Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 12, No. 33)

16 Sep, 2007

Note to Readers: We recently introduced some small changes to the
Tips & Tools Weekly newsletter format. Content is the same as always,
but we're presenting it in an order we hope will better serve
the needs of readers. Let us know what you think.

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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.

Congratulations August Winner!
Cadalyst awarded the August $100 prize to Paul Jordon, who submitted the Minimize Palettes tip published in the August 13 edition. Jordon 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!

Center Mark Routine
Dan Landrum
is sure that plenty of center mark routines are available on the Web, but shares his own solution, CENTERMARK.DVB. The routine was developed on AutoCAD 2000i. It requires that you have a center mark block located in your AutoCAD search path (one is included in the file download) with the block drawn at 1 unit x 1 unit, and your drawing must already have a center line layer. The code is set up for a center line layer named CL, but you can change this by modifying that one line of code.

CL should match your center line layer.

sCenterLayer = "CL"

You can also change the block name, but for now CENTERMARK.DWG should match your block name.

sCenterBlock = "Center Mark.dwg"

The routine scales the block by the diameter of the circle plus the distance the center mark should extend past the circle. This value defaults to 0.25" if you don't set it. Once set, the value is stored for future use. The user is prompted for this value at run time.

If multiple circles share the same center point, only the largest circle is referenced for locating the center mark so you avoid multiple center marks at the same location.

The routine is set to automatically unload itself after it executes. Unfortunately, this method doesn't let you simply hit Enter to run the routine again. To stop automatic unloading, comment out this line:

ThisDrawing.SendCommand "_vbaunload" & vbCr &
"""CenterMark.dvb""" & vbCr

Dan uses the following macro on a toolbar button to on-demand load and run the routine:

^C^C(defun c:myVBA()(command "-vbarun"

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: We give this tip a thumbs up after testing it successfully in AutoCAD 2007. Just make sure that the block and the routine files are in a folder that AutoCAD searches; otherwise, the program won't work. Also, note that this routine works differently from AutoCAD's Center Mark command. You change the settings for the AutoCAD Center Mark command in the Dimension Style editor. There you can set it to a fixed size, to no mark at all, or to a line setting. This routine creates a block on the CL layer that must already exist. If the block is edited, then all instances of the mark are changed in that file. The nice function of this routine is that you can alter the size of the mark every time you start the command. The default AutoCAD command has one setting, unless you change your dimension settings. If you don't create the button macro to run the routine, here is the syntax to enter at the Command line:

  • Type Vbarun and press Enter.
  • Type CenterMark.dvb! Main and press Enter.

Change Tag Information
Chris Kuenning
must change tag information on multiple block attributes in AutoCAD drawings about twice a year, and because the attributes are invisible, this procedure involves two commands. He explains, "I thought I'd remember how to do it, but the first few times that I needed to change the tag information, I had to research and relearn the procedure all over again. The third time I decided to put in writing. I thought it might help others."

To change invisible tag information globally

  1. Type Battman at the Command prompt, and the Block Attribute Manager dialog
    box appears. Select the Tag, then select Edit. Deselect Invisible in the Mode
    window and press OK. Press Apply and then OK again.
  2. Type -Attedit at the Command prompt. Answer prompts as listed:
    Edit attributes one at a time? [Yes/No] <Y>: Enter; performing global editing of attribute.values.
    Edit only attributes visible on screen? [Yes/No] <Y>: Enter.
    Enter block name specification <*>: Enter.
    Enter attribute tag specification <*>: PM-NO (the tag that you want to change).
    Enter attribute value specification <*>: Enter.
    Select Attributes: 31 attributes selected.
    Enter string to change: 506-000 Enter (what the tag currently has).
    Enter new string: 506-162 (new value you want to change to): Enter.
  3. Restart Battman and reselect Invisible.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: This is a good method for globally changing values of a block that is in a file. The method provided is to change text values, but with the -Attedit command you can change any value of any tag, including height, color, layer, size, style, angle, and position. It also works for tags that are already visible. Make sure you know what the attribute tag name is before entering the command. When entering the attribute value specification, you must enter the type of attribute you want to alter -- for example, value, height, color, layer, and the like. When selecting the attributes (or the blocks you want to change), you can't simply select the block; you must select the exact item you want to change within the block. You have to either select that particular text inside each block, or select them with a window selection. Simply clicking on the block doesn't work.

Exterior Elevations
Michael Cipolla
shares two routines that his AutoCAD users love for working on exterior elevations. Cipolla adds, "We use them to line up our plans and elevations. They make drawing construction lines quick and easy. The routine sets layer 0 current and turns on osnaps; you then pick the points you would like to draw construction lines through. Then, it finishes by resetting your previous layer back to current."

    HC.LSP, for horizontal construction lines

(defun C:HC ()
(prompt "\nSelect points for Horizontal Construction Lines")
(setq CL (getvar "clayer"))
(setq OS (getvar "osmode"))
(command "LAYER" "S" "0" "")
(setvar "osmode" 191)
(command "xline" "H")
(while (> (getvar "cmdactive") 0) (command pause))
(setvar "osmode" OS)
(command "LAYER" "S" CL "")
;end of HC.lsp

     VC.LSP, for vertical construction lines

(defun C:VC ()
(prompt "\nSelect points for Vertical Construction Lines")
(setq CL (getvar "clayer"))
(setq OS (getvar "osmode"))
(command "LAYER" "S" "0" "")
(setvar "osmode" 191)
(command "xline" "V")
(while (> (getvar "cmdactive") 0) (command pause))
(setvar "osmode" OS)
(command "LAYER" "S" CL "")
;end of VC.lsp

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: These are nice macros, but they won't work if layer 0 is off or frozen. You can easily change the routine to place the construction lines on any layer you want by changing the "0" to "yourlayer" in the fifth line of each routine, where "yourlayer" is the layer name that you want to use.

(command "LAYER" "S" "0" "")

This routine lets you create multiple horizontal and vertical construction lines from different points in a file during one session. It uses the Xline command that creates a construction line from any angle from one point. If you didn't use these routines, the Xline command would have to be executed multiple times.

Thanks to Michael and to our Tip Patrol member for this helpful information.

Multiple Hot Grips
Robert A. Somppi
writes, "Do you use grips to edit objects? Did you know you could make more than one grip hot? This is a great way to stretch a few objects when using a crossing window to select them would include many other objects for you to unselect."

Select all objects first. Then, while holding down the Shift key, select the grips you want to move, stretch, or alter in unison. Release the Shift key, then click on one of the hot grips and drag it to the desired position.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: This is a good time saver. This method can provide unique alternatives to object modification that the Stretch command can't do.

Follow-Up: Delete Layers
Reader Brandon Cooley offers some additional input on the Delete Layers tip about using AutoCAD's Laydel command, as published in the September 10 edition. He says, "With AutoCAD 2008, you have the option to select layers to delete by name. If you type Laydel on the Command line, you see the following prompt:

Select object on layer to delete or [Name]:

"When you type N, you see a dialog box with all the layers that are available to delete. Note that locked layers don't show up because Laydel doesn't work with them. You can select as many layers as you want to delete by using Ctrl or Shift."

Follow-Up: Mtext Combo
Paul Dempsey
sends another approach related to Mtext Combo from the September 10 edition. "Before the advent of the Express Tools command, I too had this dilemma of cutting and pasting single lines of text from old files. That is, until I created PASTE.LSP. This routine similar to Mtext Combo, gives you a dialog box from which you have the choice of creating mtext or a leader with the mtext. And, this routine lets you select multiple single lines of text. You must select the lines of text in the order you want them to appear in the final mtext."

Editor's note: The Tip Patrol did not test this follow-up tip.

MicroStation Tip: Match the Leader's Attributes
How do you match the leader's size, geometry, and text definitions -- for example, the same way you match different dimension definitions or text properties?

Answer: Because the text note is driven by a dimension style and a text style, you need to match it in two steps.

  1. Invoke Match Dimension Attributes and select leader (dimension).
  2. Invoke Match Text Attributes and select the text.
Unfortunately, you can't do the same with the arrow part. There's no way to match it because it simply draws a few primitives and not a coherent leader.

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'sHot 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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Community Forum for Spatial Customers
Spatial has launched the Faces & Facets online community forum, a peer-to-peer network in which commercial and academic users can discuss Spatial products while communicating with the company's software developers and executives. Faces & Facets also will feature blogs written by ACIS architect John Sloan and other specialists.
Read more

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Opportunities & Honors

CAD Manager's Survey Now Online
It’s that time of year again to log on and take Robert Green's CAD Manager’s Survey. This annual survey measures the latest metrics and takes the pulse of the marketplace where we all work. Taking reader feedback to heart, Robert has restructured the survey to consider more workplace factors. Please take 10 minutes to participate in the survey because more responses ultimately yield more accurate results. The CAD Manager's Survey 2007 is online now and awaiting your input.

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Deals & Freebies

CADDIT Offering Free Upgrade for progeCAD Professional
CADDIT, a CAD/CAM reseller and service provider, announced that it will upgrade, free of charge, all new purchases of progeCAD Professional 2007 to progeCAD 2008 when that version is released for sale. To qualify for the free upgrade, buyers must have purchased progeCAD Professional 2007 directly from on or after August 27. Read more

SPECapc Updates Free NX Benchmark
SPEC's Application Performance Characterization (SPECapc) project group released updated performance-evaluation software for systems running UGS PLM Software's NX software for digital product development. The benchmark records results for graphics, CPUs, and disk input/output operations and provides a composite number for total system performance. Read more

Free GIS Data Manipulation Tool
Applied Science Associates (ASA) announced the latest release of its extension tool for ESRI's ArcGIS software. The free, downloadable TimeSlider Extension for ArcGIS v9.2 provides capabilities for animating feature data that contains date and time information. The software is available to the GIS community as freeware. Read more

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

Hardware: Infinity WF 36
Wide-format scanner from BOWE BELL + HOWELL scans at rated speeds up to 8.5 ips (color) at 300 dpi and up to 12.6 ips (bitonal) at 400 dpi and features SharpShooter Trilinear CCD cameras. Read more

Hardware: SFP353 Scanner Stand
IDEAL's adjustable model allows Contex large-format scanners to piggyback over large-format printers, transforming the scanners and printers into a single solution for scan-to-print and quick-copy applications. Read more

Hardware: TangoPlus FullCure 930
Objet's semitranslucent elastomer reportedly features break elongation more than double that of other rapid prototyping materials. Read more

AEC: PlanCommand
RSA's scalable, Web-based project-management system includes enhanced collaboration, document control, and auditing capabilities as well as a free Invitation to Bid messaging service. Read more

GIS: Timeslider Extension for ArcGIS
ASA's free downloadable extension for ESRI GIS software animates feature data containing temporal information, allowing users to analyze data as it evolves over time. Read more

Bentley software for calculating piping code stresses, loads, and deflections under static and dynamic loading conditions adds increased interoperability with other CAD and analysis products. Read more

MCAD: modo 301
Luxology beefs up functionality in its modeling software, including 3D sculpting and item animation capabilities and a refined user interface. Read more

CAE: AVL InMotion
IPG Automotive and AVL List release simulation solution for hybrid vehicle testing.
Read more

CAM: SolidCAM2007 v11.2
Integrated CAM software for SolidWorks incorporates enhanced capabilities for 2.5D and 3D milling, simultaneous five-axis milling, and high-speed machining. Read more

PLM: 2007 OneSpace Suite v15.5
CoCreate adds Vista compatibility to product lifecycle management solution for high-tech electronics and machinery applications. Read more

Training: Engineering Graphics for AutoCAD 2008
Delmar Cengage guide features self-paced tutorials to help users master drawing techniques. Read more

Training: V-Ray Video Series
VisMasters launches Web-based modules for architectural visualization. Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

AutoCAD Architecture Test Drives
Various Dates September through November
Various U.S. Cities
Avatech Test Drives are designed for people who would like a chance to try out the technology quickly and easily with the guidance of experienced professionals. Autodesk-certified experts and industry leading instructors will walk attendees through some of the basic and more advanced functionality in each of Autodesk's latest versions of AutoCAD Architecture, Revit Architecture, Revit Structure, Revit MEP, and Autodesk VIZ. Read more

Civil 3D Test Drives
September 14 - November 16, 2007
Various U.S. Cities
Avatech Solutions invites civil engineers and others who use CAD software for infrastructure design, drafting, and surveying work to test drive AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008 in a series of hands-on training sessions across the country this fall. Avatech's Autodesk Civil 3D Implementation Certified Experts and industry leading instructors will walk attendees through some of the basic functionality and workflows in Civil 3D. Read more

Webinar: Subdivision Visualization
September 25, 2007
8:00 a.m. PDT
This 45-minute live Webinar session, presented by RDV Systems, is intended for those who would like to improve their skills and understanding of civil and land planning visualization projects. Topics covered will include working with finished ground triangles and incorporating 3D houses, fences, driveways, and vegetation. Read more

Automation Studio Training: Hydraulic System
October 1-3, 2007
Birmingham , United Kingdom
Automation Studio presents this training session, presented in English, to help users rapidly attain a higher level of proficiency. Other sessions can be held on the user's premises, in the company's headquarters in Montreal , or online. Read more

Automation Studio Training: Hydraulic and Electrotechnical System
October 2-5, 2007
Modena , Italy
Automation Studio presents this training session, presented in English, to help users rapidly attain a higher level of proficiency. Other sessions can be held on the user's premises, in the company's headquarters in Montreal , or online. Read more

Webinar: Visualizing Bridges
October 9, 2007
8:00 a.m. PDT
The objective of this Webinar series is to provide knowledge, expertise, and suitable tools for civil engineers to employ visualization as a cost-effective solution throughout the project design process. This session, presented by RDV Systems, will cover extruding the bridge shape, barriers, guard rails, columns, and bridge heads. Read more

Webinar: Visualizing Tunnels
October 23, 2007
8:00 a.m. PDT
RDV Systems presents live Webinar sessions that will take a task-oriented approach aimed at solving everyday, real-life visualization challenges that face civil engineers and land planners. This session will cover extruding the tunnel shape, portals, and using transparency. Read more

Geographic Information Education Program
November 7, 2007
Belfast, United Kingdom
The GeoInformation Group will sponsor a free educational event for everyone in the geographic information community from recent graduates to highly experienced professionals. The seminar will be complemented by an exhibition. Anyone interested in learning more about the availability, management, and application of geographic data and related technologies is encouraged to register. Read more

BIM Best Practices Training
December 11, 2007
Washington, D.C.
At this workshop, which will take place at the Ecobuild America Fall Conference, leading U.S. architecture and design firms; the U.S. Commercial Service, U.S. Department of Commerce; and the General Services Administration will discuss how they are using BIM in their U.S. and international projects to create innovative designs and solve client problems. 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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What's New at

MCAD Modeling (Column): Where Is MCAD Going?
Cadalyst columnist Mike Hudspeth discusses how end users are benefiting from software interoperability, usability, capability, and affordability. Read more

Cadalyst Labs Review: UGS Solid Edge v20
Collaboration is key for the latest 2D/3D CAD software. As part of the UGS Velocity package, Cadalyst's Mike Hudspeth reports, users have access to PLM, 3D solids modeling, engineering analysis, drafting, and CAM. 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:

  • Small Changes Add Up to Big Savings: One structural engineering firm looks to streamline its own workflow to ensure customers can benefit from whole-house construction models.
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