Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 12, No. 36)

7 Oct, 2007

This Week's Software Tips

Congratulations September Winner!
Cadalyst awarded the September $100 prize to Robert Somppi, who submitted the Purge Stubborn Layers tip published in the September 24 edition. Somppi 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!

Xref Overlay
In the office of Cadalyst Tip Patrol member Kevin Sawyer, CAD users have certain ways they use xrefs. "Such as," he explains, "always overlaying rather than attaching, having the xrefs on a single layer called -Xref, and we always lock this layer to prevent any xrefs from being inadvertently moved or deleted.

"I know there are hordes of users out there who religiously insert xrefs and blocks on layer zero (0), but we see the benefits of not using this old approach to referencing external files. I really don't want to start any debates about this and Bylayer, Byblock, etc.

"My code, XREFOVER.LSP, overlays selected xrefs at a world coordinate of 0,0 on layer -Xref regardless of whether you are at world coordinates or user coordinates, plus it also resets your current layer back to its original setting. It's a very simple routine, but saves a lot of time that would be lost by bringing in xrefs. If some of the settings don't work for you, the routine is easily altered to suit -- feel free to dig in."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Great tip! Be careful with the new locked layer fading in AutoCAD 2008. Depending on the setting, you could use this routine (or even manually attach an xref) and not be able to find it if it's faded out significantly.

Really, You Must Back Up!
After encountering yet another user who failed to back up the ACLT.CUI file, Tip Patroller Mitchell Hirschklau writes in to remind users, "Please back up your files!"

He explains, "When I asked this user why she hadn't backed up her CUI file, she answered that because she doesn't use LISP or macro customizations, she hadn't seen the need to do so. Unfortunately, she lost all her local customizations such as toolbar layout, palettes, submenus, and how her screen real estate was organized.

"When users say they shouldn't have to back up, I reply that that one doesn't have to know how to break down a carburetor in order to drive a car.  However, it's not unreasonable to expect the driver to know where the gas goes, how to check the oil, and how to change a tire! Maybe, at least, they could back up their CUI's every time their car gets an oil change."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Good point! To make it even easier, AutoCAD 2008 now allows you to restore a single back-up CUI file. Right-click on the menu file in the CUI and choose Restore Backup. It's still smart to keep a copy on your disk, though.

Mtext Spacing
Reader Shawn Crites describes how he handles line spacing in AutoCAD. "In many text editors, you can choose a multiplier for line spacing. For instance, a setting of 2 creates double-spaced lines of text in a paragraph. In AutoCAD 2007 and some previous versions, there was no automated option that I found. (I don't know about AutoCAD 2008 products, as I'm not using them yet.)"

"When making notes on a drawing with Mtext, I like a space between my numbered notes that is greater than the single spacing of the multiline notes themselves, but less than double spacing. To accomplish this, I place a blank line, or Enter, in between the numbered notes.

"My workaround is to initially place the extra Enter in between notes, then go back and highlight the line with a single Enter and change its text height to a lesser value than the text height of the paragraph. For instance, in my normal .075" text height, I set the line in between notes to .03".

"If the automated numbering feature of Mtext is on, you have to be a little more tricky to get the blank line in between notes. A double Enter stops the automated numbering. To avoid this, type any letter on the line you want to be blank so that you can press Enter again without Mtext sensing a double Enter, or simply wait and make the notes single spaced, then go back and put the double Enter at the end of each note. Either way, you get a new numbered line between each numbered note. At this point, simply backspace on the line you desire to be blank until the number goes away."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: We only have access to 2008 at the moment so can't test this in 2007. Note that you can control line spacing in AutoCAD 2008.

Turn Off Osnap
S. Ramakrishna
offers this quick way to turn off Osnap. He says, "In our company, we generally write LISP programs with Osnap mode turned off by setting Osmode to 0 (zero) and then setting it back to the original Osmode after the program runs. Another option is to run this code:

(setq smod (getvar "osmode"))
(if (< smod 16383) (setvar "osmode" (+ smod 16384)))

"You can use the above two lines in your program to turn off the Osmode without changing the snap settings. This works similar to the F3 button function at the Command prompt. After running the program, return to your original Osnap mode by pressing the F3 button."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: This works, but keep in mind that future bits of code added to Osmode could cause it to fail. Here is another option we recommend:

(if (zerop (logand smod 16384))(setvar "osmode" (+ smod 16384)))

Note to readers: Follow-up tips have not been tested by the Cadalyst Tip Patrol.

Follow-Up: Backup Plan
In response to the October 1 edition's continuing discussion of backing up files, Eric Davis offers this suggestion. "I suggest using the Robocopy command that comes with the Windows Resource Kit (supposedly included directly in Vista) rather than deleting the folder, recreating it, and copying all the files. Robocopy compares the files in the specified paths and only updates the changed files like a one-way synchronization. Because it does less copying, it works much faster. Also, because USB flash drives have a limited number of writes before they wear out, it can significantly extend the life of the drive -- potentially years if it's used on a daily basis.

"Robocopy has a lot of Command line switches so it's very flexible. Once you've installed it, type Robocopy /? at a Command prompt for the list of options. I use the following syntax to copy our office standards from the shared network location (R:) to my flash drive (J:) and log the results to a file on another shared network location (O:)."

robocopy "R:\ACA2008_Stnd" "J:\Company_Resources\ACA2008_Stnd"
/MIR /LOG+:"O:\Logs\EJD_Robocopy_log.txt" /TEE

MicroStation Tip: Survey Foot vs. International Foot
In a recent thread in the Bentley news groups, Axiom discovered that some people are confused about the differences between an International Foot and a U.S. Survey Foot. To illustrate the differences between the two and show how much measurements could deviate because of the difference in unit length, Axiom has posted the full explanation on its Web site.

Axiom offers many MicroStation Tips on its Web site.

Submit 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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Podcast: PLM for the Apparel Industry
A free podcast by Tamara Saucier, ENOVIA MatrixOne’s director of industry solutions, retail, is available for download or online listening. Saucier describes the apparel industry’s changing business dynamics and its growing adoption of product lifecycle management (PLM) technology to promote innovation and move new products to market fast enough to keep abreast of fast-changing consumer tastes.

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Deals & Freebies

openNURBS v4 toolkit for .NET
Robert McNeel Associates announced the release of the openNURBS v4 toolkit for .NET, a free software development kit that provides tools for transferring 3D geometry between applications. The toolkit reportedly supports all of the features in the Rhinoceros v4 native 3DM file format, including history, annotation, meshes, and images. Read more

3Dconnexion Mouse Discount for SolidWorks Subscribers
3Dconnexion’s line of 3D mice is now supported by SolidWorks 2008, allowing CAD designers to navigate and control 3D objects in SolidWorks while customizing programmable speed keys and keyboard modifiers. SolidWorks Subscription Service members can purchase a 3Dconnexion mouse at a 25% discount through December 14, 2007. Read more

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Opportunities & Honors

Rapid Manufacturing Conference 2008 Call for Speakers
The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) has issued a call for speakers for its annual conference May 20-22, 2008. Organizers are looking for speakers to offer practical information on selection and applications as well as presentations on new technological advances. Industry experts and experienced users are invited to submit abstracts. Applications must be received by October 30, 2007.

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

General Software: Service Pack 1 for Kinnosa EDM v4
First Trace product provides enhanced operability, security, and connectivity with SolidWorks, Autodesk, and Microsoft Office. Read more

General Software: PeerLock v2
Stand-alone file-locking solution provides real-time detection of file use and immediate remote locking. Read more

Visualization: CINEMA 4D v10.5
Latest release from MAXON features new DWG import filter and external references, allowing users to break down large scenes and work on parts separately from the master project file. Read more

MCAD: EXAscan Laser Scanner
Newest addition to Creaform's Handyscan 3D line aims to improve accuracy over previous models for inspection and reverse engineering. Read more

MCAD: GrafiCalc 2007
GEOMATE releases engineering spreadsheet software that allows users to conceptualize, analyze, and solve geometry-dependent engineering challenges in a single application. Read more

ASCON Group release features add-ons and libraries for photo rendering, animation, and kinematic and dynamic analysis as well as extended CAD/CAM/PLM integration.
Read more

CAE: CATIA ProgNest r18 CAA v5
FTI sheet-metal tool for CATIA V5 produces up to nine progressive die configurations and calculates cost evaluations based on nesting layout, carrier location, and dimension. Read more

DP Technology releases three- and five-axis computer-aided machining system with a new geometric kernel and updated user interface. Read more

PLM: Teamcenter 2007
Siemens PLM Software's platform and software portfolio features a service-oriented architecture and Business Modeler Integrated Development Environment for software configuration. Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

November 1, 2007
Portland, Oregon
This Autodesk User Group International (AUGI) regional learning and networking event will be packed with interesting courses and opportunities to network with fellow "campers " and browse the exhibit area. The foremost goal of AUGI CAD Camp is to enlighten and inform through educational sessions, which serve to broaden users' experience with the Autodesk products they use every day. Read more

RAPID 2008 Conference & Exposition
Lake Buena Vista, Florida
May 20-22, 2008
North America 's largest annual rapid manufacturing conference and exposition brings buyers, sellers, and end users of design, prototyping, tooling, and direct manufacturing technologies together in an environment that facilitates networking and business interaction. Attendees can evaluate the latest materials and machinery, compare processes, talk to industry experts, and make valuable contacts. 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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