Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 12, No. 29)

12 Aug, 2007

What's New at

CAD Manager's Q&A Archives Online
Can't get enough of Robert Green's expert advice on how to handle the problems that plague all CAD managers? Think you saw an issue addressed in an earlier newsletter but can't remember when? Now you can access all the Q&A topics from the CAD Manager's Newsletter in one place. Just go to the CAD Management site and click on CAD Manager's Q&A in the left navigation bar, or click here.

Software Support Horror Stories?
Have you had the proverbial nightmare experience with customer service? We'd like to hear about it! Send your stories (and images if you've got 'em) to Cadalyst contributing editor Mike Hudspeth for inclusion in his MCAD Modeling column in the October issue of Cadalyst magazine and 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:

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Luxology TV Offers Access to High-Resolution Videos
Luxology announced the launch of Luxology TV, a new online hub that allows the 3D community to exchange and view high-resolution video clips on Luxology's Web site. Luxology TV allows users to search, select, and immediately watch videos on modeling, rendering, painting, sculpting, and other subjects. 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.

Congratulations July Winner!
Cadalyst awarded the July $100 prize to Robert Zipprich, who submitted the Zoom to Page Layout tip published in the July 16 edition. Zipprich was selected in a random drawing of all authors whose original tips were published in Tips & Tools Weekly last month. Send us your original tip now for a chance to win!

Minimize Palettes
Paul Jordan
offers this suggestion to fellow AutoCAD users: "Are you losing screen real estate because of all those palette bars you have up in AutoCAD 2008? Even with them set to AutoHide, that bar still takes up precious real estate. Let's work with the Tool palette and the Properties palette. In my case, I like the Tool palette on top and the Properties palette below it. Open both palettes, right-click on the bar, and select AutoHide first. Once that's done, right-click the bar again and select Allow Docking. Now, take the Tool palette to the left bar first so it docks, then click the Minimize button. Next, take the Properties palette and do the same thing, letting it dock and then clicking the Minimize button.

"You should see the Tool palette on top and the Properties palette just beneath it, lined up and connected. If you want to add a few more, go for it. The first two adjust their sizes so you can stack them. Once you get used to where they are, you'll have plenty of screen real estate. You can even right-click on the minimized palette and select icons only if you like, but I like to see the labels and just get used to sliding my crosshairs over to a part of the screen and know what's going to pop up. You can also do the same on the right side of the screen with whatever palettes you want to use."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: This is a helpful function indeed, introduced in AutoCAD 2006. The Patrol reminds users that you also can perform the dock and minimize step by right-clicking on the palette and choosing Anchor Left or Anchor Right.

Data Safety Net
One of our very own Tip Patrollers, Don Boyer, shares his data-recovery solution: "I don't know about you, but I find it very inconvenient to have to find someone to recover a lost drawing from backup tapes or drives. Some companies don't have adequate backups to start with, or sometimes the CAD users don't trust those backups and they end up keeping multiple copies of files on the server -- just in case. My personal preference is to use my 2 GB USB drive and have AutoCAD direct all the BAK files to it. As an added bonus, this reduces the clutter in directories.

"To set this up, type Movebak and then the path to the directory on your USB. I use E:\New Folder, which I rename every day to the current date and then create another new folder for the day's work. On a 2GB USB, I can keep nearly five months of BAK files; of course, the amount of data you can keep will depend on how big your files are. If I need to recover a drawing from the day before or from a week ago, it's right there. I also keep my copy of Hurricane software [a batch script generator for AutoCAD] on my USB. (I wish more software allowed data to reside on a USB rather than being tied directly to an operating system.)

"One thing to keep in mind is the danger of storing what might be considered proprietary information. If the USB stays on your computer or you lock it up at night, there shouldn't be a problem. Also, most of the good USB drives can be password protected."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Our Patrol agrees that this is a good tip. Backing up every day might be too much work for some users, so adjust the routine as desired and depending on the number and size of your files.

Note that the location for the BAK files can also be changed through the Options settings under the Files tab. Confirm with your supervisor or IT department that what you are doing is OK -- some companies do have a policy against it. Finally, for those interested, be on the lookout for software offered in a special version that runs from a USB drive -- the Firefox browser is one example.

Perp is All You Need
The Tip Patrol offers a few handy reminders to readers this week, some often-overlooked but very helpful functions built into AutoCAD.

  • Use AutoCAD's Perp object snap to draw a line perpendicular to an existing line. This built-in feature means you don't need a customized LISP routine to do the job. (A tipster recently submitted such a routine to Tips & Tools Weekly, but the Tip Patrol recommends using Perp instead.)
  • Investigate and take advantage of the many Snap functions in AutoCAD. Using Autosnap tracking or Snap From Snap can save time by eliminating the need for construction lines.

Follow-up: Keep Files Clean -- Audit
Reader Mark Matherne wrote in with more follow-up to our Keep Files Clean tip that ran originally in the July 30 edition. He says, "A note about the Audit command: When Audit finds errors in a drawing containing xrefs, it appears that the errors are fixed because the Audit command states that they are. But, if you rerun the Audit command, the errors may still show up. That's because it has detected errors within the attached xrefs. It would be helpful if the Audit command listed the xref that contains the errors, but it doesn't. You must open each xref in turn and run an Audit to find the errors. Once done, opening the original file and running Audit returns with a No Errors Found notice.

MicroStation Tip: Create Personal Workspace
If MicroStation is installed on a single computer shared by multiple people, consider making your own personal space. From the MicroStation Manager dialog box, locate the Workspace area with three drop-down menus labeled User, Project, and Interface. Click here to read more and to start creating your space from the bottom up.

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 AliasStudio 2008 PLE

Autodesk released the latest version of its AliasStudio Personal Learning Edition (PLE), which provides free access to the industrial design software for noncommercial use. AliasStudio 2008 PLE features include a custom interface and tutorials that introduce the tools and interactive features available in AliasStudio 2008 and demonstrate how to accomplish concept design with step-by-step instructions and videos. Read more

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Opportunities & Honors

SolidWorks, NASA Tech Briefs Sponsor Design Contest
Celebrating the "a-ha!" moment latent in every product designer and engineer, the Create the Future Design Contest sponsored by SolidWorks and NASA Tech Briefs is now accepting entries from inventors around the world. Engineers and product designers have until October 15, 2007, to submit their ideas for the next invention that could change how we work, play, and live. Read more

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

General Software: CINEBENCH v10
New release from MAXON includes enhanced CPU and graphics card tests and supports up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores. Read more

Visualization: Gelato v2.2
Software renderer runs on latest NVIDIA GPU architecture and reportedly achieves rendering performance improvements of more than 100 times that of traditional rendering solutions. Read more

Visualization: RTT DeltaGen v7 and RTT Portal v3
Integrated data processing and data administration tools are designed for improved workflow and real-time realism. Read more

AEC: BIMContentManager
BIMWorld releases desktop application that enables users of AutoCAD and Revit Architecture to manage CAD files in a structured and visual manner. Read more

MCAD: Visual Studio Plugin
New tool from Dassault allows programmers working in Microsoft Visual Studio to access, manage, and collaborate on DesignSync files from the desktop environment. Read more

MCAD: MEDUSA4 Suite v3
CAD Schroer's design automation software includes intelligent STEP and IGES interfaces for rendering third-party 3D components in large-scale assemblies. Read more

CAE: Airpak v3
ANSYS product offers visualization capabilities that allow users to display textured surfaces, specify degrees of transparency for selected surfaces. Read more

CAM: Delcam Designer
Add-on to ArtCAM allows users to add reliefs to any combination of 3D surfaces or solids via a fully integrated surface, solid, and relief modeling solution. Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

COADE Discover Tour
August 22, 2007
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
The COADE Discovery Tour is a series of educational sessions about the recently released CADWorx Plant Design Suite 2008. Topics covered include new capabilities such as tighter integration between CADWorx Plant Professional and CADWorx P&ID Professional. Read more

Southern California CAD Summit
August 23, 2007
Anaheim, California
Presented by U.S. CAD (formerly L.A. CAD), this day-long event includes more than 30 industry-specific classes for professionals in the fields of architecture, MEP (manufacturing, engineering, plumbing), civil and structural engineering, geospatial, design visualization, manufacturing design, and electrical design. Read more

Autodesk AEC DevCamp
September 5-7, 2007
Boston, Massachusetts
The AEC Conference features more than 20 training classes on Autodesk's industry-specific customization and application development technologies. Introductory classes will be offered for people just starting to customize. For professional software developers, there are advanced topics to help resolve complex code scenarios. Read more

Autodesk Manufacturing DevCamp
September 17-19, 2007
Portland, OR
The Autodesk Customization and Application Development Conference is a three-day developer conference held with the engineering teams that develop the Autodesk products. Attendees will get chance to hear directly from Autodesk business and engineering management, spend time with Autodesk engineers, and network with others. Read more

August 11-15, 2008
Los Angeles, California
The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) SIGGRAPH sponsors SIGGRAPH 2008, where an estimated 25,000 computer graphics and interactive technology professionals from six continents are expected to gather for technical and creative programs focusing on research, science, art, animation, gaming, interactivity, education, and the Web. 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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