

CAE: AceGen, AceFEM
Wolfram Research releases Mathematica add-ons for numerical prototyping, FEA. Read more

Facilities Management: ShowRack 4.0
Visser's data center management software works with ARCHIBUS/FM, eliminates manual rack data updates.  Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

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

Business Process Modeling Workshop
January 18, 2007
Troy, Michigan
Vasco Drecun's one-day workshop provides an opportunity for attendees to learn more about a hands-on methodology for modeling and analyzing process using standardized reference models. The workshop will be supported with hands-on modeling of real-life examples. Read more

January 29-31, 2007
Houston, Texas
DaratechPLANT2007 brings together experts in the areas of business development, asset creation, lifecycle management, instrumentation, real-time operations and plant maintenance. Read more