Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 13, No. 17)

4 May, 2008

This Week's Software Tips

Quick Print Button
Marc Boyer writes, "How many times in a day do you go through the settings of the Plot command to configure a print? I've always thought it would be nice to be able to open a drawing and hit one button and not have to worry about any of those settings.

"This is a custom script I've written for several different printers and sheets sizes that we use in our office. The idea is to be able to print anything, anywhere, at the click of a button. I've set up network PC3 files and templates. The template files contain page setups that are imported and then printed when the button is hit. Here is an example of the button programming (all one line of code):

^C^C_Expert;2;_-psetupin;"Standard DFA_DWF plotting.dwg";KIP5000_24x36;_Qsave;_Expert;0;^C^C-plot;no;;KIP5000_24x36;;no;no;y;^C^C

"Standard DFA_DWF PLOTTING.DWG contains the page setups. KIP5000_24x36 is the page setup being imported.

"Basically I have a button for all sheet sizes, printers, and file types that are built into a series of flyouts. This has saved an enormous amount of time for everyone. These page setups also can be used for publishing sets of drawings."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Anything that eliminates a click is a good tip; this is a great tip. One drawback: If the operator accidentally hits the Enter key again, the routine will execute again. A consideration for CAD managers: the more users (and workstations), the more customizations that must be installed and maintained. Also, consider how often your firm upgrades or replaces your printers.

AutoCAD 2008 Timesavers
Leonid Nemirovsky sent a few mini-tips for AutoCAD 2008 that he thought might come in handy.

  1. To initiate the 3D Orbit command temporarily in model space, press and hold Shift+Ctrl+Wheel button, then move the mouse around.

  2. Hold Ctrl+Wheel button for quick and smooth Pan in model space.

  3. In paper space, hold the Ctrl key and drag the Tab command to create a copy of a tab quickly.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Thanks for these timesaving tips, Len!

Xrefs Off
Perry Medina often turns off his AutoCAD xrefs with a single click on a toolbar using this simple macro:


He also has a LISP routine that will accomplish the same thing. After installing, run this LISP routine by entering X- from the keyboard:

(DEFUN c:x- ()
  (setvar "cmdecho" 0)
  (command "layer" "off" "*|*" "")
  (setvar "cmdecho" 1)
  (PRINC "\n All Externally referenced layers are now off.")

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: We are still big fans of the old -Layer command. Like so many other things in AutoCAD, you could use a number of variations to this tip, such as shortcut keys with -Layer Off macros for sets of layers -- for example, all drawing or xref ELEC prefix layers, etc.

A bit of preparation will also help with these situations. The xrefs can be renamed so that they have much shorter names. For example, instead of an xref attached to your drawing named ABC-2008-Elec-Plan-1, you could rename it E1. The shorter name will facilitate either macro customization or basic keyboard -Layer command usage. And it makes it easier to read the layer names in your Layer toolbar display window!

Also, if users routinely wanted to turn off attached xrefs — if their files aren't too huge, given the speed and available RAM of most user's systems — the xrefs could be typically inserted on a specific individual layer for each xref. If that layer is then frozen, the entire xref should then be turned off.

However, cutting off an xref by turning off its layer would create problems if that layer were used elsewhere within the drawing. If that's the case for you, Tip Patrol member Billy Wooten has thoughtfully provided an AutoLISP routine for just such an occasion. When executed, the user is instructed to select an entity that's on that reference (if the entity isn't part of that xref, it'll indicate so on the Command line). If an xref is detected, it simply unloads it and provides the name of that xref.

(defun c:ux (/ tData XName);Identify/Unload Xref
   (defun *error* (msg)
      (princ "\n ")
      (setq tData (entget (car (entsel "\nSelect Item to Test for Xref"))))
         (setq XName (cdr (assoc 2 tData)))
            (if (assoc 1 (tblsearch "BLOCK" XName))
                  (command ".xref" "u" XName)
                  (prompt (strcat "\nXref " XName " unloaded" ))
               (princ "\nBlock Selected - Try Again")
         (princ "\nEntity in Base Drawing - Try Again")

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

Follow-Up: Copy Details from Library
Chuck Graham sent the following question in response to Shawn Evjen's tip in the April 28 issue: "Shawn states that details are changed for every project. Knowing that going in, would a better procedure not be to just copy the details into the current directory (or wherever), change them, insert them in the drawings, and leave the originals alone?"

Shawn responded: "I guess my statement was overly general, to make the point that a chunk of details change or are project specific. About 75% of the details don't change, so this is more for the 25% that do. This is also more common because our firm has taken over the construction instead of having a third party do it. That being the case, we are changing framing methods, joists are running perpendicular to the way they were, and a host of other improvements (read: value engineering) are being made.

"We want the current projects that have not yet received their permit to be upgraded, so we want the details to be tied to the master. Once we have our permit, we need the upgrades/modifications to be project specific to the contract documents, and not tied to our master files. This allows us the greatest flexibility, and the routine saves me about 20-30 minutes per sheet in drafting time."

MicroStation Tip: Consistent Pattern Appearance
Anyone who uses hatching or crosshatching is familiar with setting spacing and angles and keeping them consistent. What is usually not so apparent is the effect of the data point used to accept the hatch and fulfill MicroStation's Accept at Pattern Intersection Point. This point defines the intersection point of the hatch being placed. If the same point is always used for each hatch placed, then the look of adjacent hatched areas or elements will line up nicely throughout the design. A good procedure to produce this type of consistent hatch is to use the key-in xy=0,0 instead of a random data point whenever accepting hatch placement. If you make a lot of patterns, it would even be worthwhile to set a function key to this key-in command.

Axiom offers many MicroStation Tips on its Web site.

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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Right Hemisphere Launches 3D Blog
Right Hemisphere unveiled a new blog called Deep 3D, which was established to provide a forum for Right Hemisphere users to get additional product information and tips, to share information, and to provide feedback. The blog will feature weekly postings from various Right Hemisphere personnel.

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Deals & Freebies

Vico Software Providing for Education
Vico Software unveiled a new education initiative that includes providing Virtual Construction 2008 and related training materials to students, teachers, and accredited institutions around the world free of charge. Vico is encouraging its commercial customers to become a part of the education initiative by working with colleges and universities in their geographic areas. Read more

Free Download of progeCAD 2008 Professional v8.0.18 is offering a free, 30-day, full-evaluation download of progeCAD 2008 Professional v8.0.18 at the company's Web site. This latest release reportedly features functionality for opening and editing AutoCAD 2009 files, support for drawings using languages other than English, and georeferencing of raster-image files. Read more

BlueStar PDM/PLM Program Review
CIMdata consulting and research firm is offering a new program review of PDM Technology's BlueStar PDM/PLM for Microsoft Dynamics AX. The paper describes PDM technology's BlueStar PDM/PLM solution and the benefits that result from being developed on top of an enterprise resource planning solution's IT platform. Copies of BlueStar PDM/PLM for Microsoft Dynamics AX Program Review are available free through the CIMdata. Read more

Autodesk Unveils Inventor LT Technology Preview 2009
Autodesk announced the availability of Inventor LT Technology Preview 2009, which is available as a free download from Autodesk Labs. Once activated, the new version will run until May 1, 2009, giving users a full year of access. Inventor LT allows manufacturers to create, share, and edit 3D part designs and DWG drawings. Read more

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Books & Training

Sustainable Design Book
Insitebuilders released an interactive book and CD combo titled Being Sustainable: Building Systems Performance ($29.95). The resource combines animations, interactive 3D models, short videos, 3D illustrations, and captioned text to give readers a visual tour of the building systems supporting the operation of a building. Read more

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

Hardware: Blade Workstation
HP Solution for the MCAD market enables users to access CATIA, Siemens UGS NX, PTC Pro/ENGINEER, Autodesk AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor, SolidWorks, and MicroStation. Read more

General Software: GrafiCalc 2009
GEOMATE software combines sketching, calculation, and optimization functionality in one solution. Read more

AEC: SoftPlan v14
Architectural design software features new selection-set capabilities for picking multiple items prior to executing a single command. Read more

CAM: TopSolid'Cam v2008
CAM module from Missler Software reportedly reduces calculation times for 3D operations. Read more

CAM: NC Express v7.1
Release from FINN-POWER and Maxitec features drafting and order-processing capabilities that integrate with large-scale production planning. Read more

CAM: Plug-in for SpinFire Professional v8.3
Draft Angle Analysis plug-in from Actify adds functionality to SpinFire for mold making and tooling. Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

Las Vegas AUGI CAD Camp
May 20, 2008
Las Vegas, Nevada
AUGI CAD Camp promises to enlighten and inform through educational sessions, a wide variety of courses, and opportunities to network with fellow attendees and browse the exhibit area. Don't forget to enter the Top DAUG Competition. 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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