Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 13, No. 42)

9 Nov, 2008

This Week's Software Tips

Project Browser Expansion in Revit
Brendan Upton contributed this tip for Autodesk Revit Architectural, Structural, and MEP. "Use the number pad asterisk (*) key to expand the entire tree in the Project Browser. If you would like to expand the entire tree of views and families, etc., inside the Project Browser at the same time, instead of clicking on each and every little + sign, do the following:

"Click somewhere inside the Project Browser to make it active and press the * key on the number pad. All branches of the tree will expand simultaneously. Keep in mind that it must be the * key on the number pad (above the 9). The * on the 8 key will not work."

This is a Windows feature that works in any Explorer-type listing. The asterisk will expand all folders and - (dash) will collapse them. Be sure to use the keys on the number pad, as Brendan instructs.

Benchmark Symbol
Alex Borodulin at NYacad sent a link for an editable benchmark symbol. The free download helps with stacked text, auto adjustment of dividing line length, and multiline text. Thanks, Alex!

Custom View Buttons
Paul Grabowski wrote to say, "I work in AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008 and Civil 3D Land Desktop Companion 2008. For negotiating around in my drawings, I have created three buttons. For the first, I create a named view called Sheet (you can call yours whatever you want) in all my drawings. This view frames the main part of the drawing in model space, with all the proper layers showing and the appropriate layers frozen. The command for the associated button is this:


"It could also be written to eliminate the purge


"When I have finished with the drawing, whether to stop for lunch, for the day, or until later, I click this button. It essentially prepares the drawing for closing. With one click, it cancels any active command, restores the main view of the drawing (Sheet), setting the layers correctly, and does a purge all and a quick save. Then all I have to do is close. When I or someone else opens the drawing, everything is set and the view is right. Note: The qsave will not work in AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008.

"The other two buttons I have created are a Save Work View button and a Restore Work View button. I use these when I am working with one area of a drawing. When I first focus on the area, I hit the Save Work View button. It creates a named view called Work. Then as I am working in the area, panning and zooming, all I have to do to get back to the overall area of interest or to another area within the work area, is press the Restore Work View button. It takes me out to cover the entire work area and sets up the Zoom Window command. Then all I do is click the corners of the area I want to focus on, and it takes me there, with only a total of three clicks. No more repeating pan or zoom or combinations to get to another area.

"If I do move to a new work area within the drawing and click Save Work View button to change the Work view, I will have to type a Y and hit Enter to replace the existing Work view.

"Once you get used to using these, they really streamline moving around in a drawing. The command for the 'save "work" view button' is


"The command for the 'restore "work" view button' is

-view;r;work; '_zoom

The first set of buttons is a great idea. Before it can function properly, a named view called "Sheet" must be created. If you do not want to use this name for the view, simply determine a standard name for the view and change the macro from "Sheet" to your named view of choice. The second set of buttons is also a great idea to help users be more efficient. Again, as in the first set of buttons, if users want the named view to be different, no problem, just change the macro. Also, a third idea might be to create a button similar to the one that creates the named view Work, but have it create the named view Sheet to simplify the first process.

Block Counting
Bill Karkula offered this tip for AutoCAD 2009: "Often I have to do a count of various blocks in a drawing. For example, my hospital has more than 4500 rooms. Of course, each has a door, many of which are fire doors. For these fire doors I have inserted a block called FD20minute and FD90Minute, etc. I have customized a button to do a count of all the blocks in the drawing, and bring the text window up. Here is the command:


"When finished viewing the results, I just hit F2 to close the text window. Feel free to edit this tip any way you need; I use vanilla AutoCAD 2009."

BCOUNT is a great tool from the Express Tools Menu. It will count every block in a file and list them, along with the number of its instances in the file, on the text screen. Once this data is listed, users can open the text screen and copy that data out to use. This customized button macro will relieve the user of several clicks. If users need more data, try out the DATAEXTRACTION command. This is a much more advanced and complicated command, but at the same time is much more powerful. However, the BCOUNT command is a very quick, simple, and easy to use feature to get data in a hurry.

Superscript/Subscript Text in Mtext
Leonid Nemirovsky sent in this tip for AutoCAD 2009. "In MTEXT windows, if you need to superscript or subscript any number of characters (for example, ABCD^45), in the Mtext Editor window, highlight ^45 and select a/b (fractional icon inside Mtext Editor) and you will have ABCD subscript 45. If you do need superscript, use this similar procedure: type ABCD45^; highlight 45^, then a/b, and you have it.

"If you have two parallel lines of equal or unequal length, the Fillet command (regardless of setting for radius) will put an arc between those parallel lines. If the longer line was selected first, it will make the shorter line the same length as the long one, and vice versa.

"To manipulate all xrefs at the same time without going to each individually, run the Xref command without a dialog box by typing -XREF at the Command prompt, and then selecting one of the options offered on the Command prompt, such as Bind, Detach, Unload, Reload, or Overlay. For example, type D for detach and respond with * instead of the xref names."

Users often need to include superscripts or subscripts. Using the ^ (caret) key before or after the text and stacking it as described will allow us to create them. There are some default settings for specific superscripts (like the number 2) but we often need other numbers.

The fillet command can be used to make one end of two parallel lines start or stop at the same distance. It doesn't make the lines the same length. When the fillet command is invoked, it creates an arch between the two lines that is tangent to both lines. The second line selected will either be trimmed or extended accordingly if the two are parallel. If they aren't, then both lines will be trimmed/extended in order to create a fillet of the given radius that is tangent to both lines. This tip will make the end of two parallel lines end at the same point.

This is a great tip for performing the same functions on multiple xrefed files. This type of interface can be accomplished with most commands and is key when creating LISP routines, script files, or button macros. Typing a dash (-) in front of a command will tell AutoCAD to start the function without a dialog box. The command will be run the old-fashioned way, completely through the command line. Many times this can speed up command entries, especially if the user already knows the sequence of keystrokes.

Quick Click and Drag Commands
Daniel Welch sent in this tip that he has used in AutoCAD 2002 and 2008. "By selecting objects, holding the right mouse button down and dragging, you get some really great options when you release the button. The one I particularly like is the Paste as Block command. Normally we use a pretty exclusive library for blocks inserted on our drawings. But, occasionally, we need a one-time occurrence. The best scenario for our use is when we create a document change notice from a drawing that has settings, such as dim scales, that do not match the settings on our change notice. We can right-click, drag and paste as block, copy the block to clipboard, and paste in our document without affecting the appearance of the objects with dimensions, especially leader and dimension arrows. This makes it nice for enlarging a picture to fit the paper where scale is not a factor."

Several features are available to users when they Right-click. The RC and Drag feature mentioned above is a quick and easy way to perform three commands: copy, move, and paste as block. If the user invokes this quick tip by accident, then there is a Cancel option in the window that pops up. This is a nice quick and easy way to copy or move objects in a hurry.

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 Whitepaper Addresses Transition to 3D
Most design firms eventually will be faced with transitioning from a 2D CAD to 3D CAD system. "Going From 2D to 3D: Why Make Change Now?" by PTC offers technical advice for 2D CAD users who are considering switching to 3D CAD. The paper is free to those who register on Cadalyst's Whitepaper Library.

Reengineer Your ECAD-MCAD Design Process
The marriage of electronics and software is spawning a new generation of innovative products. "Reengineering Your ECAD-MCAD Design Process: The Pervasiveness of Electromechanical Products Brings New Challenges to Product Development Companies" shows how you can improve your ECAD-MCAD collaboration. Read it free by registering on Cadalyst's Whitepaper Library.

Longview Publishes Collaboration and Interoperability Report
Longview Advisors' free 2008 report includes results and analysis from its fourth annual collaboration and interoperability best-practices survey, along with articles on related industry topics. The report also includes a collection of invited papers examining the latest trends, issues, and technologies in collaboration and interoperability. Read more

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Books & Training

Eagle Point Incorporates Civil 3D Learning Videos into Pinnacle Series
Pinnacle Series 8.2.0 includes more than 5 1/2 hours of video lessons directly embedded within its AutoCAD Civil 3D workflows. The company has partnered with 4D Technologies to bring users 40+ video lessons covering Civil 3D 2009 topics. Read more

Online Training Sessions
Evolve Consultancy is launching a new ClassroomOnline training service. The sessions, titled "Setting Out a Building in MicroStation" and "Setting Out a Building in AutoCAD," are free 30-minute sample sessions that cover the use of accurate drawing tools and coordinate systems.

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

General Software: Camtasia Studio V6
TechSmith's software allows users to create presentations, demonstrations, and marketing videos in HD quality. Read more

Visualization: Vue 7 xStream and Vue 7 Infinite
New features of e-on Software's latest 3D environment creation software include EcoSystem 3, and Spectral 2 cloud technology. Read more

AEC: LandSketch
Eagle Point's software allows designers to begin their conceptual designs by leveraging numerous forms of electronic data. Read more

AEC: CADWorx fieldPipe
COADE's new tool allows users to build an intelligent, specification-driven model using point-cloud data from laser scan information. Read more

MCAD: Scribe-iT DCC for Maya
Ghost 3D's digitizer includes referencing and alignment tools, geometry and measurement capture, editing and manipulation tools. Read more

CAE: Fast Multipole BEM
Found in Virtual.Lab Acoustics Rev 8, LMS' solver extends acoustic simulation performance, enabling higher frequency, acoustic analysis. Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

AutoCAD See the Difference Live Simulcast
November 19, 2008
Various U.S. Cities
Autodesk, DLT Solutions, and CADD Microsystems will present this event, featuring Autodesk technical evangelist Lynn Allen, who will share her favorite tips and tricks for AutoCAD 2009. Read more

Optech Innovative Lidar Solutions Conference
June 24-26, 2009
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Potential users of laser-scanning technology will meet with experts, learn about the newest techniques, and exchange research ideas at this conference. Read more

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