Thursday, April 23, 2009

The best commands that you’re not using

There are so many commands in AutoCAD that even the most experienced users don’t use a lot of the tools that are available. More often than not, I’ll show some of my AutoCAD users a command to make their work a little easier and the response is almost always “Wow, is that a new command?” Since it’s a new year, I figure this might be the perfect time to take a fresh look at some of the old “new” commands that a lot of AutoCAD users don’t always take advantage of.
Match Properties
Tucked away comfortably in the Standard toolbar is the Match Properties command, highlighted in the figure to the right. This command does exactly what the name claims; it matches the properties of a Target object to that of a Source object.

After picking the Match Properties icon, or typing MATCHPROP at the command line, you will be prompted to select a source object. This is the object whose properties you want to copy to other objects.

Once this object is selected, you can either select the target object or type S to open the Settings dialog. Settings allows you to pick which object attributes you want or don’t want copied to the target objects. By default, all of the properties will be selected. If you don't want a specific property or properties to be applied to the new object, use the Settings option to suppress the copying of that property to the new object. You can also choose the Settings option at any time while the command is running.

The properties are broken down into two categories, Basic and special properties. Basic properties are simply the properties that almost all objects in a drawing will have. The Special Properties will only apply to certain objects in the drawing, these are also selected by default when you first run the command.

Note: In versions prior to 2008, the Multileader toggle is not listed in the Special Properties section.
Dynamic Input

Dynamic Input is a powerful tool that provides a command interface near the cursor. This will help you keep your focus in the drawing area, and not looking down at the command window as often, ever second that you’re not looking at the screen is time lost.

The figure above shows the Dynamic Prompt, this allows you to type in commands without using the command window. Dynamic Input is not designed to replace the command window, but it will allow you to hide the command window to add more precious screen area for drawing.

When Dynamic Input is on, tooltips display information near the cursor that is dynamically updated as the cursor moves.

When a command is active, the tooltips provide a place for user entry. This is referred to as Dimension Input when drawing an object that requires a distance or angle. If a command requires a point or a coordinate input it is referred to as Pointer Input.

After you type a value in an input field and press the TAB button the field then displays a lock icon, and the cursor is constrained by the value that you entered. You can then enter a value for the second input field.

If you type a value in the first input field and press ENTER, the second input field is ignored and the value is interpreted as direct distance entry.

You can change the Dynamic Input settings by right clicking on DYN in the status bar and selecting the Settings option or by typing Dsettings at the command prompt. The figure above shows the Dynamic Input settings that allow you to modify the format and appearance of the Dynamic tooltips. These will give you the options to fine tune the Dynamic Input options to exactly what you want it to look like and how you want it to function, including the color and Transparency of the tool tips. I suggest taking some time to investigate the different settings, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Reading your Manager's mind

What CAD managers, or supervisors, would like to see out of a novice CAD user is likely not what you would always expect. A while back I posted a thread in the AUGI CAD managers forum to see what they thought I should focus on for a class I was writing. I was surprised to see how many of them were saying the same things I was already planning on saying. Here is a list of good general drafting practices that I've compiled after discussions with other CAD managers.

  • None of the CAD Managers said I want someone who’s fast. It’s easy to want more speed so you can prove yourself at the new job. Experienced drafters and CAD Managers often see someone who is clicking their mouse like they’re playing a video game as someone who has potential to make mistakes. You don’t want them to have that impression of you.
  • Always remember doing it fast twice is still slower that doing it carefully once. Don’t just work fast, work smart and find the right tool (command) for the job.
  • If you find yourself saying “there must be a better way to do this” then you’re probably right. There is almost always more than one way to do something in AutoCAD. There may be a faster way that is worth investing a minute or two to discover.
  • If you’re not sure about something, don't be afraid to ask a question. But only ask it once. Write down the answer so you can look it up later. There is such a thing as a stupid question; it’s the one you don’t ask, or the one you ask several times.
  • Always check your plots before turning it in to the Engineer or Architect who gave it to you. Sometimes a mistake is obvious on paper that isn’t obvious on the screen.
  • Always spell check a drawing before plotting it. Even someone with exceptional spelling skills can transpose letters when typing.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Welcome to my AutoCAD blog

Welcome to my AutoCAD power user Blog. This Blog is dedcated to showing AutoCAD users Tips Tricks and best practices to teach novice users the keys to being a power user.