Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 12, No. 34)

23 Sep, 2007

This Week's Software Tips

Backup Plan
As a CAD user, Brent Daley takes it upon himself to make sure all his customized settings, such as CUI files, tool palettes, and blocks, are backed up. He says you could take it for granted that the IT department is backing up your data, and if something happens you'll be back up and running in a matter of minutes, but this isn't a wise choice.

Daley continues, "If you streamline the process, it will only take a few minutes to get all your data backed up. I like to use a USB flash drive because it's mobile, and it's quick to throw in. Besides, these drives have come down in price tremendously since they first came out!

"There is a bit of setup involved, but it's simple enough. The easiest thing to do is to make sure your customized files and folders are in one central location. I like to make a main CAD folder under My Documents and then start creating my directory structure for what settings I will customize. Your paths in your AutoCAD options should point to these folders. The next thing I do is browse to the folders where my CUI files are kept for my various programs, whether it is Land Desktop, Civil 3D, or Map3D. The easiest thing to do is to create a shortcut to each folder, then place the shortcuts in My Documents under your CAD hierarchy. Then it's easy to click on the shortcut and copy the CUI files out of their main directory and into your CUI backup folder that you've made.

"When it's time to back up your information, just copy or drag-and-drop your main CAD folder from My Documents to the flash drive or other backup location. It's easy, it's fast, and it will save you from certain tragedy if something happens to your machine."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Great tip! Another option would be to use the Windows Backup Utility, especially if you find it difficult to customize your folder structure. You should also make backups of your PGP and LIN files and LISP programs, plus master block, layer, and dimension sets. It's also not a bad idea to print out important files and keep the paper backups in a safe location.

Purge Stubborn Layers
Robert Somppi
ask, "Did you ever waste time trying to find what's on a layer that won't purge? If it's not embedded in a block, it might be an empty object, such as a blank text object or a block definition that doesn't have any objects in it. Granted, these are the result of poor drafting practices, but in today's world of collaboration, the drawings you receive may not be up to par. To get rid of those objects, use the following procedure.

"Select all using Ctrl+A. Unselect everything visible by pressing the Shift key and making a crossing window around everything. Now erase those empty objects. If you are curious, you can see a list of the types of objects that are left; Open the Properties box and click on the arrow next to All (*)."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: This is one of the best tips we've seen yet. Many thanks, Rob!

Increase Performance
Reader Lloyd Beachy suggests this Windows tip to increase performance of your main CAD program.

Set the program's priority to High in the Processes tab of the Windows Task Manager (Ctrl+Alt+Delete/Task Manager). Right-click on the program and select Set Priority/High.

If you want your program to always run with high priority, you can create a BAT file (text file with a .BAT extension) that contains the following code:

Start "Priority" /high "C:\Program Files\Any Folder\MyProgram.exe"

If you don't like the generic icon used for BAT files, you can create a shortcut to the BAT file so you can assign a different icon.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Here are a few things to be aware of if you use this tip:

  • Watch for any Windows warnings.
  • Be sure to observe any differences in the operation of your computer after making this change.
  • Revert back if necessary.

In some work settings, you'll have to ask your IT department for assistance if you do not have permission to make such changes.

Follow-Up: Reference Information
Reader Richard J. Wenner agrees with Tom Napier's comments in the August 20 edition about creating the first drawing of a project as a design criteria drawing. Wenner says, "I recently changed our department over to a similar method of tracking revisions. The alternative to importing and archiving Excel files is using AutoCAD's table styles. I've made a couple of different styles for revisions, explanations, and the like, plus added hyperlinks to special information that is pulled from the Web or other places."

Follow-Up: Keep Files Clean
Note to readers: Code in this follow-up section has not been tested by the Cadalyst Tip Patrol.

In response to a reader's request in the August 20 issue, original Keep Files Clean tipster Michael Cipolla reworked his code so that now it combines two steps (purge and delete filters) in just one step (one button). Thanks, Michael!

(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”)

;Delete Layer Filter Routine-start;

(lambda ()
(vla-Remove (vla-GetExtensionDictionary

;Delete Layer Filter Routine-end;

(command “ZOOM” “E”)
(command “QSAVE”)
(command “CLOSE”)
(setvar “CMDECHO” 1)

MicroStation Tip: Changing the AccuDraw Coordinate Units
Have you ever wanted your AccuDraw window to display North (N) and East (E) coordinates instead of x and y? Click here to learn how!

Axiom offers many MicroStation Tips on its Web site.

Submit Your Tip:E-mail 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 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.

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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Web2.0 Community Web Site
Carter and Company launched a free Web2.0 community aimed at providing search-based and peer-to-peer support for CAD users in any industry. reportedly allows CAD users to simultaneously search a variety of online knowledge bases using a custom search interface built on Google's CSE technology. Read more

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Opportunities & Honors

Deadline Extended for Supercomputer Naming Contest
The deadline for the Clark School of Engineering, University of Maryland, desktop supercomputer naming contest has been extended to September 30, 2007, to accommodate additional student submissions from K-12 schools and colleges. The winning entry will earn the submitter $500 and the distinction of having named this advance in computing technology. Click here to see the full contest rules and restrictions.

Puzzle Maker Wins 3D Printing Contest
The Dimension 3D Printing Group, a business unit of Stratasys, announced that George Miller, owner of the Puzzle Palace in Sonoma, California, has won the company's inaugural Dimension MV3dP Customer Awards contest. Read more

New Jersey Institute of Technology Wins Revit BIM Award
Autodesk presented the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) with a Revit BIM Experience Award for its commitment to teaching an entirely digital approach to architecture. The award honors organizations and individuals for their innovation and excellence in implementing the Revit platform for BIM. Candidates are judged on their ability to create quality and complex designs, collaborate across the building design disciplines, and drive increased productivity in the building design process.  

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

Hardware: Quadro Graphics Cards
NVIDIA's midrange and entry-level 2D and 3D boards are Shader Model v4 compliant and support Microsoft Windows Vista. Read more

Hardware: Steelhead Mobile Appliance
Riverbed Technology device said to increase application performance by as much as 100 times by delivering LAN-like transmission to wide-area networks. Read more

Hardware: Astroid 6000 Controller
Spatial Freedom user interface for navigating 3D CAD models now integrated into version 4 of Robert McNeel & Associates' Rhinoceros CAD software. Read more

Hardware: NextComputing 7200.2 Drive
As many as 17 200GB hard drives can be configured into a NextDimension Evo flextop to improve data throughput. Read more

General Software: PDF3D Toolkit
Visual Technology Services adds a technical report framework and injects interactive 3D viewports into standard PDF documents. Read more

General Software: CadFaster|QuickStep
3D viewer now offers the same viewing capabilities as the OpenGL version by supporting standard STEP and HSF file formats. Read more

General Software: Lightroom v1.2 and Camera Raw v4.2
Adobe Photoshop plugin provides raw file support for 14 additional camera models and camera backs, including Canon EOS 40D. Read more

General Software: Arbortext-Based Publisher
PTC leverages dynamic-publishing capabilities found in Arbortext to produce out-of-the-box application for creating, publishing, and delivering technical service manuals.
Read more

AEC: VectorWorks Architect 2008
Nemetschek updates CAD program for residential and commercial design. Read more

IMSI/Design product line includes three titles for home design and landscaping as well as capabilities to customize rooms, calculate expenses, and create animations.
Read more

AEC: Document Locator
ColumbiaSoft’s document-management product includes tools for file sharing and markup, business process automation, and remote-location access. Read more

MCAD: Handyscan Scanning Module
Creaform integrates data acquisition into CATIA software, allowing users to scan 3D objects directly into CATIA V5. Read more

MCAD: Alibre Design v10
Parametric CAD software projects 2D views of large or complex 3D models four to 10 times faster than v9.2 and decreases memory consumption by 35%, Alibre reports.
Read more

CAE: Abaqus v2.5 for CATIA V5
Dassault enhances simulation in new version of finite-element analysis software for CATIA V5. Read more

CAE: Simulation Software
Noran Engineering unveils tools for NEi Nastran, NEiFusion, and NeiWorks. Read more

CAM: PowerMILL v8
Delcam's tool-axis editing function allows users to select any region of a toolpath and redefine the tool-axis vectors. Read more

Training: SolidWorks 2008 LMS
SolidProfessor Learning Management System provides access to learning materials directly within SolidWorks 2008 environment. Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

Webcast: AutoCAD for Architects
September 26, 2007
10 a.m. and 2 p.m. EDT
Avatech Solutions invites architects, CAD managers, IT managers, and building design professionals to a webcast featuring an overview of the benefits of Autodesk’s AutoCAD Architecture. AutoCAD Architecture provides AutoCAD-based design and documentation productivity for building design professionals. Read more

HyperWorks Technology Conference 2007
October 2-3, 2007
Troy, Michigan
This conference, sponsored by Altair, will cover relevant topics in structural simulation, optimization, and CAE process management. Presentations will highlight the latest industry trends in enterprise simulation and discuss how various manufacturing companies have become more innovative through engineering analysis. Read more

Enterprise PLM Transformation Tour 2007
Various Dates in October and November
Various U.S. Cities
These events will provide first-hand expert knowledge from SAP, Right Hemisphere, and members of the PLM Alliance about how new developments can optimize global product development launch and support processes. Read more

Shape to Fabrication 2
October 25, 2007
London, United Kingdom
Rhinoceros reseller Simply Rhino Limited will host an international architectural event featuring leading architectural professionals demonstrating how Rhino is becoming an increasingly important tool in the architectural profession. Shape to Fabrication 2 will also feature presentations dedicated to new and improved Rhino technology as well as keynote addresses. Read more

EuroMold 2007 Conference
December 5-8, 2007
Frankfurt, Germany
EuroMold -- the World Fair for Moldmaking and Tooling, Design, and Application Development -- merges all important industrial sectors. The basis of this unique fair concept "From Design to Prototyping to Series Production" bridges the gap between industrial designers, suppliers, and users. Read more

International Wohlers Conference
December 7, 2007
Frankfurt, Germany
This special international conference, presented in English, will investigate the growing number of opportunities in custom and short-run production and the role of China , Europe , the United States , and other parts of the world. The conference will clarify why custom manufacturing is becoming increasingly important, especially in the West.
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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