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Use and control multifunctional grips for faster editing

Multifunctional grips are small, contextual menus that let you edit the properties of an object or component. Use them to quickly edit objects.

For example, when you draw a rectangle, each vertex has multifunctional grips that let you add, remove, or stretch that vertex.

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Similarly, an array has multifunctional grips that let you edit  the number of rows in a rectangular array or the angle between items in the polar array.

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How to use a multifunctional grip

To use a multifunctional grip, follow these steps:

  1. Select the object.
  2. Hover over a grip.
  3. Choose one of the options that appears.

You can also make a grip “hot” by clicking it and then right-clicking it. Along with the other shortcut menu items, you’ll find the multifunctional grip options.

Multifunctional grips have been expanded since they were introduced. For example, the rectangle’s center grip menu also lets you convert the side of the rectangle to an arc. Watch the video to see how it works.

Which objects have multifunctional grips?

The key to using the multifunctional grips is to know which objects have them. Here’s a rundown:

  • 2D objects: Lines, polylines, arcs, elliptical arcs, splines, arrays, and hatches. Also dimensions and multileaders
  • 3D objects: 3D faces, edges, and vertices

Control multifunctional grips with a system variable

The GRIPMULTIFUNCTIONAL system variable lets you control how multifunctional grips work. The default setting is 3 which gives you the behavior I described above; it’s a combination of the 1 and 2 settings. Here are the other settings:

  • 0: Multifunctional grip options are not available
  • 1: Access the options by pressing Ctrl to change grip behavior (Ctrl-cycling)
  • 2: Access the options using the grip menu that you see when you hover over a grip

Are you using multifunctional grips?

Are you using this feature or is it new to you? Leave a comment and share your experience!

Happy New Year for 2014!

Reduce file size and eliminate unwanted drawing settings with the WBLOCK command

Several people have asked about inexplicably large files.

Kerry Overall wrote me,

I’ve seen unusually large CAD .dwg files. I had the same problem when a colleague stumbled onto a solution that greatly helped me. Open the drawing….wblock,   click on “Entire Drawing” and save it. I had a simple file that was 73mb and by doing this it reduced it down to 3mb.  And quickly , too.

The WBLOCK command writes (saves) the objects in a drawing as a new drawing. You can specify specific objects or the entire drawing.

A bonus is that you lose many settings in the current drawing. You can therefore use this technique to troubleshoot problem drawings that don’t behave the way you want them to. It’s often hard to ferret out the settings that might be causing the problem — such as system variables — so moving the objects to a new drawing can be an easy fix.

To be more precise, here are the steps:

  1. If you want, you can select objects in advance.autocad-tips-reduce-file-size-wblock-1
  2. Type wblock on the command line or choose Insert> Block Definition panel> click the Create Block drop-down arrow and choose Write Block. (It’s easiest to just type it on the command line.) The Write Block dialog box opens. If you pre-selected objects, the number of objects appears in the Objects section of the dialog box.
  3. To write the entire drawing, choose Entire Drawing at the top.
  4. You can choose a base point. If you want to be able to insert the drawing (or the selected objects) using a base point on one of the objects, for example, click the Pick Point button and specify the base point.
  5. In the Objects section, you can choose to retain the objects in the current drawing, convert them to a block, or delete them from the drawing.
  6. In the Dstination section, click the Ellipsis button and browse to the location where you want to save the new drawing. Give the drawing a name and click the Save button.
  7. If desired, choose units from the Insert Units drop-down list. You can choose Unitless. You can even choose light years or parsecs if you’re thinking really big!
  8. Click OK.

If you did these steps to make your drawing smaller, go into Windows Explorer and check the size of the original and new drawings.

What techniques have you used to reduce the size of AutoCAD drawings? Leave a comment!

Zoom quickly and more by controlling your mouse’s wheel

Most mice have a wheel and you can use it in a number of ways — scroll it in 2 directions, click it, and double-click it. Plus, you can combine keys such as the Shift key with the mouse wheel to get even more capabilities. AutoCAD makes good use of your mouse wheel. Here are some of the options.

autocad-tips-mouse-wheel-1System variables that affect the mouse wheel

3 system variables affect how your mouse wheel works.

ZOOMFACTOR: This system variable sets the amount of magnification change that occurs when you scroll the whell forward or backward. You can choose from 3 to 100 and the default value is 60. A higher value changes the magnification more.

ZOOMWHEEL: This sets the direction of the scrolling.  By default, this is set to 0, which means that when you scroll the wheel forward you zoom in and when you scroll it backward, you zoom out. If you set the value to 1, you reverse the action. Most people change this setting when they have other software that works the opposite of the AutoCAD default and they want the zooming to be the same in all their software.

MBUTTONPAN: By default (set to 1), when you press the mouse wheel and drag, you pan across your drawing. However, when you set this system variable to 0, the wheel acts like a middle button and supports the action that you define in the CUI or CUIX menu file, which could be just about anything.

Mouse wheel actions that you can use

Here are the actions you can perform when MBUTTONPAN is set to the default of 1.

Zoom in or out: Rotate the wheel forward to zoom in, backward to zoom out. (As mentioned above, you can change the direction with the ZOOMWHEEL system variable.)

Zoom to extents: Double-click the wheel button.

Pan: Press and drag with the wheel button.

Pan (joystick): Press Ctrl and the wheel button and drag the mouse.  This is used in 3D, although I’m not sure I understand exactly what’s happening. Try it out and see if it’s useful for you.

3D Orbit: Press Shift and the wheel button and drag the mouse.

Free Orbit: Press Ctrl, Shift and the wheel button all at once and drag the mouse. You’ll see the 3D orbit arcball as you do this.

Do you have any mouse wheel tips? Leave a comment!

 

 

 

Easily import text and dimension styles from other drawings

There’s no reason to recreate the wheel – or text or dimension styles, if you have them elsewhere. The easiest way to import a text or dimension style from another drawing is to use the DesignCenter.

Follow these steps:

  1. autocad-tips-import-text-dimension-styles-1Go to the View tab, Palettes, DesignCenter or type designcenter on the command line.
  2. From the Folder list (it looks a lot like Windows Explorer) navigate to the folder, then the drawing that has the text or dimension style that you need.
  3. Click the drawing’s Plus sign to expand it and choose the type of elements that you want to import, such as a text style.
  4. On the right, you’ll see a list of the text styles that are available in the drawing. Drag the one you want onto the drawing area.

You can also use the Content Explorer, although the set-up process is more complex. Here are the steps:

  1. Click the Plug-Ins tab, then click Explore.
  2. If the folder where the drawing you is not listed, click Add Watched Folder at the bottom.
  3. Navigate to the folder, select it, and click OK. AutoCAD scans the drawings in the folder; this process may take some time. The Content Explorer works best when you plan in advance.
  4. When the process of scanning is done, or if the folder you want is listed, you can do one of two things:
  5. If you know the name of the element, enter it in the Search box at the top of the Content Explorer.
  6. If you know the location and name of the drawing, double-click the folder and navigate to the drawing. Double-click the drawing to display its elements.
  7. When you see the element you want, such as a text style, drag it onto the drawing area to import it into your drawing.

Do you have any tips for importing text or dimension styles? Leave a comment!

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Draw a donut (yum!) in AutoCAD

A donut looks like a wide circle with a hole in it but is actually made up of 2 semi-circle polylines. You can use donuts for electronic schematics, as trees or bushes, or as symbols.

autocad-tips-draw-a-donut-1Here are the steps to create a donut:

  1. Choose Home tab and expand the Draw panel to find the DONUT command, or type donut.
  2. At the Specify inside diameter of donut <2.0000>:  prompt, type the diameter of the hole. To create a filled circle, type 0. The command remembers your previous diameter and uses it as the default.
  3. At the Specify outside diameter of donut <4.0000>: prompt, type the diameter of the entire donut.
  4. At the Specify center of donut or <exit>: prompt, place the donut by specifying where you want its center to go.
  5. The command repeats automatically, so the next prompt is Specify center of donut or <exit>: Continue to specify center points or press Enter to end the command.

Fun fact: You can type doughnut to start this commend.

What do you use donuts for? Or, did you use donuts in the past and replace them with something else? leave a comment to share your experience!

Know when unwanted layers creep into your drawing with layer notification

Layers are a big issue when it comes to maintaining drawing standards. Where you work, you may have lots of rules about which layers your drawings can have.

Xrefs can be a problem for drawing standards, because when you attach an xref, its layers come along for the ride. This is especially an issue when the xrefs come from an outside organization, such as a subcontractor.

You can have AutoCAD notify you when new layers are added to a drawing. This layer notification feature doesn’t work with a drawing standards file but is just based on the layers that exist in your drawing. For more information about drawing standards files, see my post, “Use a Standards file to bring an AutoCAD drawing into line.”

autocad-tips-layer-notification-1Set up layer notification

Here are the steps to set up layer notification:

  1. Choose View tab, Palettes panel, Layer Properties (or type layer) to open the Layer Properties Manager.
  2. Click the Settings button (it looks like a wrench) to open the Layer Settings dialog box. You’ll use the top half of this dialog box.
  3. Check the New Layer Notification checkbox.
  4. Check the Evaluate New Layers Added to Drawing check box.
  5. Keep the default option, which is to evaluate only new xref layers, or choose Evaluate All New Layers if you want to be notified whenever a new layer is added. If your templates already have all the layers you need, this option can help prevent inexperienced users from adding layers. At least, they’ll see a notification!
  6. To specify  when the notification appears, check the Notify When New Layers Are Present checkbox.
  7. Use the other checkboxes it determine when the notification appears.
  8. Click OK.

Note: If you don’t check the Notify When New Layers Are Present checkbox, you won’t see a notification bubble, but can still check for unwanted layers by right-clicking the Unreconciled New Layers alert icon on the right side of the status bar and choosing View Unreconciled New Layers. The Layer Properties Manager opens with a filter that displays only those layers.  You can then delete them or change their properties.autocad-tips-layer-notification-2

What to do when you get a notification

When you see a notification bubble or dialog box, click its link to open the Layer Properties Manager (with a filter that displays only unreconciled layers) where you can fix the problem.

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Add a new tab to the AutoCAD ribbon

When you start customizing the ribbon, you may want to create a new tab to hold all of your custom commands. On the other hand, you may want to add custom commands to existing tabs and put them in context.autocad-tips-add-new-tab-to-ribbon-1

If you want a new tab, here are the steps:

  1. Type cui to open the Customize User Interface dialog box.
  2. Expand the Ribbon item. Right-click the Tabs item and choose New Tab. Type a name for the tab (keep it short).
  3. Right-click the Panels item and choose New Panel. Type a name for the panel.
  4. Drag the new panel to the new tab.
  5. To add the tab to your workspace. select the Workspaces item and choose the workspace. Find your new tab under Ribbon, Tabs and drag it to the Ribbon Tabs item in the Workspace Contents box. You have to be careful to drag without clicking your custom tab (and releasing the mouse button). If you expand the Ribbon Tabs item, you now see that your custom tab is there. You can also click OK to close the dialog box and see that the tab appears on your ribbon.
  6. In the Customization in All Files section, under Panels, expand your new panel. A panel comes with a preset structure that you can change.  Find the command in the lower-left box of the dialog box, called the Command List. If you want to add custom commands, choose Custom Commands from the drop-down list in the Command List section. This will help you find your custom commands more easily.
  7. If your command doesn’t have a button, select it from the Command List and use the Button Image section at the upper-right to choose and edit your button. Click Save and save your image. It will be a BMP file. Remember the location!
  8. To assign the image to the command, choose the command from the Command List section. Click the Small Image item in the Properties pane on the right. Click the Ellipsis button and browse to your BMP file. (Note: It’s possible to lose this type of customization when you upgrade to a new release of AutoCAD.)
  9. To add the command to your panel, drag it from the Command List to Row 1 in your custom panel. This means that you’re dragging from the lower-left box to the upper-left box in the dialog box. There are lots and lots of panels, but yours should be at the bottom of the list.
  10. Click Apply and OK. Click your new tab to find your custom commands.

Here is my custom tab.

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Here is the panel with 2 custom commands on it.

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Batch check multiple AutoCAD drawings against a standards file

In a previous post, “Use a Standards file to bring an AutoCAD drawing into line,”  I explained how to check a drawing for certain standards, such as layers. This process is important for maintaining drawing standards where you work.

But suppose you want to check standards for many drawings at once? You can, using the Batch Standards Checker. Here are the steps to use the Batch Standards Checker:

  1. From the Windows task bar, choose Start>All Programs>Autodesk>AutoCAD 20xx – English>Batch Standards Checker. In Windows 8, move the cursor to the upper or lower-right corner to display the charms and choose the Search charm. With Apps selected, type Batch Standards Checker and select it when it appears at the left. The Batch Standards Checker window opens, as you see here.

autocad-tips-batch-standards-checker-1

  1. On the Drawings tab, click the Plus (+) button and select the drawings that you want to include. Click Open. You can repeat this process to add drawings from a different location. To check xrefs attached to these drawings, check Check External References of Listed Drawings.
  2. On the Standards tab, choose to check each drawing against its associated standards file if you have associated standards files for all of the listed drawings. Otherwise, choose to check the drawings against a standards file or files that you select. To select a standards file, click the + button, choose a standards file (.dws), and click Open.
  3. On the Plug-ins tab, choose the standards that you want to check.  You can check dimension styles, layers, linetypes, and text styles.
  4. If you want, you can use the Notes tab to add notes that will appear in the report.
  5. Click Save on the Batch Standards Checker toolbar. In the Batch Standards Checker – File Save Dialog box, save the standards check file (.chx), which contains information about the drawings and standards files you used for the batch standards check.
  6. To start checking the drawings, click Start Check on the Batch Standards Checker toolbar or press Alt+T. The checking process start. You can click the Progress tab to see what is happening.

When the process is done, a Standards Audit Report is displayed in your browser. Mine opened in Internet Explorer, even though that isn’t my default browser.

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Do you use the Batch Standards Checker? What is your experience with it? Do you have any tips for using it?

Create layer overrides to create plot variations

Recently, a reader asked how to plot a drawing in black & white except for text. I had a few thoughts — plot styles and layer states, for example — but one idea was layer overrides.

Let’s say that you want to create some plot variations of your drawing. One way to do this is to change the properties of a layer in a viewport.  In this way, you have one layout with a viewport showing layers with their given properties — color, linetype, etc. On another layout, you might change the layer properties for a very different result. You actually make these changes per viewport, but I’ll assume one viewport per layout in this tip.

For example, you could change a layer’s color from green to black on one of the layouts. This feature is called layer overrides.

Set a layer override

Here is how to set layer properties for a viewport:

  1. Display a layout and double-click inside the desired viewport to enter model space.
  2. Open the Layer Properties Manager. You now see 5 special columns –  VP Color, VP Linetype, VP Lineweight, VP Transparency, and VP Plot Style .
  3. To override the properties of a layer for that viewport, click the layer’s item in the desired  column, just as you normally do to change a layer’s property.

When the overridden viewport is current, the Layer Properties Manager displays a light blue rectangle for that override. The Layer drop-down list in the Layers panel on the Home tab also shows the light blue rectangle.

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Remove a layer override

To remove an override, open the Layer Properties Manager and do one of the following:

  • To remove one property override for a layer — let’s say Color –  right-click the Color  column for the layer with the override and choose Remove Viewport Overrides For > Color > In Current Viewport Only or In All Viewports.
  • To remove all property overrides for a layer, right-click the layer and choose Remove Viewport Overrides For > Selected Layers > In Current Viewport Only or In All Viewports.
  • To remove all property overrides, right-click any layer and choose Remove Viewport Overrides For > All Layers > In Current Viewport Only or In All Viewports.

How do you create plot variations? Do you use layer overrides? Leave a comment and share your expertise!