Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 13, No. 3)

20 Jan, 2008

This Week's Software Tips

Paying Homage to the Cadalyst T-shirt
For many, the Cadalyst T-shirt is a highly sought-after trophy -- proof of having a tip published in Tips & Tools Weekly or "Hot Tip Harry." How many shirts do you own? How did you earn them, how old are they, what do they look like, which is your favorite? Tell us about your Cadalyst shirt collection. We'll publish the best replies and pick one lucky respondent to receive -- of course -- a Cadalyst T-shirt. Have you seen the latest designs?

Offset Object to Current Layer
A reader sent a tip about offsetting an object to the current layer in older versions of AutoCAD, but Tip Patroller Kevin Sawyer found one of his routines published a few years ago that does the same thing, and he updated it for use with AutoCAD 2008. OFSETCUR.LSP allows the full use of all standard Offset subcommands such as offsetting by picking distance on screen as well as erasing the original object.

(defun C:OFSETCUR ()
 (command "offset" "la" "c")
 (while (= 1 (logand (getvar "CMDACTIVE" ) 1 ))
  (command PAUSE)
 (command "offset" "la" "source" "" "")

Pan to an Endpoint
Dean Davis's LINPAN.LSP pans to the other endpoint of a line. He explains, "I find this is handy if I'm zoomed in very close to the endpoint of a line and I want to quickly look at the other endpoint at the same zoom scale."

(defun C:LINPAN (/ obj en pp orien op)
(setq obj (entsel "\nSelect Line "))
(setq en (car obj))
(setq e (entget en))
(setq pp (cadr obj))
(setq orien (osnap pp "MID") pp (osnap pp "END"))
(setq op (mapcar '+ orien (mapcar '- orien pp)))
(command "PAN" op pp)

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: This routine works well and also could be used for polyline segments. We can see plenty of uses for it -- in particular, working in large civil layouts in model space over long distances. In smaller layouts, another option is using the zoom/pan function of today's standard optical mouse wheel.

Multiple Erase
Darby Anderson uses AutoCAD 2008 and found another method for multiple erase: "While holding down the Delete button on your keyboard, you can select items in your drawing to be erased. You can pick individual items, window, and/or crossing and they erase as you select them."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: This is a very quick way to erase entities in your drawing, but tread very carefully. You don't get any highlighting of the entities selected for deletion -- simply select and they are gone. In some cases you'll feel safer monitoring what you are about to erase.

Note: The following tips have not been tested by the Cadalyst Tip Patrol.

Follow-Up: Plot Xrefs
For AEC applications, Bill Hashman sent this follow-up to the Plot Xrefs tip in the January 14 issue. He writes, "All stakeholders benefit when a project uses the same plotting standards. The NIST document Cost Analysis of Inadequate Interoperability in the U.S. Capital Facilities Industry (PDF) relates to this matter. AIA and other standards often use color 8 for gray background information. And plotting standards and guidelines are numerous and can be expensive, unless you know where to look.

"The U.S. Federal Government, through the General Services Administration (GSA) and the office of the Chief Architect, has set up plotting and drawing standards that are freely available. The Public Building Services (PBS) standard and the free CTB files (along with many other free files) that match the CAD standards provide a good backbone to set up your own CAD standard that will harmonize well with the NCS and AIA standards. Many firms have put this standard in place to make it easy to comply when working on federal projects. Since the GSA is one of the largest developers in the world, it seems like a good idea, since sooner or later you will probably have a project with them.

"What is really interesting is that the PBS CAD standard works very well with the AIA standard and the vertical CAD applications produced by Autodesk, like AutoCAD Architecture and AutoCAD MEP. The PBS CAD standard and related files can be found online."

MicroStation Tip: Avoid the DGN-to-DWG "Save As" Cringe
Mike Oxyer offers this tip for saving a DGN file into a DWG file. "Have you ever heard of the 'Save As' Cringe?  It's an involuntary reaction by designers when instructed by projects managers that MicroStation V8 can save a DGN file to a DWG file with one simple click of the Save As command."  He says this common misconception causes problems when you have to work in MicroStation V8 and yet deliver AutoCAD drawings at the end of the project. Compatibility issues rule out working in DWG mode for some users, so the only option for those users once the project requires AutoCAD drawings as deliverables is to use the Save As feature.

"The most important thing to remember is 'Garbage in, Garbage out,' so it is imperative that standards are implemented, followed, and maintained between both MicroStation and AutoCAD. You must first specify the units in the DWG files by selecting a compatible template. If the MicroStation working units are English, a template file has to be selected that has English units as well. The same holds true when using metric working units. Also, fonts and dimension styles have to be translated into something that is compatible and acceptable (Truetype fonts for AutoCAD). Finally, you should print both sets of the files and check everything to make sure they look the same.

"Then, look at the data that needs to be maintained. Check all the entities and see if the intelligent CAD files still contain the information that was entered. The intelligence behind the DGN files will be lost once it is converted to a DWG file. In my opinion, you should only maintain the intelligent files that you started with. This will keep you from having to manage or maintain duplicate files in the end."

MicroStation Tip: Consistent Title Block Data
MicroStation's Title Block Manager helps CAD managers and users bring about a consistency of title block data in all of a project's MicroStation files fast. How? By synchronizing title block data from many design files with an Excel spreadsheet, it is possible to easily make a number of changes right in the spreadsheet and then have Title Block Manager automatically make those changes for you in the affected design files, thereby establishing uniformity of title block data. Here's how.

Axiom also offers many Microstation Tips on its Web site.

VectorWorks Tip: Finding Vanished Objects
Nemetschek sends this tip for VectorWorks users: Occasionally, when you change the scale, magnification, or render mode in VectorWorks, an item (or even the entire project) may seem to have vanished. Most likely, the view has simply been refocused to a blank area of the file. Resetting the drawing window around all visible objects in the file reveals the objects that were "lost".

  • Ensure that the current layer contains the object(s) to view and that no objects are selected. If the objects are contained in a class, ensure that the class is visible.
  • Select View / Zoom / Fit to Objects.

You may also choose this option from the new View Bar in VectorWorks 2008. VectorWorks zooms in or out so that all the objects in the drawing display in the drawing area.

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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Resources Launches Engineering Video Section announced the launch of its latest online feature, an Engineering Videos section, which offers site visitors a selection of streaming video clips posted by members of the community. The site offers free Internet-based services to engineers such as job postings, downloadable tools, games, and access to engineering knowledge.

Maplesoft Launches Forum to Advance Automotive Rapid Plant Modeling

Maplesoft has founded the Physical Modeling Consortium, a forum in which organizations can share ideas and advance the development of Rapid Plant Modeling methodology based on symbolic computation. Read more

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Deals & Freebies

CIMdata Publishes Siemens' Teamcenter Express Review
CIMdata consulting and research firm announced the availability of a new program review of Teamcenter Express, Siemens PLM Software's collaborative Product Definition management (cPDm) solution. The review provides an overall description and assessment of the Teamcenter Express program for the PLM market. Copies of the Teamcenter Express Program Review are available at no cost to those who register at CIMdata's Web site.

Altadyn Releases 3DXplorer v3 Beta for 3D Web Sites

Altadyn, a developer of real-time 3D software, released 3DXplorer v3 beta. According to the company, the software enables visitors to a 3D Web site to visualize the space and interact with the products from any Internet browser without a proprietary software installation. The 3DXplorer authoring environment is a free online tool. Low monthly charges apply only to higher-traffic user sites. Read more

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Opportunities & Honors

CAD Society Seeks Nominations for 2008 Awards
The CAD Society is accepting nominations for the 2008 CAD Society Industry Awards. CAD Society Awards acknowledge individual contributions within the CAD and engineering software industry. Awards are presented in three categories: Leadership, Joe Greco Community Award, and Lifetime Award. Read more

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

General Software: Document Locator v5.1
ColumbiaSoft product now supports custom integration with many third-party business software applications. Read more

Punch! Software solution is designed to provide a highly functional, low-cost 2D/3D design product for sophisticated, precise, general-purpose design. Read more

MCAD: PV Elite 2008
COADE pressure vessel design and analysis software incorporates the latest ASME code updates to Section VIII Division 1. Read more

MCAD: Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire v4
PTC integrated 3D CAD/CAM/CAE software offers new capabilities and usability enhancements to optimize key global design processes and improve productivity. Read more

CAE: ModePROP v1
RSoft Design Group's eigenmode expansion propagation package accounts for both forward and backward propagation and radiation modes. Read more

Visualization: LightWorks v7.8
New release from LightWork Design said to improve accuracy, performance, and ease-of-use for lighting, global illumination, tone mapping, and gamma correction when making photorealistic imagery. Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

Webcast: "Approved as Noted: The Benefits of Adopting an Electronic Submittal"
January 31, 2008
1:00 p.m. ET
Newforma, a project information management (PIM) software company, will sponsor this Webcast, in which representatives from BNIM Architects, LMN Architects, and Mackey Mitchell Architects will describe how their firms are saving time by transitioning from traditional, paper-driven methods to an electronic submittal process. Read more

OFCDesk IDC Product Demonstrations
Various US Cities
Various Dates, January-March
Professionals in the interior design and architecture industries are invited to attend these events presented by OFCDesk. The company will introduce its new IDC (Interior Design CAD), reportedly the first CAD software focused exclusively on commercial interior design. A demonstration webcast is also available. Read more

GIS Manager's Workshop
February 25, 2008
Kissimmee, Florida
Geographic Technologies Group (GTG) will sponsor the GIS Manager's Workshop for all GIS managers and IT directors. Topics will cover Managing GIS, The Governance of GIS, The Enterprise Implementation of GIS, and The Business Case for GIS. Other workshops will be held in other cities later this year. GTG is a local government GIS consulting company. 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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