Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 13, No. 7)

24 Feb, 2008

This Week's Software Tips

Reverse Paging
John Jordan sent this simple tip about paging through AutoCAD drawings. He says, "Everyone knows that Ctrl+Tab will page through your open drawings. For example, if you open drawings 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 in that order, this key combination will page through each one in turn. However, some folks don’t know that if you decide when you reach drawing 4 that you want to go back to drawing 3, you can use Ctrl+Shift+Tab to take you backwards in the sequence."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: This keyboard shortcut works as described. For more advanced control, try freeware or shareware programs such as iDwgTab or AcadXTabs.

Outside the Box
Robert Somppi offers this simple solution for dealing with the Mtext Editor: "Tired of going to the OK button when you are finished editing mtext with the new editor? Think outside the box. Click anywhere in the drawing area to enter your changes."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: This is a good reminder that you can tell AutoCAD OK without clicking on the OK button. This also works with single-line text, although two clicks are needed.

Customized Complex Linetype
For advanced AutoCAD users who don’t shy away from a challenge, Doug Kochel sent in this tip to get a complex linetype to start with a shape/symbol instead of a dash segment. According to Autodesk's Help menu, "Currently, AutoCAD supports only A-type alignment, which guarantees that the endpoints of lines and arcs start and stop with a dash." This workaround offers the illusion of a complex linetype that starts with a shape. He writes:

"One of the more common requests for a linetype that starts with a shape is for flow arrows, and I am providing instructions for that particular linetype. This could be easily modified for other shapes. As always, make sure you back up any files you may be editing for this.

"First, create a linetype definition as you normally would for your desired linetype. The example below will place open arrows along the line, but in reverse direction of how the line is placed. (You'll see why in a minute.)


"Next add this shape to LTYPES.SHP (or wherever you place custom linetype shapes; just be sure to change the above code accordingly).


"Use the Compile command to create an SHX file from your SHP file. Alternatively, you can use Express Tools to create the shapes and linetypes that you want.

"Now the sneaky part: Create a dimension leader style that uses Closed blank as the arrowhead. Create your flow lines with Qleader set to None for annotation type and No Limit to number of points. (I also like Spline leader line.) Because you are actually creating a leader, you must pick in reverse direction of flow.

"Modify the leader's linetype to the customized Openflow linetype. If you want to use a different arrowhead style, just create a shape that matches the arrowhead. If you don't like any of the stock symbols in Dimstyle, you can also make a custom block from the shape for a user arrow.

"Drawbacks: Entity is a leader and is restricted to the editing and data information of such. You may have to adjust Dimasz and/or Dimscale if the arrow sizes don't match or Ltscale is changed. There is nothing that locks the initial arrowhead size to the remaining line if things start getting changed."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: We applaud this detailed explanation of linetype creation. Here’s a resource from KX CAD that provides more information about AutoCAD 2008 custom linetypes. This is a complicated procedure that will require special handling in both implementation and regular use. Some users will prefer to buy rather than build complex linetypes.

Variable Resets
Leonid Nemirovsky offers this tip for users with a dual-core processor computer that runs AutoCAD 2000i-2008. To maximize the available power, he reminds us that "the key is to set the WHIPTHREAD variable properly. This specifies how AutoCAD will use additional processors on the machine. (Note: This system variable has no effect on machines with single processors.)"

0 -- No multithreading is used.
1 -- Regeneration only is carried out by multiple processors.
2 -- Redraw only is carried out by multiple processors.
3 -- Regeneration and Redraw are carried out by multiple processors.

For those who are resetting variables after getting a new computer, he writes: "WHIPARC controls whether the display of circles and arcs is tessellated or smooth."

0 -- Circles and arcs are tessellated, causing these objects to display as a series of vectors.
1 -- Circles and arcs are not tessellated, causing these objects to display as true circles and arcs.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Good tip! The WHIPARC setvar is worth reminding folks about. It’s another classic feature that can trip up new users.

Blast from the Past
Leonid also sent a few fun tips for those who wax nostalgic about old AutoCAD dialog boxes: "These tips are for the old-timers -- a glimpse to the past. The Classicxref command will bring up the old (pre-AutoCAD 2007) xref dialog box, and the Attedit command brings up the old Attribute Edit dialog box.

"Additionally, for those who like to use the Command prompt for a bunch of forgotten functions, in response to the Move, Stretch, and Erase commands at the Command prompt, enter something odd at the Select objects prompt, such as NNN, then press Enter. You will find on the Command prompt something like this:


NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Thanks for the blast from the not-so-distant past, Leonid. (At least for some of us!) The old Attedit dialog box has its uses still. We hope not all of the old Command functions are forgotten. We Tip Patrollers still regularly use C for Crossing selection, A for Add, R for Remove, W for Window selection, and P for Previous set selection. It is useful to remind folks that there are additional options: CP for Crossing Polygon selection, WP for Window Polygon selection, U for Undo that last selection, and more. Note that almost any keystroke on the Command line will access the Command selections prompt (except, of course, one of the selection options prefixes such as R or C). For example, just typing N will give you the same response.

Exporting Custom Tool Palettes
Last, but not least, here is Leonid's quick tip for exporting customized tool palettes to another workstation. "Right-click inside the tool palette and select Customize Palettes. In the left column, highlight the palette you wish to export, right-click, and select Export. The only drawback is you have to do one tool palette at a time."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Good idea. Be sure to right-click inside the docking bar to get the Customize option. Autodesk probably prefers that we export palettes one at a time. After all, if it were easy, it wouldn’t be AutoCAD.

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

Follow-Up: Check an Entity’s Properties
Brock Narum sent in a routine similar to the Check and Entity's Properties tip that ran in the February 11 issue. He says, "I use this code all of the time when writing programs, but it is also useful to CAD users because it doesn’t require you to know the entity data group codes. It’s broken down into readable data."

(Defun C:vdata ()
(vlax-dump-object (vlax-ename->vla-object (car (entsel "\nPick Object: "))))

Dave Jansson also sent in this code for finding entity data using the Nentsel command. He reports, "This gives more information on a nested, or regular, entity and is especially useful on xrefs, where I employ this code most of the time."

(DEFUN C:I () (entget(car(nentsel))))

Dave reports that he uses I for the Defun because he prefers to keep his character typing to a minimum. The routine is placed in ACADDOC.LSP, so it is loaded automatically. Other useful bits of code may be


as well as

            OLDCMD (GETVAR "CMDECHO"))
      (SETVAR "CMDECHO" 0)

Dave says, "The nice thing about this LISP code is that it retains a previously set fillet radius as long as you don't quit this routine, as it has no error handler."

Follow-Up: File-Sharing Best Practices
Tips & Tools Weekly readers continue their quest to improve file-sharing practices, in response to the original tip in our February 4 issue. David Dawson wrote to say that binding a drawing for transmittal is not a good option for these reasons:

  1. If an xref is attached instead of overlaid, the bind will not occur.
  2. If the colors of layers of the xref have been modified for plotting during production, they are not retained after binding.
  3. None of the ancillary files are sent.
  4. If every thing goes well, you end up with a mess of layers with AC$.

David suggests using the eTransmit command found on AutoCAD's File menu. He says, "You can set the xrefs to be relative or all in one directory. AutoCAD will do the rest."

Rick Gill also recommends the eTransmit tool, which he uses in Land Desktop 2005. Offering further explanation, he says, "It not only gathers all the files associated with your drawing file -- such as fonts, linetypes, xrefs, jpegs, gifs, and more -- it also creates a printable, professional-looking transmittal report with every detail you could want to know about the file you just received. You can enter notes with the transmittal package, add additional files, and save standard transmittal setups so you don't have to redo them every time.

"You can also save these for future reference, say if someone has a problem with a package you've sent in the past. All this is compiled in a nice, condensed, standard ZIP file that you can archive for future use and use to keep track of submittals. I think this has to be one of the most useful commands out there, saving me tons of time hunting down all of the associated files linked to a drawing file, no matter where the file resides."

MicroStation Tip: AccuDraw Focus
If you have ever worked with MicroStation's AccuDraw drafting aid, you know that keeping the focus in the AccuDraw dialog box can be problematic. A setting in Preferences can make it easier. Click to download the PDF file.

Today's MicroStation tip courtesy of The Envision Group.

Submit Your Tip button

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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Deals & Freebies

IDX Variable Constraint Plug-In for AutoCAD Beta
Through March 16, IMSI/Design is offering a public beta for an AutoCAD variational sketching plug-in. The IDX Variable Constraint System was developed to provide designers and engineers with more control over designs by constraining drawing elements geometrically and providing variables that drive dimensions. Read more

CADalytic Media Offers SpecifiCAD Beta for ArchiCAD

CADalytic Media released SpecifiCAD beta for Graphisoft ArchiCAD v10 and v11. The company reports that designers can access CAD details, SketchUp 3D models, catalogs, three-part specifications, and green design information. The beta release is available free on the CADalytic Media Web site. Read more

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Opportunities & Honors

NVIDIA, CGSociety Sponsor Design Competition
Graphics card developer NVIDIA and CGSociety, a society of digital artists, are sponsoring another NVArt competition, this time focusing on architecture and landscape design. The Art Space: Architecture and Landscape digital art competition challenges participants to create "the most awe-inspiring architecture and landscape designs," according to the companies. Read more

Etrage Launches the IWBIWYBI Challenge
The engineering automation company Etrage announced the IWBIWYBI Challenge. IWBIWYBI (pronounced eebie-wibbie) stands for "If We Build It Will You Buy It," and it challenges the PTC user community to develop and submit ideas for the best new third-party application for Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire or Windchill. Applications can be in the areas of engineering automation, data integration, triggers, or other Pro/TOOLKIT applications.

BIM Experience Kit a 2008 CODiE Award Finalist
Graphisoft's ArchiCAD BIM Experience Kit is a finalist in the 23rd Annual CODiE Awards competition for "Best Workforce Training Solution." The CODiE Awards, sponsored by the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), recognize the high-tech industry's most outstanding products and services. The BIM Experience Kit was chosen from more than 1,200 nominations submitted by more than 600 companies in a variety of software categories.

Autodesk Product Receives Scientific & Technical Academy Award
Autodesk's Maya Fluid Effects System has earned a Technical Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The Maya Fluid Effects System allows digital artists to create realistic animation of liquids and gases, using novel simulation techniques for accuracy and speed, as well as a unique scripting language for working with volumetric data.

DSM SOMOS Announces Winners of X-Factor Challenge
DSM Somos has announced the winners of its X-Factor Challenge, a rapid prototyping design competition highlighting the versatility and unique performance features of  Somos' new high-impact SL resin, DMX-SLT 100.

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Books & Training

Solids Modeling Exercises
Conceptual Product Development released Doctor Walt's Solid Modeling Exercises Volume One (70 pages, $79.95). Developed as ancillary material for any CAD solids-modeling course, the book includes 50 mechanical objects presented in full-rendered isometric view with associated dimensioned orthographic views. Read more

SolidWorks Training
Inspirtech announced the launch of its Web-based training solution for SolidWorks 2008. According to the company, the bundle incorporates training from SolidWorks Certified Professionals and qualified teachers. Lessons are delivered via a hybrid of downloadable and streaming formats to the student's computer. Read more

AutoCAD Architecture Guidebook
Delmar Cengage Learning released an updated version of Accessing AutoCAD Architecture ($92.95), written by William Wyatt. The new release was revised to include the AutoCAD 2008 user interface and Vista, with command access tables for each new command that describe how to access the command from the menu bar, Command line, tool palette, and shortcut menu. Read more

Solid Edge v20 Training
CADCIM Technologies, developer of CAD/CAM textbooks, released Solid Edge v20 for Designers ($55) by Professor Sham Tickoo, Purdue University Calumet, and CADCIM Technologies. Content includes real-world projects and examples focusing on industry experience, as well as step-by-step examples that guide users through the learning process. Read more

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

General Software: Chronos for AutoCAD v3.2
Engineered Design Solutions' automatic time-logging utility supports AutoCAD R14 forward. Read more

General Software: Deep Access
Web-based asset-management software from Right Hemisphere is designed to deliver a searchable repository of 2D, 3D, and related media assets and metadata. Read more

Visualization: RS-MR
According to the company, ARTVPS's Windows-based application has an MI file manager that removes the complication of render farm rendering. Read more

Visualization: Artlantis Render and Studio
Software from the ABVENT Group reportedly includes enhanced lighting, photorealism, and rendering quality features. Read more

Visualization: Walkinside
VRcontext converter for SolidWorks 2007 and 2008 offers CAD users the opportunity to walk through SolidWorks models in real time. Read more

Visualization: Penguin v2.0
McNeel Europe's non-photorealistic render plug-in for Rhino v4.0 and AutoCAD 2004-2008 enables designers to create conceptual artistic images and technical illustrations for catalogs. Read more

Visualization: Autodesk 3ds Max 2009 and 3ds Max Design 2009
Both versions reportedly offer new rendering capabilities and improved interoperability with Autodesk Revit. Read more

AEC: ARQ Landscape 3
Asuni CAD landscape-design software is intended for landscapers, urban planners, and gardening professionals and for urbanism and environmental councils. Read more

GIS: GeoBlade Crimes
Toolset from Geographic Technologies Group (GTG) can be incorporated into its GeoBlade core viewer application to add functionality specific to an agency's departmental needs. Read more

3DiSYS application for both AutoCAD and MicroStation features interactive and batch mode commands for running a single edit command or multiple batch-editing tasks. Read more

MCAD: CFdesign for Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 4
Blue Ridge Numerics' software provides a parametric, CAD-driven flow- and thermal-analysis environment suited to mechanical, thermal, and mechatronics design engineers. Read more

CAE: SymLab v1.2

Unified simulation environment from Symscape can be extended using add-ons such as the SymLab Professional into a complete CAE system for fluid flow analysis. Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

Webinar: Integration of the RAM Structural System and RAM Connection
February 27, 2008
1:00 p.m. EST
This Web-seminar will provide an overview of RAM Connection and how it seamlessly works with the RAM Structural System to check a specific connection, design a single connection for multiple joints, or optimize each connection in your RAM model. Read more

Webcast: Staying Billable for CAD Users
March 3, 2008
1:30 p.m. ET
In this Webcast, sponsored by Synergis, Cadalyst contributing editor Robert Green will show participants how to learn more to improve their CAD skills while remaining as billable as possible. Green will explore some ideas to help achieve these sometimes competing goals. Read more

Model-Based Definition for the Masses CPDA Roundtable
March 4-13, 2008
Various U.S. cities
Right Hemisphere will sponsor a six-city roundtable series on how Fortune 100 best practitioners are leveraging their investments in Model-Based Definition (MBD) to drive improved efficiency, innovation, and bottom line results for their businesses. Read more

Using the Functionality of AutoCAD MEP
March 11, 2008
King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
At this Synergis lecture-style event, Autodesk trainer Jim Law will show why users should make the move from AutoCAD to AutoCAD MEP. Using “intelligent” objects, users assemble systems in their drawings exactly as they would be installed during construction. Read more

Webcast: Staying Billable for CAD Managers
March 17, 2008
1:30 p.m. ET
CAD managers always have too many things going on, many of which are not project-billable, yet CAD managers are still called upon to be billable.  What to do?  In this Webcast, sponsored by Synergis, Cadalyst contributing editor Robert Green will present some ideas to help break the logjam. Read more

Ninth RTT Conference
April 10-11, 2008
Vienna, Austria
Designers, virtual reality specialists, marketing experts, developers, and design engineers from the automotive, aerospace, consumer goods, and furniture industries will gather for the 9th RTT Conference, hosted by Realtime Technology (RTT). The networking and media event offers presentations by speakers from a variety of industries, as well as discussions and workshops. Read more

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