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Date: October 5, 2009 Instructor: Kenneth Leary Level: Beginning Category: AutoCAD
Welcome to AutoCAD 102, the second in this series of beginner AutoCAD classes. If you took the first course in this series you should now know many of the do’s and don’ts and how to survive in the AutoCAD world. This course will delve more into the program and reveal some lesser known and, sometimes nearly hidden, powerful commands in AutoCAD. Before long you’ll be able to amaze your coworkers with your knowledge of the timesaving features created to increase productivity. We’ll also look into the 2006 CUI menu interface to show you how to create some basic custom menus. Lastly, we’ll throw in some more tips and tricks, because the fans demand it.
Powerful Hidden Commands
There are a lot of powerful commands in AutoCAD that aren’t always taught in most Drafting programs. A majority of experienced AutoCAD users don’t use more than 30 percent of the program. While no commands are actually “hidden” there are a lot of commands that are not well known but can be very powerful.
The Properties Command
It’s always good to make new friends. One of your best new friends is the Properties dialog box. Keeping with AutoCAD tradition, there’s more than one way to open it. You can type the word “Properties” at the command prompt, press the CTRL and 1 buttons. or select it from the Tools menu as shown on the right. The Properties dialog box is content sensitive, depending on what object or objects you select will change what properties you can modify with the command. This is such a powerful tool I would suggest leaving it open and moving it to one side of the other of your screen. The dialog box can be minimized just like the Design Center and Tool Palettes windows. When you move your mouse over the minimized tool bar it will expand to the full dialog box.
Good idea: You can “dock” it to side by simply dragging and dropping it beyond the drawing window.
There are several methods for adding your selection to the Properties command. The most straight forward way is to pick the Select button. You can type pselect at the command prompt or click on the icon. The icon is located on the upper right hand corner of the Properties dialog box. The image to the left shows where it is located. Simply select the entities and hit the enter key and the entities are selected and opened in the Properties Dialog
Of the three icons, the one on the left is kind of the odd man out. This icon is actually a toggle for a system variable, not a command. It toggles on or off the PickAdd system variable. PickAdd controls how selected items are added to the selection set. Here’s how it works. Setting PickAdd to 0 turns off the variable. When this happens the object or objects that were last selected become the selection set. All objects that were previously selected are removed from the selection set. You can still add more objects to the selection set by pressing SHIFT while selecting. Setting PickAdd to 1 turns on the variable. Each object selected, weather you pick it, use a window or crossing, is added to the current selection set. In this case you can use SHIFT while selecting to remove objects from the set.
Quick Select is in itself a powerful command. You can either select the icon in the properties dialog or type Qselect at the command prompt. With Quick select you can select or remove objects by their specific properties. Using you Quick Select you can filter selection sets by property (such as color or linetype) and by object type (circles, text, plines). You can either choose the specific objects from a group of objects in a selected set (window or crossing) or from the all the objects in the drawing. For example, you can select all of the yellow text in a drawing without selecting any other objects or you can select all objects except the yellow text. Note: Keep in mind when selecting entities by property first consider whether these properties are by entity or BYLAYER for any objects in your drawing. For example, an
object may appear red because its color is set to BYLAYER and the layer color is red.
Divide and conquer
The Divide command is a great drawing tool that rarely gets the attention it deserves. With it you can place a specified number of points on an object. When you type Divide at the command line it will prompt you to select an object to divide. This can be a line, polyline, arc, etc. The Divide command will not actually modify the object you select. After you select the object it will prompt you with “Enter the number of segments or [Block]:” We’ll cover the Block in a little bit. The confusing part of this command for some people is segments option. You count the “spaces” not the number of points. For example, if you want to place two points on a line then you would input 3 for the number of spaces. The figure above should help explain it too. Once you input the number of spaces it will place points (nodes) along the entity that you selected. Your other option is to choose to insert a block rather than points. At the prompt where you can enter the number of segments type “B” for the Block option. You will then be prompted for the block name to insert. When you type in the name of the block you want you are then asked “Align block with object? [Yes/No] <Y>:” The image on the left is an example of one that is not aligned with the object. This is a case where the object is inserted with the default rotation of the block being used. When you select to “align a block with the object” it will insert the block with a rotation to match where the point falls on the object. See the figure to the right. Note: The start point (listed as Vertex 1 in the properties dialog) of the object that you pick will determine the starting point of the Measure command. Keep this in mind when you’re creating the object
Good idea: Make sure that your PDMODE setting is one that will allow you to see the points you just placed. PDMODE settings of 0 or 1 will make the points virtually invisible.
Measure is not the same as Distance
It may seem laughable once you’ve already learned about it, but a lot of people expect the Measure command to do what the Distance command does. It does not “measure” the length of an object. It works in similar manner to the Divide command. The difference being that the Measure command places points or blocks along an object at a specified distance rather than a specified number of spaces. For example you can place points at 50’ intervals along a pline. Just like Divide you can also place blocks as well as placing points. Note: Measure does not place a point or block at the endpoint of the line that you pick.
An array of possibilities
The Array command allows you to create multiple copies of objects in a rectangular or polar (circular) pattern. At times you may need to create multiple regularly spaced objects, when that happens; arraying is a lot faster than copying. For rectangular arrays, shown in the figure on the right, you control the number of rows and columns and the distance between each. On the right side of the dialog box you can see the preview window which shows how the settings affect the array. It’s not an exact preview like plot preview, but it does represent how the array will copy the object. The darker square represents the original object that is selected for the array. A rectangular array is built along a baseline, this angle is zero by default. The rows and columns of a rectangular array are orthogonal (left to right and up and down) with respect to the X and Y axes. The angle of the array baseline can be changed in the Angle of Array box shown highlighted on the right. A positive angle will rotate the copied objects counter clockwise and a negative number rotates in a clockwise direction.
The same positive and negative number input works with the offsets as well as rotation. The image on the left shows how negative inputs for the Row and Column offsets change the array. In the preview you can see that it is now down and to the left of the selected object.
When you create a polar array, you control the number of copies of the object, the angle, and whether the copies are rotated. The items are spaced by both the total number of items to be copied and either the total angle to fill or the angle between the copied objects. A polar array functions much like the rectangular array, it’s drawn counterclockwise or clockwise, depending on whether you enter a positive or a negative value for the angle to fill.
The radius of the array is determined by the distance from the center point to a reference point on the last selected object. You can specify a new base point to be used as the reference point or use the default, which is usually an arbitrary point near the object selected. The highlighted box in the figure to the right allows you to go into the drawing and specify the information rather than typing the number into the box next to it. The small box in the lower left hand corner of the dialog box is the toggle to rotate the items as copied. This works in the same manner as rotating objects in the Measure and Divide commands
You can change the limit of copies that Array creates by setting the MaxArray system variable with a number between 100 and 10000000 (ten million). When changing the value of MaxArray, you have to enter it with the capitalization shown.
In the next Segment
I hope you found some useful information in this first segment. In the next segment we’ll tackle the CUI interface and creating custom menus.
ATP254 AutoCAD 102 – Improving Your AutoCAD Survival Skills
Date: October 19, 2009 Instructor: Kenneth Leary Level: Beginning Category: AutoCAD
Welcome to Segment 2, in this segment we’re going to tackle the CUI menu interface to show you how to create some basic custom menus. The Custom User Interface gives you the ability to customize AutoCAD to better fit your needs. We’ll cover some of the main concepts and go into more specifics on several of the topics that will have the biggest impact on your efficiency.
What is the Custom User Interface
In previous versions of AutoCAD customization was possible by editing the menu files. These .MNU and .MNS files were made with ASCII text and could be edited with a simple text editor like Notepad. Customization was often tricky because a simple syntax error like a semicolon in the wrong place or misplaced quote and your menu file was invalid. It often ended in a trial and error method of testing the menu and returning to the text file to fix any errors. AutoCAD 2006 remedied this situation with the introduction of the Custom User Interface (CUI). The new environment involves a graphic interface and now allows modifications to be done inside AutoCAD. Instead of editing the menu files in ASCII text the CUI interface uses an Extensible Markup Language (XML) based format. Once you become familiar with the interface it actually simplifies the task of customization. This gives you the ability to customize menus, workspaces, toolbars and even keyboard short cuts all from one interface. How nice would it be, to be able to have different sets of toolbars open for different tasks?
Accessing the Custom User Interface
This could come as a complete shock to you but there is more than one way to access the Custom User Interface Dialog. You can type CUI at the command prompt or you can go to the Tools pull down menu and select Customize and then Interface (shown in the figure on the right).
You can also right click over an icon or right click in the toolbar area but not on any toolbar and select the Customize option. This is shown in the figure on the left.
Understanding the Custom User Interface
The figure above shows the Custom User Interface Dialog, we’ll briefly cover the different parts of the dialog box and help get you familiar with their functions. The CUI interface is divided into two tabs, the figure above is displaying the Customization Tab. Most of your work will be done in this Tab. The other tab is the Transfer Tab, this where you transfer menu items from existing menus to the new ones. Lets look at each section of the Customization Tab in more detail. Just like a real window each section is referred to as a pane.
The figure to the right shows the Customizations In pane. This pane is very import, it determines which menu file is being modified and offers a tree view of all the elements in that menu file. The menu bar across the top has a drop down menu that allows you to choose which CUI file to modify. The three icons on the right are used to partial load menus, save the changes made to the current menu, and to change the appearance of the tree view. The tree view shows the different elements of the current CUI file. Each one of these is commonly referred to as a node. This is only really important to know when you’re speaking to programmers and don’t want to sound stupid. Good idea: Try right clicking on all of the nodes and see what options are available to each.
This pane is located directly under the Customizations In pane. It is a list of all the commands in the currently loaded menu file. The New button is used to create a new command. When you click on it the two panes on the right side show the information for the new command you are about to create.
This pane is located on the upper right hand side of the Dialog box. This pane does exactly what the name says; it previews the new toolbar or the icon for a new command. It’s content sensitive and will change to show what you are editing or creating.
This pane is located in the bottom right hand corner of the dialog box. It functions much like the Properties dialog box that we covered in the last segment. Depending upon what object you are modifying the content will change. The figure on the left shows the properties of the toolbar that I’m using as an example in the Preview Pane above. The properties it displays will change for different objects that are being edited.
The Transfer Tab
I’m showing you this one last but it’s really the one you’ll most likely use first. The Transfer tab is used for exactly what the name says, you can transfer menu elements from the main CUI file to a new CUI file. The default when you open the transfer tab is to create a new file, but you can use the roll down menu to open another file or save the current one.
Creating a custom Toolbar
The safest way to customize your AutoCAD menu file is to create a new CUI file and make your modifications there. You want to avoid modifying the default AutoCAD menu for several reasons. First off, if things go wrong you don’t want to corrupt your main menu file. Second, services packs or updates might overwrite your changes. Lastly when you upgrade to a new version (we can all hope) your changes won’t migrate to the new version. First, open the CUI interface and click on the Transfer tab. In the New CUI File pane on the right side, right click on the item you want to add. In this case the Toolbars. The figure on the right shows the options. Use the New option to create your new toolbar.
Once you create the toolbar you can drag items from main menu on the left and drop them into the new menu. In the figure below the command that is selected in the right I‘ve
In the next Segment
I hope you found some useful information in this segment. In the next segment we’ll cover how to create custom commands with macros and lisp routines. We’ll also cover some more tips and tricks.
ATP254 AutoCAD 102 – Improving Your AutoCAD Survival Skills
Date: October 26, 2009 Instructor: Kenneth Leary Level: Beginning Category: AutoCAD
Welcome to Segment 3, in this segment we’re going to cover adding macros and lisp routines to your custom toolbars. We’ll also cover some, always heavily anticipated, tips and tricks that will help super charge your AutoCAD production speed.
Before you can create custom commands you need to learn about Macros. A Macro is very similar to a script file with the main difference being that macros are contained in the menu, script files are text files that are kept outside of AutoCAD. Just like in a script file a macro is a command or string of commands that are written out in a string of text. There are also a few options that macros have that are. There are several codes you can use in macros that not available in script files. The list below shows the most common ones. (a space) ; @ ^M \ / ^C *^C^C ^ A space acts as a return Also acts as a return Repeats the last point selected Also acts as a return Pause for user input Used to define directories Cancels command, works like the Esc key Used to make a macro automatically repeat Represents the CTRL key
Good idea: Use semicolons in your macro to represent a Return rather than a space, it’s easier to count and keep track of. The macro I’m going to use for our example is a macro that will run the Purge command and purge all unreferenced items in the drawing. There are two problems that we encounter with this. The first roadblock is that the Purge command has a dialog box, which won’t work in a macro. This problem can be fixed by adding a dash (-) in front of the command name. This works at the command prompt as well and not just with the purge command, most commands with a dialog box will work the same way. Typing –purge will start the command without a dialog box but that leads to our second problem. One of the options of Purge is to purge all nested entities, this option is not available with the command line version. To fix this we simply have to run the command more than once. Three types usually gets everything. So first we run the command to see the prompts that we will need to input into the macro. This is what is we see when we run the command and put in the necessary responses:
Command: -purge Enter type of unused objects to purge [Blocks/Dimstyles/LAyers/LTypes/Plotstyles/SHapes/textSTyles/Mlinestyles/Tablest yles/Regapps/All]: A Enter name(s) to purge <*>: * Verify each name to be purged? [Yes/No] <Y>: N From this we can create the macro which would be –Purge a * n. With semicolons instead of spaces and running the command three times the end result is this –purge;a;*;n;–purge;a;*;n;–purge;a;*;n. Note: any space represents a Return, make sure you don’t place any extra in your macro. It’s a common mistake to leave one at the end.
Adding macros to your Custom Toolbars
Open the custom user interface dialog box, select the Customize tab. Do not make any changes to the main CUI file. In the Customization In pane use the pull down menu to select the custom menu file and make it current. In the Custom User Interface dialog box in the lower left hand corner Command List pane, click New. A new command (automatically named Command1) is displayed in the Command List pane and the Properties pane. A blank button image is displayed in the image pane. The figure on the right shows the image I selected from the scroll down list. You can also create a custom icon using the edit button. In the Properties pane, do the following: In the Name box, enter a name for the command in this case Purge All. The name will be displayed as a tooltip or menu name when you select this command. In the Description box, enter a description for the command. The description will be displayed on the status bar when the cursor hovers over the menu item or toolbar button. In the Macro box, click on the box with three dots in it, this is highlighted in the figure on the left.
Clicking on the box will open the Long String Editor. In this box you can enter the macro for the command. In the Element ID box, you can enter an element ID for the command. This is for new commands only. You cannot modify the element ID of an existing command. Once the command is complete you can drag and drop it from the Command List pane into the toolbar you wish to place it in, located directly above it in the Customizations In pane. You now have a new custom command in your toolbar.
Lisp Routines in custom menus
Lisp routines function much like a script file, they are external files that are brought in to AutoCAD when needed. A lisp routine can be added to a custom menu with a macro that loads it into AutoCAD. An example for a lisp routine called “notate” would look like this in the command macro; ^c^c(load “notate”) notate; The
Profiles and Workspaces
You may be confused about profiles and workspaces. If you’re not confused it’s probably because you haven’t learned about profiles and workspaces yet. Let me try to explain it in a way that won’t require the use of Tylenol. Profiles are used more for the “background” settings in AutoCAD. They’re used to store user options, support paths, and system variables. One of the best benefits to profiles is that they are portable. You can export the profile to a .arg file and import the file to another computer. The down side to using profiles is that you have to export the profile and then import it back into AutoCAD in order to update the changes that you have made. You can’t simply save the changes to it. You also have to manage your profiles from the Options dialog box, there is no Profile menus or toolbars. Workspaces are used to control the things that you see on the screen. They control what menus, toolbars, and dockable windows are open and where they are located. When you use or switch a workspace, you change the display of your drawing area. You can easily switch to another workspace within a drawing session. This will allow you to have different toolbars and menus open for different tasks. The Workspaces toolbar, pictured on the right, has a pull down menu that allows you to scroll through the workspace profiles and set one to current. You can also save the current configuration as a new workspace. The Customize option will open the CUI editor, which you may recall from Segment 2.
The figure on the left shows the My Workspaces icon. You can set this to your favorite workspace and switch back to it by clicking on this button. The button to the left of the My Workspaces button is the Workspace Settings button, this opens the Workspace Settings Dialog box. In the top of the dialog box is a pull down menu from which you can choose a workspace to assign to the My Workspace toolbar button. The Menu Display and Order controls which workspace name you want to display in the workspace toolbar and menu. You can change the order of those workspaces using the Move up and Move Down buttons. The Add Seperator button does that it adds a separator between the workspace names you choose. You can also set the When Changing Workspaces to either automatically save changes when you switch workspaces or to not save changes when you switch to another workspace.
Tray settings and Status Bar
In the very bottom right hand corner of the AutoCAD window is a small triangle, clicking on it will open the Status Bar Menu. This will allow you to turn on or off any of the buttons that appear in the status bar that runs across the bottom of the AutoCAD window. The Tray Settings at the bottom of the menu will open the tray settings dialog box. This will allow you to turn on or off the Display Icons from Services. In case you don’t speak fluent computer geek what that that means, translated into English, is you can turn off the icons in the status bar tray like the Communication Center, Lock Toolbars and Notification balloons.
Being able to change the Notification balloon settings is a really nice feature. If you have several drawings open and update a reference file it can be annoying to have to keep turning off all the balloons that pop up to tell you the reference drawing was updated. In the Tray Settings dialog box you can set a Display time for all notifications so they will turn themselves off after an amount of time that you can set.
Command Line Window
With AutoCAD 2006, you can now close the Command Line window by choosing the Command Line option in the Tools menu or hitting Ctrl + 9. The Dymanic Input feature displays command line information in a tooltip near the cursor so the Command Line window is no longer necessary for most commands. All commands or input entered while the window is closed, are still captured in the Command Line window. If for some reason you need to re-open the Command Line window, simply hit Ctrl + 9 to toggle it back on. Good Idea: If you don’t want to close it completely instead of closing the window you could undock it and enable Auto-hide so that it will only expand when you place your cursor over it.
I hope you found some useful information in this segment. If you want more tips and tricks go to the AUGI Tips and Tricks forum, there are a lot of great minds coming up with wonderful short cuts in there. Remember that this is only part of the course, support is always available online in the course forum. I urge you to go to the visit the course forum and as ask any questions that you may have about this segment. It’s our mantra that the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.
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