Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 12, No. 28)

5 Aug, 2007

What's New at

Cadalyst August Print Content Now Live Online
The latest versions of your favorite Cadalyst Labs reviews, CAD Central news, Cadalyst exclusive columns, AutoCAD tutorials, and much more, are ready to view on

Easing the Growing Pains for Facility Management (Web exclusive)
A scientific software company discovers that managing its personnel and space expansions with an integrated workplace management system can save time and money. Read more

Quick Poll Results: CAD Standards for AEC
In June and July, Cadalyst polled visitors to its AEC Web site, asking, "Which of the following has your AEC firm adopted as its primary standard?" The results are in! Check out what fellow CAD users had to say. View 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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PARTsolutions Releases Google SketchUp 3D Components Library
PARTsolutions, a provider of 3D digital catalog publishing and enterprise parts management solutions, announced that it now publishes 3D mechanical component catalogs in the Google 3D Warehouse using SketchUp software models. Read more

CAD Forum Offers New Web Services
CAD Forum, a CAD portal for users of Autodesk software, has added two new Web services for users. The portal now offers access to a large library of CAD blocks as well as a discussion forum. The CAD blocks catalog contains more than 1,300 categorized 2D and 3D blocks and symbols in DWG (AutoCAD), RFA (Revit family), and IPT (Inventor part) formats. Read more

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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.

Send in Those Tips!
The pace of life slows in the summer -- so they say -- and the same seems to be true for tips! Tips & Tools Weekly could use a few good tips for our readers who are hard at work this time of year. Send us your favorite tip, code, or shortcut you've devised to help you save time and/or do your job better so that we can share it with other readers. We welcome tips related to all CAD software systems. If we publish your tip, you'll receive a Cadalyst T-shirt, and one contributor will be selected randomly to receive a monthly $100 prize.

Layer LISP
After reading the LISP routines in this newsletter, Mike Toolen decided to send in some basic routines that he uses every day, even though they were written years ago. He explains: "Express Tools has these layer routines now, but I like to run commands with quick keystrokes -- another good reason I modify the ACAD.PGP file. The routines help if you freeze layers you don't want on and turn all layers on. They won't work well if you use Layer Off instead of Layer Freeze.

"ILC.LSP is very useful if you have everything set at Bylayer. I modified a simple Isolate Layer routine and added something -- it changes the color of a layer with a few quick keystrokes instead of having to run the Layer command, find the layer, change the color, and finally choose the OK button. You also get to see what's on the layer. It does set the layer to "0" and turns all the layers on after that.

    (SETQ C (ASSOC 8 B))
    (SETQ D (CDR C))
    (COMMAND "LAYER" "SET" D "OFF" "*" "" "")
    (SETQ E (GETSTRING "\nChange color layer to: "))
    (COMMAND "LAYER" "C" F "" "")
    (COMMAND "LAYER" "S" "0" "ON" "*" "")

"AO.LSP is a quick two-keystroke command which turns all the layers on -- very helpful when you need to have all the layers on quickly.

(defun c:ao () (prompt "All layers on")(command "layer" "on" "*" "")(princ))

"L0.LSP was written in 2000 and stands for 'set layer to 0' -- just another quick keystroke command to set the layer to 0."

(defun c:l0 () (prompt "Set Layer to 0")(command ".layer" "s" "0" "")(princ))

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Our Patrol offers a few thoughts on each LISP routine.

Note that ILC.LSP turns on all layers when it's done, not just the layers it turned off. There is no error checking, so if you enter something other than an integer between one and 255 when it asks for a new color, the routine will crash. In addition, it doesn't support TrueColor and it might fail on non-English versions of AutoCAD.

AO.LSP and L0.LSP work as promised. An alternative to AO.LSP is to add a shortcut to your ACAD.PGP file to use AO to turn on all layers because this is a built-in AutoCAD command (_LAYON).

Follow-up: Keep Files Clean
Just as there are many designers, there are many ways to keep your drawings tidy. In response to questions and comments on last week's tip, we remind readers about Mark Northcott's handy LISP routine, Drawing Cleanup LISP Tool, published in our April 16 edition, which takes the clean-up process even further. Check it out!

Another reader, Michael Cipolla, shares the LISP routine that he wrote for his CAD users to use to clean up drawings:

(defun C:CD ()
(setvar "CMDECHO" 0)
    (command "LAYER" "T" "0" "ON" "0" "S" "0" "")
    (command "PURGE" "B" "*" "N")
    (command "PURGE" "LA" "*" "N")
    (command "PURGE" "P" "*" "N")
    (command "PURGE" "SH" "*" "N")
    (command "PURGE" "ST" "*" "N")
    (command "PURGE" "M" "*" "N")
    (command "PURGE" "T" "*" "N")
    (command "PURGE" "R" "*" "N")

    (command "ZOOM" "E")
    (command "QSAVE")
    (command "CLOSE")
    (setvar "CMDECHO" 1)

Some readers were confused about the terminology and the order of the steps in the original Keep Files Clean tip. Here's some clarification provided by our Tip Patrol:

  • Audit. The Audit command will fix many errors that could cause AutoCAD to crash. Run the Audit command. When prompted to Fix any errors detected, type in Y for yes. If errors are detected, a prompt will appear asking if they should be deleted. Type Y for yes; that's why we are doing this.
  • Purge. When using the Purge command, select the Confirm Each Item to be Purged box and the Purge Nested Items boxes. This lets you eliminate all purgeable items in the file with one click. If you might need unused items in the future, then select the purgeable items one at a time. This can be cumbersome, but saves items that you might want later.
  • Zoom. Zoom in or out in the file so that the drawing border fills the screen.
  • Save. This enables any thumbnails of the drawing to clearly indicate the contents of the file.

MicroStation Tip: Redundant Design Key-in
In MicroStation V7, a key-in of the word design brings up a dialog box called Design Options that contains buttons for other dialog boxes for Data Readout, Working Units, Active Scale, etc. What is the equivalent key-in for V8?

Answer: That dialog box is now gone and the buttons it contained are now part of Design Settings, the Reference dialog box, the Cell maintenance dialog box, and others.

You can create a simple VBA macro that opens a form and performs the same end result that is better than the original because you can include other options, as you desire.

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, Kevin Sawyer, Ivanhoe Tejeda, and Billy Wooten.

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Deals & Freebies

Free Trial of Subdivision Software
A free 30-day trial of ASE Civil is available for download from EDI (Engineering Design Innovations). The software, designed for maximizing paving and grading design and production for subdivisions and commercial sites, works inside AutoCAD and leverages Land Desktop or Civil 3D to manage vertical designs. Complex 3-D road models, intelligent pads, profiles, and labels reportedly are automatically generated and dynamically updated throughout the design cycle.

Graphisoft Offers Free BIM Experience Kit
Graphisoft announced that a free BIM Experience Kit is now available for companies looking to adopt building information modeling (BIM). According to the company, the kit includes a 30-day limited, fully functional version of ArchiCAD v11, a two-hour tutorial overview of BIM based on the design of Frank Lloyd Wright's Massaro House, and the capability to track the user's basic understanding of BIM online. Read more

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Opportunities & Honors

Autodesk Names Jayco Inventor of the Month for July 2007
Jayco, a designer and manufacturer of human-machine interfaces, has been named Autodesk Inventor of the Month for July 2007. Jayco received the designation for its work in packaging a new type of mobile electronic flight deck for one of its aviation customers. Jayco did all of its design work in 3D, using Autodesk Inventor software. Each month, Autodesk selects an Inventor of the Month from the more than 600,000 users of Autodesk Inventor software.

AVEVA Named "Company to Watch" in Constructech
AVEVA, an engineering IT software supplier to the plant, power, and marine industries, announced that Constructech named it as a "Company to Watch" in the magazine's fifth annual Hottest Companies competition. Winners were selected based on usability and adaptability of their solutions to fit the changing demands of this market. Read more

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

Hardware: renderBOXX Render Farm Series
New BOXX device features 10,100 compact render farm modules based on the Quad-Core Intel Xeon technology. Read more

Hardware: NextBook 17E Notebook
NextComputing's server-class system incorporates the Intel Core 2 Duo 2.66 GHz processor and is upgradeable to the Intel Core 2 Extreme 2.93 GHz processor.
Read more

Hardware: FDM 400mc
Stratasys' direct digital manufacturing and prototyping system includes improvements to software and hardware reported to increase accuracy, repeatability, and material properties. Read more

Hardware: D900C PHANTOM-X
Eurocom launches quad-core notebook mobile workstation that includes Intel's newest line of Quad Core 95W and FSB1333 E6x50 line of Core 2 Duo desktop processors. Read more

General Software: RxAutoImage v8.2
Rasterex releases update that supports all versions of AutoCAD from 2000 to 2008 and AutoCAD LT from 2002 to 2008, as well as Windows Vista.
Read more

AEC: Precast 2007 SP2
StructureWorks' modeling, drawing automation, and enterprise data management system for the precast concrete market is an add-in to the SolidWorks 3D design platform.
Read more

AEC: RAM Structural System v11.2
Update from Bentley includes automated and integrated tools designed to increase engineers' modeling, analysis, and design productivity. Read more

AEC: CINEMA 4D v10 Architecture Edition
Architecture edition from Maxon features extensive object and materials libraries, virtual walkthrough capabilities, and a render region that allows users to preview rendered scenes directly in the editor view. Read more

GIS: ScanStation 2
Pulsed laser scanner from Leica Geosystems will feature scan speeds as fast as 50,000 points per second and a new coordinate lock function. Read more

MCAD: Seemage v4.2.1
Software uses 3D CAD models to create product deliverables including animations, technical illustrations, service procedures, and more. Read more

MCAD: Power ProEtoMax
nPower Software product enables the import of Pro/ENGINEER models directly into Autodesk 3ds Max and Autodesk Viz rendering and animation without intermediate formats. Read more

MCAD: ShipConstructor 2008
New version enhances the parametric modeling functionality of AutoCAD-based 3D product modeling and production planning for complex and specialized marine applications. Read more

CAE: SimOffice v2
MSC.Software's solution features extended finite- element modeling capabilities, allowing users to assign loads, constraints, and properties to FE entities and automatically create spider-type multipoint constraints. Read more

CAE: FloWizard v3
Rapid flow modeling tool from ANSYS enables rapid and accurate validation earlier in the product development cycle. Read more

CAM: Insight v6
New version from Statasys combines multiple machine job queues into a single interface and can be used with all current Stratasys FDM systems. Read more

CAM: Mastercam X2 Mill
New CNC Software release introduces 3D toolpath additions, enhanced support for SolidWorks assembly files, and Z-oscillation capabilities. Read more

Training: NX 5 Advanced Manufacturing Course
TATA Technologies' Web course on the "I Get It" Platform covers practical MCAD techniques using digital product development software from UGS. Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

Webinar: Unleashing 3D CAD
August 29, 2007
10 a.m. CDT
Seemage, a SolidWorks solution partner, will present a live webinar on improving business processes enterprise-wide with SolidWorks and Seemage. A question and answer session will follow the webinar. Read more

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on

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