Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 13, No. 13)

6 Apr, 2008

This Week's Software Tips

Flip Dimension Text
Steve Grace sent FDT.LSP for flipping dimension text in AutoCAD. He explains, "We work a lot with civil drawings and are always creating new User Coordinate Systems (UCSs) with twisted viewports to create ortho views of structures. This sometimes means the dimension text gets inverted. The FlipDimensionText utility fixes these with ease.

"To run this, simply drag the FDT.LSP file into the AutoCAD drawing window to load it. Then type FDT on the Command line. (I have this utility set up with Autoload on demand from a custom toolbar for easy access.)"

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Very slick! Be sure to follow the instruction to drag and drop the code file it into the drawing window, because we couldn't get Appload to run it. We adapted this to automatically flip the text when we pick a dimension, with further picks flipping the dimension back and forth. That's because we may need to only flip odd dimensions and would rather see the dynamic effect on each one as we go rather than selecting a set of dimensions to operate on.

Note that when you cut and paste between drawings with rotated UCSs, you may get dimensions being read from the left instead of the right, and adapting this via the properties of the dimension is nearly impossible.

Plot Styles Toggle
Steve Grace also sent PST.LSP. "It was always painful to turn on/off the display of plot styles in the layout using the Page Setup Manager. This utility makes this a breeze." As with the previous tip, you must drag the LSP file into the AutoCAD drawing window to load the routine. Then type PST on the Command line to run it.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: This is another winner. For those who have plot styles turned on in their displays, this is a huge time saver.

Copy/Paste as Block
Brian Munsil wrote to remind us about a few AutoCAD keyboard shortcuts. He says, "None of my coworkers knew that Ctrl+Shift+V = Paste as a block. (When exploded, all items stay on their original layers.) Unfortunately, this approach does not prompt you for a block name. Another handy shortcut: Crtl+Shift+C = Copy with base point."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: We must use this one a dozen times a day -- one of our favorites! These shortcuts and others can be found under the Edit menu. The keyboard shortcuts display next to the commands on the menu itself.

Tip Patrol member Kevin Sawyer shared his COPYPASTE.LSP routine, which lets you select objects to copy in World Coordinate System (WCS) regardless of your current UCS and is followed by the Pasteorigin command to paste to the original world coordinates, again regardless of your current UCS. He uses it all the time between various floor plans to copy all sorts of entities from one level to another.

Clipboard Copy/Paste
Doug Kochel offers the following tips for using the clipboard: "When using Copy/Paste functions via the clipboard, notice that some insertion options (as if you were inserting a block) are available via keyboard entry. Even though they aren't shown on the Command line, just pretend that Basepoint/Scale/X/Y/Z/Rotate are there to use during Paste commands.

"Well, maybe not the X/Y/Z part; they will usually fail once the Paste is finished. If you try to skew the objects, they tantalizingly drag into the display correctly, but then revert back to original aspect ratio once they are inserted. Use Paste as Block if you need skewed X/Y/Z scales.

"Copy/Paste has some interesting bonus abilities. If you copy a viewport using the core Copy command and then use the core Scale command to change the viewport size, the viewport display scale stays where it was originally. But if you scale the viewport during a Paste operation, the viewport display scale will be adjusted by the new scaling factor. Note that you must use the Mview command to turn on viewports copied via the clipboard.

"It has probably been mentioned before, but worth repeating: The clipboard memory is unaffected by many AutoCAD commands (such as Undo or creating new selection sets). Entities can be copied into the clipboard for later retrieval. Just don't forget they are there if you are multitasking! Imagine finishing something complicated that you wouldn't want to do over, but you discover that earlier something else was done horribly wrong. A multiple Undo action would help resolve the old error(s), but you'll lose the new good stuff. Just copy the new good stuff to the clipboard, and run Undo as far back as needed. Undo does not affect clipboard memory, so those objects are still available to paste back in once you get that bad stuff out of your drawing."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Useful tips! Everyone will need this at some stage, although if you're not confident that your new work will stay on the clipboard successfully, then just save your work to a temporary file using .SAVE (dot save) before undoing you work. Don't use Save As because this changes the current drawing to your temporary name without saving your previous file.

Layout Viewports Handler
Isak Mishaeli sent in his VPHANDLEEN.ZIP, including support and an AutoLISP application that helps control layout viewpoint properties as follows:

  • Display locking (and apply Bylayer color to the viewports).
  • Display unlocking (and apply green [84] color to the viewports).
  • Display twists (rotation). (Applies also to Model tab and maximized viewport.)
  • Freeze layers.
  • Thaw layers.
  • Isolate layers.


  • Unzip VIEWPORTHANDLE.ZIP into your AutoCAD root folder (for example, C:\Program Files\AutoCAD\) and verify that the VPHandleEn folder is placed there.

  • From the VPHandleEn folder, drag and drop INSVPHANDLEEN.FAS into the drawing area.

  • The VPHandleEn toolbar is placed automatically on the screen, ready to use.

Read VPHANDLEEN-README.DOC for complete information about installing and running the utility. ViewportHandle is shareware, but runs fully with no limitations.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: This tip is a very complete package. It may need to be adapted to each user's office standards regarding viewport layer, colors, etc. Very well thought out!

Special Characters
Isak Mishaeli also sent this AutoLISP routine that builds a chart and lists the ASCII codes of the current style font. This table shows the characters (or symbols) that this font supports but that do not have an assigned key on the keyboard. To get such a symbol, simply type %%ASCII code (the number of the symbol in the chart) in your text line. For example, to get the ¼ symbol with TXT.SHX, type %%188; for µ, type %%181.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Good tip! Add to that the Windows Character Map (accessed through the Mtext Editor), and users will have a vast array of characters at their disposal. In the Mtext Editor, right-click and then select Symbols / Other to access this feature.

Note: These follow-up tips have not been tested by the Cadalyst Tip Patrol.

Follow-Up: Isolate and Unisolate Layers
Edward Karikomi wrote us with more follow-up to the layers tip published originally in the March 17 edition. "You can make a button for the LAYUNISO if you want, but that command will only turn on the layers that were on before you used the LAYISO command. If you want all the layers to be turned on, especially those that were turned off before you used the LAYISO command, then you must use LAYER, ON, * (for all layers). I made a button for this command and stuck it in my CUI. The line reads:


"The ^C^C is to clear all previous commands so this command is not transparent. Similarly, you can make a new command and button to thaw all layers:


Follow-Up: Middle of Two Points
figureNataya W. Scherry wrote, "The latest Tips & Tools Weekly (March 31 edition) had a tip for finding the middle of two points. You can also do the same thing by holding down the Shift key and clicking the right mouse button. The menu that pops up includes the Mid Between 2 Points option, along with all the other options.

Regarding the same tip, Cadalyst Tip Patrol member Mitch Hirschklau added some interesting perspective.

"Back in 2006, I had occasion to discuss the Middle-2-Points in an AutoCAD/DRCAuto user's forum. One of the reasons that a lot of users don't use the new (well, new in 2006-LT, etc.) Middle-2-Points command modifier much (or for that matter, the older From and Tracking command modifiers) might be because too many people keep casually referring to them as object snaps!

"What is the difference between a command modifier and an object snap mode? An object snap mode refers to a geometric or other "fixed" feature. A line has only two endpoints. A line or an arc has only one midpoint. A circle and an arc can have only one center point. Text, mtext, and blocks can have only one insertion point. And two lines, or arcs, or graphic entities can have only one intersection, apparent-intersection, and so forth. Even for a given line and arc, there can be only one tangent. That's why they can be made into running osnaps. Although some calculation is involved (as in quadrant-of, nearest-to, apparent-intersection-of, and tangent-to), these calculations are limited and relatively simple.

"Command modifiers, however, require AutoCAD (or AutoCAD-LT) to make separate and unique calculations based on changing conditions! The Middle-2-Points command modifier, for example, requires two user inputs -- and the user inputs themselves can be, let's say, apparent-intersection-of for one and tangent-to for another. By their very usage, they cannot be object snap modes; the calculation does not relate to any preset or predefined quality of the entities to be selected.

"That's probably why they're not on the Osnap or Dsettings pop-up menus or in AutoCAD Help under Osnap. Of course, confusingly enough and in typical Autodesk fashion, they are in the Osnap toolbar!"

Follow-Up: Snapang Command
In response to the Snapang Command tip in the March 31 edition, Scott Restmeyer sent SANG.LSP, one of the first LISP routines he wrote, about 15 years ago. "The program prompts the user to select a line, or two points on that line. The snap angle will be set to that angle. I have updated the program to reset the snap angle when the program is run again."

Follow-Up: Block Count
Responding to the BCOUNT command tip in the March 10 edition, Tormod Sunne wrote, "It's a very useful command, but comes up short with dynamic blocks, as these blocks gets an anonymous name as soon as the visibilty parameters are changed. The BCOUNT command won't count blocks with anonymous names.

BLCOUNT.LSP is my attempt at a better version. It counts all blocks in the drawing, including dynamic blocks. It prompts the user to select a single block or the entire drawing. If a single block is selected, only the instances of that block are counted. "The user is then given the choice of outputting a list similar to that of the BCOUNT command, or to output a detailed description of all the inserted blocks. The detailed description lists block name, anonymous name, insertion point, if the block has attributes, if the block is visible, the layer name, the space the block is inserted to and the layout name if the space is paper space.

"If you select a detailed list, you're given the choice to print the list to the text screen or to print it to a comma-delimited text file. If the drawing contains a large number of inserted blocks, the text screen buffer may be too small to list all. The text file can easily be imported in a spreadsheet program.

"I have written the LSP file in AutoCAD 2008, but I can't see any reason it shouldn't work in earlier releases (or later). I used the file Blocks and tables -METRIC.DWG in the Sample directory of the AutoCAD installation along with some other files for testing. I hope some will find this command useful!"

BCOUNT list from Blocks and tables -METRIC.DWG:

Lighting fixture....28
Door - French........1

BLCOUNT list from the same drawing:

Block Name...............Count
Drawing Block Title..........2
Door - French................2
Door - Bifold................4
Lighting fixture............28
Blocks in drawing..........164

MicroStation Tip: Dragging and Dropping Reference Files
Save some time and attach reference files to a design file by selecting them in Windows Explorer and dragging and dropping them into the Reference Files dialog box in MicroStation. This can be especially helpful for users with multiple monitors and can be done with both vector and raster reference files.

Today's MicroStation tip courtesy of Axiom and

Submit Your Tip button

Submit Your Tip for your favorite CAD software. If we publish your tip, we'll send you a Cadalyst T-shirt, and each month Cadalyst editors will randomly select one published tip and send a $100 gift card 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) and tell us which software version you use. By submitting code, 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.

Tips & Tools Weekly software tips for AutoCAD are reviewed by Cadalyst staff and the Tip Patrol before publication. Use all tips at your own discretion, please, and watch later editions of this newsletter for updates and corrections. We're sorry, but editors and Tip Patrol members cannot provide assistance with technical problems; please refer to Cadalyst's Hot Tip Harry-Help discussion forum.

Sincere thanks to our volunteer Tip Patrol members: Brian Benton, Don Boyer, Mitchell Hirschklau, R.K. McSwain, Kevin Sawyer, and Billy Wooten.

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Deals & Freebies

Free AEC Batch Editing Software
CADaptation is offering a free evaluation edition of AecBatchStylesEditor 2008, an applet that facilitates the editing of multiple AEC styles and definitions in a single batch process. AecBatchStylesEditor 2008 works with AutoCAD Architecture and AutoCAD MEP, allowing users to configure, implement, maintain, and upgrade their AEC CAD standards, the company reports. AecBatchStylesEditor 2008 is available for download by registered site users, and licensed editions of the product will be available for purchase and download beginning April 15, 2008.

Free Architectural Software Download is offering a free evaluation download of progeARCH architectural software in combination with progeCAD 2008 professional CAD software. progeARCH supports the DWG standard file format and features libraries for a variety of standard objects. Read more

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Opportunities & Honors

VectorWorks Users Win AIA 2008 Housing Awards
Two firms using VectorWorks Architect software won American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2008 Housing Awards. New York firm BKSK Architects was one of seven winners in the multifamily housing category for its 25 Bond Street project. Leroy Street Studio, also based in New York, won in the one- and two-family custom housing category for its Modern Barn project.

ADEPT Airmotive Named Autodesk Inventor of the Month
Aviation engine manufacturer ADEPT Airmotive was named Autodesk Inventor of the Month for March 2008. ADEPT used Autodesk Inventor software to develop its 320T product, a 320-horsepower general aviation engine with a lighter, compact design that offers low vibration levels and high structural integrity. The Inventor of the Month program recognizes innovative design and engineering advancements made by users of Autodesk Inventor software.

Bass, Yares, and Riddle Win CAD Society Awards
The CAD Society awarded Autodesk CEO Carl Bass the 2008 Leadership Award in recognition for his efforts to promote sustainable product design and ecofriendly construction. Evan Yares is the winner of the 2008 Joe Greco Community Award, and Mike Riddle received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Read more

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Books & Training

3D Manufacturing
Lattice Technology released a new book titled 3D Manufacturing Innovation, authored by the company's CEO, Hiroshi Toriya. The book discusses the growing use of 3D data to improve production and lays the groundwork for new methods of enterprisewide communication to achieve faster, leaner manufacturing operations. Read more

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

General Software: Mathematica Player Pro
New delivery system from Wolfram Research provides access to Mathematica v6-based notebook files. Read more

General Software: EnSuite v2
Multi-CAD viewing, translation, and productivity software from CCE provides support for CATIA V5 R18 files. Read more

General Software: ABViewer v6.3
Soft Gold's CAD viewer reportedly includes enhanced file-format support, improved speed of SHX texts, and new printing options. Read more

Visualization: Eye-Sys
Interactive Data Visualization (IDV) software facilitates real-time visualization of 3D models, databases, streaming data, and more. Read more

AEC: TurboCAD Deluxe v15
Latest release from IMSI/Design includes 2D drafting, 3D modeling, and user-interface improvements. Read more

AEC: CADWorx Design Review 2008
COADE software enables designers, project managers, facility owners, and other project stakeholders to review CADWorx and ancillary plant-design models. Read more

AEC: progeARCH
Software from includes various utilities to speed 2D production drafting and allow users to implement AIA layering conventions or use their own systems. Read more

AEC: AecBatchStylesEditor 2008
Applet from CADaptation facilitates the editing of multiple AEC styles and definitions in a single batch process. Read more

AEC: RAM Structural System v11.3
Bentley's modeling, analysis, and design software for structural engineers includes updated steel design specifications and options for second-order analysis. Read more

MCAD: QuadriSpace v2008
Features include a new ribbon-inspired user interface and 3D tools for creating manufacturing work instructions and technical illustrations. Read more

CAE: ANSYS Engineering Knowledge Manager (EKM)
New product provides a server-based repository for archiving and managing simulation data. Read more

CAM: progeCAM CNC 2008
CADDIT integration project bundles progeCAD 2008 Standard with Dolphin PartMaster CNC. Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

Webcasts: Synergis Training for CAD Professionals
April 14 - May 12, 2008
1:30 p.m. EDT
In this series of free Webcasts, CAD management expert Robert Green will offer professional advice and resources for CAD Managers on Planning for Software Upgrades (April 14), Getting Ready for Upgrade Implementation (April 28), and Keeping Production Running During the Upgrade (May 12). Read more

International DFMA Forum
June 10-11, 2008
Providence-Warwick, Rhode Island
Boothroyd Dewhurst will host the 23rd Annual International Forum on Design for Manufacture and Assembly, titled "DFMA Today: Leading the Way to Results." Papers offered this year cover topics such as lean accounting, rapid manufacture, DFMA and PLM, and "win-win" supply-chain negotiations. Read more

August 25-27, 2008
San Jose, California
Sponsored by NVIDIA, this event will bring together engineers, designers, developers, researchers, artists, gamers, film makers, business professionals, and consumers as a gathering point to share, learn, and create for this important industry, which is redefining all aspects of visual computing. Read more

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on

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