Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 12, No. 8)

4 Mar, 2007

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What's New at

New Quick Poll: Got CAD Training?
The latest Cadalyst Quick Poll is live online. This month, we want to know when you last treated yourself to some CAD training: This year? In the past couple? Five? Take the poll (go to any page of and scroll down to find the Quick Poll in the margin), then watch for the results in Cadfidential in the April edition of Cadalyst magazine.

Online Archives: Click here to view an online version of this newsletter and past issues of Tips & Tools Weekly.

New Way to Navigate introduces new navigation tabs at the top of every page to help you easily find market-specific content and other popular features including Get the Code, Discussion Forums and Cadalyst Labs Reviews. Try it out!

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:

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Catalog Data Solutions Offers Free White Paper
A configurator white paper is available as a free download from Catalog Data Solutions, a provider of online product selection tools for industrial suppliers and distributors. "Next Generation CAD Configurators Save Time and Money" discusses five key trends in the manufactured products market that reportedly have converged to create a new opportunity for manufacturers and distributors to drive revenue growth, lower costs and increase customer loyalty.

IntelliCAD Technology Consortium Unveils New Web Site
The IntelliCAD Technology Consortium (ITC) this week introduced a new Web site that aims to improve member service and provide more historical information about the organization. The new Web site offers automated sign-up for new members, who will receive a personalized copy of the membership agreement and access to increased online support and information. An updated members and product area allows users to maintain their own data.

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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.

Paper Space Zoom
James Smith asks, "Have you ever zoomed in on your viewports in paper space to double-check a detail and been frustrated with very low resolution on the arcs and circles? If so, just double-click the viewport and type Viewres at the Command line. Specify Y for fast zooms and a circle zoom percentage (default is 100; I recommend 2000), then press Enter. Do this for each viewport that you have in paper space."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Our Patrollers affirm James's advice and send along a bit more information. "The Viewres command can be used in model space and paper space. Per AutoCAD, the higher the Viewres value, the longer it takes to regenerate the drawing. The low resolution on-screen doesn't affect the printed resolution if you're creating 2D drawings. With 3D drawings and renderings it may be a concern. If you simply want to modify the current resolution without using the Viewers command, type the command alias REA and press Enter to regenerate all spaces at once."

Patroller Two adds, "This setting is saved in the drawing, so you can set it once in your template drawing(s) and not have to worry about setting it each time."

Use AutoCAD for Graphics
Ken Schumacher reminds fellow users that AutoCAD can be used as a graphics design program. "Graphic design programs such as CorelDRAW and Adobe Photoshop are powerful for compiling reports and editing images, but they can be limiting by their complexity. To my surprise, AutoCAD can process pictures and graphics better than some of these graphic design programs (particularly if using the Image tools). After inserting raster images and creating text within AutoCAD, it has more flexibility. For a final report, I set up one layout (8-1/2" x 11" or 11" x 17") within paper space for each page in the report. It prints faster and incorporates my drawings, and I have one file with my original data within model space. It's easy to edit, and the final product looks the same as what I would get from a graphics program (in my nonprofessional opinion). If the file gets too big, I create another drawing -- one for imag es, one for drawings, etc."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: One Patroller adds, "Images attached with the Image command are references, and are not embedded in the drawing file. Images pasted in as OLE objects are part of the DWG file."

The second Patroller to review this tip adds some perspective on the subject: "Architects continue to search for a means by which their 2D and 3D drawings can better communicate ideas to potential clients. Graphic design programs with capabilities that differ from AutoCAD have been the solution since they are better suited to enhance presentation drawings with effects such as color, drop shadows and text manipulation."

"The debate about which graphics program to use occurs for a variety of reasons. CorelDraw and Adobe Illustrator are vector-based editing programs. They have more in common with AutoCAD (which is also vector-based) than with Adobe Photoshop, which is raster-based. Honestly, there is no perfect solution. Decisions are made based on the talents of one individual at the firm who can use one program over another at a basic level. Unfortunately, architects do not have time (make time?) to explore the strengths and weaknesses of each program and how it can work best with AutoCAD. Rather, the debate will continue based on subjective solutions rather that objective understanding.

"I agree that AutoCAD can be used as a graphic design program, but remember that AutoCAD is only a 2D vector editing program -- and a good one at that. CorelDRAW and Photoshop may appear to be limiting because they are raster and vector editing programs. Keep in mind that each application is optimized to do specific tasks, so it will prove to be insufficient for tasks outside its intended use. If you use AutoCAD for graphics applications, you'll find file sizes grow quite large, an indication that this is not the forte of the software.

"Using these software systems for unintended applications is the subject of an on-going debate," the Patroller adds, "and until there's a good solution, AutoCAD has made available a beta version of Autodesk Impression, a program created (in response to the migration away from Autodesk products) to address the need for graphic representation of AutoCAD drawings. Impression will be successful, but I don't believe it will eliminate the need to use other programs. Architects will always need to better communicate ideas. In the end, the more programs we have available and the better prepared we are to take advantage of their strengths, the more the architect and client stand to benefit. Some day we'll have a 'perfect marriage' -- but that won't happen until Adobe, Corel and Autodesk start talking with each other about this issue.

"I recommend using each program to take advantage of its respective strengths. I create individual PDF documents from each program, then compile one multipage document for future use. A multipage PDF document can be used to communicate the architect's proposed ideas whether it's for a client meeting, construction documents or project meetings at the site. PDF has become the software of choice for sharing information. Until AutoCAD, CorelDraw and Photoshop reach the same level of domination, PDF is the common platform for file sharing regardless of the programs used to create the necessary text and/or images."

Plotting Scripts
Jeff Rayhorn created a number of script files (SCR) that automate plotting and toolbars for each type of plot, such as D full-size, D half-size, E full-size, E half-size and the like. Here are a couple the toolbars:

He says, "I honestly can't tell you the last time I actually saw the Plot dialog box. These toolbars are even arranged on a master toolbar as flyouts so that we have access to them while taking up a minimum of space."

"The scripts contain all the information needed to plot: CTB file name, sizes, plotter name, scale information, etc. These are really simple and anybody should be able to make their life a little bit easier with them. Download one of the script files as an example."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Much like the AutoCAD Plot Macro tip that ran in the December 11, 2006, edition -- that one was a menu macro rather than a script file -- this tip cannot be tested because the SCR file contains references to specific plotters, CTB files and the like. To repeat the previous notes: The important point here is that you can drive the Plot command from the Command line in a script or menu macro. Just walk through the Plot command once by hand at the Command line, writing down the answers to the prompts. Then follow the example posted above, test, fix and repeat for your own plotting macro.

Follow-Up: System Variables Report
Michael E. Beall wrote in with more information about system variables, a topic that was on our discussion plate in the February 12 edition. He says, "Years (and versions) ago, AutoCAD introduced the Vars2scr command that you started from the Command line. It created a script (SCR) file, and it works like a champ. I learned this from Hugh Bathurst, who has since returned to his native Australia.

"Although it's a great asset to reset your own variables if they get all gummed up, use caution, as palette-related variables are also captured in the routine. After capturing the sysvars with Vars2scr, to use it to reset your variables simply open Windows Explorer and drag the SCR file directly into your AutoCAD drawing window, just as you would a LISP program. If you drag a DWG out of Windows Explorer and release it in the drawing window, it inserts it as a block. Release a DWG on the Command line and it opens it in a new window (if your SDI variable is set to 0)."

In addition, Brock Narum finds that not many users use the ZOOMFACTOR setvar, which sets the zoom percentage for the mouse wheel. "Upgrading or changing your mouse may require you to change the ZOOMFACTOR variable. I have noticed many users have this set at the default setting of 60 and have problems zooming either too fast or too slow."

MicroStation Tip: Measure the Total Length of Lines
Question: Is there a way to determine the total length of a larger number of separate lines in a drawing?

Answer: Select all the lines you want to measure with Element Selection or PowerSelector, then use the Measure Length tool. It should tell you the total length of all the elements.

Today's MicroStation tip courtesy of Axiom and

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 Materials Texture Collection
Spiral Graphics released Genetica Texture Pack 3, the third installment in its line of free seamless texture packs. The new pack comes with more than 150 crystal and liquid materials. In addition to JPEG previews, the textures are available in the GTX procedural texture format, which enables users to modify them with the company 's Genetica texture studio software. The GTX format textures also include embedded effect maps that can be used in bump and specular channels of popular 3D applications.

CoCreate Extends Free 3D Software to International Users
PLM software provider CoCreate Software has introduced multilanguage versions of its CoCreate OneSpace Modeling Personal Edition. The dynamic modeling-based 3D CAD software is now available in English, German, Italian and Japanese. The software is free to users who download and register it before June 30, 2007. Users reportedly will able to import existing designs and modify them as if they were native files because CoCreate's environment gives users complete access to geometry and isn't hindered by the inherent limitations of a history tree.

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Opportunities & Honors

SIGGRAPH 2007 to Present 32-Hour Animation Challenge
SIGGRAPH 2007 is launching an international computer graphics animation competition to be held at the 34th International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, August 5-9, 2007, in San Diego, California. Sixteen teams will be selected to compete in FJORG! (pronounced forge) for a 32-hour competition held before a live audience. Each team will be challenged to create a character-driven animated sequence of at least 15 seconds in length based on a specific theme provided by the judges. Winners will receive various prizes as well as recognition as the first SIGGRAPH Viking Animators. Potential entrants must submit demo reels between March 1 and May 1, 2007.

Bentley Systems Honored by American Red Cross
Bentley Systems was presented with the American Red Cross Circle of Humanitarian award in recognition of $500,000 in software and services that the company donated in response to the Asian tsunami in late 2004. The in-kind donation is supporting the design of urban and rural water systems to be reconstructed as part of the American Red Cross Tsunami Recovery Program, which provides relief and long-term recovery in Indonesia and other tsunami-affected areas.

Graphics Systems Honored as Top SolidWorks Provider
Graphics Systems has been honored by SolidWorks Corporation as the Top SolidWorks Subscription Provider in North America. The award was announced at the SolidWorks 3D CAD software awards banquet held in New Orleans, Louisiana on February 7. This award is given to the SolidWorks provider with the largest percentage of customers who renew their SolidWorks licenses.

World Automotive Design Challenge Announces Student Winners
Winners of the 2007 World Automotive Design Competition were announced at the Canadian International AutoShow in February. Sponsored by Autodesk, the competition challenged students to design a car that addressed 21st century environmental concerns while appealing to multiple generations. Students from more than 18 schools and 11 countries entered the competition. The objective of the competition was to encourage design students worldwide to choose a career in automotive design.

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

General Software: XVL Studio
Lattice Technology releases new 3D publishing products to offer enhanced editing of parts, annotations and dimensioning. Read more

General Software: TableBuilder 2.1
Cadig upgrades tool for exporting AutoCAD tables to Microsoft Excel. Read more

Visualization: Piranesi 5
3D paint rendering solution from Informatix Software lends photorealistic and nonphotorealistic rendering capabilities to CAD drawings. Read more

Visualization: Vue 6 xStream and Vue 6 Infinite
E-on software releases software for creation, animation, rendering and integration of natural 3D environments. Read more

Visualization: Manhattan 3D Model
Entire New York island available in 3D data set from Vision Media. Read more

MCAD: PolyWorks V10
InnovMetric released new version of its point cloud engineering software solution for automotive and aeronautics OEM manufacturers. Read more

Engineering simulation software includes capabilities for advanced analysis, meshing, optimization, multiphysics and multibody dynamics. Read more

CAE: Femap v9.3
Updated engineering simulation software from UGS includes capabilities for advanced analysis, meshing, optimization, multiphysics and multibody dynamics. Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

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

Webcast: High-Performance Computing with ANSYS Solutions and Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003
March 21, 2007
1:00 p.m. PDT
View this session to see how Microsoft and partner ANSYS are making strides in HPC (high-performance computing). Learn about the ANSYS 11.0 release, and discover how the Workbench Environment integrates with Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 by means of the Workbench Remote Solution Manager and the Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 Job Scheduler. Read more

Webcast: Expand Your Simulation Capacity with FLUENT Software and Windows Compute Cluster Server
March 29, 2007
11:30 a.m. PDT
This Webcast will show how FLUENT CFD (computational fluid dynamics) software from ANSYS provides engineering insight to guide product design and process improvement. Learn how deploying FLUENT technology on Microsoft Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 can expand your simulation capacity and enable you to reduce engineering development costs. Read more

Infolytica Seminar
April 3, 2007
Chicago, Illinois
Infolytica Corporation will offer a free pre-conference seminar at the 2007 Magnetics Conference. The one-day event will feature the latest innovations from the software developer, including a look at MotorSolve motor design software. Read more

2007 Magnetics Conference
April 4-5, 2007
Chicago, Illinois
The Magnetics Conference will focus on the latest advancements in magnetic applications, technology and materials. Serving OEM developers of products that utilize magnets and magnet systems, design engineers, OEM developers involved in EMC technology and magnetic effects, magnetics manufacturers and integrators, and material suppliers in the magnetics industry. Read more

AutoVue Customer Cimm'posium 2007
June 27-28, 2007
Montreal, Canada
The AutoVue Customer Cimm 'posium 2007, Cimmetry 's first ever annual user and partner conference will showcase AutoVue solutions, integrations, and innovations that have revolutionized the visualization market. During the event, Cimmetry will focus on Enterprise Visualization as a solution to address the mission-critical challenge of efficiently accessing, viewing and communicating digital information and documents across the global enterprise. Read more