Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 13, No. 38)

12 Oct, 2008

This Week's Software Tips

Don't Be Afraid of Change
Steve Rodgers sent this tip about AutoCAD's Change command. "In the old days it was mostly used to change the properties of objects (among other things), but that has become obsolete with all the new toolbars and features. However, the Change command is still the most efficient way to both extend and trim lines at the same time (provided you still use plain old lines for anything). Click here to download Steve's full tip, CHANGE.DOC.

AutoCAD is great (and bad) because it provides us with dozens of tools to accomplish our goals. This tip provides us with another method of trimming/extending lines, and it can save a user several picks and clicks. The Change command is not trimming/extending; in reality it is changing the coordinates of the selected line's endpoint nearest to the selection point. The key here is to make sure Ortho is turned on. This will move the line's endpoints horizontally/vertically. With Ortho on, angled lines will be changed to horizontal/vertical lines. But with Ortho turned off, the Change command will put the endpoints selected all on the same point. So be careful.

Metes and Bounds List
Albert Bain sent ROW.LSP, which he wrote to generate a right-of-way or property boundary description for a closed polygon. "The routine generates a metes/bounds list in the AutoCAD drawing and then creates a text file with the metes/bound written in narrative text format. The routine only works with closed polygons defined using lightweight polylines, but it could easily be altered to work with any polyline (closed or not). I know this type of routine is available in AutoCAD Land Desktop, but it would be useful to someone who does not have that program."

This routine is handy. It provides the bearing and distance for each line and curve. It even labels the curves! It places the bearings and distances in text, not in a table, but it is in a table-like format. It also generates a TXT file that provides a metes and bounds description of the boundary.

Export Layout Command in AutoCAD 2009
Karl Hill wrote: "In AutoCAD 2009, what used to be a time-consuming process of trimming out a viewport's contents and changing the space of the paper space portions of a layout tab has now become a process of running the Exportlayout command and specifying a name for the new drawing to create. Type Exportlayout while on a layout tab, or right-click on the layout tab and select Export Layout to Model. The software will prompt you for the name and location of the new drawing file to be created. A default name will be supplied that is a combination of the current drawing file name, an underscore, and the name of the layout tab. You just need to browse to a location where you want the new drawing file to be created. Of course, you can supply whatever name you desire.

"The routine creates a new drawing file that has all of the model space entities that were visible in the viewport trimmed out to the viewport limits, and also all of the entities that were in paper space of that viewport moved to model space. So you wind up with a drawing that has only model space entities in it. It doesn't include any of the previous model space entities that were outside of the viewable limits of the original viewport. It basically compresses the layout into only model space entities.

"We find that many of our clients use non-AutoCAD programs that cannot use the paper space advantages of AutoCAD, so we have to compress them into just model space. This tip also comes in handy if you want to have a drawing file of just one layout sheet of a submittal set, and you don't want to send more information than what they really need. If you are working in AutoCAD Civil 3D, the Civil 3D objects are converted to polylines, text, etc., during the process as well, so that eliminates the problem of some clients' not being able to work with the Civil objects."

This is a nice feature that is only available in 2009 products. This tool, as stated above, can help in sending AutoCAD file information to outside vendors, clients, and other agencies.

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

Follow-Up: Outer Limit
Cadalyst Tip Patrol member Mitchell Hirshklau shared his experience with limits in AutoCAD in response to our October 6 tip. "In the Olden Tyme CAD Dayes, we used the Limits command to set limits equal to the actual (paper space) border area of our master title blocks. Plotters then (and now too) will try to plot everything in a drawing's extents — even stuff outside of the border. Presetting the limits to the actual border area prevents this problem. It also allows users to move a chart or stack of notes (again, in paper space) outside of the border area without having to remember to select a display, or plot by window, or even remember the default view. Furthermore, if you pick your limits just a tiny bit outside your border's thick or heavy outer lines, you can guarantee that the line work (and the line work's thickness) will get plotted in its entirety."

Follow-Up: Scaling Distorted Objects
Tim Rechel sent this follow-up to our October 6 tip that allows the user to easily change the distorted block, which he uses in AutoCAD 2008. "Make a base file with an appropriate name. Text can be inserted here, but it must be set up to offset the subsequent distortion. Insert this base file in your plot file, distorting it as needed. That way, every time it needs to change, you can fix the base file and resave it. Then reinsert it, click Yes to Replace Current Block, and cancel the command after it starts to load."

In response to the same tip, Cadalyst contributing editor and "Learning Curve" tutorial author Bill Fane wrote, "When you insert a raster image such as a BMP or JPG file into an AutoCAD drawing, you can only set the overall scale factor. You cannot set X and Y independently if you want a distorted image, or to correct for distortion in the original image. Tip: Insert the image, make a block of it, then insert the block with different X and Y scale factors. 'Voila!' as R.T Reinhart said of the original tip.

This is not an original tip from me. I picked it up at a Vancouver AutoCAD Users Society meeting several years ago, courtesy of Bob Boel."

MicroStation Tip: Let Go of Your Mouse!
You can move the active view of your design up, down, left, or right by using function keys. Simply define four function keys with the Move key-in. Read more on the Axiom web site.

Submit Your Tip

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 remember:

  • Submit only code and other tips that are your original work (or provide the original source so we can include proper credit).
  • 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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New Whitepapers on Cadalyst's Whitepaper Library
New whitepapers are now available on Cadalyst's Whitepaper Library free to those who register. "3D Printing in AEC," by Z Corporation, shows how 3D printing is changing the face of AEC.

CIMdata Releases New, Free Whitepaper
CIMdata released its new whitepaper "The Value of Unified Architectures for PLM." The paper discusses the challenges that companies currently face and the factors companies should consider in evaluating whether they should transition to a unified architecture. Read more

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Deals & Freebies

Essays on Geography and GIS
This collection of essays, published by ESRI, peers into the intersection of geography and technology, and looks at their relevance in today's world as well as the future. It is available for download at no cost. Download the PDF file here.

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Opportunities & Honors

Time is Running Out --Tell Us about Your Awesome Geospatial Application!
You could win big! October 17 is fast approaching, and that means time is running out to enter the 8th Geospatial Solutions Applications Contest. Just send in a description of your application, and you'll have a chance to win GeoExpress Tools software from LizardTech, a GPS Bluelogger with XMap 5.2 Professional software from DeLorme, or an ERDAS TITAN GeoHub!

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

Hardware: iPro 9000 XL SLA Center
3D Systems' machine produces extra-large, high-definition parts for prototyping and end use. Read more

Hardware: SmartLF Ci 40 Scanner
New scanners from Colortrac are designed to provide instant-on, walk-up scanning and copying. Read more

General Software: CATenary/PlanPRO v 1.04
CatCurve software draws a sag-tension, hyperbolic cosine (catenary) curve in 2D or 3D dimensional form within AutoCAD. Read more

Design Visualization: 3DM File Translator
Luxology's 3DM file translator allows modo users to exchange files with the 3D design tool Rhinoceros (Rhino). Read more

GIS: ERDAS Imagine v9.3
Collection of software tools are designed to manipulate, process, and understand imagery and vector data. Read more

GIS: Geospatial Business Systems Suite
New software from ERDAS includes APOLLO 2009, IMAGINE v9.3, ER Mapper v7.2, LPS v9.3, ADE, TITAN 2009, and Image Web Server 2009. Read more

CAM: Mastercam X3
Windows-based CAD/CAM application from CNC Software offers expanded machining flexibility. Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

Webinar: Lift Drawings and More
October 17, 2008
12 Noon EDT
In this Webinar, Vico Software will discuss modeling slabs and columns and will show how to generate lift drawings automatically from a model. Read more

Energy, Efficiency, Sustainability, and Innovation
December 8-10, 2008
Berkeley, California
The Construction Specifications Institute's Building Product Manufacturers Alliance second meeting will include technical sessions, a tour of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, round-table discussions, and networking opportunities. Read more

Webinar: Automated Code Checking of BIMs in an e-Government Environment
December 16, 2008
2 p.m. ET
Presented by the Construction Specifications Institute, this webinar will discuss how initiatives, such as building information modeling, will change the design, construction, and approval of buildings. Read more

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