Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 13, No. 41)

2 Nov, 2008

This Week's Software Tips

Congratulations October Drawing Winner
Steve Rodgers won the October drawing for a $100 gift card. Steve's tip was published in the October 13 edition. Submit your tip (see guidelines below) 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.

Text Edits at the Command Line
David Booth wrote "Here's an AutoLISP routine that is quite useful for doing multiple, quick text edits at the Command line. It is intended for users who prefer using the keyboard rather than dialog boxes. It'll work on all versions of AutoCAD I've tried since R14. The last entry is saved as the default value."

;;text command line quick edit with default values
;;change the command prompt to any value that's quicker for you to start the routine, I use A instead of TXCL.

(defun C:TXCL ( )

(if (not old) (setq old "VALUE"))

(setq str (getstring (strcat "\nEnter new text <" old ">: ")))

(if (= "" str) (setq str old))

(setq TxtObj (vlax-ename->vla-object (car (entsel "\nSelect text:"))))

(vla-put-Textstring TxtObj str)

(setq old str)

) ;end defun

This tip gives you a quick way to change selected text items to identical text strings. It also works on mtext. You also can accomplish this task by using the Contents line of the Properties dialog box. Select all text or all mtext, and type in the desired string (for post-AutoCAD 2002 versions).

Trace Command
Eric Lawson wrote to remind us about the Trace command, which he currently uses with AutoCAD 2008, and which has been in his arsenal since v9. "Trace is an old, but still useful, AutoCAD command. When you need to show a solid sectioned hole (side on), draw in your center line, then type Trace. You are asked for the required trace width (this will be your hole diameter). Enter the width and then pick your start point. Next, pick your end point, and select Return. That's it. The beauty of this one (compared with the Solid command) is you don't have to construct your corner points first."

We love tips that remind users about features in software they already own. There's always more than one way to accomplish a particular task. The only caveat is that the Trace command is modified by the FILLMODE setting variable. If the FILLMODE is set to 1, the Trace command will fill (like a solid hatch). If it's set to 0, it won't. The user must be careful, especially in a multiuser, multidiscipline shop — and even more so if files are frequently exchanged with other offices. Thanks, Eric!

AutoCAD 2009 Tips
Tip Patrol member Billy Wooten shared a couple of AutoCAD 2009 tips for those of you who are thinking of making the jump. He reports that when upgrading to 2009, the Migration Utility won't fully load all the Express Tools. This must be done separately. Also when creating a nested copy of a field entity in AutoCAD 2009, the field is copied as mtext. Thanks, Billy!

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

Follow-Up: Disappearing Dynamic Block Properties in AutoCAD 2009
Nick Azbell wrote in response to our October 27 issue: "When making dynamic blocks, it is good practice to check the Scale Uniformly box. That way if the block is scaled, all directions hold the same number and dynamics are retained."

Follow-Up: Reload Missing Xrefs
The processing of finding missing xrefs is a subject near and dear to our readers' hearts, as the response to our October 27 issue confirms. Hugh Thomson and Chris Wade reminded us about the Reference Manager, which allows the user to select multiple drawings and see what xrefs are missing as well as their saved paths. Users can quickly reselect the correct location of the missing xrefs and apply the changes to the parent drawings without having to open them, a handy way to quickly check drawings from a third party. Reference Manager is located on the Start Menu with your AutoCAD program. Note that if your AutoCAD version is newer than the files, the files will be upgraded to the current version. If this is problematic, it can be corrected by using the free Autodesk TrueView program from the Autodesk Web site to convert them to any other version.

On a related note, Shawn Evjen wrote to remind us that some xrefs may contain a lower-level xref that has been set to overlay instead of attach. In this case, it will not show up in a drawing when expected. To change the type of xref from overlay to attach, open the file that contains the overlaid xref. Then in AutoCAD 2000-2008, open the Xref Manager (Insert / Xref Manager), select the name of the xref, and double click the word Overlay to change it to Attach. In AutoCAD 2009 you can find the Xref Manager under Insert / External Reference.

Ronald Maneja offered yet another way to reload missing xrefs: "Copy all the xrefs to the same folder where your final drawing is located. When you open the final drawing, all the xrefs will be automatically loaded, and you do not have to do it one by one. By default, when an xref is not found, AutoCAD searches the xrefed drawing in the same folder where it is located.

"If all your xrefs are in a separate folder and you do not want to mix the final drawings with the xrefed drawings, another workaround is to add the directory of the xref folder to the support path of AutoCAD. Once a final drawing is opened and AutoCAD has found that an xref is missing, then it will also search the supported paths."

Finally, our own Cadalyst Tip Patrol member Kevin Sawyer shared AutoCAD's built-in method for finding errant xrefs and images, which hinges on the PROJECTNAME system variable. "This variable is stored in the drawing, so it can be set to values to suit each individual drawing on the same project. Go to Options / Files Tab / Project Files Search Path and Add a new entry. Give this entry a definitive name, maybe the name of the supplier of the missing xrefs or your own project number. Next, expand the branch just created, highlight the Empty and browse to a folder where the missing xrefs reside. You can create as many entries as you like as these are saved in your registry. Now when you open a drawing where the xrefs are missing, as long as you have carried out the procedures above, you only need to change the system variable PROJECTNAME to the name of the corresponding entry as entered. Any missing xrefs in that folder can then be reloaded. If they are not found in that folder, AutoCAD then searches the support file search path in the usual fashion."

MicroStation Tip: Capture an Image
You can create a screenshot of any part of Microstation via the Utilities / Image/ Capture tool. Read more

Today's MicroStation tip courtesy of The Envision Group.

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: "Explicit 3D Modeling Impresses Former 2D Design Loyalists," and "Parametric, Explicit and Hybrid 3D Modeling - What Works and Why," both by CoCreate.

Longview Advisors Publish New Whitepaper
In "The Advent of Visual Manufacturing," author David Prawel explores the gap between engineering and production in terms of open communication and system compatibility. Read more

First Trace Releases First Installment of its Whitepaper Management Series
First Trace's "Hidden ROI: Examining Engineering Processes to Improve the Bottom Line" provides suggestions about where risks and costs can be identified and reduced in engineering enterprises. Read more

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Deals & Freebies

HP Offers Big Savings on Bundled Hardware and Software
HP is offering CAD-inspired packages, with partners Autodesk and NVIDIA. They include AutoCAD 2009 software, HP xw4600 Workstation, and NVIDIA Quadro Professional Graphics. Read more

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Opportunities & Honors

Survey Participants Needed
Nathan Hartman, of Purdue University, wants to hear from design and manufacturing engineers, project manager, and IT support for his survey on the use of lightweight 3D visualization formats. Read more.

Call for Speakers for 2009 Collaboration and Interoperability Conference
Longview Advisors is looking for speakers for the 2009 conference, which will bring together experts and executives from a range of discrete manufacturing industries to discuss issues in collaboration and interoperability.

Siemens Employee Erica Simmons Receives All Star Award
Siemens PLM Software announced that employee Erica Simmons, global marketing manager, received a 2008 All Stars in Technology award during the National Women of Color Technology Awards Conference. Simmons has held various marketing and sales support roles for Oracle, i2 Technologies, and Saba Software.

Vectorworks Firm Shook Kelley wins AIA North Carolina Firm of the Year
Nemetschek North America announced that Shook Kelley won the Firm of the Year Award 2008 from the American Institute of Architects. The award is given to firms that consistently produce quality architecture with a verifiable level of client satisfaction.

Oce Wins Several Honors at GRAPH EXPO
The Oce ColorWave 600 large-format, color printer was honored with a MUST SEE 'EM Award at the GRAPH EXPO conference. In addition, other Oce hardware and software products received "Worth a Look" recognition.

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

Visualization: Genetica v3
Users of Spiral Graphics' latest software can now add doors, windows, graffiti, symbols, and texture details by using the new set of drawing tools. Read more

CAM: GibbsCAM 2009
Gibbs and Associates' latest CAM software features 3D high-speed milling, lathe features, and multi-CPU support. Read more

PLM: webFolio and webView
Gerber Technology's applications for the fashion lifecycle management suite contain line-planning and collaboration tools. Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

Daylighting Workflow from SketchUp or Revit
November 10, 2008
Boston, Massachusetts
Radiance training, hosted by Integrated Environmental Solutions, will show how to generate images for daylight and lighting using ray-tracing techniques. Read more

Plan-Build-Operate Technology Summit
May 4-6, 2009
Nashville, Tennessee
Meridian Systems' event brings together organizations to share best practices, customer case studies, and technology demonstrations. Read more

RAPID 2009 Conference and Exposition
May 12-14, 2009
Schaumburg, Illinois
Attendees of this event, hosted by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, can evaluate the latest materials and machinery and compare processes. Read more

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