CAD Software & Services
Australia
 

CAD TIPS
& TRICKS.

A collection of useful tips and tricks for CAD Users. These are the simplest and best to know, from someone that has been using CAD on a daily basis for over 25 years.....


000

BEFORE I BEGIN.

There is an often used term in computing that some people are unaware of. It is prevalent through most 'Windows' software packages and something you need to be familiar with.

----[ RMB = Right Mouse Button ]----

I get sick of writing it, so I simply refer to it as 'RMB'. Many useful commands and tools are activate by 'RMB'. Unfortunately this is lost on MAC users that simply don't have a right mouse button!

TIP: Many times below I will define commands to use like this - 'COMMAND'. Please assume there is an implied relevant [Enter] or [Space] after each command to activate it! I hope you enjoy our tips.


001

IF ALL ELSE FAILS READ THE INSTRUCTIONS!

It's and age old adage but it's true. AutoCAD is a complex program that can be used 'out of the box' by selecting toolbars and clicking all around. But in the latest versions with 'auto-complete', 'tooltips', 'context sensitive help' and the like, you will find there are a lot more commands hidden inside. There is nothing here that can't be found by rummaging through the on-line Users Guide. It's especially timesaving to go straight to the 'What's New' in the 'Help' pull-down menu and try out all the new things, when upgrading versions. Make use of context sensitive help. Press the 'F1' key while a command is active, or a menu item is highlighted, and the help system will jump directly to the related topic.

TIP: When you're grabbin a sandwich or coffee press 'F1' and start surfing throught the extensive online help system. I'll bet you'll learn something new, or a better way to use a tool, every single day.


002

ACCELERATOR KEYS.

As a draftsman you will save the most time with some well thought out 'Accelerator Keys', also known as 'Power Keys' or 'Command Aliases'. Use the Function Keys and Numeric Keypad (with modifiers) to organise those required. This is where it becomes important to Plan and document all aliases that you are going to use.

TIP: Type 'F1' and search 'command alias' in Autodesk Exchange and start reading.


003

CREATE AND USE DRAWING TEMPLATES.

First, create custom file configurations by setting up your units, dimension variables, title blocks, layer standard, text styles, dimension styles and any other relevant configurations. Then, choose 'Save As' feature from the File menu to save your drawing configurations as templates (.dwt). By default the drawing Templates are stored in the AutoCAD 'template' folder. If you do not want your templates removed if you ever uninstall AutoCAD, then place them in another location. Now, when you open a new drawing and see the Set up Wizard, choose 'Use a Template' and open the appropriate drawing template file you created.


004

QUICK ACCESS TO OBJECT SNAPS.

AutoCAD is a precise drawing tool. Always remember to draw the way you think.....

For Example: -> Draw -> line (L) -> from endpoint (END) -> to middle (MID) -> at 6000 (6000) - direction (DIR) etc.

Always use the corresponding OSNAPS as you think. Make sure you know all the 'Object Snap' commands and how to use them efficiently. Check out the newer ones like 'parallel', 'extension' and 'apparent intersection'. If you hold down the [Shift] or [Ctrl] key and right-click on your drawing area, you'll see a menu with all the OSnap functions at the end of your cursor. While there, learn how to use 'Tracking' and 'Point Filters' as they can be time savers when used correctly.

TIP: My best advise is to assign your most often used Object Snaps to Function keys. If you have them all OFF and only use the ONE you want, you'll never mistake an END for an INT or MID if you have AutoCAD automatically deciding for you!


005

MAKE YOUR SELECTION PLEASE!

AutoCAD has numerous ways to select objects, and several ways to act on them. Look up 'F1' -> 'noun/verb' and try to digest it all. And then there are additional 'Selection Filters' to mine through drawings for specific objects + properties. Basically though the standards methods are -

:Window/Last/Crossing/BOX/ALL/Fence/WPolygon/CPolygon/Group/Add/Remove/Multiple/Previous/Undo/AUto/SIngle/SUbobject/Object.

If that isn't enough, the simplest and often most useful is 'LEFT to RIGHT Swipe' [Blue] that acts like 'W'indow selection, or 'RIGHT to LEFT Swipe' [Green] that acts like 'C'rossing selection.


006

USE [Shift] AND [Ctrl] WHEN SELECTING.

Once you have picked a group of entities, no matter what command you are in, there's an easy way to toggle between 'Remove' and 'Add' during selection. If you accidentally include some items in a selection set while you were in the (default) 'Add' mode, simply hold down the [Shift] key and re-select those items to remove them. Letting go of the [Shift] key will put you back into the 'Add' mode. Sometimes it is easier to select a large group and [Shift] to remove a few items. Also, if you are trying to select an object in a area with a lot of adjoining, or crossing objects, remember to hold the [Ctrl] key whilst selecting to cycle through the objects under the pickbox. (SELECTIONCYCLING variable needs to be set.)


007

DESIGNCENTRE CAN BE A HUGE TIME SAVER. [CTRL+2]

When used correctly, you never have to re-invent the wheel. If you need a Layer, Dimstyle or Textstyle definition, Block, Linetype or Layout that you've previously used (or seen), simply use DesignCenter to drag and drop the information between drawings. If you have a large library of blocks collected over the years you can use DesignCenter as a simple 'Block Manager'. Just insert all your old blocks into some Standard Drawings (named in categories ie Beams, Electrical, Fittings, Structural? whatever) File them in a Standards folder for easy access, then just open the appropriate standard drawing and drag and drop your blocks as needed from drawing to drawing. You can also do the same with a drawing full of Textstyles and Dimstyles.


008

EDITING OBJECTS WITH THEIR GRIPS.

Grips have become more and more useful over successive AutoCAD releases. Basically you can now edit most objects by manipulating their grips. Select an object, then the required grip to make it turn red. Now you can move it, or RMB select a command to perform on the object. Grips automatically magnetizes to other objects grips as they hover over them. Also your OSnaps will help re-associate the gripped object to a defined destination.

TIP: In 2012 grips have been enhanced. Different objects have added functions. ie Hover over a LINE grip and it allows you to 'Stretch' or 'Lengthen' it. Hover over a 'Dimension' and a cascade of extra options appear. For me the 'Reset Text Position' is a godsend when editing shop details.


009

DISTANCE ENTRY WITHOUT USING THE '@' SYMBOL.

Direct distance entry is a way to draw lines using the relative coordinate entry, without having to use the '@' and '<' symbols, and with only one coordinate value required. For instance, select the line command and pick an arbitrary point on your screen as a starting point. Now, move the cursor in the direction you want to draw the line. Once you've selected a direction for the line to travel, type a distance value at the command line and press [Enter]. The line will be drawn in the direction of the cursor at the distance you specified.

TIP: If you want perpendicular or horizontal, turn the ORTHO [F8] option on, otherwise ensure you have 'Dynamic Input' toggled 'on' [F12] for feedback of where you are drawing to.


010

SWITCH BETWEEN OPEN DRAWINGS SINCE AutoCAD 2000+

One of the nicest features that was added since AutoCAD 2000 is the ability to have multiple drawings open at one time. You can switch between open drawings using the Window pulldown menu, just like you would in Microsoft Word. However, there's a simple keyboard shortcut that lets you choose a drawing by switching through the open drawing windows. Hold down the [Ctrl] key, then press [Tab] to scroll through the open drawings and find the one you wish to work on.

TIP: This applies in 'MDI' (Multiple Document Mode) not 'SDI' (Single document mode)


011

DRAG AND DROP BLOCKS! IN AutoCAD 2000+

Since AutoCAD 2000 we have the ability to drag and drop items on the screen with the mouse. Simply select an object with the left mouse button (with no commands running), then click and hold the left mouse button on the selected object, and move and drop it to any location. A real productivity tip is to select your object/s, then click and hold the right mouse button. You can then drag the object/s to a new location, and when you release the button, a menu is displayed. Now you can 'move' the object to the new location, 'copy' it to the new location, 'paste it as a block' in the new location, or 'cancel' the operation. This provides you with an easy way to manipulate AutoCAD objects with just the mouse.

TIP: A simple scenario for me with re-usable linework is -> select objects -> RMB drag -> paste as block -|- 'RENAME' command -> block (usually assigned name like 'A$C698621E4') to NewBlockName -|- Double Click to 'Edit Block Definition' and adjust Layers/Linetypes/Scales etc 'Close Block Editor' -|- 'WBLOCK' command to save off into block/symbols library.


012

THE ACTION RECORDER.

Many novice (for want of a better term) AutoCAD users find themselves repeating a series of steps over and over. If you fall into this category then you absolutely have to take a look at the 'Action Recorder'. The Action Recorder does exactly that, it records your actions! Basically you turn the recorder on, proceed with those tedious steps and then turn the recorder off. AutoCAD has then recorded all those steps automatically for you! The Action Recorder panel is located on the Manage tab of the ribbon. After hitting the 'Record' tool, AutoCAD will record all of your actions in the 'Action Tree'. If you draw a circle, those steps are recorded. If you change layers, that is recorded and so on. When you are finished with your steps hit 'Stop'. Then you'll be asked to name your macro. Action Macros have an extension of .ACTM. Now you are ready to play your macro, it is automatically loaded up and ready to go, just hit 'Play'.


013

EXTEND AND/OR TRIM.

These functions are very versatile and seldom understood by new Users. Both have what I term a poorly documented 'power feature'. If you start 'TRIM' and then press [Space] or [Enter] (without selecting a cutting object) you can then trim any object back to its nearest cutting object. Similarly with 'EXTEND', press [Space] or [Enter] (without selecting a boundary object) you can then extend any object to its nearest boundary. And don't forget to use the 'F'ence selection which works great with these commands.

TIP: For several versions now these have been a 'pidgeon pair' set of commands. By that I mean both commands are active from within either command. Start 'TRIM'  -> hold [Shift] and you can extend! Start 'EXTEND'  -> hold [Shift] and you can trim!


014

MANIPULATE FILES WITHIN AutoCAD.

Most Users don't know that you can also 'move', 'delete', 'copy', and 'rename' files that are in any of the AutoCAD directories from within the AutoCAD 'File' dialogues! To try this, click 'File' -> 'Open' to open the 'Select File' dialogue box. Now highlight one of the files or folders, then right click to open the context menu that allows you to manipulate files. You can also 'create' and 'move' folders inside of other folders to create a tree structure for drawing files, or to do some simple housekeeping. Don't forget to set up the AutoCAD file options preference area to point to your drawing file folder by default. Only warning is stay away from playing with your AutoCAD support directory files!

TIP: At the start of a new project I will browse to the assigned 'Job Folder' on our server and use the top right hand option -> 'Tools' -> 'Add current folder to places'. During the project I can go straight to my 'Drawings' folder. Still in AutoCAD I will often -> RMB -> New -> Folder and create a 'PDF' store folder and 'Old' folder to keep any un-revised Drawings!


015

ADD COMMENTS OR LINKS TO AutoCAD OBJECTS.

Here's a simple way to add a small comment to an AutoCAD 2000+ object that displays when you move the mouse pointer over the object. This is a useful tip for people working in a collaborative workforce. A simple way to put some (no printing) notes, descriptions, comments or instructions on a drawing. Perform 'Insert Hyperlink' [Ctrl+K], then select an object. When the Insert Hyperlink dialog box appears enter your comments in the 'Text to Display' box, and simply put a [Space] in the 'File/Web Page' box. Click OK when you have finished. Now move your mouse pointer over the object and your comment 'tool-tip style' will appear. The only down side is that they are pretty much hidden, and not good for any lengthy text. A good tip is to maybe leave further instructions attached to a company logo or in a specific place in your title blocks. People could check this place to see if there are comments attached.


016

RESTORE ERASED OBJECTS.

Autodesk often leaves commands from older versions in its newest releases. With the advancements in GUI technology, Users of the newer versions often have buttons and menu items that have similar functions, but don't get access (through the GUI) to these older commands. The 'OOPS' command is one that can be very useful, and it's been around for many AutoCAD versions. If you erase something in your drawing and realize that you've done so in error, you can click the 'UNDO' button, or type 'U' [Enter], to restore the erased objects. However, if you erase an object, then perform a number of other operations before deciding you want to restore the erased object you end up Un-doing every operation you've done since the erase. That's why Autodesk left the 'OOPS' command in the new versions of AutoCAD. Type 'OOPS' at the command line and press [Enter]. AutoCAD restores the last erased object, without affecting the work you've done after the erase. This is the simplest way to get objects back after creating a Block, and it doesn't have to be the next command sequence.


017

AutoCAD DISPLAYS EMPTY RIBBON.

If AutoCAD shows only an empty ribbon after start (no Panels nor Tabs), its XML menu file (CUI) was probably loaded incorrectly. You can force reloading of the ribbon by switching the AutoCAD workspace. On the command line, type the 'WORKSPACE', confirm the setting of the current workspace by 'ENTER' and enter its name. ("?" lists the available names) eg. "2D Drafting & Annotation" (or just confirm the preset name) The ribbon will be then reloaded from the CUI, or respective CUIX file.

TIP: If you don't use the ribbon much you can toggle it off with 'RIBBONCLOSE' and back on with 'RIBBON'.


018

REMEMBER YOUR OSNAPS!

This is for the hunt and clickers that don't have all the fancy shortcuts. Once you have the 'OSnap' configuration that you like working with, you can type 'OSMODE' on the command line, and it will give you a unique number that is assigned to your configuration. Write it down somewhere. If/when your OSnaps get reset, you can enter 'OSMODE' then this 'number' to automatically turn them back on the way you like working with them.

TIP: Try making an 'OSMODE button', so it can done in one click.


019

TRY SOME OBSCURE COMMANDS.

AutoCAD has sssoooo many commands from 'ABOUT' to 'ZOOM'. Over the years there have been some commands that were really necessary with the version of AutoCAD you were using. Also there are many you have just never heard of or used. Nowadays many are lost to history, but still work, and generally have a purpose.

See if you can guess what the following do, then look up 'HELP' for explanations and useage.

'TSPACEINVADERS', 'SKETCH', 'RE-INIT', 'MINSERT', 'BROWSER', 'SOLPROF', 'SSX', 'CHANGE', 'CHPROP', 'CHSPACE', 'TASKBAR', 'CONVERTPOLY', '.TRACE', 'REVERSE', 'SAVEIMG', 'SOLID', 'END', 'DBLIST', 'TEXTSCR', 'WHOHAS', 'TIME', 'VIEWGO', 'GCEQUAL', 'LAYMRG', 'MVSETUP', 'OVERKILL', 'TREESTAT', 'QDIM', 'SECTIONPLANEJOG', 'NUDGE', 'STATUS'.

The new 2012 re-engineered a few things so Autodesk added some safe 'classic' commands so old timers don't blow a fuse. Try these out if you dare - 'CLASSICLAYER', 'CLASSICXREF', 'CLASSICIMAGE', 'CLASSICGROUP'.


020

ORGANISED CHAOS.

If you are a seasoned AutoCAD User you know that productivity is exponentially rewarded if you draw on custom LAYERS, have your specifically defined text 'STYLES' with relevant 'DIMSTYLES' and a nicely organised 'BLOCK' library on your search path. With your building blocks (so to speak) and the 'MATCHPROPERTIES' command you can structure your drawings into works of art. If you have got that far you will now love the new 'RMB' 'ISOLATE' and 'HIDE' object functions. Combined with the 'RMB' 'SELECTSIMILAR' command and editing your works of art (drawings) has never been easier or more efficient.


EXTRAS


CHECK

RECOMMENDED GRAPHICS HARDWARE.

To put it bluntly, all 512k or 1Gig consumer video graphics cards are adequate for AutoCAD 2D drafting and detailing. However, if you are doing a lot of 3D modeling and rendering you may need to get a high end 'Workstation Graphics Adaptor'. Autodesk offers an online tool for selection of recommended and certified graphics cards for AutoCAD 2012, 2011 and older, and their 'Design Suites'. You can find the most suitable graphics card for your CAD software and for your operating system using the web page 'Find Graphics Hardware'. It may also confirm poor performance if you have an unsupported card! Try this link to check your card, or find a suitable replacement to buy.

----[ Recommended Compatible Graphics Cards for AutoCAD ]----


FACT

AutoCAD THE KILLER APP.

AutoCAD without doubt is not only one of the most powerful 'PROGRAMS' of all time, it is one of the most customizable as well. I've been using it daily since 1983 and back then it was known as 'state of the art', but in hindsight it can now be affectionately called 'primitive'. But Autodesk have always been brave and open enough to listen to it's Users. With 'Express Tools' came routines that Autodesk had not developed or integrated fully into their 'CAD Engine' but knew they worked. Every release (basically annually) delivered better tools, interoperability and productivity. Now Autodesk have the next 5 to 6 versions planned, being prototyped and developed to ensure an ongoing annual subscription cycle. The customization aspect is what has really propelled it to the premiere package it is. Developers can easily develop and sell add-ons to do any project you desire. Look at how 'APP' developers propelled Apple from bancrupcy with their iPhone, iPods and iPads! With Apple back in the limelight, Autodesk have even re-tooled AutoCAD for MAC again! I digress.

Bottom line is the public like buying product that they can control and define. AutoCAD supports add-ons like dotNET, VBA (becoming redundant), ActiveX, ObjectARX, C++, Deisel, Scripting Macros, Visual LISP and good old original LISP. Now these tools rarely add any features to AutoCAD, they simply use (manipulate) the powerful AutoCAD engine to perform groups of functions to make it easier for you and make AutoCAD seem even more powerful. The real bonus though is there are thousands of productivity tools out there that you can add to your own custom setup. Many are FREE!


FREE

CUSTOMIZATION & SUPPORT.

You will find elsewhere on this site some links to what I consider good AutoCAD resources. If you can think of something you want your CAD software to do, rest assured someone has probably already done it with AutoCAD. Just type 'AutoCAD' into Google and start sifting through the 100 MILLION hits you'll get. Even 'AutoCAD AUTOLISP' will get you over 1 MILLION hits.
I never got into 'dotNET', avoided 'ActiveX' and "objectARX', researched vaguely 'VBA' and 'Visual LISP', diced with 'Deisel', made some 'MACROS', stole some 'SCRIPTS' and totally adore 'AutoLISP'.

The beauty here is there are customization flavours to suit each and all. From the shallow end of macros and scripts (basically a list of AutoCAD commands) to the higher end of .NET where you can put a total new front end on your AutoCAD application. What's better still is the wealth of free support for all of this customisation.

----[ Just Start Here for Support ]---- and then look ----[ Here for AutoCAD Customization ]----