Tips & Tools Weekly (Vol. 13, No. 8)

2 Mar, 2008

This Week's Software Tips

Memory Upgrade
Here's a money-saving tip from our own Tip Patrol member, Billy Wooten. He informed us that some blank CDs and DVDs on the market can burn at a higher rate than is normally used (52X for CDs and 16X for DVDs), but these media are incompatible with many older burners. Instead of buying another burner, access the manufacturer's Web site and search for a firmware update for that particular unit.

Billy advises us to follow the directions for downloading and installing the file because it's a little more complicated than a standard update (for example, Direct Memory Access must be disabled before installing). This update allows the burner to recognize the higher burn rate of the media. Although not all CD burners will have an upgrade (there are some physical limitations on the old ones), most can be updated to perform with the higher-speed media.

AutoCAD-to-Excel Table Link
Leonid Nemirovsky sent this AutoCAD 2008 tip for embedding two-way editable tables in AutoCAD by linking to an existing Excel file, with a few additions to the standard approach.

To create a table in AutoCAD 2008 from an existing Microsoft Excel file:

  1. In the Excel file, be sure that the text style in the cells is set to the font that's your company standard for use in AutoCAD (and with proper heights).
  2. In AutoCAD, initiate the Table command and set your desired table style (assuming you have several).
  3. Click on the From a Data Link button, then select Launch the Datalink Manager. In the Select a Data Link dialog box, select Create a new Excel Data Link. Type a name for the link and browse to and select your existing Excel file. If everything looks good, click the OK button, then OK again, and OK for the table.

Now you can do more with the table contents and linked Excel file. Click on the new table; it will look like a regular spreadsheet. At the cursor you will see the Lock Link symbol. Click in the upper left corner cell of the table to highlight rows and columns, then right-click the cell. In the popup menu, select Locking and Unlocked. Now you can edit table data in place. Right-click again in the pop-up menu and select Data Links and Upload User changes to Source File. Or, if you made changes in a linked Excel file and saved it, you can click Download Changes from Source File to update the table.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: This is a very slick process!
Select Matching Blocks
Michael Weaver'sSelectTagsByExample.LSP (STBE) routine selects all blocks in the current drawing that match a selected example. He explains, "The example must be selected by an attribute, and this attribute is used to further filter the selection. Thus, selecting an insertion of a WallTag block with an attribute value of 4 will select all insertions of WallTag with attribute values of 4. After running STBE, the resulting selection set can be manipulated with the Properties palette or any of AutoCAD's other commands. STBE works on dynamic blocks."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: A useful routine! Click on the Tag value, and all the similar blocks will highlight. In conjunction with the Properties Manager, this is a good way to change "like" attributes to another value.

Cleaner Drawings Button
David Rodriquez offers this suggestion to clean up drawings: "We create a toolbar button that, once in paper space, will zoom extents (usually the border), audit, purge with the dialog box (in case there are features you may want to keep), and set layer 0 current. Here is what it looks like:

^C^C_z e audit y _purge clayer 0 qsave

Nice little macro -- especially the selection of the dialog box purge. We also like the reset of the current layer to 0. Here it is in an AutoLISP routine that can be assigned to a toolbar button:

(defun c:DRclean (/)
   (command "zoom" "e"
                   "audit" "y"
                   "purge" pause "" "no"
   (setvar "clayer" "0")
   (command "qsave")

Text Find/Replace
Mark Northcott offers this simple solution when you need to change a particular line of text, even if it is hidden deep in a string of text. He writes: "Select all the instances of mtext you would want to change and go to Edit / Find. Use the Replace button to change a string or a word that you want to change. Just type in the word you want to replace and the word to replace it with, and you're done. This is a big timesaver that I know many people don't know of and don't use."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Good tip and very versatile, similar to Quick Select. Plus, this trick is more powerful than many realize. In global (whole drawing) selection mode:

  • Find will work on both mtext and non-mtext entities.
  • Find will replace text strings in both paper and model space simultaneously.
  • Find will replace text strings in both mtext and non-mtext entities, in both paper and model space, even if they are frozen.

Import Page Setup
Michael Cipolla sent LMHT36X24PS.LSP, an AutoLISP routine that provides a way to update import page setups. He says: "We often work with drawings that come from out-of-office sources. It was always a time-consuming and tedious task to change/update all the page setups in the drawings. I have created LISP routines for all our different clients and sheet sizes. I have also created a pull-down menu with shortcuts to all these routines.

"These tools give my users a quick and easy way to create/update page setups in a drawing file. This makes for more consistent and easier automation. The routine will rename the layout tab to be the same as the file name; remove all page setups in the current drawing; and import all the page setups saved in the drawing file written in red and set the specific page setup written in blue to be current.

"Note: The drawing file needs to be within the AutoCAD Support search path. All of our drawing files use a single layout tab. To use this routine with multiple tab drawings, you would need to do some modifications."

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Be sure to create a new page setup by right-clicking on the Layout Tab of the drawing being referenced. You may have to use forward slashes (/) instead of back slashes (\) in the path to the referenced drawing. Individual firms' usages may require more customization. The embedded plot configuration in this LISP program might be an issue for firms that frequently upgrade plotters.

Quick Text Styling
Perry Medina sent in these simple keyboard commands for quick text changes:

  • Use Ctrl+Shift+U to change selected text to uppercase.
  • Use Ctrl+Shift+L to change selected text to lowercase.
  • Use Ctrl+U to underline selected text.
  • Use Ctrl+O to overline selected text.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: These are Microsoft Windows keyboard conventions that work in AutoCAD as well as other applications. They can be used in single-line and multiline text. Just be sure that the text is in edit mode and highlighted.

Text Rotate
Shawn Samaniego offers TR.LSP, a routine that aligns any string of text to a line (nonpolyline) and also aligns blocks and other miscellaneous objects. He writes: "For those of us who still operate in AutoCAD 2006 and earlier, I have used this TR.LSP routine. I use it so much that I have included it in my ACADDOC.LSP.

NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: Good tip and works great. It instructs the user to choose the line first (no polylines!), then the text (or mtext). The only weakness is that it will allow the user to select more than one line before the user hits Enter to go on to pick the text (or block) to be rotated. We suggest using a name other than TR (it's an alias for the TRIM command).

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

Follow-Up: Reverse Paging
Shea Greenleaf sends and addendum to the tip in the February 25 edition about paging backward through AutoCAD drawings: "You can also set the AutoCAD Taskbar environment variable to 1, which then displays multiple open drawings on the windows taskbar. This has the added benefit of being able to switch between open drawings in any order with a simple mouse click -- assuming the drawings are named in ways you can recognize.

Follow Up: Outside the Box
Several readers responded to Outside the Box, the tip in the February 25 edition about clicking outside the Mtext Editor box instead of clicking the OK button when finished editing mtext. Some AutoCAD users might prefer taking the keyboard approach: Ctrl+Enter. As Eric Fransen said, "Sometimes ya feel like a click, sometimes ya don’t."

Paul Dempsey added that many such hidden keyboard gems are available throughout AutoCAD. "For example, CTRL+F in the Mtext box gives you the Field dialog box -- quick and handy without the need to right-click and scroll through the menu. If you have a repeated command, look for the keyboard shortcut, or perhaps create one."

MicroStation Tip: Fun with Function Keys
Using function keys can speed up your MicroStation workflow. Here is a way to use function keys. As a refresher for the rusty (or an introduction for the neophytes), the Function Keys dialog box is under the Workspace menu.

Today's MicroStation tip courtesy of Axiom and

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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VectorWorks 2008 File Viewer
Nemetschek North America released a free, downloadable VectorWorks 2008 Viewer application that includes all the improvements recently released in Service Pack 2 of VectorWorks 2008. The viewer allows those who do not own VectorWorks 2008 to view and print projects created in the VectorWorks software suite. Read more

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Deals & Freebies

Downloadable 3D Scanning eBook
Z Corp is offering 3D Scanning to Go, a free eBook that explains the features of the company's 3D mobile scanning products. The e-book reportedly illustrates that the company's 3D scanners are portable, printer friendly, and completely plug-and-play and can be used for design, manufacturing, mockups, inspections, and more.

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Opportunities & Honors

Autodesk Announces 2007 Inventor of the Year
LightWork Design, a supplier of rendering solutions for developers of advanced 3D computer graphics software launched a quarterly LightWorks Image Competition for users of any LightWorks-based application. Images can be focused on any market sector or theme. The winner will receive an 8 GB Apple iPod touch. Entries must be received by April 30, 2008.

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Books & Training

VectorWorks Architect Training Manual
Nemetschek North America released an updated version of Step by Step with VectorWorks Architect ($75 for PDF download), a training manual that details the new tools and technologies found in VectorWorks Architect 2008. These tools include a redesigned user interface, design-layer viewports, true file referencing, heads-up data display bar, and new building objects. Read more

AutoLISP and VLISP Tutorial
This book, by Gilbert Hoellerich, is an introduction to AutoLISP and Visual LISP programming languages, which are used to customize AutoCAD. AutoLISP & Visual LISP Primer (196 pages, $19.92) is written for users who have no previous programming experience. A download version ($10) with fewer features is available for use at the computer. To purchase by personal check, contact the author at

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The Week's New CAD and Related Products

General Software: Imagenation v8.2
Spicer solution enables linking of engineering and office documents throughout an enterprise. Read more

General Software: SharePoint
CADnection product provides a seamless exchange between AutoCAD and Microsoft's integrated suite of server capabilities. Read more

Shipbuilding software from PTC allows large, dispersed teams to create complex assemblies within stringent schedules. Read more

MCAD: EnSuite v2
CCE's multi-CAD viewer provides the ability to view two models superimposed on top of each other while differences are highlighted. Read more

MCAD: E3.series v2008
New Zuken platform provides hydraulics engineers with a dedicated design environment complete with the ability to define their own symbols. Read more

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Mark Your Calendar

Webinar: Communication 2.0: Choice, Clarity, and Civility
April 29, 2008
2:00 p.m. ET
This session kicks off a new series of 90-minute educational Webinars on leadership training, business etiquette, and networking presented by The Construction Specifications Institute (CSI). The interactive telephone/Internet sessions will connect participants with an expert instructor, access to materials, and the opportunity to ask questions in real time. Read more

VisMasters Design Modeling & Visualization Conference
May 12-13, 2008
Boston, Massachusetts
With the continual emergence of new technologies and evolution of industry trends, the VisMasters DMVC provides attendees and sponsors with session information they can take home and implement. Read more

GeoDATA 2008: The Road to Change
May 13-22, 2008
Various U.K. Cities
The GeoInformation Group is offering its sixth national GeoDATA seminar series showcasing geographic data and the benefits it brings to those in both the public and private sectors. This series of events will include educational presentations and an accompanying exhibition. Read more

ICCE - Integration and Commercialization of Micro and Nanosystems
June 3-5, 2008
Hong Kong, China
This international conference and exhibition will focus on the state-of-the-art research and development in micro- and nanoscale phenomena, devices, systems, and manufacturing, and the commercialization of micro- and nanotechnologies. Read more

European PLM Summit
June 23-25, 2008
Toulouse, France
In this fourth-annual conference, sessions and interactive workshops will address the business and technology drivers behind PLM adoption. This year's event includes a tour of the Airbus manufacturing facility to show how the aircraft manufacturer is using PLM to its maximum capability. Read more

2008 ESRI Survey & Engineering GIS Summit
August 2-5, 2008
San Diego, California
See how GIS software integrates with surveying and engineering tools to provide more complete business solutions and field processes. User presentations, access to ESRI experts, and a wide range of session topics are geared to meet the needs of all attendees, regardless of GIS experience. Read more

COMS 2008
August 31 - September 4, 2008
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
The Commercialization of Micro and Nano Systems Conference will comprise keynote talks, break-out sessions, networking, and workshops, with a supporting exhibition covering all aspects of the technologies related to commercialization. Read more

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