Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 12, No. 3)

21 Jan, 2007

Untitled Document

What's New at

Getting the Last Drop -- Squeeze the Most from Your CAD Software Budget
Cadalyst's January 2007 cover story reviews inexpensive CAD applications from Alibre, Archway Systems and General CADD Products, which offer significant design capabilities for little or no cost.  Read more

CAD Manager Column: What to Expect -- and Do -- in 2007
Our CAD management expert, Robert Green, offers his forecast for the coming year.  Read more

Get the Code!
Cadalyst's January code from Hot Tip Harry is now available for download. Jeffery Sanders earned $100 for Nested Block Tree Display and Explode Minsert, two tremendous tips for managing blocks in AutoCAD.

Cadalyst's January Web Exclusives Now Live Online!
The latest editions of all your favorite Cadalyst tutorials for AutoCAD and other popular CAD software, CAD Cartoon, Dialog Box (letters from readers) — plus all the content from the January edition of Cadalyst magazine — are now live on

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This Week's Software Tips

Send us your tip, code or shortcut for your favorite CAD software. If we publish it, 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 $100 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. By submitting code to Cadalyst, 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.

Framed Text
Alex Borodulin offers an AutoLISP routine to add frames around Mtext. You can read more information on his NYacad Web site.

"Framed text is not a well-known AutoCAD feature. We all see it in the Dimension Style Manager dialog box, but how do you use it?

"We often use framed text in drafting. It's common to use blocks with attributes or just text (Mtext) in a rectangle. Blocks with attributes work well until you have an extra long line of text so that the attribute doesn't fit in the rectangle, or you need to apply stacked formats to the attribute or when several lines of text must be enclosed in a rectangle. Also, editing attributes is not fast. Using text with rectangles doesn't work well because it's difficult to make perfect alignment of text inside a rectangle.

"Check the draw frame around text option and suppress extension and dimension lines in dimension style and you see framed text ready for use. We aren't supposed to use this style for dimensioning as there are many times when we need just framed text, such as with symbols and notes.

"To get you started quickly with this really nice feature, I prepared a dimension style and AutoLISP file. Download FX.LSP with this week's code and place in any AutoCAD supported folder the drawing FRAMEDTEXT.DWG that contains dimension style designed for using as framed text.

"The AutoLISP file (shortcut FX) inserts FRAMEDTEXT.DWG in your drawing as a block, explodes the block, changes the scale factor of framed text to current dimscale value and invokes the Edit Text command.

"To use this routine, add it to AutoCAD Startup suite (command Appload).

"You can also modify the dimstyle FramedText in the downloaded drawing. To do so:

  • Open the file.
  • Activate dimstyle manager.
  • Change text style, color, etc.
  • To change the color of frame, uncheck temporarily Dim Line 1; change color and check Dim Line 1 again.

"You can use framed text as a component of dimension or leader object either by creating a special style for this purpose or using the DIMGAP variable (which should be negative).

"Framed text can save you time and improve your drawings. If you edit the text, the frame is automatically updated. This is a very simple dynamically updated block for AutoCAD pre2006."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Overall, our Tip Patrol members report, this tip works well. One Patroller believes there might be a dynamic block out there that does the same thing. If you don't have that block, this could be your answer. In addition, he refers readers to another option found on the AUGI (AutoCAD User Group International) site: Create a Table with a single row and a single column and set the text to middle center and you get framed text. The only drawback with this is that the box doesn't automatically change size when the text string is longer than the box, so you have to pull the box bigger using grips.

Another Tip Patroller had some other thoughts. He finds that unless you customize your double-click option for Dimensions, you lose this quick Edit function, which is one of the major time-savers built into the later versions of AutoCAD. You must also be aware of any global dimension updating as well as the location of your defpoints. You could accidentally select entities by window or crossing and inadvertently pick up some of your defpoints, he warns. This moves your text with the rest of the selection set. This Patroller prefers to draw rectangles around text and keep dimensions as dimensions.

Add Another Material
Jennifer Grande sent this tip for AutoCAD 2007: "I've noticed people on the various message boards asking how to add more than one material to an object. To do so, select the desired material, then hold down the CTRL key. This allows you to apply the material to individual faces of an object."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: The Tips Patrol gives a thumbs-up to Jennifer's worthy advice!

Find Command
David Meinzer's firm handles a lot of existing building remodels and retrofits. He says, "We're constantly receiving existing third-party drawings, so of course we spend some time changing the drawings to our standards. One of the standards we have found to be tricky are text styles. Most of these drawings have a text style we don't use, so the symbols or text don't translate correctly. To correct this, we double-click on the text and highlight the portion of the text we want to change and Copy it. We then type in the Find command and paste the text in the Find field and type the correction in the Replace With field.  Finally, click on the Replace All selection tab. This changes all the text to suit our standards.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: One of our Patrollers tried David's tip but couldn't see the effects. Another Patroller ran the tip successfully and added one note: "If you don't have the text style as mentioned, characters will show up as question marks, so you won't know what to change the text to." On the other hand, everyone agrees that the Find and Replace tool is very useful for all text, mtext, attributes and the like.

Solid Solprof
Long-time AutoCAD user Dana Lockett often has to remind drafters at the office about the old but "awesome" AutoCAD command Solprof (Solid Profile), which projects 3D models onto a flat plane. Drafters often create 3D models of structures so that they can create multiple isometric views of the same structure in final drawings, but find it easier to render and edit the finished drawings using 2D entities.

Dana shares, "The Solprof command projects any view of a 3D model you choose to a 2D plane. Simply choose the view you want inside the viewport of floating model space and set a new UCS to View. Execute Solprof and select the 3D model, follow the prompts for hidden lines on separate layer, profile lines onto a plane and delete tangential edges. I answer Yes to all three prompts.

"Now you have a flattened 2D isometric profile of the model in the same view with the visible and hidden lines in separate layers behind the original 3D model. I move the new 2D profiles, automatically created as blocks, to a new drawing file that I can easily render and edit. This also greatly reduces the size of the final drawing file."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: This is a very useful command. One Patroller has used this quite a bit. "A few years ago, I had a short contract to do some pressure vessel drafting. The company in question didn't want any 3D in its drawings, but I wanted to be able to check that the internal piping actually worked properly, so I created the whole thing in 3D. When I was sure it would work, I used the Solprof command to generate the 2D for the final drawing. I've used it on and off for years."

Follow-Up: Deal with Dimension Lines
Mark Chiarizio sent in this AutoLISP routine in response the tip in the January 15 edition concerning a way to add, modify and remove a second line in dimensions. DIMNOTE.LSP and DIMNOTE.DCL were developed in 1999 by Mike Lapinski. The routine has many options including canned verbiage, custom verbiage and placing text beside or under the dimension text.

Finale (Really): Dimensions
We continue to receive many comments concerning dimensioning and model/paper space. This discussion could go on for a millennium, judging by the volume of our e-mail! We'll publish one more round of comments this week, then put this topic to bed. If you'd like to continue to discuss this topic, we encourage readers to start a thread in our Cadalyst Discussion Forums!

Reader Rob Peterson wrote to express disagreement with Michael McGuire's comments in the January 15 edition, which stated that dimensions are only associative in model space. Rob says, "I do all of my drawings in model space and dimension in paper space. If I change an item in my model (such as stretch or move), the dimension changes right along with it. In order to have dimensions in paper space update when you change the model, you must set DIMASSOC to 2. In doing so, dimensions are coupled with association points on geometric objects, which means if the association point on the object changes, the dimension changes too. If DIMASSOC is set to 1, you have to select the definition point of the dimension line itself in order to have it update. Also, if you use hotgrips to change an object and DIMASSOC i s set to 1, the dimension doesn't update when the object is changed."

Robert Gardner of Australia was a devotee of dimensions and text in model space and just plotting in paper space. But, he says, he has since been converted and finds it so much easier to use one text size and dimension style for all viewports, even though they could be at different scales. He confirms that dimensioning is also much easier with the introduction of DIMASSOC to set the associativity between model and paper spaces, as noted previously.

Mike Lapointe reminds other readers that if paper space dimensions are associative, then stretching an object in model space is reflected by the paper space dimension. If a dimension is nonassociative or loses its association, then use the DimReassociate command to reassociate that dimension.

MicroStation Tip – Change of V8 Cell Origin
If you've ever wondered how to change the origin of MicroStation V8 cells, particularly ones that originally were V7 and were converted to V8, read this tip from Axiom.
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. Many thanks to our volunteer Cadalyst Tip Patrol members: Don Boyer, Mitchell Hirschklau, R.K. McSwain, Don Reichle, Kevin Sawyer, Ivanhoe Tejeda, Billy Wooten and Ben Young.

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Deals & Freebies

Special January Price for ProFab Lite
Applied Production announced it is offering ProFab Lite V3.5 at a special discounted price. First introduced in the 1980s, ProFab is used for programming CNC turret punch presses. ProFab Lite accepts DXF geometry from any CAD system. It includes interactive nesting and cycle optimization, and reposition moves are automatically calculated for oversized blanks. The Demonstration and Training Guide make it easy for new users to learn, the company reports. ProFab Lite supports a range of punch presses including Amada, Finn Power, Wiedemann, Strippit, Trumpf, Whitney and Nisshinbo. Special pricing ends January 31. A free trial version is also available for download. Applied Production provides software solutions for the sheet metal industry.

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

Hardware: NextDimension Evo and Evo HD
NextComputing adds two NextDimension flextop portable computers for graphics-intensive applications.  Read more

General Software: FileFixer for V8
File recovery software salvages unopenable MicroStation V8 design files.  Read more

General Software: Toolbox LT 2007
GlobalCAD's software adds 3D modeling and LISP support for AutoCAD LT.  Read more

General Software: speak4 Voice-Recognition Software
Program from Enact Technology acts on verbal commands to help improve productivity for AutoCAD, Inventor, SolidWorks, SketchUp and more.  Read more

General Software: TurboSketch Studio
Conceptual modeling software bundle includes SketchUp and integrated lighting and photorealistic rendering controls.  Read more

General Software: RxAutoImage R8.1
Rasterex Software adds AutoCAD 2007 support to raster-editing solution.  Read more

Visualization: Autodesk Maya v8.5
Software includes support of Python scripting and new capabilities for character animation.  Read more

MCAD: Component Design Suite and CODE VO
Interface merges RSoft and ORA's software applications to provide modeling capabilities for optical devices.  Read more

CAM: EZ-CAM v15.0
EZCAM Solutions updates milling and turning application with new SolidWorks support and more.   Read more

New version adds capabilities and enhancements for mold and industrial designers.  Read more

CAM: GibbsCAM MTM for Tornos Deco
Company offers support for full range of mono-spindle machine tools.  Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

Cadalyst'scomplete list of upcoming industry events is always available on our Web site.

Autodesk Civil 3D Styles and Autodesk Vault Workshops
January 23, 2007 - February 8, 2007
Various locations
These seminar-style training sessions, hosted by Avatech, offer participants an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of innovations designed to improve business processes and collaboration throughout a project lifecycle. Read more

Webinar: Collaborating in Multi-CAD Environments
January 30, 2007
In this live webcast, representatives from Right Hemisphere and Aberdeen Group will discuss how leading manufacturers are addressing the manufacturing challenges of collaborative design and sourcing in a multi-CAD environment. Read more

Webinar: Nemetschek North America vLearning Series
February 7, 2007 - March 2, 3007
vLearning webinars provide VectorWorks users with hour-long training sessions on a variety of VectorWorks topics, including instruction on how to use specific feature sets and functionality, as well as techniques and workflows to enhance productivity. Each session is live and concludes with time for questions and answers. Read more

FIATECH Annual Technology Conference and Showcase
April 9, 2007 - April 12, 2007
Washington, D.C.
The goal of the FIATECH Annual Technology Conference and Showcase, themed "Where the Best Get Better," is to share and demonstrate emerging technologies that will significantly improve the capital projects industry. Read more