Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 12, No. 22)

17 Jun, 2007

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What's New at

Attention Readers of Tips & Tools Weekly
As e-mail spam filters become increasingly stringent, more and more legitimate e-mail is being treated as spam and chances are increasing that your Cadalyst newsletter could be directed to a spam/bulk mail folder before it reaches your e-mail inbox. To ensure that you continue to receive your Cadalyst newsletters, please add to your list of safe senders. E-mail us with questions or problems.

Cadalyst Introduces CAD Video Gallery
Visit Cadalyst's new CAD Video Gallery for exclusive CAD software tips, how-to's and more! Now playing: Autodesk Inventor 2008 highlights. Coming soon: AutoCAD tips and tricks with Lynn Allen.

New Quick Poll: Do You Scan Widely?
The latest Cadalyst Quick Poll is live online. This month, tell us whether your office uses a wide-format scanner for CAD-related work. Take the poll (go to any page of and scroll down to find the Quick Poll in the margin), then read "Cadfidential" in the August edition of Cadalyst magazine to see the results.

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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ThomasNet Launches New Toolbar for Industrial Professionals launched the new Toolbar to provide industrial professionals with immediate access to hundreds of product catalogs, more than 20 million CAD drawings, industry news and more. The new toolbar is free, and no registration is required for download.

UGS WEEE Guide Assists Companies with Compliance
UGS PLM Software has released a guide to ensuring that WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Directive-compliant practices are central to the product lifecycle in manufacturing organizations throughout Europe. The report, titled Five Steps to a Greener Production Line -- a Quick-Start Guide to WEEE and RoHS Compliance, is available to current and prospective UGS customers through local UGS PLM Software resellers.

UGS Launches Teamcenter Express Seminars
UGS PLM Software announced a new global seminar series, "Dare to Compare with Teamcenter Express," which aims to assist mid-sized manufacturing companies in increasing the efficiency of their product development, engineering change and manufacturing engineering processes through collaborative product data management. A recent study from Aberdeen Group reports that mid-sized manufacturers with best-in-class processes for new product development deliver products to market an average of 22% faster than their competition, and they are 2.3 times more likely to meet product development cost targets.

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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.

Shortcut to Frequently Used Path
Jonathan Stewart
offers a way to create a quick shortcut to a frequently used drawing path: Drag a folder into the Places list on the left within the open drawing dialog box. He says this works with most Autodesk products, and the result is a quick shortcut to frequently used drawing files.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: The Patrol agrees this is a handy tip, with one caveat: Unfortunately, some companies use a CAD launch program to open drawings. (This is more common where settings are heavily customized.) This is a separate software package that creates certain settings before a drawing is opened. If your company still allows drawing access from Windows Explorer, then double-clicking is an option. If you use drawings in sets, then the Sheet Set Manager is the way to go.

Area Calculations
Mark Northcott
uses hatches to help with area calculations. "When doing spatial calculations, I find it often helps to cover the area that needs to be measured in a hatch pattern, and then to click on each particular hatch and see the area calculation show up in the properties palette. One thing that used to bug me was that if shapes changed or new objects were introduced that changed the shape of the hatch, we'd have to redraw it again. Now, with AutoCAD 2008 -- I'm not sure if this works with earlier versions -- you can trim hatches to new boundaries as needed. I just finished doing a large-area spatial calculation, which used to take hours to redraw the hatches, but now it has just taken the time to trim out the unneeded portions.

"I also find the Pickfirst toggle efficient because there I don't use the Esc key as much to deselect the hatches, saving a few seconds for each hatch selection."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: One Patroller explains, "You're referring to associative hatching that came out with AutoCAD Release 13. It's more flexible than standard hatching. When the hatch boundary is reshaped, so is the hatch pattern. You can use the Boundary and Region commands to calculate areas, and you can use Fields to monitor area changes. If the area in question contains a lot of interference, copy the boundary lines to a separate part of your drawing and perform the needed operation. Also, if you prefer the original style of hatching on a boundary that has already been associatively hatched, observe the following: Click the hatch and open the Properties dialog box. The selection drop-down box shows Polyline and Hatch. Select Hatch. Near the bottom of the Properties box, you'll see an option to discontinue the associativity (Yes/No). The HPASSOC system variable controls new Hatch Pattern associativity (0 = non-associative, 1 = associative). It's a good idea to change the PICKFIRST variable; just don't forget to change it back when finished."

Another Patroller adds: "Using the Hatch (or Bhatch) command to hatch an area, or areas, to derive information is a fine idea. Having the information pop-up in the Properties palette is OK, although the List command and Area Object selections also work if all you need is square feet measurements. The Pickfirst toggle is also a good tip, especially because users who don't typically work this way may not remember it."

Get a Grip
Intrepid reader Leonid Nemirovsky (visit his AutoLISP Web site) writes, "To move groups of objects easily in AutoCAD 2008, highlight with grips one or more groups of objects (leaders, dim, lines, arcs, etc.), press and hold the right mouse button (left button only moves the objects), move your cursor where you want these objects, and release the button. In the pop-up menu you are given a choice to Move Here, Copy Here, paste as a block, or Cancel."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: One Tip Patroller, who notes that the tip also applies in AutoCAD 2006 LT (at least), says, "This tip is a benefit for those users who use grips a lot and a good reminder for those who don't use them very often." He continues, "I personally don't like the paste-as-block (or copy-clip) block creation modes. When I'm creating a block that I plan to use in more than one drawing, I generally prefer to be much cleaner and precise in my block creation." The other Patroller points out that although the mouse button Move options are handy, they don't allow for a basepoint like the Move command does.

In Summary
Len also sends a shortcut to retrieve drawing summary information:"In AutoCAD 2000-2008, here's how you find drawing summary information without opening the actual drawing. Go to File and select Drawing Properties / Fill-up Drawing Properties, then choose the Summary tab and Custom tab if needed. Fill in categories for each AutoCAD drawing; save and close. Now when you need it, you have that information at your fingertips. Open Windows Explorer and browse to your drawings folder. Highlight a name, right click, open the Summary tab (the one that is near the General tab) and the Custom tab. All the drawing information entered is available without opening the drawing in AutoCAD. You also can use this information in the Sheet Set when creating an index table.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: The Patrol finds this to be a great tip for accessing drawing information without opening the drawing in question. One Patroller adds, "It's especially useful for coworkers who don't have AutoCAD but have access to the company server. An additional helpful tip: Words listed here are seen when a user searches through Windows Explorer using the 'A word or phrase in the file:' search field."

The second Patroller adds, "This is an interesting and potentially very useful tip -- although like any annotation tip, its usefulness varies as the organization increases in size. In my current 40-person firm, we still can't get users to follow the established project file nomenclature standards, making this unusable. On another note, I like the applicability to the Sheet Set index table."

Follow-Up: Text Styles
In response to Doug Kochel's June 11 tip about where to set the MTJIGSTRING variable to the TEXTSTYLE variable value to show your last used style, Lanny Schiele wrote this VBA code to use within the ThisDrawing object. This way, the current textstyle name always shows. (Please note that the Cadalyst Tip Patrol did not test this follow-up tip.)

 Private Sub AcadDocument_BeginCommand(ByVal CommandName As String)
    On Error Resume Next
    If CommandName = "MTEXT" Then
        ThisDrawing.SetVariable "MTJIGSTRING", ThisDrawing.GetVariable("TEXTSTYLE")
    End If
End Sub

MicroStation Tip: A Forward Slash Followed by a Number
How do I place text that has a forward slash followed by a number? I want m:\pdf\2-69-8-6.dgn and I get m:\pdf\*-69-8-6.dgn.

Answer: The \ in front of a number is telling MicroStation that an ASCII numeric code follows. To avoid this, use a \\ (double slash) in front of the number.

Axiom offers many MicroStation Tips on its Web site.

Tips & Tools Weekly software tips for AutoCAD are reviewed by Cadalyst staff and the Tip Patrol before publication. Use all tips at your own discretion, please, and watch later editions of this newsletter for updates and corrections. We're sorry, but editors and Tip Patrol members cannot provide assistance with technical problems; please refer to Cadalyst's Hot Tip Harry-Help discussion forum.

Sincere thanks to our volunteer 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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Deals & Freebies

Special Pricing for Rapidform and Handyscan 3DT
Rapidform and Creaform are offering discounted prices on their bundled scanning and 3D data processing software solutions. Customers who purchase the Handyscan 3DT laser scanner with Rapidform as the post-treatment software will receive a 10% discount on the Handyscan 3DT laser scanner, and Rapidform's XOS II full-auto-surfacing solution for $10,000 or Rapidform's XOR redesign parametric modeler for $2,500 off the list price. The offer applies only to orders received and paid for by July 1, 2007.

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Opportunities & Honors

Mastercam Names "Innovator of the Future" Winner
CNC Software announced the winner of its second annual IOF (Innovator of the Future) contest. Bernie Sievers, a student in the Advanced Manufacturing program at Vincennes University in Indiana, and winner for the second year in a row, designed a gas-charged shock absorber for monster trucks that looks like a gun barrel and scope. Entrants in this year's IOF contest ranged in age from late teens to, like Sievers, early fifties. Four of this year's contestants also plan to compete in the national Skills USA Competition this month.

VectorWorks Users Win ASLA 2007 Professional Awards
Nemetschek North America announced three users of VectorWorks as winners of its ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) 2007 Professional Awards. Massachusetts firm Reed Hilderbrand won the Award of Excellence in the General Design Category for the M. Victor and Frances Leventritt Garden at The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. PWP Landscape Architecture, Berkeley , California , won an Honor Award in the General Design Category for its One North Wacker Drive project, which created a useable landscape on the human scale while solving the problems of a difficult site. San Francisco firm MFLA (Marta Fry Landscape Associates) received an Honor Award in the Residential Design Category for its Sonoma Vineyard project.

Samsung Electronics Receives Grand Prize in Innovation Awards
UGS PLM Software, a division of Siemens Automation and Drives, announced that Samsung Electronics has won the grand prize in the Asia Pacific PLM Innovation Award 2007. Hosted by UGS PLM Software for the fourth year in a row, the Asia Pacific PLM Innovation Award (previously known as the AP PLM Excellence Award) recognizes Asian enterprises that have achieved exceptional business benefits through the use of PLM software and services.

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Books & Training

New Textbooks Cover Design with AutoCAD 2008 and Revit 2008
Four new textbooks by Daniel John Stine have been published by SDC Publications. Interior Design Using AutoCAD 2008  (352 pages) is an intermediate-level tutorial that uses commercial interior design exercises as the means to teach AutoCAD 2008. Residential Design Using AutoCAD 2008  (416 pages) starts with a basic introduction to AutoCAD 2008 and then shows how to create a house floor plan. Commercial Design Using Autodesk Revit Architecture 2008 (292 pages) was designed for the architectural professional or student using Revit Architecture 2008. Residential Design Using Revit Architecture 2008 (463 pages, available June 25) was written for the architectural user using Autodesk Revit 2008. Each book is $59.95 and available from the publisher.

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

General Software: XL2CAD 4.1
Spreadsheet import tool from DotSoft supports Microsoft Vista and AutoCAD 2008.
Read more

General Software: RxViewServer R9.0
Rasterex thin-client solution allows users to print, mark up, view, and collaborate on more than 250 file formats. Read more

AEC: Round-Trip Engineering
Nemetschek structural design software integrates CAD data with structural analysis information. Read more

CAE: Composites Modeler for Abaqus/CAE
Simulayt modeler facilitates integration of fiber simulation in modeling environment coupled with nonlinear finite-element solvers. Read more

CAE: Virtual.Lab Fast Trim
Simulation solution from LMS models behavior of multilayer acoustic trim at higher frequencies. Read more

EAI Group's virtual testing solution allows engineers to evaluate design variants in impact, crash, and safety applications. Read more

Facilities Management: Proliance Starter Pack
Meridian product allows user to work directly in Microsoft Office documents to manage and update projects online. Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

Second International Conference on Rapid Manufacturing
July 11-12, 2007
Leicestershire, United Kingdom
This conference will include a mixture of academic research and industrial applications presentations, focused on direct part manufacturing using additive Layer Manufacturing Technologies. An expert review panel will be added this year to ensure the quality of papers. The conference will feature a mixture of industrial applications and academic research into RM -- the use of additive layer manufacturing techniques for end-use parts. Read more

23rd Annual Coordinate Metrology Systems Conference
July 16-20, 2007
Reno, Nevada
This 5-day event is the only North American conference that caters solely to professionals using portable 3D coordinate measurement technology on their factory floors. The open, educational atmosphere allows attendees to network with a community of expert and novice users and learn about the latest trends and innovations in the field of portable 3D industrial measurement technologies. Read more

August 5-9, 2007
San Diego, California
SIGGRAPH 2007, the 34th International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, will explore the products, systems, techniques, ideas and inspiration that are creating the next generations of computer graphics and interactive techniques. Read more

Click here to view the complete calendar of events at

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