Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 12, No. 13)

8 Apr, 2007

Untitled Document

What's New at

3D in AutoCAD? You Tell Us!
Do you use AutoCAD for 3D product design? If so, Cadalyst contributing editor Mike Hudspeth would like to hear from you. Readers' responses will appear in Mike's MCAD Modeling column in the June issue of Cadalyst magazine (and online). Send your 3D design story, as well as a design or two, to

Cadalyst Daily Update
For all the latest news and new products and updates about the newest features on, subscribe to the Cadalyst Daily e-newsletter. Plus, every Monday we bring you a full-length feature article you won't find anywhere else -- hardware and CAD software reviews, success stories, interviews, event reports, AutoCAD tips and more! Here's a sample of what you missed recently:

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Auto-des-sys Releases Beta Version of form.Z RenderZone Plus v6.5
Auto-Des-Sys has released form.Z RenderZone Plus v6.5 for user beta testing. All current form.Z v6 and v6.1 users are eligible to beta test form.Z RenderZone Plus v6.5. Users can download the software and also participate in the beta testing section on the form.Z forum to report findings and participate in discussions with other beta testers.

Digital Magazine Includes Interactive 3D Models
The Web portal announced last week that the sixth issue of its free digital magazine "on 3D in 3D" -- called (3D)2 -- is now available for download in English. The French Web site is devoted to CAD, CAE, PLM, virtual reality and rapid prototyping. The monthly publication focuses on a software or hardware product from the markets covered by the portal.

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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 March Winner!Cadalyst awarded the March $100 prize to Andrew Venneman, who submitted the AutoCAD Dimensioning tip published in the March 12 edition. Venneman was selected in a random drawing of all submissions published last month. Send us your original tip now for a chance to win!

Toggle Tilemode with F4
Kevin Pohlgeers has finally found a useful function for the F4 button: a toggle key between paper and model space. With just a quick tap he's in paper space and another tap and he's back to model space. If you have more than one layout tab, it toggles you back to whichever one you left.

He explains how he set it up: To begin, execute the CUI command. When the CUI opens, go to the Command list in the lower-left window pane and select Custom Commands from the Categories drop-down list. Then click the New button to the right of the drop-down list. In the lower-right Properties pane, name the command Toggle Tilemode. On the Macro line, paste in the following (all one line of code):

     ^P'_.tilemode $M=$(if,$(and,$(getvar,tilemode),1),$(-

Press Apply. Next, in the upper-left pane, expand the Keyboard Shortcuts list and the Shortcut Keys list. Select the new Toggle Tilemode command from the lower-left pane and drag and drop it into the Shortcut Keys list. Once it's in the list, select it and choose the Access line from the Properties pane on the right and select the "…" button at the end of that line. Click in the text box, press the F4 key and choose the Assign button. Click OK to close that box and OK to close the CUI.

Now try out your new F4 key. Pohlgeers says he's become so accustomed to using this shortcut, he doesn't think he could ever work without it now.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: The Patrol says, "This is one of those really useful tips that bears repeating for a new generation of users. There are a lot of settings that toggle an AutoCAD setting on and off, such as Ortho, Grid, Snap and the like. It's useful to be reminded that you can create your own custom toggles."

"One of the better features of this tip is that it provides a template to create other custom user setvar toggles. The following is a similar use that in this instance programs the Shift-F11 and the Shift-F12 keys to toggle the DIMSE1 and DIMSE2 dimension extension line suppressions on and off, respectively."


"Finally, this tip uses AutoCAD’s DIESEL menu programming language rather than LISP, guaranteeing that it, and similar customizations, will run under AutoCAD LT as well as full AutoCAD."

Text Size
This tip comes from Leonid Nemirovsky: Whenever you initiate the mtext command in the crosshair of the cursor, the small letters "abc" appear, representing how text will look (size, height, oblique angle, etc.) in current settings. However, to see it better you can change "abc" to any letter or combination of letters, numbers and symbols. At the Command prompt, type MTJIGSTRING and set it to whatever you need, for example, ABC2. You also can change it using Express / Tools / System Variables Editor.


Unlock AutoCAD
If you work in a restrictive Windows environment, such as a computer lab in a university, Alexander Schreyer offers an AutoCAD tutorial on how you can still customize AutoCAD using a thumb drive. For the full tip, go to his Web site. While there, be sure to check out his great photo library.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: "Historically," our Tip Patrol says, "we've gone from 364K, 1.2MB and 1.44MB diskettes, then CDs and DVDs and now thumb drives to carry around individual and customized settings, templates, blocks, fonts, etc. I’ve reviewed the Web site offering and it seems, without testing it specifically on a thumb drive, to be a reasonable and practical description of this methodology."

The full tip references exporting your PROFILE.ARG file, which applies to full AutoCAD. AutoCAD LT users should copy their CUI file where the LT Workspaces are saved. In either instance, remember that the Options setups for where files can be found may need to be customized (or simplified) so that your portable AutoCAD configuration, on whatever delivery device you choose, does not routinely look for files, template(s), blocks, fonts and the like in places that the system you are visiting doesn't have."

Reminder to readers: Follow-up tips are not reviewed by the Cadalyst Tip Patrol.

Follow-Up: March 26 Edition
Richard Wenner had several thoughts to share regarding tips in the March 26 edition.

Multiple Osnaps Customization. Wenner offers an additional way to set up Osnaps. He says, "We set up this little bit of code for multiple users and osnap settings. It’s a little easier than setting up multiple profiles on multiple computers."

     (defun C:01 (/) (COMMAND "-osnap"     
     (defun C:02 (/) (COMMAND "-osnap" "end,mid,cen,perp,int")     
     (defun C:03 (/) (COMMAND "-osnap" "near") (PRINC))
     (defun C:04 (/) (COMMAND "-osnap" "end,int") (PRINC))
     (defun C:05 (/) (COMMAND "-osnap" "end,mid,quad,int,node")     

Paths to Drawings. Before adding a plot stamp, Wenner suggests, be careful what you specify for fields in your plot stamp for the file location. Some of them work fine when printing single pages, but when you publish, you may get a temporary publish location that doesn't represent your file location. Wenner chose this as his plot stamp with the slashes typed between each field: "Field Category: Document-Filename" \ "Field Category: Other-System variable-ctab" \ "Field Category: Plot-Login" \ "Field Category: Plot-Plotdate."

Keystroke Shortcuts in AutoCAD. To add to Jim Stewart's list of keystroke shortcuts, here are some more. Download KEYBOARDSHORTCUTS.DOC and add them to your lists.

Follow-Up: Multiple Osnaps Customization
Reader Mike Tan responds to Brent Daley's comments in the March 26 edition about running osnaps, offering another option: Set your Mbuttonpan to 0. One of your mouse buttons (depending on which model you have) will default to the osnap pop-up menu.
In addition, Lloyd Beachy wrote in to comment on the Patrol's suggestion to use Menuload to accommodate tool entries. Lloyd says, "One of the tipsters suggested creating a series of short LISP routines that turn on specific osnap modes. The example code (command "osnap" "MODE") was used to set the specific mode. One problem with using the (command...) function is that you can never use it transparently. These examples can be used transparently (while a command is active) by preceding it with an apostrophe, for example 'OC."

     (defun C:OC ()
        (setvar "osmode" 4)

     (defun C:OE ()
        (setvar "osmode" 1)

Follow-Up: Send a Drawing in MS Word
The discussion continues about Send a Drawing in MS Word, an article published originally in Cadalyst Daily e-newsletter and followed up here on March 26.

Leonid Nemirovsky has super-simple approach to inserting AutoCAD drawings into Microsoft Word files that some users might find meets their needs. "To begin, open the AutoCAD drawing and a Word document side by side. Next copy (CTRL+C) the needed part of the AutoCAD drawing and paste it directly into your Word document. You don't need to change AutoCAD's background or anything else. In Word, you can stretch the image. Plus, if you double-click on the image in Word, a new AutoCAD drawing is started with part of that picture in Word, and it is then linked to a Word document. If you make changes in a new drawing and save it, the changes are updated in the Word document."

Michael Beall gives a big thumbs-up to Steve Knopf and his March 26 observations about using the Wmfout command. "The results are far and away better than PDF files that look like they've been done with a Sharpie. I would add that in AutoCAD 2006/2007/2008 and 2007 LT, you don't need to switch to a white background. I think Autodesk corrected that somewhere around AutoCAD 2002."

MicroStation Tip: Recover Missing Elements from Your MicroStation Files
This tip comes from Eiren Smith, Axiom’s vice-president for technology.
"Has this ever happened to you? You’ve been working on a design file for weeks. You’ve filled it with elements to your heart’s content. One fine morning, you load the file in MicroStation, and your eyes open wide in dismay. Hundreds of elements are missing from your design! What happened? Your design file fell prey to file corruption. For details on how to handle this situation, read more here."

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

Adobe Unveils Preview of Acrobat 3D v8
Adobe Systems announced that a public preview is available of Adobe Acrobat 3D v8 software, an upgrade to the desktop application for PDF document-based 3D design collaboration and CAD data interoperability capabilities. Users can download a free beta version of the product in English, French and German from Adobe Labs.

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Opportunities & Honors

PDF Solutions' CEO Receives Quality Award
PDF Solutions, a provider of process-design integration technologies, announced that the company's cofounder, CEO and president, John Kibarian, will receive the 2007 International Society for Quality Electronic Design-Quality Award. The ISQED award was established in 2006 to recognize those who have made outstanding contributions to quality in electronic design.

Flowserve Joint Venture Wins Honor in India
AIL (Audco India Limited), a joint venture of Flowserve and Larsen & Toubro, was awarded the National Award for Research and Development Efforts in Industry for 2006, by the Ministry of Science and Technology of the Government of India. The award was presented to the in-house R&D group at AIL for outstanding achievement in the category of mechanical engineering industries.

Avatech Enters Autodesk Platinum Club for the 10th Year
Avatech Solutions, a nationwide design automation and technology services company, won top honors at the recent Autodesk One Team Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. This year, Avatech Solutions' team won the award for largest reseller by revenue in the United States.

Dimension Announces MV3dP Customer Awards Program
Dimension 3D Printing Group, a business unit of Stratasys, will reward exceptional customers who count their Dimension 3D Printer as an MVP or valuable member of their design team. Winning customers will receive a one-year supply of ABS material, and the designer or team who submits a winning entry will receive a 32" flat-screen television. Submissions will be accepted via the company's Web site through June 30, 2007.

MasterGraphics Receives Platinum Club Award from Autodesk
MasterGraphics was recently named the recipient of Autodesk's 2007 Education Platinum Club Growth Award for the highest percentage of growth over previous year sales in the U.S. education market. Recipients of the award must exceed sales expectations and achieve top overall revenues, top vertical product sales, highest overall growth, or be the leading education, government or distribution partner in their sales region.

Transoft Solutions Seeks Industry Input
Transoft Solutions, developers of AutoTURN vehicle swept path analysis and simulation software, is conducting its annual survey to collect input from the industry. Open to Transoft product users and nonusers, the survey aims to gather information to help the company improve product development programs, marketing programs, customer service and operations in general. Respondents who complete the ten-minute survey by June 30, 2007, are automatically entered into the grand-prize drawing with a chance to win a Mitac Mio Pocket PC with GPS.

GM Names UGS Supplier of the Year for the Second Consecutive Year
UGS, a global provider of PLM software and services, was selected by General Motors as a 2006 Supplier of the Year. This is the second consecutive year UGS has won the award for its overall business performance in enabling GM to transform its process of innovation by reducing up-front vehicle development time.  The 15th annual award was presented March 31 in Orlando, Florida.

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

General Software: DOSLib for AutoCAD 2008
Free utility from McNeel extends AutoLISP for new CAD platform. Read more

General Software: ZwCAD 2007
IntelliCAD-based 2D/3D CAD tool includes new functionality and ease-of-use enhancements as well as DWG compatibility. Read more
Visualization: Piranesi v5
Informatix Software International ships its 3D paint rendering system for Windows operating systems. Read more

Visualization: Multiview Blocks for AutoCAD 2008 and AutoCAD Architecture
ArchVision releases blocks of people, trees, automobiles and objects for adding photorealism to projects using the company's RPC Auto-substitution tool. Read more

ANSYS software extends its model library and provides key meshing enhancements to improve quality in polymer processing and glass forming.  Read more

CAM: Bamboo, Rave, Drill Matrix, Mosaix, Shot and ElectrodeX for Rhinoceros v4
CIMSystem releases six plug-ins for computer-aided machining. Read more

PLM: Agile 9.2.2
New features help automate cross-functional business processes and promote secure collaboration. Read more

Training: AutoVue Course
Cimmetry Systems offers one-day training class on site or via the Web. Read more

Training: Customizing SolidWorks For Greater Productivity
New book from Sheet Metal Guy describes how to configure the CAD software to access favorite commands, arrange toolbars, customize the interface and develop templates. Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

2007 Topcon Positioning Systems Technology Roadshow
April 10-November 15, 2007
Various cities, USA and Canada
In this fifth year of educational seminars and hands-on demonstrations for surveying, GPS, GIS and machine control operations, representatives, in conjunction with Topcon dealers, will host regional seminars in more than 100 cities across the United States and Canada. Read more

Webinar: 3D Imaging, Positioning, and Tracking Technologies for Plant Construction, Retrofit and Maintenance
April 17, 2007
11:00 a.m. EDT
Sponsored by Fiatech and presented by Trimble Navigation, this Webinar will address the implementation of 3D imaging, positioning and tracking solutions in plant and facility construction, retrofitting and maintenance work processes. Read more

Web Seminar: Working with CAD Data in ArcGIS 9.2
April 26, 2007
9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 3:00 p.m. PDT
This free online seminar will teach the new methods and tools in ESRI ArcGIS 9.2 software for working with CAD data. The seminar’s presenters will introduce the new CAD dataset organization, rendering and expanded property support as well as the new tools for georeferencing CAD data. Read more

Delcam's North American Technical Summit
May 8-9, 2007
Charlotte, North Carolina
Innovation and Integration in CADCAM Technology is the theme of the North American Technical Summit. The event will cover Delcam's complete software range and show how it can provide faster, more efficient development of new products. Read more

2007 ANSYS U.S. Regional Conference Series: Pennslyvania
May 14-16, 2007
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Simulation has become a critical element of the product development process. To stay on top of the latest developments, engineers, analysts and management from all disciplines of CAE will attend the 2007 ANSYS U.S. Regional Conference Series: Pennsylvania to learn about the future of engineering design simulation and analysis. Read more

The National BIM Conference
May 15-17, 2007
Anaheim, California
Sponsored by Cadalyst Magazine and cosponsored by AECnews and The National Building Information Standard (NBIMS), the National BIM conference is colocated with Ecobuild America and AEC-ST. Keynote presentations, workshops, and numerous seminars will cover all aspects of BIM. Read more

International Forum on Design for Manufacture and Assembly
June 19-20, 2007
Providence, Rhode Island
Boothroyd Dewhurst will host the 22nd annual International Forum on Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DFMA). Presenters discuss their recent DFMA applications and show how product simplification and cost-analysis tools support the development of innovative designs that are economical to produce. Read more

Click here to view the complete calendar of events at