Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 12, No. 9)

11 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 (if ever) you last completed a CAD training course that wasn't offered in-house by your employer. Take the poll (go to any page of and scroll down to find the Quick Poll in the margin), then check out how you compare with your CAD peers in "Cadfidential" in the April edition of Cadalyst magazine.

Get the Code!
Cadalyst 's March code from Hot Tip Harry is now available for download. Stahimir Antoljak earned $100 for Polyline Edit Tools in VBA, a Visual Basic routine that contains public functions for inserting and removing vertex points in polylines in AutoCAD!

March Tutorials Live Online
The latest editions of all your favorite AutoCAD tutorials, including Steve Johnson's "Bug Watch," Lynn Allen's "Circles and Lines" and Bill Fane's "Learning Curve" are now live online.

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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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.

Congratulations February Winner!
Cadalyst awards $100 to Jodi Klepp, who submitted 3D in AutoCAD in the February 26 edition of Tips & Tools Weekly. Jodi was selected in a random drawing of all submissions published last month. Send us your original tip now for a chance to win!

From the Trenches: Creating Symbols
This month we are pleased to share a special tip for users in AEC, "Creating Symbols," by Anthony Kitsmiller. Anthony's tip was so detailed that Cadalyst editors asked him to develop it for From the Trenches, a Cadalyst tutorial series written by users for users and published on Anthony focuses on how to make symbols that withstand multiple uses. For those users who must add individual blocks that are commonly used but not available from AutoCAD or Autodesk Building Systems, read on!

Inspect and Chspace
Scott Volz writes in to tell folks about his favorite AutoCAD commands:

Inspect. This command works in some AutoCAD verticals such as Map3D, Civil 3D, Autodesk Building Systems and Architectural Desktop. Type Autosnap at the Command line and -63 at Variable, and press Enter. At the new Command line, type Inspect (or AECinspect). When you hover your mouse over an object, the program lists the object in drawings and list object from Xref drawings.

Chspace. At the Command line, type Chspace, and the program moves objects from paper space to model space and vice versa. "Not only does it move the objects, but it scales them as well. It uses the scale of the viewport to calculate the correct scale," Scott says.

Metric-to-Standard Workaround
Kevin Loth offers this conversion tip: Standard-to-metric measurement conversion in AutoCAD is easy: Scale 2.54 for inches-to-centimeters (25.4 for inches-to-millimeters). However, to convert in the other direction, you need to scale 1/2.54 (or 1/25.4). AutoCAD allows scaling to a decimal or even to a fraction, but not to a fraction with a decimal in it. To work around this, simply scale using 100/254 for centimeters-to-inches or 10/254 for millimeters-to-inches. There's a decimal approximation for this conversion.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: "This tip is evergreen -- it’s been around since almost the beginning days of AutoCAD, and it's still as good as ever. Happily, AutoCAD is usefully tolerant of top-heavy fractions. This tip applies to almost any AutoCAD prompt for a scaling value, distance value, measure value, etc.  Need a 52.5" door? Scale your 36" door by 525/360.a."

AutoCAD Dimensioning
Andrew Venneman reminds users that using the /X feature to stack the dimension above and below the line when dimensioning objects is handy, but if you choose to select the grip on the text and move it to a different location, you lose the stacking feature. To address this issue, move the whole dimension to where you want it, then select the grips at the bottom of the extension lines and move them back to their origin.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: This tip is a worthy reminder of a useful AutoCAD function. Keep in mind:

  • The text that is stacked below the dimension line is placed exactly as far below the line as the text is set to offset above the line.
  • When editing the dimension text, be careful not to modify or substitute for the dimension measurement. If you accidentally modify this, you can restore it by typing in <> (left bracket, right bracket).
  • The /X stacking works just as well for dimensions that are flagged to the left (or right) of the dimension.

Follow-Up: Layers and VISRETAIN Tip
Brian Benton writes with a correction to the Cadalyst Tip Patrol remarks about his Layers and VISRETAIN tip published in the February 26 edition. Brian points out that the Patroller's reply about how the VISRETAIN system variable reacts is not the case when the variable is set to 1. Brian explains, "If a source file changes its layer settings, none of these changes takes place in a file xrefing it if that file has VISRETAIN set to 1. A VISRETAIN setting of 1 retains the initial settings of the source file and any changes made in the referencing file taking preference."

Editors and Tip Patrollers send our apologies for any confusion. Thanks, Brian, for setting us straight!

Follow-Up: Paper Space Zoom
James Hutchinson read the March 5 edition and agrees with our Tip Patroller's idea of setting Viewres to a higher number. He adds, "With the speed of computers these days, and the very much improved graphics card (always the weak link), I find it amazing that the Viewres variable has not been updated to reflect modern technology. Why leave the Circle Zoom percentage at 100? Upgrade the default to at least 2,000, if not 10,000."

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 Beta Version of SpecifiCAD for Bentley Architecture
CADalytic Media released the beta version of SpecifiCAD for Bentley Architecture V8 XM, free to users who register. SpecifiCAD delivers relevant building product data to the designer's desktop within the CAD/BIM (building information modeling) environment using CADalytic Media technology. Versions for Autodesk AutoCAD, Architectural Desktop and Revit Building are also available.

Alibre and FreeDesign Offer Form-and-Function Bundle
Alibre and FreeDesign jointly released a double software package ($1,595) combining Alibre Design Expert and FreeDimension. The combination of the two technologies reportedly allows even novice users to create virtually any organic shape. A free trial of FreeDimension and a free trial of Alibre Design are available for those who register.

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Opportunities & Honors Accepting Tech Innovator Award Nominations
Nominations are being accepted for the third annual 2007 Tech Innovator Award. The award focuses on leading edge, but little-known, technologies that address key design needs and further the success of designers and engineers. The winner of the award will be announced at COFES (The Congress on the Future of Engineering Software) 2007, April 12-15, in Scottsdale, Arizona. is a search engine and information resource that provides market news and industry commentary.

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

Hardware: TripleHead2Go Digital Edition
New multidisplay device from Matrox Graphics converts one dual-link DVI output into three standard DVI outputs for triple monitor use. Read more

Hardware: NVIDIA Quadro FX 4600, Quadro FX 5600 and NVIDIA Quadro Plex VCS Model IV
Graphics cards incorporate unified architecture, Shader Model v4 and GPU computing for visualization. Read more

Hardware: ZPrinter 450
Z Corporation introduces 3D color printer with automatic setup, powder loading and self-monitoring of materials and print status. Read more

General Software: sgCore v1.8
Geometros releases new version of C++ class library for solid-state modeling.
Read more

General Software: IntelliCAD v6.3
CAD engine update from ITC reads, displays and writes DWG 2007 files, which include 10 new entity types and more than 80 new system variables. Read more

Visualization: solidThinking v7.5 Plug-In for Maxwell Render
EVOQE tool provides direct interface to light-simulation software. Read more

Visualization: solidThinking v7.5
New rendering software from EVOQE includes advanced scene management and data interchange improvements. Read more

MCAD: CADfix for Efield
ITI TranscenData's interoperability tool enhances Efield's high-end analysis capabilities. Read more

MCAD: Sheet Metal Transitions and Cones Calculators
Sheet Metal Guy introduces Web tools that create DXF files with a 3D wireframe model and flat pattern. Read more

MCAD: PC-DMIS Portable
Wilcox Associates launches software for ROMER portable arms in measurement and inspection applications. Read more

MCAD: Teamcenter Express v2.1
UGS releases new version of cPDM software with added manufacturing data management capabilities and multi-language support. Read more

MCAD: ArtCAM Pro and ArtCAM JewelSmith
Delcam releases design-only versions for users who do not need machining options. Read more

MCAD: ANSYS Icemax v3
Software provides IC package designers with the ability to set up and analyze system-in-package designs. Read more

MCAD: D-Cubed v36
UGS releases updated version of geometric constraint engine. Read more

CAM: MazaCAM v4.5 -- Matrix Edition
SolutionWare's CAD/CAM software enables users to program offline at the same time their Mazak machines are working. Read more

CAM: CimatronE v8
Cimatron's updated CAM software incorporates the Automated Drill application for automatic hole recognition and drill programming. Read more

CGTech's CNC simulation and verification software eliminates the process of manually proving out NC programs. Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

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

3D Systems 3DSUG Conference
March 18-22, 2007 
Daytona Beach, Florida
3DSUG was established to encourage and coordinate technical information exchange between owners and operators of 3D Systems equipment and provide feedback to 3D Systems on hardware and software modifications. The 3DSUG conference is the only independent forum catering to users of stereolithiography, selective laser sintering and 3D Systems 3D printing equipment. Read more

Map Middle East 2007
April 9-11, 2007 
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
This 3rd Annual Conference and Exhibition on Geospatial technologies and their applications has evolved as the regional forum for the Middle East geospatial community and provides a podium to share the latest developments in the field of geospatial information, technology and applications to a large gathering of top decision makers, existing as well as prospective users, academics, vendors, policy makers and representatives of various international organizations. Read more

SME 3D SCANNING: Reverse Engineering, Inspection & Analysis Conference and Exposition
May 1-2, 2007 
Detroit, Michigan
The Society of Manufacturing Engineers 3D Scanning Conference and Exposition will focus on using noncontact scanning technology to capture and process high-resolution 3D spatial geometries and will provide practical knowledge to support effective technology selection and use. Read more

SME Interoperability and 3D Collaboration
May 2-3, 2007
Detroit, Michigan
The Society of Manufacturing Engineers' two-day international conference provides an opportunity for design, engineering and manufacturing professionals to interact, learn and share experiences in interoperability and collaboration with 3D data. Attendees will learn about the latest strategies, best practices and solutions, while interacting directly with fellow users and leading experts in the field. Read more

Developing a Design/Simulation Framework
May 15, 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. Note: This is a change of date for this event. Read more

Frontiers in Design and Simulation Workshop
May 16, 2007
Atlanta, Georgia
This workshop is organized by the Georgia Tech Product & Systems Lifecycle Management Center in cooperation with CPDA (Collaborative Product Development Associates). There is a need for computer-based support that allows the knowledge and expertise of many domain experts to be shared, managed, and applied toward the thorough exploration of different system architectures while considering complex trade-offs between multiple objectives under uncertainty. Read more

Location India 2007
June 12-13, 2007
Bangalore, India
The 3rd International Conference and Exhibition on Vehicle Tracking, Locational Intelligence and Surveying will serve as a platform where the technology provider, application developers and users will converge to discuss and deliberate on the potential and usage of these technologies. Read more

Map Asia 2007
August 14-16, 2007
The 6th Annual International Conference and Exhibition on Geographical Information Technology and Applications leverages an international initiative aimed to provide an appropriate platform for the convergence, sharing and use of Geospatial technologies. Read more