Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 12, No. 6)

11 Feb, 2007

What's New at

Cadalyst 's February 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 February edition of Cadalyst magazine — are now live on

Announcing: Cadalyst Online PlanRoom introduces Cadalyst Online PlanRoom , a free,easy-to-use, time-saving service to help you store, manage and share project plans and large-format drawings — all securely over the Internet. Powered by Check it out today!

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:

  • Putting a Face on Autodesk: Cadalyst's Ed Goldberg discovers how Carl Bass, a self-proclaimed bad student, became CEO of one of the world's leading software companies.

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QuadriSpace Launches 3D Publishing Blog
QuadriSpace has launched The 3D Pub, a 3D publishing blog. Brian Roberts, QuadriSpace president and cofounder, will write about solutions to challenges and issues facing manufacturing companies that are reusing existing 3D models for documents, graphics and animations. Additional posts will include specific tips and tricks for working with existing 3D information outside of engineering.

SolidWorks Launches Online Software Test Site
SolidWorks introduced SolidWorks Labs, a free online site designed to enable users to test emerging technologies, use new SolidWorks functionality through their Web browser and provide feedback on product direction. SolidWorks will update the offerings regularly and provide new ones based on user feedback.

Collaborative PLM Report Available
"PLM Open Systems: Best Practices for Collaboration" ($1680) is a report from Daratech and sponsored by Dassault Systemes and UGS. In addition to six case studies, the report covers open systems and interoperation, achieving interoperability, PLM interoperation and future issues and challenges. According to Daratech, the report was based on the company's independent customer research. Web site visitors can purchase and download the report online.


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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.

Get the Code!
Cadalyst 's February code from Hot Tip Harry is now available for download. Michael Kolomiyets earned $100 for Linear Arc Dimension, an advanced object-manipulation routine that displays dimensions containing the length of an arc in AutoCAD.

Congratulations January Winner!
Cadalyst awards $100 to Perry Medina, who submitted View an Outline of Your Viewport in the January 15 edition. Medina was selected in a random drawing of all submissions published last month. Send us your original tip now for a chance to win!

Access Drafting Standards in AutoCAD
Leonid Nemirovsky offers this tip specific to AutoCAD 2006-2007. He shares, "You can write drafting standards based on client requirements in Microsoft Word and save it in PDF format to access directly from AutoCAD. The Partial Project Related menu in AutoCAD's CUI will incorporate the standards once you connect the two files. Add this code to an AutoCAD menu or any partial menu using CUI, or incorporate it into toolbars, etc. The file name shown here in italics should represent the actual location and name of your drafting standards file."

^C^C(command"shell" "p:/040362/0000/700cadd/drafting.pdf");

NOTES FROM CADALYST IP PATROL: This is a useful tip, in particular for individual users or very small offices. One Patroller explains: "Be sure to find out first how standardized your environment is and how many client or project standards must be implemented. I've worked in firms with one, two or three standards -- and in firms with more than 50 client-based standards. The downside to using this tip in a larger firm is the necessity of updating (and maintaining as current) the CUIs for 20 or 30 workstations with a changing and expanding client list (and thereby expanding standards list). I suspect that while this is a good workable tip [for stand-alone computers], realistically most standards will continue to be distributed via hard copy as needed."

System Variables Report
Lloyd Beachy wrote SYSVAR.LSP to create a report of all system variables in a drawing and to compare system variables that are different between two or more drawings. The program creates a tab-delimited (*.TAB) file that you can open with Microsoft Excel or a similar spreadsheet application. 

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Our Patroller agrees that this tip is helpful. He challenges Lloyd or another tipster to delve even further and program SysVar to take the TAB file and create a fix so the system variables are changed as needed. With this upgrade, the routine would be invaluable.

Wrong Label in Land Desktop
Shawn L. Samaniego hopes his tip is helpful to other Land Desktop users: "Often, when I am rushing to get something out the door, I accidentally label something incorrectly, such as spot elevations, station and offset and the like. To fix the problem, I typically cancel the current command to fix my error(s). Then, to continue back to labeling or the previous Land Desktop function simply type LDD at the Command line and continue working with the same command. In general, as long as you execute a Land Desktop command in AutoCAD, you can type LDD on the Command line to restart the previous Land Desktop command." 

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Our Patroller approves this tip and adds a bit more advice. "I've used Land Desktop since 2002 and discovered that by right-clicking in the Command line window of Land Desktop 2000i, I get access to the last five commands I used. LDD is often seen in those last five commands. Those who use this procedure learn that LDD stands for the last command you used in Land Desktop."

Delete Hidden Layers
Jameel Ahmed Khan sends a tip and tells Tips & Tools Weekly editors that he waits every week for the new tips. "Thanks to the Cadalyst team for their hard work in making this a huge resource for professionals." We appreciate the positive feedback!
Jameel says that when he receives drawings from subcontractors, he has to change the layers to his company CAD standards. But, sometimes some layers such as TEXT are left even after using Purge, and there are no visible objects in the Text layer on the Model and Layout tabs. To delete this layer, he uses this procedure:

  • Enter Zoom at the Command prompt, and then V, and then press Enter. The drawings zoom to maximum extents.
  • Type Filter at the Command prompt.
  • Select Layer from pull-down list of the Select Filter tab. Press Select tab and select the Text layer and press OK. Choose the Add to List tab and select Apply.
  • Type All at the Command prompt and press Enter. Now, some objects are selected in drawings that are invisible.
  • Type Erase and then P (for previous selection) and press Enter.
  • Finally, Purge the drawing again and the Text layer is deleted from layers.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: One of our Patrollers reminds readers that your best line of defense against this problem is to "streamline the workflow with your subcontractors. They are working for you and should respond positively. Inform them of your company's CAD standards and have them adopt them." Some subcontractors won't cooperate. When that's the case and if your company decides to continue hiring them, then keep this in mind when working with Jameel's suggestion: "Zoom Vmax won't include frozen entities. If this layer is included in an uninserted block, it won't purge. When AutoCAD refuses to purge a layer it's because that layer is included somewhere by a block (which could be uninserted), in an xref (which could be unloaded), on a locked layer or somewhere else."

Patroller No. 2 adds, "I've also used Filter quite often for this very purpose -- hunting down and eliminating those pesky 'empty' Text entities, normally found in DWG files that arrive from outside the firm. This a great tool, and thanks to Jameel for bringing it Cadalyst readers' attention the world over."

Follow-Up: Continue Arcs
After reading the tip from Jim Dee in the January 29 edition for continuing tangentially from either end of any arc, Lloyd Beachy wrote, "I wanted to share my own tip, TANGENT_ARC.LSP, that we've used for some time. It works very much the same way as Jim's, but, in addition to arcs, also lets you select lines and polylines. In the case of a polyline, it uses the selected polyline segment to determine how the tangent arc should be drawn." Thanks for the follow-up, Lloyd!

Follow-Up: Auto-Numbering with Mtext
Adding to the February 5 edition Mtext tip, Lloyd Beachy offers this short AutoLISP routine to quickly change the active MText editor. He says that the code could easily be changed to include other options as well.

(Defun C:MTE (/ editor)
 (initget 128 "Internal Notepad")
 (setq editor(getkword "\nSpecify MText Editor [Internal, Notepad]: "))
 (setvar "mtexted" editor)

Follow-Up: Spell Check
In regard to the January 29 discussion of spell checking, Clint Newton adds, "Spell check can also be used to verify standard abbreviations in your drawings. We created a separate dictionary file for abbreviations and saved it as STD-ABBRV.CUS for use office-wide. The file is located on our server where all users can access it. When issuing the SP command, choose the Change Dictionary option in the dialog box and select your customized dictionary. We include our firm name and the names of directors and architects so we don't have to keep reviewing them, and more importantly don't misspell them. We also publish the list and definitions as a block for use on our cover sheets to keep a standard in effect."

Follow-Up: Wblock vs. Purge Essay
Nick Miller continues the discussion of ridding your drawings of extra data that increases your file size. He shares, "Concerning the WBlock vs. Purge essay in the February 5 edition, the original premise of Bill Fane's article was trimming the bloat out of AutoCAD drawing files, of which there is plenty. The WBlock and Purge commands don't address a few hidden goodies that I have run into. Blank text strings, block insertions with no entities and zero length lines are good examples of the kinds of entities no CAD package should ever allow to be created -- and I have drawings with thousands of these things. The most effective way to rid yourself of these abominations is to select Edit / Copy and window the drawing (not crossing) and then start a new drawing and paste into it."
"Then there are those pesky layer filters (the AutoCAD virus) that take up much more room than they should. If you use AutoCAD 2005 or later, then the first time you go to the Layer Properties manager you'll see a message indicating that there are too many filters and you should delete them -- which you should. However, if are using a pre-2005 version of AutoCAD, you'll need the following bit of code to delete the filters. I found this code online and am sorry to say I don't have the author's name."

 (defun C:delfil ()
 '(lambda ()
  (vla-Remove (vla-GetExtensionDictionary (vla-Get-Layers (vla-Get-ActiveDocument (vlax-Get-Acad-Object) ) ) ) "ACAD_LAYERFILTERS" )
 (princ "\nAll layer filters have been deleted.")
(defun C:LFD () (C:delfil))

MicroStation Tip: Use / to Divide Values
You can use / (slash symbol) to divide anything in a MicroStation input field. Say you have 500mm of text height and you want to change it to 250mm. Just add /2 or 500/2. Use this to divide anything in V7 and V8.

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

Zuken Releases Latest Free Version of CADSTAR Express
Engineering consulting company Zuken has released the latest revision of the free sample download of CADSTAR 9.0, CADSTAR Express. The company reports that the fully operational version of Zuken's ready to use desktop PCB design solution includes all the latest features of CADSTAR 9.0, with a limit of 300 pins and 50 components.

Special Offer on rapidform Bundled with 3D Scanner
Reverse Modeling, a 3D scanning solutions provider, is offering a promotional package that combines rapidformXO Redesign with rapidformXO Scan for scan data processing and parametric CAD modeling, and also includes the FlexScan3D scanner. The FlexScan3D scanner comes with a 6.0 megapixel digital SLR camera and standard video projector. The package is available now for $20,000 only from Reverse Modeling.

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Opportunities & Honors

Spatial Selects Winners of 3D InterOp Model Contest
Spatial announced the winners of its first annual 3D InterOp Model Contest. Entries could be submitted in CATIA v4, CATIA v5, Autodesk Inventor, SolidWorks, Pro/ENGINEER and Unigraphics formats, as well as the standards STEP and IGES. The first prize of $5,000 went to Tim Renton for the Toyota GT-One race car. The entry was chosen because of its complexity of surface types and use of advanced modeling techniques.

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Books & Training

ArchonCAD Releases VectorWorks Manual
ArchonCAD released VectorWorks 3D Modelling Tutorial training manual ($64.50) for architects and landscape architects who would like to learn how to use the 3D modeling capabilities within VectorWorks v12.5. The manual instructs users how to create and edit extrusions and multiple extrusions; create and edit sweeps, solid models, NURBS curves and 3D primitives; create loft and drape surfaces; and use working planes. Users can complete exercises along the way to help master each concept before moving on to a sample project.

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

Hardware: Dimension Elite 3D Printer
Desktop system uses ABSplus material to build accurate models for testing. 
Read more

General Software: RxView v8.1 and RxHighlight v8.1
Service release from Rasterex includes ability to convert AutoCAD files to searchable PDF files.  Read more

Design Visualization: HyperShot
Bunkspeed's new rendering solution designed to deliver photorealistic imagery in real time.  Read more

Design Visualization: OptisWorks 2007
Software is compatible with International Color Consortium standard.  Read more

AEC: AutoPIPE XM Edition
Bentley's software calculates piping code stresses, loads and deflections under both static and dynamic loading conditions. Read more

MCAD: rapidformXOR software and VIVID 910 3D digitizer
Combination offer from Konica Minolta enables reverse engineering of 3D models.  Read more

MCAD: ToolWorks BOM Manager v7
SDH Development releases custom property and BOM manager for SolidWorks. Read more

MCAD: COMSOL Multiphysics v3.3a
Software runs on Microsoft Vista operating systems and Intel-based Macintoshes. Read more

MCAD: Teamcenter Content Management
UGS solution is designed to improve efficiency of technical publishing with support for multiple languages and formats, product variation and information reuse. Read more

MCAD: SolidMap
SolidWorks users can use new tool from KollabNet to visualize relationships that exist in part and assembly files.  Read more

CAE: SimulationX v2 Multi-Body Mechanics Library
New tool from ITI supports graphic modeling for construction machines and industrial robots.  Read more

Training: VectorWorks Spotlight Training Workbook
Instruction book and CD focus on theatrical lighting, scenic design and event production.  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 Map 3D 2007 for Environmental Consulting Firms
February 21, 2007
This webcast, by Ideate, will show how to leverage your existing engineering software's functionality by accessing readily available GIS datasets including land use, flood zones, wetland delineation and district boundary data. Time: 12:00 Noon to 1:00 pm PT. Read more

Webcast: Introduction to NVIDIA Visual Computing Solutions
March 5, 2007
Hosted by NVIDIA product and industry experts, this webcast will give you in-depth insight into the latest NVIDIA professional solutions and the features that enable you to create, develop, and visualize. Read more

NAFEMS World Congress 2007
May 22 - 25, 2007
Vancouver, Canada
NAFEMS, The International Association for the Engineering Analysis Community, has opened registration for its 11th International Congress. The congress will bring together leading industrial practitioners, consultancies, academic researchers and software developers with a common interest in engineering analysis. Read more

PLM Road Map 2007
September 19 – 20, 2007
Plymouth, Michigan
At PLM Road Map 2007, sponsored by CPD Associates, Donald H. Brown, industry analysts from CPDA, key industry players and front-line implementation experts will discuss their experiences in addressing strategic PLM topics. Read more