Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 12, No. 7)

25 Feb, 2007

Untitled Document

What's New at

Bug Watch (AutoCAD Tutorial)
This month, Cadalyst's Steve Johnson discusses why editing objects can make your dimensions demented.  Read more

Cadalyst Labs Review: Sharing 2D Designs Is Easy with Today's Publishing Options
Cadalyst's Ron LaFon delivers an overview of file-sharing software from Actify, Adobe Systems, Autodesk, Bluebeam Software, CADzation, Informative Graphics and SolidWorks.  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:

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


TurboCAD Users Gain Access to 3D Drawings
IMSI/Design announced that the company's TurboCAD Professional software now enables access to millions of manufacturer-specific CAD drawings from Designers and engineers using TurboCAD Professional reportedly can insert drawings from more than 150 manufacturers directly into their own designs or save them in the correct file format for later use. TurboCAD Professional is available for download on the TurboCAD Web site. The 3D CAD geometry for manufacturer-specific products and systems can be found on the CAD Register area of the ThomasNet site.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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.

Layers and VISRETAIN Tip
Brian Strandberg is sure that while most of us are familiar with the VISRETAIN system variable, he reminds us that, "VISRETAIN controls the properties of xref-dependent layers. If set to 0, your drawing refers to the layer settings (color, linetype and the like) in the xref. If set to 1, the changes in the current drawing take precedence. Usually on our drawings, VISRETAIN is set to 1. For example, items from a survey are screened in one drawing and bold in another. But what happens when you need to change the color in all drawings using the xref? With VISRETAIN set to 1, the new settings don't percolate down to drawings that use that xref.

"My solution is to rename the layer. For example, layer EXWATER may be color 11 in the xref. If I need to change it to color 2 in all the drawings, I rename the layer to EXWATER-1. The drawings that use that xref see it as a new layer and assign color 2 to that layer. This is simple, quick and easy."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Our volunteer Tip Patrollers view this as an option, but say users should be aware that using it will burden your files with unreferenced layer names. One Patroller explains, "If you modify an xref, any files that use that xref prompt you with a dialog box saying that the xref has been modified, and when you click it, the modifications come through all the drawings."

Patroller #2 adds, "Although you will end up with unreferenced drawings, at least if you increment the layer name with a suffix such as -1, -2, etc., you keep some control. This is a perennial problem that I hope Autodesk will address soon. There are numerous forum threads requesting methods of updating xref layers with more flexibility. We can only wait for the solution from Autodesk as nobody seems to have come up with a suitable add-on or routine to solve this issue."

Another Option for Revcloud
Having used the Revcloud command for many years, Joseph Bridges recently learned about AutoCAD 2004's Object option. He shares, "When using this option, Revcloud converts any closed polyline or spline to a revcloud polyline. I've been doing it the hard way all these years. The Object option makes for a much neater, more professional-looking drawing than creating rev clouds by just dragging the mouse, because no matter how slow you move the mouse, the rev cloud never comes out straight."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Our Patrollers agree that Object is a great option. Kevin Sawyer says, "The Object option of the Revcloud command is my most-used method whilst clouding my revisions. Occasionally I may use a polygonal polyline, but mostly I can cover things with a simple rectangle, which speeds things up even more. Using the method of dragging the path of your cloud around your drawing can have some interesting effects when you pan or zoom using your mouse wheel in the middle of the command." To further improve the Revcloud command, read on.

Revision and Hold Clouds
Cadalyst Tip Patroller Kevin Sawyer offers this improvement to the Revcloud command. (Download REVCLOUD.ZIP.) He says, "We use this for all our revision and hold clouds. There are a few parts of the routine particular to our office but I have listed each of these in the accompanying README.TXT file along with slight adjustment suggestions for users to make according to their particular setup. This routine is run by a couple of menu macros, one for a revcloud and one for a hold cloud. These result in clouds of different styles and colors that then go on to insert the appropriate block, also enclosed in the ZIP file."

Share Palette Groups
Daniel Hurtubise offers this tip: "Because palette groups can’t be shared on a network, use the TOOLPALLETTEPATH system variable to switch the palette. Create a toolbar icon (preferably in your Enterprise CUI) and use the following string. Simply create new palettes in that folder. This way you can organize folders in groups."

^C^C(command "*_TOOLPALETTEPATH" "T:/Autocad/ToolPalettes/Annotations")

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Our Patroller reminds users that this is an option, but "it's still simple enough to import tool palettes from any location, networked or local."

3D in AutoCAD
To easily switch drawing planes when working in 3D in AutoCAD, Jodi Klepp suggests this procedure:

  • In single top view, set UCSVP to 1.
  • Create new viewports set to 3D.
  • Activate your isometric viewport and set UCSVP to 0.

She states, "This lets you work in the isometric view and switch drawing planes by clicking in whatever view you wish to work in. For some reason though, if you change back to one view, then back to four views of your drawing, this function doesn't work in the new releases. I'm not sure about AutoCAD 2007 as I have not had a chance to use it."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Our Patroller confirmed this useful tip, which is also outlined in AutoCAD Help. Some AutoCAD users don't like viewports because they're too small, he says, "But for those who do, this is a handy idea."

Follow-Up: System Variables Report
Lloyd Beachy has responded to our Tip Patroller's challenge to update his original February 12 edition tip for creating a report of all system variables in a drawing. Lloyd says, "This new version, SYSVAR2.LSP, updates values in the TAB file as they are changed in the drawings. In order for the changes to be recorded, you must select the same TAB file for each time you run the function. Note to readers: This updated routine was not reviewed by the Cadalyst Tip Patrol.

After reading Lloyd's original tip in the February 12 edition, Ed Jobe wrote in to remind users that AutoCAD ships with ACADINFO.LSP in its \Support folder. It has a subroutine called (Vars2Scr) that you can use to save your current sysvars to a script file and rerun the scr later to reset your sysvars. Just type (load "acadinfo.lsp") and then "vars2scr".

Follow-Up: Delete Hidden Layers
Mike Hollingsworth wrote in agreeing the Patroller who talked about hunting down and eliminating pesky empty text entities in the February 12 edition. He shares how he handles this problem: "We had a designer a few years ago who used one trash drawing to design just about everything. He would export from this file and never purge it. Eventually he wound up with literally tens of thousands of null entities that subsequently found their way into the drawings he created.

"To deal with the mess, I wrote QT.LSP, a very basic AutoLISP program that toggles the QTEXT variable on and off, followed by a Regenall and a ZoomAll. Of course, I make sure all layers are thawed and turned on. If you're working on a very large drawing, you might want to get rid of the Regenall in the code to speed things up.

"His null entities then show up as clouds of dots that I can erase. This works faster for me even though it is a manual task, because different layers are involved. One thing to watch for is that some of the dots on screen are nodes for associated dimensions, which I don't wish to erase. As my cleaning of the drawing gets closer to my current work, I watch to see if any selection highlights entities in that area. If so, I can remove them from the selection set.

"I follow this with a Purge All to get rid of layers and the like that were retained by the null objects. I have dealt with files that were 8,000KB+, and reduced them to 400KB by getting rid of this junk. It rarely happens anymore, but there are still a few legacy files popping up occasionally that must be addressed." Note to readers: This follow-up tip  was not reviewed by the Cadalyst Tip Patrol.

Follow-Up: Delete Hidden Layers Continued
Nick Nevins continues the discussion started in the February 12 edition on how to delete frozen layers. He shares an AutoLISP routine that his company created for that same purpose with fewer steps:

(defun c:FLD ()
  (setq x (tblnext "layer" T))
  (while x
      dlayer (cdr (assoc 2 x))  ; layer name
      f      (cdr (assoc 70 x))  ; "frozen" flag

    (if (= (logand f 1) 1)
     ;code to delete layer
 (setq sset (ssget "X" (list (cons 8 dlayer))))
     ; Get all entities on layer
 (command "erase" sset "")
    (setq x (tblnext "layer"))
  (command "purge" "la" "" "n")
  (princ "\n Frozen Layers Deleted")

Note to readers: This follow-up tip  was not reviewed by the Cadalyst Tip Patrol.

Follow-Up: Wblock vs. Purge Essay (and Deleting Layer Filters)
Cadalyst Tip Patroller R.K. McSwain lets users know that the follow-up tip in the February 12 edition concerning ridding your drawings of extra data that increases your file size doesn't work with AutoCAD 2005 and later. You can download a different program that handles both pre- and post-2005 versions in the Layer Filter Deleter thread in Autodesk's CAD Managers Discussion Group. "Also, AutoCAD 2006 introduced an undocumented command called Filters that deletes layer filters."

MicroStation Tip: Loading Frequently Used Dialog Boxes
Peter Bekkers of Adviesbureau G&B in Alphen, Netherlands, loves using function keys. He sent this MicroStation tip to Axiom.

The following key-in easily opens the Level Manager dialog box: mdl keyin lvlmangr levelmanager dialog open. Assign it to a function key and you can work faster. Click here for more key-ins to load frequently used dialog boxes.

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.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Deals & Freebies

Autodesk Quietly Giving Away Design Review 2007
Autodesk Design Review 2007, originally priced at $199, is free. Autodesk Design Review, the successor of Autodesk DWF Composer, lets users share, review and mark up 2D drawings and 3D models in a single file. Users can register and download Autodesk Design Review 2007 on the Autodesk Web site.

LISP Tools for AutoCAD, BricsCad and IntelliCAD
KitoX released new versions of its free LISP tools for AutoCAD, BricsCad and IntelliCAD: KitoX Toolset, KitoX Tools BC and KitoX Tools LT. The updated versions are available to download from the company's Web site. The tools are available in English, Lithuanian and Russian.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Opportunities & Honors

General Motors Sponsors Bright Minds Mentor Program
SME (Society of Manufacturing Engineers) announced this week that General Motors will sponsor the fourth annual Bright Minds Mentor program. Fifty high school students will attend the Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing Conference and Exposition at the Marriott Renaissance in Detroit on May 2, 2007. Students will team with industry mentors to learn about additive fabrication and other rapid development technologies. To become a mentor or request more information about the 2007 Bright Minds Mentor program, contact program manager Jane Wellington or coordinator Annemarie Kalergis.

Plastics Processors Sponsor Design Competition
Applications for entering products in the 2007 Plastic Parts Innovations Conference and New Product Design Competition must be submitted by March 16. The competition will include products manufactured by a variety of molding processes from multiple markets. The new category of emerging technology has been added to the competition. Products entered into this category are produced using technologies such as biobased materials, nanotechnology and biodegradable plastics. The conference is sponsored by the SPI Alliance of Plastics Processors and will take place April 1-3 in Memphis, Tennessee.

SolidWorks Contest Winning Entries Online
The winners of the 2006 SolidWorks Design Contest are posted on the SolidWorks Web site. The grand prize winner was in the models category for the Westport 164 Tri-Deck Motoryacht submitted by Jack Sanford. First place winners were, in the images category, Personalized Concept Vehicle submitted by Ertu Unver, and for animations, Ooi Wei Khuen and Lin Shaodun for their Singapore Flyer Construction Methodology. Entries are now being accepted for the 2007 contest.

Computer-Aided Products Awarded Number One in Customer Satisfaction
Computer-Aided Products received recognition by SolidWorks for the highest level of customer satisfaction in North America based on customer survey data. Javelin Technologies was runner-up. Computer-Aided Products is a regional reseller of CAD/FEA/PDM software, rapid prototyping systems, training, consulting, and support.

CMSC Invites Conference Paper Submissions
The CMSC Society continues its call for papers. End users of metrology equipment from a variety of industries, leading manufacturers and science laboratories are invited to submit proposals for white papers about the successful application of 3D coordinate measurement systems. Abstracts should be submitted no later than April 10, 2007, via email to The deadline for full technical papers is May 11, 2007. The Society will host its 2007 Coordinate Metrology Systems Conference July 16-20 in Reno, Nevada.

Graphics Systems Honored as Top DriveWorks Reseller
Graphics Systems was honored as the Top DriveWorks Reseller in the World at the DriveWorks Reseller Conference in New Orleans, February 8, 2007.  DriveWorks is a Gold Solution Partner for SolidWorks that provides rules-based design automation for companies that want to eliminate repetitive steps in their design process. Graphics Systems is a provider of DriveWorks and 3D CAD products.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Books & Training

AutoCAD and CAD Management Training Materials
A variety of reference books, training materials and white papers are available online from CAD Masters. The company, which offers on-site AutoCAD training, Webcasts, technical support, engineering services, hardware, software and more, serves the Northern California, Southern California and Nevada areas.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The Week's New CAD and Related Products

General Software: PhotoModeler v6
Photogrammetry software from Eos Systems automates measurement from photographs to create 3D models. Read more

General Software: AutoSolids 2007 and AutoSolids EXPRESS 2007
Add-on tools designed to facilitate 3D production design modeling in AutoCAD 2007, Mechanical Desktop and Architectural Desktop. Read more

General Software: AcceliCAD 2007
Autodsys releases AutoCAD add-on that includes polar angle tracking, floating prompt menus, heads-up keyboard display and 32-bit full-color user interface. Read more

General Software: AutoVue v19.1.3 Format Pack 2
Cimmetry's maintenance release supports CATIA V5R17. Read more

Visualization: JetStream v5.3
Navisworks releases software update with improved DGN support. Read more

AEC: Unifier with AutoVue Professional
Skire has integrated Cimmetry's viewing and markup product into its enterprise software solution.  Read more

GIS: Cadcorp SIS Map Modeller v6.2.4
Spatial information system now includes support for unlimited ECW data export Read more

MCAD: KOMPAS-3D Model Recognition System
Add-on for ASCON's parametric solids modeling software identifies imported part or assembly elements. Read more

MCAD: 2007 CoCreate OneSpace Suite
Dynamic modeling software incorporates 3D product design with PLM tools. Read more

ESI Group's software helps to identify bad design choices that could lead to manufacturing problems.  Read more

MCAD: LucidShape v1.6 and LucidDrive v1.1
Brandenburg releases updates to its automotive illumination design software and night driving simulation tool.  Read more

MCAD: FreeDimension v1.1
FreeDesign releases surfacing software update with an optional NURBS output module.  Read more

MCAD: Maple-NAG Connector
Maplesoft partners with the Numerical Algorithms Group to combine technology for easier code development. Read more

Dassault Systemes introduces fluid structure interaction capability in collaboration with CD-adapco.  Read more

Autodsys releases CAD platform that incorporates Solustan's LinkMotion driver to provide direct-to-CAM output.  Read more

CAM: MachineWorks v6.4
CNC simulation and verification toolkit includes support for full machine and complex turning simulations.  Read more

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Mark Your Calendar

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

2007 Better Injection Molding Tour
February 26 - March 2, 2007
Various U.S. locations
In this series of events, sponsored by Moldflow Corporation, speakers from various aspects of the plastics industry will discuss the current state and future development directions of injection molding simulation software, plastics material science and plastics simulation products. Read more

Webcast: Autodesk Architectural Desktop: Create Between the Lines
February 27, 2007
10:00 a.m. PT.
In this Webcast Amy Fietkau will showcase the benefits of Autodesk Architectural Desktop. Learn how to use Linework for creation of different objects, such as curtain walls, door and window assemblies and stairs. Read more

Webcast: Civil 3D Quickstart Class
March 5, 2007
11 a.m. - 1 p.m. PT
This Webcast by Ideate will show how to navigate the new Autodesk Civil 3D interface; adjust drawing, feature and command settings; incorporate Autodesk Civil 3D styles into CAD standards; and exchange design data between Autodesk Land Desktop and Autodesk Civil 3D. Read more

Application-Oriented CFD for the Aerospace and Defense Industry
March 8, 2007
Carlsbad, California
This workshop by CD-adapco will focus on the application of a variety of simulation techniques to a wide-range of aerospace applications and demonstrate how flow, thermal and stress simulation can reduce costs and increase efficiency of the design process and help to engineer products that will meet future technological and economic challenges. Read more

Plastic Parts Innovations Conference and New Product Design Competition
April 1 - 3, 2007
Memphis, Tennessee
The Plastics Parts Innovations Conference and New Product Design Competition provides a noncommercial forum for the advancement of technology. Annually, the industry's leaders meet and network with more than 200 international contacts to discuss what's new in part design, process selection, tooling, prototyping, material selection, finishing and assembly. Read more

Developing a Design/Simulation Framework
May 9, 2007
Atlanta, Georgia
Join industry analysts from Collaborative Product Development Associates (CPDA) and leading-edge users and practitioners for a one-day event that explores in depth the latest thinking on the critical issues facing simulation. Read more

23rd Annual CMSC (Coordinate Metrology Systems Conference)
Reno, Nevada
July 16 - 20, 2007
This 5-day event is the only North American conference that caters solely to professionals using portable 3D coordinate measurement technology on their factory floors. Attendees can network with a community of expert and novice users and learn about the latest trends and innovations in the field of portable 3D industrial measurement technologies. Read more