Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 13, No. 14)

13 Apr, 2008

This Week's Software Tips

Congratulations March Winner!
Cadalyst awarded the March $100 Tips & Tools Weekly prize to Trey Hair, who shared his Pare Down the GIS Data tip published in the March 10 edition. Trey was selected in a random drawing of all authors whose original tips were published in the newsletter last month. Send us your original tip now for a chance to win.

Invoke Command without Dialog Box
Our Blast from the Past tip in the February 25 edition reminded Steve Knopf of an old-school AutoCAD trick that he uses to save time: the minus sign (or hyphen) in front of a command. He writes, "The command -La is one I use often. I design improvements to existing streets and need to make layers on the fly to accommodate unique entities that appear in only select viewports. I can make a new layer with proper color and linetype almost as quickly as it takes for the dialog box to open."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Great tip! Many users take advantage of the speed of keyboard commands. Type a "-" in front of any command to start the command without a dialog box. AutoCAD will display prompts on the Command line, often saving you time.

This is also an important tip for code writers because AutoLISP cannot read dialog boxes. (The March 25 edition of Cadalyst's Hot Tip Harry's Code Class e-newsletter touches on this topic.) And, AutoCAD 2009 introduced a new feature called the Action Recorder, which works much like the macro recorder in Microsoft Office programs, recording frequently repeated actions you can play back as needed. It, too, can't read most dialog box windows, so placing a "-" in front of any command you wish to record is very important.

Scale List in Civil 3D 2008
Brent Daley sent this AutoLISP code for AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008 users who are experiencing ongoing issues with the Scale List compiling an ever-increasing list of "junk," such as _XREF_XREF_XREF, etc. He writes, "I created an ACADDOC.LSP file from a text document, then added the following command string within the ACADDOC.LSP file:

(command "-scalelistedit" "R" "Y" "E")
(command "regenall")

"Make sure to save this file under one of your support file search paths located on the Files tab under AutoCAD Options. Putting the file here will ensure that AutoCAD loads the file each time a drawing is opened. You must then restart your AutoCAD session for the code to take effect.

"The Scalelistedit command is invoked using the Command line input method. Then I've added a Regenall command, which will make sure any fields or attributes you may have that are pulling off your viewport scales are updated and displayed correctly. There are of course many variants to this code. Every time you open a drawing, the Scale List is reset to the default. You are going to have to reset it anyway, so why not just have it automatically do it each time? You may say, 'Why don't you just make sure all your scale lists are set correctly in all your sheets and all your xrefs; then it will all work correctly to begin with?' That sounds good in theory, but in the real world with multiple users and using temporary xrefs for a quick piece of information, it's just not very realistic."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: It is good CAD etiquette to keep this annoying list as small as possible to help other users working with your files. Alternatively, you can use the Scalelistedit command while in the drawing. A new feature called Hide Xref Scales in AutoCAD 2009 will hide the xref scales for annotated scaling. It will not display any scales that are brought over from an xref.

Roger Carter wrote to say, "I don't know if anyone else still uses the Oops command, but I find it useful if a complex drawing displays too many items (dimensions, geometry, etc.) in the way. I turn off layers to clean up the view as much as possible and, if there are still objects in the way, I delete them, do whatever it is that I need to do, and then type in Oops. (I also made an icon for this.) One little problem is that you can use Oops only once to bring back the last thing that you erased. A potential problem is that you have to remember that you erased something and then type Oops to bring it back.

"Most of the time I use Oops when I have to stretch something and there is something else in the way that I don't want stretched. Other times, something is in the way that I don't want to be affected by whatever else I am doing."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Oops is a sort of Undo command. Undo will undo the last thing you did, no matter what it was. Oops will undo the last object erased. So, if you erased something, and then ten commands later realize you need it, use the Oops command. As long as you didn't erase something since then, it will come back and you don't have to undo ten steps. You can also use Oops after Block or Wblock because these commands can erase the selected objects after creating a block. However, you cannot use Oops to restore parameters, actions, or grips in the Block Editor. Nor can you use Oops to restore objects on a layer that has been removed with the Purge command.

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

Follow-Up: Snapang Command
Jamie Burnett writes, "I have been reading the snap angle instructions the March 31 and April 7 editions. If you are using the Block Editor, you cannot change your UCS. But if you need to draw angled lines, you can use the Snapang command. It is allowed in Block Editor. It is very helpful if you are trying to stay at right angles or parallel to a skewed line in the Block Editor, for example, when working on the roof slope of an eave section in an architectural section. Keep up the excellent tips!"

Follow-Up: Middle of Two Points
Regarding the Middle of Two Points tip in the March 31 edition, Cindy Dangles comments, "I'm too lazy to go to the right-click for Mid Between 2 Points, so I made a button for it, and in the macro I took out the ^c^c so I can use it in the middle of a command. It works well. It's on my personal toolbar, along with the Print Previous button, for which I am also grateful.

MicroStation Tip: Optimized Fence Clipping
A toggle in MicroStation allows you to fence clip elements in different fashions. Depending on how you want your fence clipping operation to perform, it can automatically close shapes, surfaces, and solids, and you can trim the elements. Download the Optimized Fence Clipping tip (PDF).

Today's MicroStation tip courtesy of The Envision Group.

VectorWorks Tip: Transferring Parameters with the Eyedropper Tool
The Eyedropper tool in VectorWorks Architect provides a quick and easy way to transfer attributes from one object to another in a single step. You can transfer attributes including fill, pen, line, text, wall, and other attributes along with plug-in parameters.

The Eyedropper tool has two modes: Apply Attributes and Pick Up Attributes. You can switch between these two modes by selecting the correct one from the mode bar, or, with the tool active, press and hold the Ctrl key (Mac users press and hold the Command key) to toggle between the two modes.

To set which attributes are transferred, select the Eyedropper Tool Preferences from the mode bar. For example, to transfer the plug-in parameters along with other attributes from one door to another, select the plug-in parameters option in the Eyedropper Preferences dialog box. With the Pick Up Attributes mode active, click the door you want to transfer the attributes from, then press and hold the Ctrl key and click the door to which you want to transfer the attributes. All selected parameters will be transferred to that door.

Today's VectorWorks tip courtesy of Nemetschek.

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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Opportunities & Honors

FIATECH Bestows Engineering and Technology Awards
FIATECH recognized and honored 24 organizations and individuals for their work in innovative engineering and construction technologies at the annual CETI Awards Gala on April 1 in New Orleans. The awards recognize significant achievements in new and emerging technology research, development, deployment, and implementation throughout the lifecycle of a capital project.

3DSUG Announces Technical Competition Winners
The 3DS Users Group (3DSUG) announced winners of the 2008 Technical Competition last week at its 20th annual conference in Costa Mesa, California. The contest recognized outstanding applications of stereolithography and selective laser sintering technologies.

Dirtworks Wins Landscape Design Awards
Dirtworks recently won two design awards for the company's work on the Science Center Courtyard and Outdoor Learning Environment at Keene State College. The New York City-based landscape architecture firm received a 2008 Design Citation Award from the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) and a 2007 Honor Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA)-New York Chapter. Read more

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Books & Training

SolidWorks Customization Book
Sheet Metal Guy launched an electronic version of Customizing SolidWorks for Greater Productivity ($39.95 print edition; $14.95 e-book). The 158-page book shows users how to access and display hidden menus and quick-start models by eliminating redundant steps. Read more

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

Hardware: SpaceNavigator for Notebooks 3D
3Dconnexion mouse reportedly enables a 3D experience in a compact, mobile design that's half the weight of its desktop counterpart. Read more

Hardware: Contex HD Scanners
Contex reports the CCD-based scanner series offers true 600 dpi resolution for improved image quality. Read more

Hardware: Sheffield Cordax Pioneer CMM
Sheffield Measurement's small, moving-bridge coordinate measuring machine is available in four sizes. Read more

Visualization: OPIDIS and Walkinside Bidirectional Interface
Artesys International and VRcontext released the bidirectional interface for their flagship products OPIDIS and Walkinside, respectively. Read more

CAD: Autodesk Inventor 2009 Conversion Solution
Software from Okino Computer Graphics reportedly allows crack-free geometry, hierarchy, and materials to be transferred from native disk-based Inventor files directly into any Okino data-conversion-compliant program. Read more

MCAD: Parasolid v19.1
Siemens PLM Software's geometric modeling component software now supports Apple's 64-bit Mac OS X Leopard. Read more

MCAD: Siemens PLM Software D-Cubed Component Products
Version 38 of 3D Dimensional Constraint Manager, Assembly Engineering Manager, Collision Detection Manager, and Hidden Line Manager are designed to improve function and performance. Read more

MCAD: 3Data Expert v8
DeskArtes software reportedly enables manufacturing engineers to create and manipulate faceted models for 3D printing, rapid prototyping, simulation, manufacturing, and analysis. Read more

CAE: Abaqus for CATIA V5 r18.4
Dassault Systemes software from its SIMULIA brand enables analysts to define and deploy approved analysis workflows for use across the enterprise. Read more

CAE: AutoTURN v6
Vehicle turn simulation software from Transoft Solutions reportedly offers better functionality and usability in vehicle maneuver simulation for designers of transportation infrastructure. Read more

CAE: Moldex3D-Mesh v9
CoreTech System released the mesh generator for the preparation of complex geometries for finite-element analysis and CAE. Read more

CAM: STEPcenter Enterprise Server v5.3
ITI TranscenData released the enterprise software application that automates the translation, validation, and distribution of STEP data. Read more

CAM: Alibre CAM
New integrated 3D parametric personal CAD/CAM solution is designed to be accessible and affordable for manufacturers and machine shops of any size. Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

Webinar: Composite Analysis
April 16, 2008
11:00 a.m. PDT
This webinar will cover construction of finite-element models with orthotropic materials, obtaining structural analysis solutions, and the use of various tools for displaying results. Sponsored by Noran Engineering. Read more

Lecture: Using Revit in the Residential World to Facilitate Sustainable Design
April 25, 2008
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Architect David Cohen will present an example walk-through using Revit in the residential world and will show how the software facilitates sustainable design. Sponsored by Synergis. Read more

Product Innovation Executive Summit
May 1-2, 2008
San Francisco, California
The conference focuses on two major challenges that companies face: identifying an innovative product that will compel buyers to spend money on it and turning that concept into a commercially viable product. Sponsored by Aberdeen. Read more

Lean Design: CPDA Expert Panel Discussion
May 22, 2008
2:00 p.m. EDT
Learn more about addressing manufacturing variation up front. A group of experts will show how you can drive Six Sigma quality for your products right from the start of the design process. 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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