Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 12, No. 14)

15 Apr, 2007

Untitled Document

What's New at

Get the Code!
Cadalyst's April code from Hot Tip Harry is now available for download. Peter Jamtgaard earned $100 for Force Blocks to Specific Layers, a magnificent set of LISP functions that forces your AutoCAD block insertions to follow a specific layer standard.

Cadalyst April Print Content Now Live Online
A fresh batch of Cadalyst Labs reviews, CAD Central news, Cadalyst exclusive columns and much more is ready to view on

Cadalyst's Exclusive AutoCAD Tutorials for April Now Live Online
The latest editions of all your favorite AutoCAD tutorials, including Steve Johnson's "Bug Watch," Lynn Allen's "Circles and Lines" and Bill Fane's "Learning Curve" are now available on

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:

  • From Ether to Clay with Ease: Charged with redesigning its luxurious SUV, Honda Canada turns to AliasStudio for 3D modeling, design and surface creation.

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Offshore Product Market Report Available
A study report is available from ARC Advisory Group titled Offshore Product Design Services Worldwide Outlook, which suggests the worldwide market for offshore PDS (product design services) will grow at a compounded annual rate of 28.0% over the next five years. According to ARC, the market was $1.2 billion in 2006 and is forecasted to exceed $4.1 billion in 2011.

CIMdata Reports 10.4% PLM Market Growth for 2006
Statistics from a CIMdata study indicate that the worldwide PLM market showed significant growth and a stronger than expected year in 2006. CIMdata research indicates that the overall PLM market grew 10.4% to reach $20.1 billion in 2006. According to the company, this strong growth rate is attributed to continued recognition of the value of PLM in improving companies' business performance.

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This Week's Software Tips

Send us your tip, code or shortcut for your favorite CAD software. If we publish your tip, 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 a $100 gift card 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) and tell us which software version you use. By submitting code, 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.

Drawing Cleanup LISP Tool
Mark Northcott created this LISP routine to help keep drawing files from getting errors after too many people have worked on them. He explains, "I specifically use this for any drawings we use as xrefs that come in from outside sources. The audit limits the occurrence of errors that could wreak havoc. The purge is a touch overkill to make sure everything is caught, including some things that Purge All doesn’t get. I also have a command I call Super Sweeper, which is the same command without the close. I added the INDEXCTL to help make xrefs load faster (assuming demand loading is properly configured). Finally, the drawing is zoomed to extents with paper space enacted so any activated unlocked viewports aren't accidentally zoomed out. The zoom extents allows for a thumbnail to be shown in preview at exactly the right size. If we lived in a perfect world, I would also write in that it would always be saved to AutoCAD 2007 format to reduce file size as well."

"I’m sure there are a lot of commands I’ve overlooked, hopefully with publication others can add lines to it that help."

(defun c:done ()
(command "audit" "y")
(Command "indexctl" "3")
(command "-pu" "a" "*" "n")
(command "-pu" "r" "*" "n")
(command "-pu" "a" "*" "n")
(command "-pu" "a" "*" "n")
(command "-pu" "a" "*" "n")
(command "-pu" "a" "*" "n")
(command "ps")
(command "z" "e")
(command "qsave")
(command "close")
(prompt "Type DONE to finish drawing. ")

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: "As the author stated, drawings acquire a lot of junk over time as they switch hands. I’m going to add this routine to my own personal list. Thanks!" To power-pack this tip, consider adding a backup routine to the program.

Follow-Up: Access Drafting Standards in AutoCAD
Graham Allan was trying to use the macro suggested by Robert Green in the April 2 edition to point to an HTML page of linked documents with the AutoCAD Browser command, but couldn't get it to work with his FireFox browser. To solve the problem, he instead used this macro that he says works with both FireFox and Internet Explorer:

^C^C(command "browser" "file:///P:/AutoCAD/Draughting

Follow-Up: Toggle Tilemode with F4
Frequent tipster Brian Benton notes that this toggle tip from the April 9 edition is nice, but there's already a toggle for Tilemode. He explains more fully, "If you press and hold the Ctrl key, then press either Page Up or Page Down, you'll toggle between tabs. There's no programming required. It's the same with Ctrl + Tab to toggle between open drawings, and Ctrl + R to toggle between viewports. In addition, Alt + Tab opens a window where a user can select from all programs that are running."

Follow-Up: Paths to Drawings
In regard to the plot stamp follow-up in the April 9 edition, instead of using the Plot stamp provided in AutoCAD's Print or Publish dialog box, Al Dietz uses Rtext (from the Express Tools menu) with the following two diesel expressions to add the latest save-time and drawing location to the title-sheet drawing template. Use whatever text size and location on the sheet you prefer when setting up the drawing template. This avoids the problem of a temporary folder showing up as referenced in the original tip, he says.

Plot Date: $(edtime, $(getvar,tdupdate),MON DD", "YYYY - HH:MM am/pm)

Drawing Name: $(getvar, dwgprefix)$(getvar, dwgname)

MicroStation Tip: Select Multiple Elements
Cadalyst Tip Patrol member Billy Wooten offers up this tip: When using MicroStation's Element Selector, simultaneously press the Shift and Ctrl keys while dragging a window across several elements. All elements touched and within that window are selected. Repeat the process to select more elements. It works just like the crossing rectangle in AutoCAD.


MicroStation Tip: Editing Library Cells is No Longer a Burden
Eiren K. Smith, Axiom’s vice-president for technology, developed this tip that details how to streamline the usually time-consuming task of editing cells in cell libraries. First, read the discussion on how to edit a cell using MicroStation alone. Then walk step-by-step through how to do it with Axiom’s CellManager -- ridiculously fast and easy! Read the details 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

Free Help Authoring Tool
CAD veteran Cliff Jennings alerted us about HelpMaker, a free help authoring tool from Vizacc. After searching for a way to author help files without purchasing third-party software, Jennings found HelpMaker. However, he encountered a problem getting HelpMaker to work with AutoCAD's help command. "I could open the CHM output file produced by HelpMaker, but couldn't open the topic. The permutations I tried from the AutoLISP command were, shall we say, numerous." The key, he says, is an option that can be set to write the subfiles with an extension of HTM vs. HTML. (HTML is the default for HelpMaker). Create and compile a CHM file (say, XXX.CHM). Be sure not to confuse the topic ID and the title of the topic. For example, the topic title may be "Poop 1", but the topic ID may be "poop1". Invoke, for example, in AutoLISP: if XXX.CHM is in the AutoCAD search paths (help "XXX" "poop1"); otherwise (help (strcat [whatever path] "XXX" "poop1")).

Free Unbiased Render Engine
Tips&Tools reader Kelly Lasse tipped us off to this freebie, saying that the free photorealistic rendering application called Indigo produces "simply stunning results." The rendering engine incorporates an algorithm known as Metropolis Light Transport (MLT) that simulates the physical properties of light. Lasse says many export scripts are available (typically written by enthusiast-users of the program) for many mainstream 3D applications as well as support, documentation and galleries to be found on the Web site. "It’s relatively easy to get going with and yet has all the complexity and technical depth to make even the nerdiest among us massage our temples in puzzlement, should we desire to plunge in. The results speak for themselves."

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Opportunities & Honors

SolidWorks To Grant 1,000 New Student Licenses
SolidWorks announced it will grant as many as 1,000 new licenses of SolidWorks Student Edition 3D CAD software to individual U.S. educators dedicated to improving students' STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills. This is the second consecutive year of the SolidWorks-STEM Educators II grant and includes training and lesson plans to help teachers and faculty from elementary school through college integrate the four separate disciplines for more effective education.

Spy Gadget Design Contest Still Accepting Entries
Members of the Autodesk Manufacturing Community are invited to submit inspired spy gadget designs that are inventive, humorous or just plain intriguing. Prizes will go to the top entries in each category. Submissions are being accepted through April 18, 2007. Members create their designs in the native Autodesk file format that they use and then upload the design file to the official contest submissions web page along with a still image of the gadget design and a description of what it is and what it does.

Winners Announced in Extreme Redesign Contest
The Dimension 3D Printing Group announced the winners of its third annual "Extreme Redesign: The Ultimate 3D Printing Challenge." The winners were chosen from a pool of more than 1,200 design entries from around the world. Both first place winners will receive $2,500 scholarships, with the remaining four finalists receiving $1,000 scholarships each.

Applied Software Technologies Inducted into Autodesk Platinum Club
Applied Software Technologies announced this week that the company was selected as an Autodesk Platinum Club 2007 winner in recognition of its achievements in sales and customer service. Applied Software was chosen as a result of having the largest sales volume for Autodesk's Building Solutions Division in the Americas.

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

Hardware: AR500 Dual-Core Processor
ARTVPS tool designed to accelerate ray-tracing speed. Read more

Hardware: HP Designjet T Printer series
Large-format printers are designed for CAD and GIS professionals who need to manage large print runs. Read more

General Software: Chronos v2 for AutoCAD
Time logging utility from Engineered Design Solutions records all users who access a drawing. Read more

MCAD: FreeForm Modeling and Modeling Plus v9.1
Updated software from SensAble Technologies includes automatic surfacing module to streamline design-to-manufacturing processes. Read more

MCAD: ICEM Shape Design v17
Software is designed for the creation, validation and modification of any type of surface, from freeform surfaces to complex mechanical shapes. Read more

New release of CFD software from ANSYS integrates the company's simulation-driven product development capabilities into Dassault's PLM environment. Read more

CAM: SolidCAM2007 v11.1
Updated release of SolidWorks CAM engine includes improvements to existing milling, turning, turn-mill and wirecut functions. Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

COE 2007 Annual PLM Conference & TechniFair
April 29 - May 2, 2007
Las Vegas, Nevada
The COE (CATIA Operators Exchange) annual flagship event is your chance to join more than one thousand of your peers for three days of education, training and networking with more than 150 breakout sessions presented by top executives from Dassault Systemes and IBM and a TechniFair and more than sixty vendors representing state of the art products and services in the PLM solutions realm. Read more

IBM and Dassault Systemes PLM Executive Summit
April 30, 2007
Las Vegas, Nevada
The summit will take place at the COE (CATIA Operators Exchange) 2007 Annual PLM Conference and TechniFair. Customer case studies and speeches from DS and IBM executives will highlight the day-long summit, which kicks off three days of COE 2007 events. Read more

Portland Canstruction Design Competition
May 14-20, 2007
Portland, Oregon
The Portland Canstruction design competition combines the competitive spirit of a design/build competition with a unique way to help feed hungry people. Competing teams design giant sculptures made entirely of canned foods. At the close of the exhibitions, all of the food used in the structures will be donated to the Oregon Food Bank. Read more

European PLM Summit
June 5 - 6, 2007
London, United Kingdom
The 3rd Annual Product Lifecycle Management summit is where PLM practitioners and senior decision makers meet to network, learn and do business. The summit will highlight the business and technology imperatives behind PLM adoption, and demonstrate how to design, develop and deliver blockbuster new products that maintain the competitive edge. Read more

Click here to view the complete calendar of events at