Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 11, No. 44)

10 Dec, 2006

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Note to readers: Today's edition of Cadalyst Tips & Tools Weekly is the last of 2006. We'll take a break for the holiday season, returning in the New Year with the January 8 edition. We thank all our loyal readers, tips contributors and the Cadalyst Tip Patrol for another successful year, and wish you all the happiest of holidays.Cadalyst staff

What's New at

Get the Code!
Cadalyst's December code from Hot Tip Harry is now available for download. This month, each AutoLISP tip was developed by Harry himself, in response to user requests posted on Cadalyst'sHot Tip Harry — Help discussion forum.

Cadalyst's December Web 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 December edition of Cadalyst magazine — are now live on Check it out!

My Monitor's Bigger Than Your Monitor
The latest Cadalyst Quick Poll is live online. This month, we want to know about your screen real estate: Is your monitor sadly small, the envy of all the CAD world or somewhere in between? Take the poll (go to any page of and scroll down to find the Quick Poll in the margin), then watch for the results in Cadfidential in the January 2007 edition of Cadalyst magazine.

Time for a New Job?
If you're in the market for a new job -- or if you just want to see what's out there -- offers a Job Search that will help. Powered by Indeed, this search tool offers a state-by-state list of CAD-related job openings, or you can customize a search to find your own list of U.S. job openings based on the keywords and locations you specify. Check it out today! Use the Job Search button under the Resources section on any Web site page, or click here for a direct link.

Cadalyst Daily Update
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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Online Meeting Place with Enhanced Features
Caligari, a developer of 3D modeling and animation software, introduced truePlace, a shared online 3D meeting space that reportedly provides the world's first 3D positional voice chat and a rich set of interactions in a realistic shared 3D space. It is also a forum for trueSpace users to discuss their latest projects and ideas. truePlace lets users talk with other people using a headset so they can hear where they are in the virtual room in relation to each other. With new destinations being added regularly, the site now contains a forum, a roundtable and labs, and it occasionally hosts special events, such as a show of trueSpace artists' work.

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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.

Congratulations November Winner!
Cadalyst awards the November $100 prize to Milton Fitzgerald, who submitted the Create PLT Files from Other Formats and Layers tips in the November 13 edition. Milton was selected in a random drawing of all submissions published last month. Send us your original tip now for a chance to win!

Follow-Up to Extreme Trim
In response to last week's mention of using the Fence command as a trim feature, Harry Kortekaas notes that in AutoCAD 2007 you don't need to initiate the Fence command. Just cross over the entities you want to trim and they are all trimmed, just like with the old Fence command.

Follow-Up to Dimensions
Furthering the discussion of dimensioning started in the December 4 edition, Jan Nademlejnsky writes with a perspective some users might consider if dimensioning in paper space:

"Generally, it's my view that it's a dangerous and lazy practice to dimension in paper space:

It works only with 2D, flat drawings or right-angle viewed 3D objects, such as Plan, Elevation and Top. Dimensions are wrong when the object is viewed from a different angle. Draw a cube and dimension it in paper space (DIMASSOC = 2). When the cube is in plan view, you see a square and it works fine. Now use SE ISO View and the dimensions became shorter. This could be dangerous if a drawing is edited and the views are changed. The manufactured product could be much smaller than intended.

"A 2D drawing dimensioned in paper space when DIMASSOC is not set to 2 is potentially a total disaster when the drawing is complex with a lot of dimensions. If there is major change to drawing scale, you can spend days repositioning objects.

If you assume that DIMASSOC = 2, but it's not, then everything is wrong."

Follow-Up to Textmask Tidbit
In regard to information on Textmask in the November 27 edition, Lewis Skiles finds that Wipeout works well in an AutoCAD drawing, but when he prints to a PDF file for vendors and contractors that don't have AutoCAD, the wipeouts come in as solid rectangles, making that part of the drawing unreadable. He asks, "Does the Textmask command do the same?"

One of our Tip Patrollers who was on the scene to review the original tip noticed that pdf995 (a free PDF maker) performs in much the same manner as Wipeout, but you then must zoom in to the point where the wipeouts/textmask becomes opaque so it's impossible to read the text, he says.

A second Patroller points out information that you can find in AutoCAD's Help menu (AutoCAD Express Tools / Help / Index Tab / Textmask). Among other things, the Help suggests having your vendors download the free Autodesk DWF Viewer, and sending them DWF files instead of PDFs.

Change Layer Color
Kevin Bellson wrote this AutoLISP program to quickly change the color of a layer without having to open the Layer dialog box and scroll around to find the layer. This also works with the xref layer.

;Layer color tool
(defun C:CL ()
 (setq OBJ_LAY (cdr(assoc 8(entget (car (nentsel "\nSelect Object: "))))))
 (setq NEW_COLOR (acad_colordlg 1))
 (command "-layer" "C" NEW_COLOR OBJ_LAY "")


NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Our Patrollers agree that the tip works. One offers some suggested additions to the code:

  • Variables should be declared as local.
  • Trap errors (in case nothing is selected or Cancel is selected in the Color dialog box).
  • Use the (.) and (_) prefixes where needed in the (command) statement.
  • Disable the Byblock and Bylayer buttons in the Color dialog box because these are not applicable.

With those additions in mind, here's an augmented version of the AutoLISP function:

 (defun C:CL ( / ent obj_lay new_color)
  (setq ent (nentsel "\nSelect Object: "))
  (setq OBJ_LAY (cdr (assoc 8 (entget (car ent)))))
  (setq NEW_COLOR (acad_colordlg 1 nil))
  (command "._layer" "_C" NEW_COLOR OBJ_LAY "")

Revolve Command
Kellie Eubanks would like to make sure everyone is aware of the Revolve command. Kellie uses it a lot in 3D drawings, but also finds it handy when working on a coordinate-based system. Kellie says, "I work with a survey department, where if we need to rotate the drawing for visual purposes, using the Rotate command would move the drawing off its coordinate base, whereas if I use the Revolve command, I can position the drawing however I want and it keeps the coordinate system intact."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Our Tip Patroller who is familiar with these commands has used the Revolve command only with 3D objects and says he wouldn't use the Revolve command with 2D objects. What Kellie is doing is possible using the Rotate command and then modifying the UCS. This Patroller says he would use the UCS command and rotate it about the x-, y- or z-axis (using the right-hand rule to determine positive and negative rotation). If necessary, you can also specify a new origin point.

AutoCAD Plot Macro
A few years ago, John McLean wrote this macro (and a few variations of it) to simplify the process of plotting drawings to a plot device. John says, "Anyone should be able to use this macro with only a few minor modifications. The custom part of this macro is noted in red. Where I have PLOTTER in the macro, you must type the name of your particular plot device. If you are plotting to a network printer, you must identify your device with a pc3 file. This is because a network printer name usually begins with the \ character. The \ character is used to pause for user input in macro expressions.

"Also, change to your particular paper size and plot style. I have several of these macros on a toolbar, one for every printer and paper size that I frequently use. You can type in '-plot' at the Command line and follow the prompts to see what everything in the macro is for. You may want to change a few of them around to further customize the macro."

^C^C_-PLOT;Y;MODEL;PLOTTER;custom 1: 36 x 22 in. (landscape);I;L;N;L;1=$M=$(getvar,dimscale);C;Y;PLOTTER.ctb;Y;A;N;N;Y;

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Our Patrollers didn't test this specific macro because of its many variables. For example, you get different prompts if you're plotting a layout as opposed to plotting from model space. The important point here is that you can drive the Plot command from the Command line in a script or menu macro. Just walk through the -Plot command once by hand at the Command line, writing down the answers to the prompts. Then follow the example posted above, test, fix and repeat for your own plotting macro.

Toggle Layer Plot Status
Here is a quick routine Brock Narum uses to toggle layer plot status without having to get into the Layer Manager. This routine works with layers within DWGs, xrefs, locked layers and more.

;;  When you select a block, the routine will toggle the layer that the
;;  block was created with, not the layer the block is inserted on.
;;  In most cases this means layer zero.
(DEFUN c:LayerPlot (/ lay1 nam1 plt1)
 (if (setq lay1 (nentsel "Select Layer to Toggle Plot Status.. "))
   (setq nam1 (cdr (assoc 8 (entget (car lay1))))
     plt1 (cdr (assoc 290 (entget (tblobjname "layer" nam1)))))
   (if (= plt1 1)
    (setq lay1 (entget (tblobjname "layer" nam1))
      lay1 (subst (cons 290 0) (assoc 290 lay1) lay1))
    (princ (strcat "\"" nam1 "\" WILL NOT PLOT "))
    (setq lay1 (entget (tblobjname "layer" nam1))
      lay1 (subst (cons 290 1) (assoc 290 lay1) lay1))
    (if (or (= nam1 "DEFPOINTS")(= nam1 "defpoints"))
     (princ (strcat "\"" nam1 "\" can NOT be modified "))
     (princ (strcat "\"" nam1 "\" will plot "))
   (entmod lay1)
  (princ "Nothing Selected.. ")

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Our intrepid Patrollers agree that this code works well and is handy enough to be an Express Tool. Our LISP expert points out one small potential hang-up: The layer name Defpoints will only be trapped in this routine if it contains all uppercase or all lowercase letters. It's possible for someone to rename this layer to something such as Defpoints or DeFpOiNtS, in which case the no-plot toggle is set to Plot -- but still doesn't plot. That Patroller volunteered this new version of the code, which performs the same function but is more condensed:

 (defun c:layerplot ( / lay1 nam1 plt1)
  (setq lay1 (nentsel "Select Layer to Toggle Plot Status.. "))
  (setq nam1 (cdr (assoc 8 (setq ent (entget (car lay1))))))
  (not (if (eq (strcase nam1) "DEFPOINTS")(princ "DEFPOINTS can NOT be modified ")))
  (setq plt1 (assoc 290 (setq lay1 (entget (tblobjname "layer" nam1)))))
  (entmod (subst (cons 290 (abs (1- (cdr plt1)))) plt1 lay1))
  (if (zerop (cdr plt1))
   (princ (strcat "\"" nam1 "\" will plot "))
   (princ (strcat "\"" nam1 "\" will NOT plot "))

More Handy Toggle Routines
If you found this toggle routine helpful, check out several more in the Cadalyst Daily article "AutoCAD Tips: Time-Saving Toggle Routines," by Cadalyst Tip Patrol member Billy Wooten. Subscribe to Cadalyst Daily today.

MicroStation Tip – Where Did That Cell Come From?
Question: Is there a way to find out which cell library a specific cell came from?

Answer: You can use the Identify or Place Cell command, then the Message Center will show the cell library of origin. This may not be the most efficient way, but it beats looking through cell libraries to find it.

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

CDs Explain Scientific Modeling and Simulation
A series of free multiphysics tutorial CDs from COMSOL are designed to give engineers and scientists a quick overview of the power and benefits of modeling, simulation and virtual prototyping. Each CD contains a general introduction that illustrates how multiphysics modeling can be applied to a designated field. Besides covering a range of application areas, each example is selected to help the viewer gain detailed knowledge about some aspect of the design process. The free CDs introduce the viewer to topics such as Multiphysics Modeling, Acoustics Simulations, RF Simulations, AC/DC Simulations and COMSOL Reaction Engineering Lab. COMSOL Multiphysics produces scientific modeling and simulation software.

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Opportunities & Honors

Deadline Nears for Extreme Redesign Competition
The Dimension 3D Printing Group reminds CAD students that less than one month remains to submit a design for its third annual Extreme Redesign: The Ultimate 3D Printing Challenge. The global design and 3D printing contest for high school and college students awards $2,500 and $1,000 scholarships to winners. To enter, students must identify an existing product or piece of art or architecture and redesign it, making the original design better by adding new functionality or aesthetic qualities. Submissions must be postmarked by December 31, 2006. A panel of independent judges from various industries will evaluate entries on the basis of creativity, usefulness, part integrity and aesthetics. Winners will be selected in February 2007. The Dimension 3D Printing Group is a business unit of Stratasys.

Call for Speakers
Submissions are being accepted for presentations at what is billed as the nation's largest design and manufacturing trade show and conference. Next year's event brings together four major conferences: Assembly Technology Expo, Electronics Assembly Show, National Manufacturing Week and Quality Expo, to be held September 24-27, 2007, at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois. Proposals are invited for 50-minute paper presentations, panel discussions or half-day workshops. Submissions must be received by February 1, 2007.

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Books and Training

Podcast Download for 3D Modeling Training
Ashlar-Vellum recently introduced the use of podcast technology for delivering training materials to customers of its 3D solid and surface modeling software. In the Lense Housing Tutorial, the first Ashlar-Vellum tutorial in podcast format, product manager Greg Morgan walks the viewer through the completion of a typical part for general manufacturing. The podcast compresses the 26-minute movie into a 60 MB file that can be downloaded to an iPod or any computer using QuickTime. The tutorial is also available in larger resolution for Adobe Flash Player. Ashlar-Vellum is a provider of precision CAD and 3D modeling software.

ProSoft Releases Revit Building 9.1 Courseware
ProSoft released its new Revit Building Fundamentals Exercise Workbook ($99, 902 pages), which provides a detailed introduction to Autodesk Revit Building 9.1 design software. Readers can use a realistic workflow to design and model a complete office building. Used as either a self-training tool or for a 3-day instructor-led training class, the spiral-bound book includes an exercise dataset CD. ProSoft develops MicroStation-based training material and computer-based courseware.

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

General Software: VPHybridCAD V9
New version of vectorization solution supports AutoCAD 2007.  Read more

General Software: CadCARD Slidechart and CadCARD Jr
Reference tools for AutoCAD are available in full and pocket sizes.  Read more

General Software: SPEOS CAA V5 Based V5.0 for CATIA
OPTIS announces new version of its lighting simulation software for mechanical design, architecture and more.  Read more

General Software: Discovery 2007
Docupoint launches search application for AutoCAD that leverages RealDWG and DWF.  Read more

General Software: FreeDimension 1.0
FreeDesign debuts low-priced 3D design software.  Read more

General Software: progeCAD 2007 Standard's new release opens, reads and edits drawings created with all versions of AutoCAD.  Read more

GIS: 1' Eastern U.S. Imagery
More than 40,000 square miles of imagery for seven states now available from AirPhotoUSA.  Read more

MCAD: Deep Creator 2.3
Update of Right Hemisphere's 3D authoring software features a new user interface.  Read more

MCAD: PolyWorks/Inspector Probing
InnovMetric Software releases a subset of its point-cloud inspection package as a standalone product.  Read more

MCAD: OneSpace Integration for mySAP PLM
CoCreate Software's new release enables transfer of design data to the product development environment.  Read more

ANSYS releases computational fluid dynamics upgrade with more than 100 new features.  Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

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

Institute of Industrial Engineers Courses
January 17-March 27, 2007
Norcross, Georgia
The Institute of Industrial Engineers offers courses on Six Sigma, Process Management, Statistical Analysis, Lean Enterprise and Lean Supply Chain Management on the student's schedule or during fixed dates at its Georgia headquarters. Read more

UGS Connection User Conferences
April 23-October 17, 2007
Various locations
UGS, in cooperation with national user group organizations, will jointly host UGS Connection annual conferences, including PLM World and PLM Europe, to connect users, developers and senior managers. Read more

2007 GeoTec Event
May 14-17, 2007
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
This 21st annual event will include an educational conference with keynote speakers, workshops, breakout sessions in multiple tracks, best-practice case studies, round-table discussions and vendor presentations. Read more