Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 12, No. 4)

28 Jan, 2007

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What's New at

Where's Your CAD Power?
The latest Cadalyst Quick Poll is live online. This month, we want to know if your CAD hardware/software setup is better at work or at home. Does your company provide enough CAD power to keep you happy and productive -- or have you invested better in your own resources? Take the poll (go to any page of and scroll down to find the Quick Poll in the margin), then read how you compare with your CAD peers in "Cadfidential" in the March edition of Cadalyst magazine. 

Spatial Tech Column: Animating Geospatial Data
Cadalyst's James L. Sipes outlines how to add motion to GIS data to discern patterns that don't exist in standard images. Read more

Get a T-Shirt, Win $100
How do you save time? Send us your tip, code or shortcut for your favorite CAD software. If we publish it in Cadalyst'sTips and Tools Weekly newsletter, we'll send you a "Cadalyst: CAD the Way You Want It" T-shirt, and each month Cadalyst editors randomly select one published tip and send $100 to its author. Submit your tip to

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 what you missed last week:

  • Rapid Prototyping Gets Real: RP becomes RM -- rapid manufacturing, that is -- as companies use functional prototypes to get products to market faster.

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Enhanced Beta Presentation Software at Autodesk Labs
Autodesk unveiled the latest preview of Autodesk Impression software that gives architects and other CAD users a helping hand with creating illustrative presentation graphics from DWG and DWF files. The technology preview, available as a free download from Autodesk Labs, reportedly improves productivity, and ultimately client satisfaction, by virtually eliminating the manual labor previously required to develop compelling images from CAD drawings. To improve the product, the company sought customer input via interviews, comments e-mailed directly to Autodesk Labs, discussion forum exchanges and other feedback mechanisms.

Multi-CAD Benchmark Report Now Available
For a limited time, users can download a free copy of a new report by the Aberdeen Group titled "Multi-CAD Design Chain Benchmark Report: Insulating Engineering from Today's Multi-CAD Environment." Among the report's recommendations is the use of CAD translation software to reduce the problems and hidden costs associated with CAD data exchange between multiple applications. The research reportedly suggests that significant manufacturing problems and costs can be traced to poor or nonexistent CAD file compatibility between engineering applications. The report was partially sponsored by TransMagic, a developer of 3D CAD software products for translating 3D CAD data. The free offer ends February 23, 2007.


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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.

Start Up Switches
Frequent Tipster Brian Benton suggests using switches to start up AutoCAD 2007. He asks, "Do you have two or more ways that you need AutoCAD to start during the day? You can use Start Up Switches (or Icon Switches). When you click your desktop icon to start AutoCAD, you can program it to do more than just start the program. You can have it start with a specific user profile, run a script file, start sheet set manager, keep sheet set manager from starting, turn off the AutoCAD logo and more."

"To begin, right-click on your AutoCAD Icon, select Properties and go to the Shortcut tab. At the end of the Target line add this list of switches, making sure to leave a space between the end of the existing target in quotes and the new switch. For example, "C|Program Files\AutoCAD 2007\acad.exe" /nologo. You can also include multiple switches in your icon, just keep them separated with a space."

"drawing file name.dwg"

This opens a specified file every time you start CAD (this is great if you have a template file).

/b "script file name.scr"

This starts AutoCAD and runs a script file (make sure to include the full file path).

/layout "drawing file name.dwg"|"layout name"

This opens a file to a specified Layout Tab (make sure to separate the filename and layout name with the vertical bar).


Starts an ObjectARX or ObjectDBX file with AutoCAD.


Disables the hardware acceleration (this started with 2007).


Disables the splash screen. (You know you are starting AutoCAD, do you need a reminder about what you just did?)


Prevents the Sheet Set Manager from loading at start up.

/set "sheet set file name.dst"

Loads a particular Sheet Set File (you can create multiple icons for frequently used Sheet Sets).

/p "profile file name.arg"

Loads AutoCAD with a specific profile (my favorite switch).

/pl "publisher file name list.dsd"

Starts Publisher and processes the drawing files in the list.


Resets the default system pointing devise and creates a backup of the Acad****.cfg file.

/s "folder"

The folder specified is now designated as an additional support path (I suggest that you set this up in your options).

/t "template file name.dwt"

Creates a new drawing with your specified template file.  (This is a great tool to make sure users start with the template file for new drawings.)

"drawing file name.dwg" /v viewname

Opens a drawing to a certain set view.

/w "workspace name"

Opens a specific work space in AutoCAD 2007 (this one is very useful).

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Both Patrollers who reviewed this tip agree it is very useful, especially if you are a CAD manager. One Patroller was able to modify the AutoCAD 2007 shortcut tab from the Properties window, but in 2005/2006 versions the shortcut tab was not available and he was not able modify the target textbox. He shares, "The closest I came to making any modifications in the past, with older versions of AutoCAD, was to copy the AutoCAD desktop icon and then follow the same procedure of right-clicking the icon and selecting properties. Then from the Properties window I modified the text from the 'Start in:' text box to look in a specific folder."

The second Patroller reminds users that some of these switches may apply only to certain releases. For example, the /w switch does not work in 2006 even though 2006 has workspaces, and the Sheet Set Manager switches would not apply to releases prior to 2005.

Drawings TABS for AutoCAD
Andrew McDonald suggests other users try this free and very useful software to manipulate multiple windows in AutoCAD. Link to for iDwgTab, a freeware utility program produced by BizIcom. The company states that iDwgTab runs on AutoCAD R2000 or above and some versions of AutoCAD LT.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: While one of our Patrollers had difficulty with this program, the other found that it works as advertised on AutoCAD 2006/2007. For more Drawing Tabs programs, check out the list from Cadalyst Tip Patroller R.K. McSwain.

Continue Arcs
Jim Dee shares a short AutoLISP routine, ARC_CONTINUE.LSP, for continuing tangentially from either end of any arc. AutoCAD only allows continuing from the last point of the last arc drawn. To start the program, type Act at the Command prompt. When selecting an arc to continue, the program detects which endpoint of the arc you selected closest to and continues from that endpoint. The layer of the selected arc is also set to current so that the new arc is placed on the same layer.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Everyone agrees! This is a useful and well-commented tip!

Spell Check
Amanda Sowell finds AutoCAD's Spell command to be especially helpful when using text and checking for errors. Type Spell (or SP) at the Command line to bring up a spell-check dialog box after you click on the text you want to check. This is very useful for words commonly used in construction, but not in everyday vocabulary.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Your faithful Patrollers agree, "Yep, the Spell command has its benefits. A reminder: If there is a word not included in the dictionary and you know it's a proper word, click on the Add button and the word is appended to your custom dictionary."

Follow-Up: Solid Solprof
We had a couple of responses from readers on January 22's tip concerning the Solprof command:

Jim Dee says, "The one unfortunate thing about the Solprof command is that it doesn't work on viewports that are in perspective view. The solution I use to flatten viewports in perspective view is to plot to a DXB (data exchange binary) file. To do this you need to install the AutoCAD DXB File plot driver and then plot to a file using this driver. This creates a DXB file that you can then import into AutoCAD using the Dxbin command. This technique is great if you want to add trees and people to your perspective drawings in AutoCAD. There are a few limitations with the DXB driver, per the AutoCAD Help file. The driver produces 16-bit integer DXB files containing only vectors, DXB output is monochrome; all vectors are color 7, raster images and embedded OLE objects are not supported and the driver ignores object and plot style lineweights. "

Dick Figueras points out that "AutoCAD 2006 also has the Flatten command that works somewhat in the same way. When you use the Flatten command, the original model is no longer there, it's simply flattened (z is set to 0 for all entities). After using it, I then recommend using the 'overkill' command, which removes redundant lines and arcs and results in small 2D models."

Follow-Up: Framed Text
Instead of the tip found in the January 22 edition, Mark Northcott uses an Express Tool, Tcircle, to frame text. He says, "If you have Express tools, at the Command line, type in Tcircle and it offers you the chance to border any text with a circle, slot or rectangle. It can make multiple text boxes at the same time, plus lets you make the boxes a uniform size by length or width, or both. This tool has a lot of good functionality but it does have some cons, such as it taking a long time to complete (in my opinion) and it isn't associative to the bounding boxes of the text."

MicroStation Tip: DGNLIB Color Numbers in V8
Question: When attaching a DGNLIB in MicroStation V8, the color numbers are changed when the RGB values of the color number in the DGNLIB are different than the RGB values of the DGN. How can I prevent this?

Answer: There's a user preference in Workspace/Preferences/Reference called Remap Colors on Copy. Turn it off and you should be good to go.

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

Free Conference CD Covers Multiphysics Simulations
In the fall of 2006, the COMSOL Group of companies organized an international series of 15 technical meetings where 1,885 users of COMSOL Multiphysics and related products gathered to exchange experiences and refine their modeling skills. COMSOL is now offering a free CD of the proceedings of that conference to anyone who registers. The COMSOL Conference CD 2006 reportedly contains 272 papers, 153 sets of user-presentation slides, 32 sets of keynote-presentation slides, and 30 ready-to-run models. To make it easy for readers to use, the CD contains a search facility and an author index. Also included are an animated tutorial and a PDF file of a booklet that provides a overview of the COMSOL product line. COMSOL Multiphysics is a scientific-software environment for the modeling and simulation of any physics-based system.

Adobe Updates MCAD Translators for Acrobat 3D
Adobe Systems released a free download with updated 3D CAD translators for Adobe Acrobat 3D software. The translators support many of the latest versions of major CAD file formats, enabling users to convert 3D models from those formats to a PDF file, regardless of whether they have CAD software. Among the updated file formats supported are those for Dassault Systemes CATIA, PTC Pro/ENGINEER, SolidWorks and UGS NX and I-deas. After translation, users can distribute the 3D PDF files, which can be read using the free Adobe Reader software. The Acrobat 3D update is immediately available for download by Acrobat 3D customers from the Adobe Web site. The update is available for English, French, German and Japanese language versions.

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Opportunities & Honors

FIATECH Conference Call for Papers
FIATECH is welcoming proposals for presentations at its Annual Technology Conference & Showcase. Titled "Where the Best Get Better," the conference is slated for April 9-12 in Washington, DC. Industry leaders in planning, design, engineering, procurement, construction, IT and O&M will gather to learn about the deployment and implementation of emerging technologies as well as network with colleagues who are leading the way. Potential presenters have until February 16 to submit topics that will contribute to the advancement of practical solutions and help improve the industry's efficiency, productivity and growth.

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

General Software: SYCODE Plug-ins
Company releases STL, OBJ and point text file export tools for AutoCAD. Read more

General Software: CADopia v6.3
CAD software upgrade supports True Color and direct insertion of standard CAD drawings from more than 150 manufacturers. Read more

Visualization: VizUp Reducer v2.2.8
VizUp releases maintenance update with improved Wavefront OBJ format import/export. Read more

Visualization: Strata 3D CX v5.1
Company releases upgrade of its 3D graphic design software for Intel-based Macintosh computers. Read more

Active Sensing releases product lifecycle management solution for small businesses. Read more

MCAD: Portfolio Management Solution
UGS launches software with portfolio planning and management tools to determine an optimal mix of projects to maximize business growth. Read more

MCAD: CMMWorks v3
AccuMetria releases integrated solution for off-line CMM programming with SolidWorks 2007. Read more

MCAD: Universal Mechanism Express
ASCON releases add-on for kinematic and dynamic analysis in KOMPAS-3D. Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

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

Webcast: Autodesk Civil 3D - Survey
February 14, 2007
Users can now standardize their Surveying and Engineering operations on Autodesk Civil 3D because the 2007 version includes all of the survey tools previously found in Autodesk Land Desktop/Survey. This webcast will explore the new survey functionality of Autodesk Civil 3D 2007. Read more

UK CAD Managers Forum
March 7, 2007
London, UK
EatyourCAD will sponsor the second UK CAD Manager's Forum, which is an opportunity for CAD Managers, regardless of experience, to meet and exchange ideas, free from any software vendors or sales pitches. This forum will concentrate on compliance with CAD standards and issuing drawings. Read more

Webcast: Autodesk Revit Structure
March 21, 2007
Avatech Solutions invites structural engineers and drafters to participate in free webcasts that will introduce the benefits of Autodesk Revit Structure, including how concurrent modeling can improve efficiency and lead to more effective coordination among architects, MEP engineers and contractors. Open to U.S. participants only. Read more

CIMdata 2007 PLM Vendor Forum
March 29, 2007
Detroit, Michigan
CIMdata's 2007 PLM Vendor Forum, whose theme is "PLM Matures: The community's strategy for success," will provide a focused review of challenges and opportunities that the maturing PLM market and its continued expansion creates for suppliers, along with a discussion of effective strategies for success in this rapidly-evolving market. Read more

WinEstimator's 2007 User Conference
March 29-30, 2007
Seattle, Washington
Conference attendees will have the opportunity to network with the WinEstimator team as well as with other estimators, builders, general contractors, managers and executives. This year's conference offers hands-on learning, beginner and advanced break-out sessions, question and answer time with WinEst Technical Support and more. Read more