Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 12, No. 18)

13 May, 2007

Untitled Document

What's New at

Cadalyst Labs Review: Maple 11
Underlying math engine has more power than you'll ever need. Read more

Cadalyst's Exclusive AutoCAD Tutorials for May 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:

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


IDEAL Launches
IDEAL has launched, which provides 2D to 3D file conversion, file healing and preparation for 3D printing and 3D model library creation. According to the company, provides 3D CAD services to convert existing 2D drawings and designs, paper or CAD, into BIM and other 3D CAD formats such as Autodesk's Revit. also provides solid file modeling to optimize output to 3D printers and other rapid prototyping devices.

Autodesk to Bring AIA National Convention to Second Life
Autodesk announced it will host a series of events and activities on Autodesk Island in the virtual world Second Life that are tied to the themes presented at the 2007 American Institute of Architects National Convention. Second Life residents will soon be able to watch Webcasts and presentations from the convention and participate in seminars to learn more about the key trends driving change in the architecture industry.

Wohlers Report Indicates Extraordinary Growth in Additive Fabrication
Wohlers Associates released its most recent findings last week in Wohlers Report 2007, a global study on the state of the 3D printing, additive fabrication and rapid manufacturing industry. According to the report, average unit (machine) sales growth, compounded annually, was 37.4% over the past 18 years. Annual unit sales have grown by more than 26 times -- 157 units to 4,165 -- from 1993 to 2006. The 220-page report sells for $475 in the United States and $495 in all other countries.

> Back to Top

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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 t-shirt, and each month Cadalyst editors will randomly select one published tip and award 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 any tip or code, you grant Cadalyst the right to print and distribute that tip or 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 April Winner!
Cadalyst awarded the April $100 prize to Alexander Schreyer, who submitted the Unlock AutoCAD tip published in the April 9 edition. Schreyer was selected in a random drawing of all original Tips & Tools Weekly submissions published last month. Send us your original tip now for a chance to win!

Attributes and Grips
Frequent tip contributor Leonid Nemirovsky (visit his AutoLISP Web site) offers two AutoCAD tips, which he uses in AutoCAD 2008:

"In AutoCAD, you can't make multiline attributes in the block; however, there is a trick I use a lot. Instead of creating one attribute, I create three. I create two attributes spaced as two lines of text (for double lines) and a third one in between the first two -- for one line. When inserting a block, you can either fill the middle attribute if there's room, or two others for two lines, if there isn't room to fit in one line."

The second tip, he says, is to highlight one or more objects with grips. "Hold the Shift key and select multiple grips, even if they belong to different objects, to move or stretch objects."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Our tip patrollers agree that the attribute tip is handy. Keep company standards in mind when dealing with lengths of names and the like. Also keep in mind that when you create a block with more than one attribute, the newly created block displays upon insertion the attributes in reverse order from the order created.

The Shift trick is also worth repeating, the Patrol says. Note that in AutoCAD LT 2006, you must select the objects first, then use Shift to make more than one grip active.

Spline to LWPolyline
James J. Olszewski
offers, "An easy way to convert a spline to a lightweight polyline is to use the Express menu Modify subcommand called Flatten Objects. It's quick, it's easy, and it does the job nicely!"

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: One of our fearless Patrollers explains, "The only drawback to Flatten is that the structure of the resultant 2D polyline contains numerous grip points." For LISP aficionados, he shares SPLINE_TO_POLYLINE.LSP, a routine that changes a spline to a polyline. "This program (along with AutoCAD's Splinedit command) allows for many more options than Flatten."

Explore to Drawing Folder
Numerous ways exist to accomplish this task. Reader Kevin Pohlgeers offers one option after seeing how long it took many of his coworkers to open Windows Explorer and find a folder where a current drawing resides. "They spent a lot of time clicking on My Computer, then clicking through the network and down several levels to get there. I decided to make a quick way to access the current drawing folder. I placed the following code in our menu to take users there in one click." He cautions that the code won't work if the path name contains a comma.

[Explore to Drawing Folder]^c^c(startapp "explorer"
(strcat "/e, "(getvar"dwgprefix")));

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Our patrollers agree, this is a real timesaver!

Follow-Up: Change AutoCAD Layer Names to MicroStation Level Names
Tip author Perry Mason took the suggestions of the Tip Patrol and revised his ALTOML.LSP routine originally published in the April 30 edition. "I've made some changes per your comments, for which I do thank you. Sometimes it helps to have someone else look at the code and the way the routine runs." All we can say is, "No, Perry, thank you!" Click here to download the revised ALTOML.LSP.

Follow-Up: Get Model Space Measurement
Patroller Kevin Sawyer follows up on Michael Grutter's response in the April 30 edition to Sawyer's Tip Patrol comments on model space measurement. He adds, "Alan Harmon may well have almost found a fluke in his installation. The AutoCAD Help file says under the Commands / Dist of the contents page, 'When you work on a layout in paper space, distances are normally reported in paper space units. However, if you use the Dist command with object snaps on model space objects that are displayed within a single viewport, distances are reported in 2D model space units.'

"When I first tested this tip, I was working on an old installation of 2007 from when it first came out, and this Dist command definitely did not return the scaled distance. I now have a new PC and AutoCAD installation, albeit still 2007. However, this tip now rings true and does return the scaled distance.

"This makes me wonder whether there is some system variable setting that conflicts maybe indirectly with the Dist command that renders the scaling facility inoperable. A gold star for anyone who finds it!

"As for exploding, filleting, etc., when a dimension is associated with that entity, naturally the associativity returns strange, inaccurate results. This happens whether you dimension in model or paper spaces, but this isn't a reason to turn associativity off; it just requires a little QA checking."

Follow-Up: Keystroke Shortcuts in AutoCAD
Mitchell Hirschklau
writes in with some general thoughts about customization: "As one of the volunteer Tip Patrollers, I couldn't let Larry Emmert's preferred custom additions to the PGP pass without further discussion. He is absolutely correct when he says, 'These keystroke shortcuts can increase your productivity.' I would like to point out three important things to remember about customizing the PGP (or any part of AutoCAD).

"First, while you can make up your own command aliases, it's worthwhile to know that AutoCAD right out of the box already has a number of presupplied command aliases: PE for PEdit, CP for Copy, etc. If you remember and use the default PGP aliases, you can more easily sit down at someone else's workstation and get to work immediately.

"Second, customization is fine, and every serious user should have a toolbox of customizations on CD, diskette or memory-stick ready to go. But, at the same time, too much customization can mean that you may be expert in MyCAD and not in AutoCAD. Also, if you're a temp or a visiting contractor, you should keep in mind that some employers can be rather intolerant when it comes to heavily customized set-ups.

"Third, with respect to some of the specific examples supplied, sometimes some of the default AutoCAD PGP aliases can be made, if combined with other customizations, to do (as it were) double duty. In my custom setup, I have CP stored as a shortcut key in the NUMPAD04 key. With a single stroke, I can run the Copy command (as called by the default AutoCAD PGP alias). Admittedly, that's not much of a time saving over typing CP; however, within a command such as Move, this same key calls up the Crossing-Polygon selection option.

"Finally, users should customize the PGP, keyboard and menus as long as they completely understand what they are doing. I strongly believe that a user should be equally able to undo their customizations or recreate them from scratch if necessary. They should also be able function, if necessary, without any of their customizations for a reasonable period of time. And, of course, the goal of any user's customizations should be to save them significant time by automating or streamlining their jobs."

MicroStation Tip: DGN Drawing to PowerPoint and Word
Have you tried to put a DGN drawing into Microsoft PowerPoint or Word? Instead of using MDL load Oleserve, Oleserve viewcopy process, use the plotdriver JPEG.PLT or EMF.PFL file driver to easily cut and paste the plotfile produced into Microsoft Office programs. For plot driver JPEG.PLT, be sure to edit the JPEG.PLT background color "pen(0)=/rgb=(254, 254, 254)" using Notepad.

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. Sincere thanks to our volunteer Cadalyst Tip Patrol members: Brian Benton, Don Boyer, Mitchell Hirschklau, R.K. McSwain, Don Reichle, Kevin Sawyer, Ivanhoe Tejeda and Billy Wooten.

> Back to Top

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Deals & Freebies

Autodesk Releases Free Preview Version of Inventor LT
Autodesk Labs launched a technology preview release of Autodesk Inventor LT software for 3D mechanical design. According to the company, Inventor LT will help customers enhance their communications with suppliers and manufacturing partners by making it easy and affordable to create, share and edit 3D part designs. Inventor LT Technology Preview is currently available in English for download only in the United States and Canada.

Transoft Solutions Extends Special Offer
Transoft Solutions is offering a 30% discount off the retail price of its vehicle swept path analysis application, AutoTURN v5.1, until June 29, 2007. This upgrade offer is currently available on single seats for North American regional clients holding an early version license (AutoTURN v1.0 to 4.1).

> Back to Top

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Opportunities & Honors

Dimension Announces Fourth Annual Redesign Contest
Dimension 3D Printing Group, a business unit of Stratasys, launched its fourth annual Extreme Redesign: The Ultimate 3D Printing Challenge, a design and 3D printing contest for high school and college students that awards scholarships to the winners. CAD students worldwide are invited to submit their most creative, useful and innovative extreme redesigns. Final submissions must be postmarked by December 31, 2007 .

CoCreate Announces Winners in 2007 Design Competition
CoCreate Software, a provider of PLM software applications for high-tech electronics and machinery, announced the winners of its 2007 Design Competition this week. This year's competition focused on innovation in product development by CoCreate customers, who submitted 160 entries.

ASCON Announces Winners of KOMPAS-3D Modeling Contest 2007
ASCON announced the winners of its KOMPAS-3D Modeling Contest 2007. The fifth annual competition attracted 52 entries from 43 companies from Russia, Belorussia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. First place went to Sarex for its Loader-Digger project. Sarex received the first-place prize of a graphics station equipped with an NVIDIA Quadro video card and preinstalled with the latest version of KOMPAS-3D v9 3D solid modeling system.

> Back to Top

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The Week's New CAD and Related Products

General Software: ShareSafe Desktop -- Engineering Edition
Pinion Software’s file security features can protect CAD and engineering data. Read more

General Software: IntelliCAD v6.3
Multipurpose CAD software from Autodsys will read, display and save DWG 2007 files. Read more

Visualization: trueSpace7.5
Caligari's release offers new character posing and animation features with enhanced modeling, rendering and collaborative tools. Read more

AEC: ArchiCAD v11
Virtual Trace technology from Graphisoft allows live coordination among all model views, drawing views and layouts. Read more

StrucSoft Solutions software enables offshore construction modeling and fabrication inside AutoCAD. Read more

AEC: ArchiCAD v11 Plug-in
Plug-in from Graphisoft provides bidirectional connectivity with Google Earth and the Google 3D Warehouse. Read more

GIS: FME 2007
Safe Software releases translation and transformation platform for vector data that includes Spatial ETL capability for raster data. Read more

GIS: Electric XM and Expert Designer XM
Bentley solution for electric utilities is designed for efficiency in managing distribution networks throughout their lifecycle. Read more

MCAD: Solid Edge v20
CAD software from UGS designed to increase engineering productivity and design collaboration for mid-sized companies. Read more

MCAD: PVGEN Pro Solution
Software product from StrucSoft Solutions creates 3D AutoCAD models from Codeware Compress pressure vessels. Read more

CAE: GrafiCalc Expert 2007
GEOMATE software combines sketching, calculations, behavioral modeling, motion simulation as well as tolerance allocation and analysis. Read more

CAE: ScanShark
Inspection and reverse engineering solution from Romer unites portable CMM and noncontact laser scanning technology. Read more

CAE: ICE-flow v4.1
nCODE software is designed to enhance the performance of company's Library, GlyphWorks and DesignLife software. Read more

> Back to Top

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Mark Your Calendar

AEC Technology Strategies 2007 Conference
June 7-8, 2007
Las Vegas, Nevada
ZweigWhite's AEC Technology Strategies 2007 Conference is the eighth annual information technology conference for business and IT leaders in architecture, engineering and construction. This event brings together all the AEC disciplines, gives equal time to the business and design issues driving technology, and involves both technology managers and business managers from AEC firms. Read more

Vibro-Acoustic Users Conference (VAUC 2007)
June 12-13, 2007
Cologne, Germany
ESI Group's second Vibro-Acoustic Users Conference (VAUC 2007) provides a unique opportunity for technical exchange among vibro-acoustic practitioners, researchers and applications experts. During this two-day event, attendees will have the opportunity to hear papers presented by major industry professionals and learn about the latest in vibro-acoustic software and simulation methods. Read more

Click here to view the complete calendar of events at