Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 12, No. 19)

20 May, 2007

Untitled Document

What's New at

CAD Manager (Column): Making Big Changes
Cadalyst's Robert Green tells how to use ROI principles to prove the profitability of your CAD management plans.  Read more

First Look Review: LinkFixerPlus for AutoCAD
Software from LinkTek fixes file links so you don't have to.  Read more

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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White Paper on Harnessing Product Information
Astoria Software released a white paper titled Dynamic Product Documentation On-Demand: Extending the Information Revolution to Manufacturing. The paper discusses the use of process automation, adoption of new information standards and a SaaS (software as a service) delivery model. Registration is required to download the report.

LearningBay Launches CAD e-Learning Web Site
LearningBay, a division of Axiom, has launched a Web site for online training in MicroStation and GEOPAK. The company offers 20 online MicroStation classes, including two V8 update courses for users and administrators, three Microsoft Office for Designer classes and 45 GEOPAK courses organized into nine libraries.

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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 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.

MEP Keyboard Aliases
Nathon Hay
was inspired by a previous tip about keyboard shortcuts and sent in his own extensive list of keyboard aliases. He says, "The majority of my work is 2D MEP [mechanical, electrical and plumbing] drafting, and these are the keyboard aliases I have customized to help me work more effectively. I am right-handed, so my system is to create one- to three-letter codes for use primarily with my left hand. For example, QA is for Pline because the letters QA mirror the letters PL on the keyboard (actually, QS does, but that alias is better reserved for Qselect). This list is from the last section of my ACAD.PGP file. Finally, these are individual keys on my keyboard that are rarely if ever used because they are not easily accessible by my left hand: Y,  U,  I,  P,  K,  N,  M."

Click here for a full list of these shortcuts.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: "This is a very comprehensive list of shortcuts!" exclaims a Patroller.

Another offers some suggestions for further success with shortcuts: Rather than tailor the ACAD.PGP file, it would be better to add all personal hotkeys to your ACADDOC.LSP file, he believes. This file is not overwritten by future upgrades to AutoCAD as it is not supplied as a program file. The PGP file is and will be changed with each new release as new core commands are added. Your ACADDOC.LSP file will load with each drawing file opened, and any duplicated hotkeys will be loaded from your ACADDOC because this loads after the PGP file.

List Drawings
Paul DiGiovanni suggests this procedure to create a text file with the listing of drawings in a directory:

  • Create a text file in the directory that you want to create a listing.
  • Open the file.
  • Paste the following line of text: DIR *.DWG >DIRLISTING.TXT.
  • Save and close the file.
  • Rename the file to CREATE DWG LISTING.BAT (or whatever name you want with BAT as the extension).
  • To create a listing, simply double-click this file. You can also copy this file into any directory.

Here are some variations on the theme:

  • Change the "DWG" to "*" to get a listing of all files.
  • Change the "DWG" to another file type extension to get a listing of those file types.
  • You can send this list to a specific directory by adding the path to the "DIRLISTING.TXT" name, such as DIR *.DWG >C:\DIRECTORY\DIRLISTING.TXT.
  • Change the "DIRLISTING" name to whatever you want.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Our tip patrollers agree that this is a good tip. One says, "Ah! Good old DOS commands -- where would we be without them? At the Windows Start menu, type CMD to go to the DOS Command line window and then type DIR /? to get a list of all the switches available for the DIR command such as /B to list names only etc. It has always surprised me that Windows XP has no facility to list folder contents. Whether Vista does or not, I don't know as I haven't tried it yet."

Another Patroller came up with this version: Create a TXT file (in our case Rebuild-DwgFilesOnly_List.txt) using Notepad. In this file, type:

@echo off
dir *.dwg /b > _DwgFilesList.txt

Now, save and then edit the extension to .CMD. Double-click on the file and it generates a list of DWG files only without the date, time, file size (if you don't need them, that is).

Load Tips and Set Workspaces
Frequent tip contributor Leonid Nemirovsky (visit his AutoLISP Web site) sends the following small tips to help organize your working environment:

"If you have several AutoLISP routines that are not used very often but are needed once in a while, you can copy and paste them from Windows Explorer directly onto your Desktop. Then when you need them, just drag them into your AutoCAD drawing and they are loaded and ready to use (v2002-2007).

"I suggest that you create workspaces, not just your standard that you use all the time, but also create task-related workspaces that require different sets of standard and custom commands. For example, set up workspaces for working with civil plans, for structural drafting, for electrical drafting, etc. This works great in conjunction with profiles. You can save them and take them with you if needed, so you can feel at home on any computer (v2006-2007)."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Our Patrollers agree that this works well and offer a few suggestions. One states, "This can be enhanced by including customized Tool Palettes in each Workspace set up for whatever the Workspace is created for."

Another Patroller adds this tip: You can load LISP routines via the AutoLoad feature, which you can place in your personal ACADDOC.LSP file. This feature lets you load and run a routine to by simply typing one or two hotkeys. Even if your LISP routine has a long name and defined function name, you can simplify the loading/running of the routine by adding a line of code to the start of your routine. For example, a file named DOTHIS.LSP could have the defined function C:CARRYON and can be loaded and run by typing OK at the Command line and adding to the beginning of DOTHIS.LSP the line:

(defun C:OK()(C:CARRYON)(princ))

and then adding the following to your ACADDOC.LSP

(autoload "dothis" '("ok"))

assuming that all paths to your routines are in the AutoCAD Search path.

Follow-Up: Keyboard Remapper
Lionel Camara has a response to John Blanchard's tip in the May 7 edition regarding tools for helping you remap your keyboard. He says, "I use AutoHotkey (no relation to AutoCAD) with a script that flips the entire keyboard so that I can type one-handed. I used Scroll Lock as the modifier key (that flips the keyboard) and assigned it to one of the thumb buttons on my mouse so I can keep one hand on the keyboard and one on the mouse while drafting. I don't do long sections of text one-handed, but it's good for doing short notes or edits. I especially use the numbers and backspace, as well as doing many commands one-handed.

"AutoHotkey can be program-sensitive, so I have the thumb button set as the default "back" behavior in programs such as Internet Explorer, and the Escape key in AutoCAD. (It's the modifier while being held down in any application.) See my finished script. I'd already mapped many commands to left-hand keys, as others have done, but was starting to run out of combos that made sense to me."

Follow-Up: Set Your Osnaps
Peter Goern offers this follow-up idea on how to set up your Osnaps, a discussion started in the March 26 edition. He shares, "We've customized our CUI (previously the MNU file) to allocate Osnaps to the F1 to F9 keys. With the advent of the various tabs along the bottom of the layout names, the F keys are not needed to toggle grid, ortho and the like, and most experienced users rarely use the F1 Help key."


Follow-Up: Attributes and Grips
Michael Schwartz has a comment about last week's tip concerning multi-line attributes in AutoCAD 2008, in which a tipster stated that multi-line attributes are not possible: "Unless the Attdef command is different in AutoCAD Architecture 2008 than it is in AutoCAD 2008, multi-line attributes ARE indeed possible without the workaround that is described (which I've used many times in the past). In fact, I was extremely excited about this new functionality as I thought it may extend to the creation of tags in AutoCAD Architecture 2008. (It does not.)

"In the Attdef command dialog (2008 version), note the last option in the Mode group (upper left), there is now an option for Multiple Lines. In the Text Settings group (lower left) is the Boundary Width setting, which controls the overall width of the multi-line attribute. Now if Autodesk will only extend this functionality to tags in AutoCAD Architecture."

Follow-Up: Explore to Drawing Folder
As we stated last week when this discussion began, there are numerous ways to get to your drawing folders from within AutoCAD. Here are a couple more:

Jennifer Grande suggests: "How about just using Desktop shortcuts to access network folders? I have shortcuts to several frequently accessed folders on my Desktop. You can customize the AutoCAD shortcut icon to start in a particular folder when the program is opened, and the places list in the file selection dialog boxes can be customized to include any number of frequently accessed folders. I also like to use sheet sets to organize my projects. To find a particular drawing, I just open the appropriate sheet set and browse the list of sheets. The preview window makes it easy to find what I need if I forget the name of the drawing. No coding necessary."

Leonid Nemirovsky's suggestion also doesn't require any changes to menus or any code. He says, "Just set the system variable REMEMBERFOLDER = 0, and save your current drawing before using OPEN FILE. Now AutoCAD automatically opens the last folder, with the last drawing that was open highlighted. This is an additional time saver if you need to open the next drawing or previous drawing. I use this trick because Autodesk added the REMEMBERFOLDER variable and set the default to 1 in AutoCAD 2000."

MicroStation Tip: DGN Multi-line Joint Tools
This month's MicroStation tip is about the Multi-line Joints tool box. Joints are simply intersections of multi-lines. Multi-lines are sets of two or more parallel lines treated as a single object, commonly used for drawing walls in floor plans. At first glance, the Multi-line Joints tools dialog box can be a bit intimidating. Accessed through Tools / Multi-Joints, it provides you with easy ways to make cross joints, tee joints and corner joints from multi-lines. Click here for the full tip.

Axiom offers many MicroStation Tips on

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.

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Opportunities & Honors

Right Hemisphere Named One of the Hottest Companies
For the third consecutive year, Right Hemisphere was named one of the hottest companies of year by Start-IT magazine. The Start-IT Hottest Companies of 2007 awards recognize suppliers of innovative technology products and services to the manufacturing industry. The nominees are judged on the basis of uniqueness of product or service offering; revenue growth over the last three years, and other criteria.  

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Books & Training

3D Design Handbook
CAD Resources published Moving from 2D to 3D CAD for Engineering Design: Challenges and Opportunities ($20.95, 220 pages; $9.95 e-book), a practical guide for CAD and engineering managers and professionals in the design and manufacturing industries. The author encourages design managers to make the change from 2D to 3D by explaining the benefits of a 3D CAD tool and offering tips on evaluating 3D CAD software and avoiding potential pitfalls.

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

Hardware: CadCARD Slidechart and CadCARD Jr.
Updated for AutoCAD 2007, the reference tools can substitute for calculators or software user guides.  Read more

General Software: AcceliCAD 2008
Software from Autodsys offers more productivity-enhancing features and greater compatibility with the DWG file format. Read more

General Software: Quadro FX GPU Architecture
Mobile solutions from NVIDIA enable advanced professional functionality for Shader Model v4 graphics, GPU computing for visualization and more.  Read more

CAM: 5-Axis Module
Option from GibbsCAM supports geometry for impellers, turbine blades, porting on cylinder heads, wing spars and more.  Read more

CD-adapco product enables the simulation of engine thermal systems and coolant flow boiling. Read more

CAE: Abaqus v6.7
Dassault Systemes' unified FEA Solution for SIMULIA promises enhanced performance and functionality and expanded application coverage. Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

SolidCATCH 2007 CAD Event
May 22, 2007
Milwaukee , Wisconsin
SolidCATCH, sponsored by Graphics Systems Corporation, is a free seminar series demonstrating how various CAD software packages can increase productivity and design better products. Seminar topics include how to improve 3D CAD Design, Design Automation, Design Validation, Product Data Management, and 3D Printing. Read more

e-Seminar: Adobe Acrobat 3D Version 8
May 22, 2007
11 a.m. PST
This hour-long e-seminar will show how your 3D CAD designs can flow through your entire development process, thereby empowering more efficient and secure visualization, collaboration and CAD data interoperability. The e-seminar will be repeated May 23 and 24, 2007, at 1 p.m. PST. Read more

Click here to view the complete calendar of events at