Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 12, No. 1)

7 Jan, 2007

Untitled Document

What's New at

I'm Worth It
The latest Cadalyst Quick Poll is live online. This month, we want to know if management is treating the CAD community well this year: Is your paycheck growing for 2007, or have you been overlooked? 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 February edition of Cadalyst magazine.

Calling All Product Designers now offers direct access to the GlobalSpec search engine and information resource for the engineering, industrial and technical communities. Use GlobalSpec to search engineering content from the open Web as well as from a variety of proprietary content publishers. Or search more than 20,000 digitized OEM and distributor product catalogs representing more than 1.9 million products. Access the GlobalSpec search at the top of Cadalyst's Manufacturing home page.

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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Study Finds Increased Intellectual Property Risk
A new study, which investigated common practices used in global design and manufacturing, revealed that manufacturers face accelerating IP risk in the marketplace. "The Protecting Product IP  Benchmark Report: Safeguarding Design Intellectual Property in a Global Market" reports that more than two-thirds of manufacturers find the threat to their product IP has grown over the past two years. The free report also discusses how IP loss diminishes profitability, and finds some companies are implementing data protection strategies. The study was performed by the Aberdeen Group, which provides research on the global, technology-driven value chain, and was sponsored by Pinion Software, a provider of technical rights management solutions.

AEC White Paper Reports on Improved Project Execution
A new survey of AEC executives found that 10 of 11 firms are pursuing software initiatives to raise process productivity without re-engineering their work practices. The research is available in a free white paper, "Improving AEC Project Execution: Lessons from 11 Industry Leaders." Newforma, a New Hampshire-based software developer, commissioned Spar Point Research of Danvers, Massachusetts, to interview North American AEC executives in five market segments: architecture, building engineering, civil engineering, design-build and transportation infrastructure.

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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.

Follow-Up to Dimensions, Take 2
In the December 4 edition of this newsletter, Brian Benton discussed dimensioning in paper space and model space. In response to reader comments in our December 11 edition, Brian replies:

"I agree with most of the comments on my tip, although I somewhat disagree with the statement, 'Generally, it's my view that it's a dangerous and lazy practice to dimension in paper space.'

"I agree that it is a preferred practice to dimension in model space and not in paper space. I have often dimensioned in paper space when I have multiple tabs in a file. This does work best for 2D view-type drawings. In fact, all types of dimensioning work best in a 2D environment, model or paper space. Why would a drafter want to dimension an object that was not in a true view (regardless of model or paper space)? As long as your dimensions are on the same plane, you can dimension an isometric object in both model space and paper space. I have done this in both and on board drawings. Providing a true length dimension on a rotated view of an object is incorrect drafting practice, as the true length is not properly shown.

"Dimensioning in paper space for multiple-tabbed drawings can be useful to avoid double dimensions showing up from the model, and it helps eliminate dimensions in strange rotations from the model.

"The arguments against dimensioning in paper space are moot because those same arguments can be made for model space dimensioning. It is my professional opinion that a drafter should dimension in model space. If the case warrants (as in multiple-tabbed drawings), then you can use paper space just as easily and provide many more benefits not there in model space."

In addition, Lionel Camara wrote to say that his company dimensions and uses text in model space to help with reusing drawings.

Follow-Up to Revolve
Regarding our last edition, Kellie Eubanks realized she gave an incorrect basic CAD command for rotating a drawing without affecting the coordinate system in 2D. Kellie says to use the DVIEW command, then choose Select Objects and Twist. This is an alternative to adjusting the UCS.

Thomas Barger -- a surveyor who says he has worked with AutoCAD since about 1986 and has experience with numerous coordinate, transformation and rotation issues -- offers another way to rotate AutoCAD drawings for visual purposes.

He shares, "I'm not sure of the origin of this code, but it has always worked for civil-type roadways and route drawings. A line is drawn for your desired rotation and then a view set to match the line. World UCS is maintained (mandatory for survey stakeout) and the snap angle can be set to the same line for labeling.

"Name the view and it's reset quickly with the VIEW command (my company names views M1-M99 and uses another routine to restore views). I also use this for rotating odd-shaped parcels to match my rectangular plots."

 (defun DVIEWTW (/ rgm a b pt1 pt2 ang1 )
 (setq rgm (getvar "regenmode"))
 (command "setvar" "regenmode" 0)
 (setq a (entsel "Pick Line to Set DVIEW TWist Angle: "))
 (setq b (entget (car a)))
 (setq pt1 (cdr (assoc 10 b)))
 (setq pt2 (cdr (assoc 11 b)))
 (setq ang1 (angle pt1 pt2))
 (setq ang1 (/ (* ang1 180.0) pi))
 (setq ang1 (- ang1))
 (command "dview" "" "tw" ang1 "")
 (command "setvar" "regenmode" rgm)
 (princ "Dview Twist Angle Set to ") (princ (+ 360.0 ang1)) (terpri)
;this should be modified to show angle in current angular units
) ;this routine seems to work

Merle Hall also has a program to share. Merle has used this routine (UCSROT.LSP) for years and isn't quite sure where it came from. Merle says, "There's almost always an entity on the screen that's oriented the way you need the UCS to be rotated. Basically, this routine lets you indicate a West point and an East point and the program rotates the UCS accordingly, saving you figuring out degrees and the like. When you want everything to go back to normal, just type in UCS, press Enter twice and you're back. My only pet peeve with this code is that there doesn't seem to be a way to save the current view and restore it after the UCS change. Instead, it always does a zoom extents."

Follow-Up to Textmask Tidbit
In regard to information on Textmask in the November 27 edition, Andrew Venneman shares that designers at his company use Textmask often and plot to PDF files daily, without any problems. "We are using AutoCAD 2007 and the latest Adobe Acrobat," says Andrew.

Link to a Web Site from AutoCAD
Brock Narum wrote this quick little routine to apply to a button that minimizes AutoCAD and launches a new Internet Explorer browser window. This lets you keep your original views open while accessing a different Explorer window.

This example has the Web address set to

(DEFUN c:CadSite ()
 (vla-put-windowstate (vlax-get-acad-object) acMin)
 (startapp "explorer.exe" "" 1)

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: A workable tip, yes. Another simple option is to add a link to Internet Explorer in AutoCAD's Launch bar and click it when needed.

Land Desktop Tip
Robert Sprenger offers this tip for Autodesk Land Desktop 2006 users.

"Line and curve labels are MTEXT with nodes in this version. This can be a problem if you're trying to snap a line to a node of a point and mistakenly pick the node of the text. To turn off these nodes on MTEXT, change the default value of OSNAPNODEGEGACY from 0 to 1."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Our intrepid Patrollers were unable to test this tip, so check this out before you use it.

BATTMAN to the Rescue
Scott R. Brown asks, "How often do you update your blocks? You know, the ones with the attributes you so lovingly created and attached to save you time and energy. Then, all of a sudden, something changes and you must go back and update some of those attributes. As the days and weeks pass you find yourself opening drawings that have the old block still in them and that you need to update to the new block. You casually think that you'll just re-insert the block and choose to redefine the old block. BOOM! That's when it hits -- all the blocks now have attributes that are in the wrong place and are the wrong size. This is when BATTMAN comes to your rescue. Simply type BATTMAN at the Command line, or choose it from the Modify II toolbar, and a dialog box opens. Use the Select Block button, or choose the block you redefined from the Block drop-down menu, and then click the Sync button. Magically, all the at tributes to your block are now in the proper location and are the correct size. You can also achieve this by using the ATTSYNC command at the Command line. Press Enter again and you can select the block from the screen. The command then updates the attributes. Hope this saves you some time -- I know it does for me."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Both BATTMAN and ATTSYNC commands work in AutoCAD 2006 and later. BATTMAN was once an Express Tool. Both are very useful, although one Patroller says that many folks won't know about them because many don't use attributes much.

Eliminate Construction Lines
Josh Torres shares this tip that has helped him eliminate the use of construction lines while copying objects (such as fire hydrants) on a profile section of a civil drafting plan and profile sheet.

When copying an object multiple times from a specific base point, some people draw construction lines (or working lines) and offset them at specific distances prior to copying the object, to then place it at the desire location. Josh finds it faster to use the COPYMULTIPLE command and then the SnapFrom button after selecting an object.

Type COPYM, press Enter and then select the objects. Next, press Enter, select the base point and click on the Snap From button. Go to your desired station on the grid, click on it, then move your mouse right or left and type the distance from the location. Then go to your next place and repeat as needed, or just click where you want to place it. Try it a couple of times, and you'll get the idea. Then you won't need those extra lines that you usually have to delete afterward.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Both Tip Patrollers this week offer an alternative to using construction lines. Turn on Polar Tracking vectors and the Osnap extension so you can copy things a certain distance away from another object. Once you try this, you'll wonder why some still use Ortho Tracking.

Also, in AutoCAD LT 2006 (as well as AutoCAD 2006 and later), you'll find that the COPY command is now, as a built-in feature, always in copy-multiple mode. In addition, your "lastpoint" generated by even a single copy within the COPY command is now always your original copy base point or the starting point, not the ending point. The From snap mode is actually what Autodesk calls a command modifier and as such, it cannot be made a running Object Snap Mode.

Like so much else in AutoCAD, you have six ways to do one thing. Pick the one that's most efficient for you.

Measure Any Area
Milan Cisty wrote this macro for AutoCAD. Use it to measure any area that is closed by any entities. It uses the BOUNDARY command. You just need to click in the area you want to measure and the macro writes the area (in drawing units) at the point you clicked in. The height of the text is number 15 in the macro; you can easily change it to your specifications. Note that there is space after @; and no space after 15;0;

^C^C_id;\USERS1;$M=$(getvar,LASTPOINT);_-boundary;@; _area;_O;_last;_erase;_last;;_text;"$M=$(getvar,USERS1)";15;0; "$M=$(rtos,$(getvar,area)",2,2);

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: This macro works very well on simple areas, but not so well on extremely complex areas. This is definitely a step up from using the old trick of bounding the area with a polyline and reading the area on the object properties dialog box.

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

IDEAL Offers Free Trial of is a new online-hosted facility for large-format scanned drawings. Available on a subscription basis, allows users to set up projects, upload files and organize document sets using just a Web browser. The site reports that project drawings are maintained in a secure Level 3 data center and are managed by Global Archives, an IDEAL Strategic Business Partner. IDEAL is offering free subscriptions for all Contex scanner users and limited-time assessment trials for all users. develops, markets and supports large-format scanning, printing, indexing, archiving, converting and editing solutions for the AEC, GIS and reprographics markets.

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Opportunities & Honors

GITA Kicks Off New Site Launch with a Dozen Giveaways
GITA (The Geospatial Information & Technology Association) has launched a new Web site along with a rewards program to gear up for its GITA 2007 conference. To enter, patrons must fill out a short entry form. Each week until the conference, GITA will draw a winner from that week's entry forms. Site visitors can fill out a new form once each week. The grand prize winner will receive the last of the 12 prizes at Annual Conference 30 in San Antonio, Texas. The annual conference will include half-day seminars, paper presentations, panel discussions, user forums, networking socials and a product and service exhibition. Online registration is now open. The winner of the grand prize must be present at Annual Conference 30 in San Antonio to win.

Informatix Image Competition Now Open
Informatix Software International is welcoming entries for its image competition, which is being held to celebrate the company's 10th anniversary on April 25, 2007. The contest is open worldwide to users of MicroGDS and Piranesi. The top prize is a Nikon D40 digital SLR camera; also on the prize list are an HP iPAQ hw6910, Archos AV700 and Nintendo Wii, among others. Prizes and judging will be in the categories of "3D," "Plan or elevation" and "Student submission." The closing date for entries is March 31, 2007, and prizewinners will be announced on April 25. Paul Richens, Professor of Architectural Computing at the University of Bath, will lead the judging panel. Informatix Software International specializes in software for the architectural, engineering, construction and facility management industries.

Innovation Awards Slated for April
To encourage innovative construction-related technologies that benefit the industry, FIATECH has established the CETI (Celebration of Engineering & Technology Innovation) Awards program to recognize significant achievements in technology deployment and implementation in the capital projects industry. The awards will be given in the following five categories: Small-Scale Implementation; Large-Scale Implementation; New, Emerging, Cutting-edge Technology Implementation; Outstanding Young Mind; and Innovation or Creative Activity in Academics. FIATECH's CETI Award Gala will be held on the evening of April 10, 2007, at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, DC.

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Books and Training

Vectortasks Launches Free Training Podcasts
Nemetschek North America introduced a new VectorWorks-related audio podcast series, the PodCAD Podcast. Through a combination of news, how-to segments, interviews and panel discussions, each free podcast covers part of the spectrum of VectorWorks tasks, activities, new developments, tips and techniques. New programs will be available every 10 to 14 days. Nemetschek N.A. develops CAD software for the AEC, entertainment, landscape design and manufacturing fields.

New eBook for Rendering with AutoCAD
upFront.eZine Publishing has released Tailoring AutoCAD Rendering, a new e-book about rendering 3D models with AutoCAD 2007. The 140-page e-book describes how to use the many aspects of AutoCAD 2007's new rendering system, including quick rendering methods, rendering with the Dashboard and Tool palettes, using the Render command and its hangers-on, attaching materials, creating custom materials, placing lights, placing camera views and a history of the teapot. This e-book is available for $21.00 as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file for delivery via e-mail, FTP, or Web browser and it is also available on CD. upFront.eZine Publishing publishes e-newsletters, e-books and white papers on CAD.

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

Hardware: imagePRO 42 Scanners
Paradigm Imaging Group adds line of 1,200dpi large-format devices with color, monochrome and enhanced color options. Read more

Hardware: Oce TDS
Mid-volume, large-format printer handles up to nine D-size prints per minute. 
Read more

General Software: Slick! ViewPlus v2.0
Updated viewing software from CAD Systems Unlimited includes support for AutoCAD 2007. Read more

General Software: AutoVue 19.1 Service Pack 1
Cimmetry's service pack for Solaris users enables native document visualization for AutoCAD 2007. Read more

General Software: Adobe Reader 8
Latest version of free downloadable PDF file exchange tool features new 'Smart Meeting' real-time online collaboration button. Read more

General Software: PeerSync for CAD Collaboration
New version of Peer Software's backup and synchronization tool was developed to promote collaboration among CAD project teams. Read more

General Software: Net-It Central 7.0
Informative Graphics' update automatically indexes and publishes documents, and provides a Web-based interface for users to find and view content. Read more

General Software: ConceptShare
Web-based design collaboration solution enables creation of interactive workspaces. Read more

Visualization: Foreground Plants -- Zones 2-7 Foliage
Realworld's collection of high-resolution deciduous plant partials is intended for framing and composing architectural visualizations. Read more

AEC: PowerCAD SiteMaster Solutions
GiveMePower's mobile office applications aid building surveying and inspection, construction, and facilities asset and information management. Read more

AEC: VectorWorks 12.5, Spanish Edition
Nemetschek releases Spanish-language versions of VectorWorks Fundamentals, VectorWorks Architect and RenderWorks 12.5. Read more

AEC: MyAssistant for Sage Timberline Office
Sage Software launches automated notification program for business monitoring. Read more

AEC: Graphisoft Virtual Construction 2007
Company upgrades Constructor, 5D Presenter, Estimator, Cost Manager and Control applications. Read more

AEC: ArchT 2007
Autodsys enhances add-on for AutoCAD 2004-2007. Read more

GIS: Stereo Analyst for ArcGIS 9.2 and Image Analysis for ArcGIS 9.2
Stereo feature collection and imagery information extraction tools updated for GIS users. Read more

MCAD: Teamcenter/Rhapsody Integration
UGS, Telelogic partner to manage software development processes. Read more

MCAD: Industry Solutions BPC V5, Third Release
Dassault Systemes' update includes 26 PLM products to leverage industry-specific PLM practices. Read more

MCAD: Geolus Search
Update to UGS's 3D geometric shape search software features expanded CAD and database integration. Read more

MCAD: JetStream 5.2
New NavisWorks release supports DRI format. Read more

MCAD: Product Browser
Avatech release simplifies access to Autodesk Productstream data. Read more

CAE: Optimization Lab Codes
COMSOL adds codes geared at computationally intensive finite-element analysis and multiphysics problems. Read more

CAE: ABAQUS for CATIA V5 Version 2.4
New features designed to expand realistic simulation capabilities for CATIA users. Read more

General: OpenMind 2 Business Edition
MatchWare's project management software includes built-in Gantt view. Read more


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Mark Your Calendar

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

2007 ESRI GIS Solutions Expos
January 11 – January 25, 2007
Various locations
These free events showcase GIS applications, solutions and services developed by ESRI business partners for ESRI software. Read more

European VisMasters Design Modeling and Visualization Conference
February 2, 2007
Monte Carlo, Monaco
VisMasters has partnered with IMAGINA to initiate the first European VisMasters Design Modeling and Visualization Conference, a one-day event focused on the business, art and technology of design visualization. Read more

15th Annual Autodesk University
November 27 – November 30, 2007
Las Vegas, Nevada
This annual conference and exhibition offers hands-on training in the latest Autodesk products, as well as networking and learning opportunities with professionals from various industries. Read more