Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 13, No. 44)

23 Nov, 2008

Dear Readers:Tips & Tools Weekly will take a holiday break next week and will resume publication Monday, December 8. To our U.S. readers, have a very happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday.

Attention Cadalyst Fans at Autodesk University 2008
Join Cadalyst at Autodesk University during the AUGI Beer Bust on December 3 for our first-ever Meet & Greet. Readers are invited to stop by the Cadalyst booth (# 238) to meet the editors and some of your favorite Cadalyst authors. Come by between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. to say hello and enter our drawing for Cadalyst freebies.

This Week's Software Tips

Attach Quick Leader
Timothy Spangler sent this nonassociative quick leader AutoLISP routine that he has used every day with AutoCAD 2004 to 2009. "The routine prompts you to select the text to which you want to attach the leader; this can be text, dtext, or mtext. In the case of mtext, the leader is attached to the selected line of text. The leader is created on the same layer as the selected text and is based from the current dimstyle. Once the text is selected, you are prompted for the end and bend points. Select the leader endpoint (the end of the arrowhead), then the cursor is locked in alignment to the end of the selected text. Select the bend point and the leader is created. This AutoLISP is written to only allow text that is horizontal or vertical."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: This is useful LISP, especially because with mtext, it will allow you to "connect" your leader not only to the top line of text or the bottom line of text, but even to the second or third lines of text. Starting with Release 2008, a separate toolbar for leaders called Multileaders was included.

Add Function Calls to Entities
Raymond Foren sent this tip to add function calls to entities, which he uses in AutoCAD 2008.

1. In the CUI, under Double Click Actions (DCA), select an entity type you do not use in your drawings.
2. Add a Command line to launch a function or command.
3. Double click the entity and launch the function.

Raymond writes, "I drew a small circle in our DWT file at the edge of the title block. Then I converted the circle to a region. (We generally do not use regions in our work.) In the DCA menu, I assigned the following code to the region:

^C^C^C(if (not Action) (Load "Action")()) (Action);

"Whenever anyone double-clicks the small circle, the command is run. Just remember, any region used in your DWG file will react to this command. This command launches a dialog box to select options for display in the title block. Also, we use shared menus that reside on our server.

"You can assign commands to entities and use to display geometry of an arc, display the inverse of a line, display attribute information of blocks, and the list is limitless!"

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Great tip! The user just has to determine which entities must be "sacrificed" to use this procedure. This tip can lead to a lot of efficient time-saving ideas. Thanks, Raymond.

Another Tip Patrol member agrees this is a good tip, but offers this caution: This is one of a group of customizations by which users, if they are not careful (careful in their documentation as well as in a professional sense), can customize their system to the point at which it becomes "myCAD" and not AutoCAD. Customizing the short-cut keys, toolbars, palettes, (in 09 the Ribbon) -- heck even customizing the PGP -- all allow the user to create a personal and idiosyncratic work environment.

Creating double-click commands for (typically in your usage or your firm's) unused entities is one more (double-edged) tool. In a sense, it is a method of REDEFINING or RENAMING commands. If users do so, they will always need to document their changes (on paper as well electronically) and -- if in a multiuser firm or as a visiting contractor -- be prepared to quickly (and easily) change things back to "normal."

Customization should always be balanced with its utility and its impact on one's skill set. A highly customized and thereby "personal" environment may make you much less functional (and marketable) to an outside employer!

Erasing Layers in Land Desktop
Mike Klever sent this tip about the Layer Erase command, which he uses with AutoCAD Civil 3D Land Desktop Companion. "Most of us have had situations where layers just won't go away, even after you think you have erased all visible entities from that layer. By using the Layer Erase (YE keyboard entry) command, you can erase all objects on a chosen layer either by picking on an object from that layer or by hitting enter after initiating the command and picking the layer you want to erase from a list. Using Layer Erase does not delete the selected layer from the drawing; it just erases the objects that are on that layer.

"I find this command useful for cleaning up layers in drawings that are not needed coming from outside sources, thus saving time by erasing all objects from a layer with a single selection. I then use the purge (PU) command to remove all unused layers from the drawing file. This helps to reduce unnecessary xref layers in all drawings associated with it in the future."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: In 2007 and 2008 the Layer Delete command (in the Layer Properties Box) and in 2009 (in the Layers Ribbon dropdown) will provide the desired results. The Tip Patrol did not locate such an alias (YE) for Layer Erase in Civil 3D 2009.

AutoCAD Icon Switches
Frequent tip contributor Leonid Nemirovsky offered this tip. "Starting with AutoCAD 2007 and up, another switch was added to AutoCAD icon:

/w "myworkspacename" (replace "myworkspacename" with your own

"This switch specifies which workspace is to be restored at startup. The workspace must be in one of the loaded CUI files, main, enterprise, or partial. So the icon property Target box may look something like this:

"c:\Program Files\AutoCAD 2009\Acad.exe" /w "myworkspace

"More AutoCAD icon switches can be found in this PDF at"

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: As always, Lee Ambrosious' continues to be a great user resource.

This tip, of course, would be of the greatest utility in a multiple-users-on-one-workstation environment. Single users probably won't have a real need for this (unless they have seriously different workspaces for different disciplines and prefer to "switch" from, for example, architectural to electrical via a desktop AutoCAD icon rather than within AutoCAD via the Workspace toolbar or command.

It's always a good idea to review the usefulness of switches, especially if most of the drawings being used are notably similar. The default Workspace can also be set by typing in Workspace and selecting setCurrent.

Grid Display Variable
John Jordan sent this tip for the adaptive grid, which he uses with AutoCAD 2007. "Change the setvar GRIDDISPLAY according to how you want the grid to display. I set GRIDDISPLAY to 0 so that it will only show the limits of the drawing. The setting is stored as a bitcode using the sum of the following values:

0 – Restricts the grid to the area specified by the Limits command.
1 – Does not restrict the grid to the area specified by the Limits command.
2 – Turns on adaptive grid display, which limits the density of the grid when zoomed out.
3 – Initial setting.
4 – If the grid is set to adaptive display and when zoomed in, generates additional, more closely spaced grid lines in the same proportion as the intervals of the major grid lines.
8 – Changes the grid plane to follow the xy plane of the dynamic UCS.

"Note: Setting 4 is ignored unless setting 2 is specified."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: This tip works as stated and is explained in the AutoCAD Help file under GRIDDISPLAY. As the HELP entry (and the tip) note, if the GRIDDISPLAY setvar is not (initially) set to 2, then the adapative 4 setting cannot be applied. Not included in this tip, the AutoCAD HELP entry also references the VSCURRENT settings, which will let the user adjust the color and style of the GRID.

Quick 3D Solid
Pedro Ferreira sent this tip. "When I want to create a 3D solid of an area in a drawing, for example, a wall in a house, I use Ctrl + Alt and pick the area where I want to create the 3D solid. This area can be defined by lines, lwpolylines, regions, and more, and if I move the cursor while pressing Ctrl + Alt, it shows where I can create this solid. This tip was tested only in AutoCAD 2008 full version (English) with SP1, and I think the Ctrl+Alt keys are undocumented."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: True, it's undocumented, but it works just as Pedro says. A 3D solid is created on top of the objects used to make it; these objects are not erased. It also works in 2009 versions of AutoCAD MEP and Civil 3D.

Note: Follow-up tips are not reviewed by the Cadalyst Tip Patrol.

Follow-up: E-Transmit
Mick Noble sent this follow-up to the e-transmit file format shortcut in the November 17 edition. "E-transmit is by far the best method to for transmitting files; we also use it for archiving files at major milestones. The major benefit of e-transmit is that it creates a separate copy of the files required to recreate the drawing, leaving you free to continue amending the working files. You can also attached to an e-mail, bind, and purge (2009) all DWGs when modifying the transmittal. Also, when you initiate e-transmit, you can add other files, similar to publishing, and hence e-transmit as many plot sheets as you want in one hit. I have done more than 100 in one command. It took a couple of hours but a much quicker method."

Follow-up: Mask Background
Jim Olszewski had this to say about the November 17 tip on the Background Mask feature:  "I know I'll be using it in the future! Another way to access this great feature is to right-click when mtext editing. The menu that opens has Background Mask as an option. You don't even need to highlight the text!"

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Deals & Freebies

Free Alibre Design Xpress
Alibre is offering Alibre Design Xpress v11 as a free download. The software is both an evaluation and learning tool that is suited for professionals evaluating CAD options as well as 3D newcomers. Read more

Cosateq Offers Free Trial of SCALE-RT
SCALE-RT is a scalable product based on open-source software, which includes a Linux kernel and real-time Xenomai extension. Read more

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Opportunities & Honors

Call For Papers: Share Your Knowledge at Siemens PLM Connection 2009
Siemens PLM Connection, June 1-4, 2009, is a forum for users of Siemens products to exchange software knowledge in technical sessions, attend training sessions, and network one-on-one with other users and Siemens PLM Software professionals.

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

Hardware: Capturx Forms for Excel
Capturx from Adapx enables users to create forms in Excel, print them on ordinary paper, and convert the handwritten data back into the original Excel fields. Read more

Hardware: Eden260V 3D Printer
Objet Geometries printer allows users to create models with physical properties, including transparency, color, and elasticity. Read more

General Software: Mathematica v7
Software from Wolfram Research includes functions for image composition, transformation, enhancement, and segmentation. Read more

Visualization: XVL Software Packages
Lattice Technology's three packages focus on digital mockup, process documentation and animation, and interactive 3D parts lists. Read more

Collaboration: Brava! Desktop v2.2 and Brava Enterprise v6.1
Brava Desktop from Informative Graphics can view, print, mark up, and redact PDF, TIFF, Microsoft XPS and Office, and CAD drawings. Read more

Collaboration: Online Meeting for 3DXplorer V4.2
Altadyn's software places an event into an interactive 3DXplorer virtual space. Hosts can customize a meeting venue or build their own room. Read more

Software from Zuken includes new a pin-management functionality to support high pin count devices, as well as new library management wizards. Read more

ALGOR v23 includes smart-bonded contact, which uses multipoint constraints to bond the surfaces of unmatched meshes. Read more


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Mark Your Calendar

Improving Data Management with Autodesk Productstream
December 11, 2008
11 a.m. CST
During this webinar, from Applied Engineering Technology, attendees will learn how Autodesk Productstream can be used for file organization and search, design reuse with copy design, and design revisions and lifecycles. Read more

Introduction to AutoCAD Electrical 2009
December 18, 2008
10:30 a.m. CST
This webinar by Applied Engineering Technology will introduce some specialized tools in AutoCAD Electrical. Read more

AIA National Convention and Design Exposition
April 30-May 2, 2009
San Francisco, California
The AIA expo showcases the latest design and industry products and services including architectural fabric, and sustainable and universal design. Read more

Siemens PLM Connection Americas 2009
June 1-4, 2009
Nashville, Tennessee
PLM World's conference will span the entire product lifecycle from concept to retirement. Topics include NX connection, and simulation connection. Read more

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