AutoCAD 101 Series – Dynamic Blocks Week 3 – Points and Alignment

Are you new to AutoCAD? Have you been using AutoCAD for years but only use the blocks, styles, layers and tools that others have created?  Do you want to learn more or step up your game on features you’re not very strong in and pick up some practical examples of best practices?  If so, this series is for you.  Over the course of 12 months and maybe more I will cover the basics of a lot of AutoCAD tools and features that many may want or need to learn more about.

This is the 8th article in my AutoCAD 101 series – to read about the origination for this series, see the first post here: <Intro>  The last post in this series was about diving in to “Dynamic Blocks” <link>, this post will be diving in to the ‘Point’ and ‘Alignment’ Parameters and the ‘Move’ and ‘Stretch’ Actions.

Up until now, I have been using a 2×4 Light fixture for the how-tos, for this post, I am going to switch to a new block.  For the various parameters and actions being discussed, I am going to introduce the ‘Phone_Board’.

Typical phone board blocks are a 4′ wide by 1″ or so thick rectangle that sometimes includes a hatch.  When other sizes are needed, it is often exploded and stretched.  In this post I will cover adding the ability to re-size the block, align it with a wall surface and toggle through various insertion points, as well as combine it with the previous discussed Visibility state option to make this a super phone board!

Below is the final product highlighted to show the various points on the Block with which Parameter/Action each one is associated with.

dynamic-3-a

 

 

 

 


Figure A

Before we get in to adding the parameters, lets make a quick phone board block.  The most common phone board sizes are 4’x4′ and 4’x8′ vertical or horizontal.  So I will start by making a rectangle on layer ‘0’ (zero) that is 48″ wide by 1″ thick with the insertion point on the lower left side of the rectangle, which will be the ‘back’ side, then save this block as ‘Phone_Board’.

As stated previously, a common issue with phone board blocks is their size – 4ft does not work in all conditions.  What I have seen some companies do in the past is to create multiple blocks for the various sizes – which works pretty well until you get the requirement to wrap a room with phone boards that is not in 4ft increments – so off to explode they go.  We don’t believe in exploding blocks here – Right?  Right!!??!?  So the Phone_Block I am creating will be resizeable.  For this we need the point parameter.

Point:

The point is the first parameter on the Parameters menu and can be use with various ‘Actions’.  For this post I am going to use it for two actions – ‘Stretch’ and ‘Move’.  I will address the resize dilemma by adding a ‘Point’ parameter to the end of the block and assign the ‘Stretch’ action to it.

Sequence to add Stretch functionality:

  • Right click on block and select ‘Block Editor’
  • Pick the ‘Point’ parameter and place on the far right side of the rectangle in the mid-point of the vertical line.
  • Pull the cursor to right to place the label
  • Switch to the ‘Actions’ tab of the ‘Block Authoring Palette’
    • Note: If you are following along, on the remaining steps, watch the command prompt to see what is being asked for.
  • Select the ‘Stretch’ Action and then select the label of the Point parameter just inserted
  • Create a stretch frame around the end of the right side of the rectangle, crossing the ‘Point’ parameter.
  • Select the objects that need to stretch – which in this case is the right end of the rectangle.  Do this with the crossing selection, and get the parameter as part of the selection.
  • Done
  • Test the block to make sure it is doing what is expected – pick on the right end of the block and drag the point left or right.  If all is well, close test window and go to next step.

Once the block can be resized, the next challenge is getting it inserted on the right wall surface.  By adding an ‘Alignment’ parameter to the block, it will automatically align to the wall surface chosen – no matter what weird angle it is at.

Alignment:

In AutoCAD there is an ‘Align’ command for align objects.  Within dynamic blocks, you can use an ‘Alignment’ parameter.  Like the ‘Visibility’ parameter, this has no associated Action menu item. With the alignment parameter on a block, when you move your block near a surface, it will automatically align with that surface.  This can be a bit tricky to do and you have to understand how it works to get your ‘Alignment’ parameter placed properly.  The important thing is to have the pointed end of the symbol facing in the direction of the object that you want the block to align with.

dynamic-3-b

 


Figure B

Sequence to add Alignment functionality:

  • Right click on block and select ‘Block Editor’
  • Pick the ‘Alignment’ parameter and place at the insertion point of the rectangle (lower left).
  • Pull the cursor to the left to have the alignment parameter point down (this is the direction of the wall that the board will be mounted to).
  • Done
  • Test the block to make sure it is doing what is expected – when sliding towards a wall, the block should automatically align with the wall.  This can be a touchy process, which is why for small items I avoid using this parameter.  If all is well, close the test window and go to the next step.

Now the Phone board can be resized and will align to a wall – the next step is to add some additional functionality to it by combining two Parameters – ‘Point’ and ‘Visibility’.

Visibility:

In many situations the phone board is in a building that is served by conduits from the outside or has conduits that lead to other spaces – like bldg tenants.  I added (6) conduits to my block and made each combo of (0) to (6) it’s own visibility state.  Now when inserting the phone board, I can choose a number from the the visibility states menu of 0-Conduits to 6-Conduits.  See Figure below.

dynamic-3-c

NOTE:
The sequence in ‘Figure C’ shows the order to be 2-Conduits first, then 1, then 0; this is because the 2-Conduit version is what is used most often, so that will be the default inserted view. 

 

 

 

Figure C

Sequence to add conduits:

  • Open the phone board block in the block editor (Right click on block and select ‘Block Editor’)
  • Create a 2″ circle just above the board and at the left end
  • Copy the circle 5 more times to the right at 2-1/2″ apart.
  • From the parameters menu, insert the Visibility parameter above the first conduit furthest to the left.
  • In the Visibility state manger pull-down add the various states per the graphic in ‘Figure C’.
  • If you need help with this step, see the post on Visibility states here.
  • Test the block to make sure it is doing what is expected.  If all is well, close the test window and go to the next step.

Now that we have the ability to show conduits, there may be a situation that these conduits come up in the middle of the board or at the other end of where they are shown by default.  For the other end, I could mirror the block, but that will not work in the middle – Do I Explode and Move?  NO!  I’ll just add a move parameter to the conduits.

Move:

This process uses the ‘Point’ parameter again combined with the ‘Move’ Action.

Sequence to add Move functionality:

  • Right click on the block and select ‘Block Editor’
  • In the visibility states pull-down m menu, choose the “6 Conduits” view
  • Pick the ‘Point’ parameter and place in the center of the left most two circles.  (Since I typical use (2-Conduits) more than any other view this is why I chose this location.
  • Pull cursor up to place the label
  • Switch to the ‘Actions’ tab of the ‘Block Authoring Palette’
    • Note: on remaining steps, watch the command prompt to see what is being asked for
  • Select ‘Move’ Action and then select the label of the Point parameter just inserted
  • Create a window frame around all the conduits, as you will typically move all of them at once
  • Now test your block
  • For this step, since you were in the (6-Conduits) view for object selection, you will not see your ‘Move’ grip…   This is important to experience, because the ‘current’ visibility state may not reflect some of the actions you are assigning.
  • To fix the above issue, close the test view and go back to the editor
  • Right click on the ‘move’ parameter, select the ‘Object Visibility’ item on the menu and then select ‘Show for All States’ See Figure D
  • Now, test again to make sure it is doing what is expected – choose each view and make sure the ‘Move’ grip comes up for each state
  • If all is well, close the test window and go to the next step.

dynamic-3-d

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure D

Since I used the ‘Alignment’ parameter in this post,  I will do a short post follow-up showing a multi-point insertion option and then follow that up with the ‘Flip’ and ‘Rotate’ Parameters and Actions.

If you run into a snag with any of this, email me at walt@functionsense.com

WES

AutoCAD 101 Series – Dynamic Blocks Week 2 – Visibility States

Are you new to AutoCAD? Have you been using AutoCAD for years but only use the blocks, styles, layers and tools that others have created?  Do you want to learn more or step up your game on features you’re not very strong in and pick up some practical examples of best practices?  If so, this series is for you.  Over the course of 12 months and maybe more I will cover the basics of a lot of AutoCAD tools and features that many may want or need to learn more about.

This is the 7th article in my AutoCAD 101 series – to read about the origination for this series, see the first post here: <Intro>  The last post in this series was about diving in to “Dynamic Blocks” <link>, this post will be diving in to Visibility States.

Let’s start with an example of something that affects both architects and electrical engineers – Lighting.  Since we have been using the 2X4-Light fixture as an example in our previous posts, I’ll continue with it for this topic.  Architects use Lighting to enhance the visual appeal of spaces while electrical engineers use them to provide required illuminance.  In order to show the different types of lighting in a building, you could put letters and numbers next to a light symbol to indicate what it is, then, a schedule could be referenced to describe the fixture in more detail.  But if you actually gave each block a unique look, you could tell just by looking at it what it is.  This also helps the project owner or client visually see what the light is by just looking at the floor plan.  One commonly used light fixture is the 2×4 recessed fixtures that are found on almost every commercial project.  Although these fixtures are one size, they can be a variety of lighting types (Prismatic, Parabolic, LED, Direct/Indirect as well as Emergency versions of each).

See ‘Figure A’ below that shows a small variety of light fixture types. All of these light fixtures are actually in one block and use the dynamic Visibility option to change the views that represent each individual look.  With this one block, you could place 2×4 fixtures throughout your project, then in rooms that needed specialty fixtures like parabolic or direct-indirect, you would highlight the fixtures in the room or rooms, right click and select quick properties and choose the parabolic version from the drop-down menu. You could repeat the same process for the lights required to be emergency or night lights as well.  The variety of lighting types used on a project that are similar in nature but have some unique characteristics could easily be shown in a single block and quickly changed using the dynamic visibility state option.

dynamic-2-2

 

 

 

 


Figure A

How to:

The steps outlined here will work for any trade or block – you just need to determine which feature will benefit you in your work and use that when defining or modifying your blocks.  I use dynamic blocks for two primary reasons – minimize the number of blocks required to represent items in a drawing and make changes quicker.

You may want to start using dynamic blocks by creating new blocks from scratch or since you probably already have an extensive block library a better approach may be to modify an existing block that you currently use by adding dynamic features to it.

Like any customization process there are a series of steps that you would typically go through to implement your ideas.

Dynamic block creation Steps:

  1. Start out by planning on what you want your block to do.  Often this comes from experience with blocks that you keep replacing, rotating, flipping or changing out.
  2. Draw your block geometry or edit an existing block to add dynamic features.
  3. Choose a ‘Parameter'; there are various Parameters to choose, see ‘Figure B’ for a screen shot of the dynamic options pallet.
  4. Match an ‘Action’ with your parameter – see ‘Figure C’.
  5. Test your option.
  6. Repeat 1 – 5 for each dynamic option.
dynamic-1 dynamic-2
Figure B Figure C

The items in red in ‘Figures B and C’ are what will be covered over the next few posts on dynamic blocks.  For this post I will just cover the Visibility Parameter.

For the dynamic block demonstration here I am going to start with our ‘2×4-Light’ fixture that I have been using in previous posts and add the visibility parameter to make it more flexible.  You can follow along with any type of block that you already have and want the ability to change it’s look of on the fly (Visibility State).

Like many blocks, our light fixture is composed of basic lines and hatches.  From experience of working with lighting plans, I know that the basic 2×4 fixture often gets changed out for a more decorative one like direct-indirect or parabolic fixtures in some offices or conference rooms.  Throughout the building emergency ballasts may be used to make the light an emergency light, which is typically indicated by a hatch or fill.  To make my job easier, I do not want to erase the old block and insert a new one for each change I need to make.   So for this issue I use ‘Visibility States’, using the Visibility Parameter.   Visibility states allow you to change the look of a block by selecting a pull-down menu and choosing the new look or ‘state’.  Note that ‘Visibility’ is the one parameter that does not require an Action item associated with it.

I open the existing block called ‘2×4-light’ in AutoCAD, and type Bedit to open the block editor.  See ‘Figure D’ that shows the block editor toolbar.  If you are not a ribbon rebel like me, see ‘Figure E’ for the ribbon version of the block editor.

dynamic-2-4

Figure D

dynamic-2-5


Figure E

When entering the block editor you will get the dynamic options pallet shown above in ‘Figures B and C’, and the block editor toolbar or Pallet shown in ‘Figures D and E’.

I select the Visibility parameter option and place it next to my block.  When doing this think about how your final block look will change so that your parameter does not end up under some of your line work.  I now see a new toolbar on the screen, the visibility toolbar, see Figure F.  I select the button that opens up the Visibility states option and rename the default menu item to ‘Standard’.  I then select ‘New’, and name the new state ‘Emergency’.  You may be asked if you want to “Leave the visibility of the existing objects unchanged in the new state”.   Since I am only going to be adding line work for this particular view, I will choose the option to leave the objects in the new visibility state as it currently is shown; see ‘Figure G’. Note that you can determine the default view or ‘visibility state’ by moving the one you want as default to the top of the Visibility states list.

dynamic-2-6

 


Figure F

dynamic-x4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure G

Next, with the ‘Emergency’ state checked off in the list I’ll then draw an angled line between the top right and lower left of my internal rectangle to create hatch boundary and then choose my hatch command and hatch the space to the right side of the angled line.  Once this is done, on the block editor toolbar/pallet there is a small symbol with a check mark next to it.  This is the symbol to test the new dynamic options.   Once the block is highlighted in the test mode a blue triangle will show up off to the side.  By selecting the triangle I can choose between the ‘Standard’ and ‘Emergency’ display options.  If all is well I can move on to the next fixture type; but if not I can make the necessary corrections and test again.  Make this a habit, as finding and fixing issues later, after you have added a bunch of dynamic features can be a nightmare. Once testing is complete I can move on.

Now I want to expand this block to also represent all the other fixture types shown in Figure A.

Highlight the ‘Standard’ Visibility State each time you start a new fixture type, and when you are adding the emergency option, select the standard option of the that fixture type first.  See below a bulleted list of steps to use for each fixture type.

Warning:
When adding new parameters and actions and you have multiple visibility states, make sure you are on the state that you wish to perform the new action.  This is not a deal-breaker, as it can be corrected with a few extra steps – but keep it in mind.

Parabolic:

  • Open visibility states menu
  • Select ‘Standard Fixture’
  • Select ‘New’
  • Type ‘Parabolic’ (Choose: ‘Leave visibility of existing object…’)
  • Ok
  • OK
  • Draw the Parabolic grid line work
  • Leave the Parabolic State highlighted and select ‘New’
  • Type ‘Parabolic Emergency’
  • Ok
  • Ok

Note:
For this step, I am going to use the same hatching I used for the ‘Standard Emergency’ fixture.  On the Visibility states toolbar there are some shaded and non-shaded boxes next to the Visibility Pull-down.  (See ‘Figure F’ above)

  • Choose the combo ‘Shaded/Open’ box symbol. (This will show all other entities in a grey faded color as they are not part of this Visibility state).
  • Choose the larger solid shaded box and pick the hatch that was created for the previous ‘Standard’ fixture. (This hatch will now show up in both emergency versions (Standard and Parabolic) of the light fixture).

Note:
You could have redrawn the hatch, but that adds additional size to the block, and you want to keep your blocks as lean as possible.

The block now has (4) visibility states, representing Standard and Emergency versions of two fixture types.  Try the final two states for direct/in-direct on your own.

Tip:
Combining Wipe-outs in to your blocks will add even more flexibility to your dynamic blocks.  For instance in our light fixture block, adding a  wipeout behind the fixture keeps anything else on the ceiling plan from bleeding through , I.e. putting fixtures in a gypsum board ceiling that is hatched with a pattern. Other examples would include room name blocks that have wipeouts to mask the background or door blocks that have wipeouts to hide the wall underneath making it appear that wherever you place your door the wall is on that wall is automatically cleaned up.

If you run into a snag with this, email me at walt@functionsense.com

In the next post, I will go over the Point, Alignment and Basepoint Parameters.

WES

AutoCAD 101 Series – Dynamic Blocks Week 1

Are you new to AutoCAD? Have you been using AutoCAD for years but only use the blocks, styles, layers and tools that others have created?  Do you want to learn more or step up your game on features you’re not very strong in and pick up some practical examples of best practices?  If so, this series is for you.  Over the course of 12 months and maybe more I will cover the basics of a lot of AutoCAD tools and features that many may want or need to learn more about.

This is the 6th article in my AutoCAD 101 series – to read about the origination for this series, see the first post here: <Intro>  The last post in this series was about “important stuff” to consider when making blocks <link>, this post will be about diving in to Dynamic Blocks.

We have wrapped up the basics of blocks in the past few posts, so let’s get in to some more advanced block work and look at Dynamic Blocks.

In the course of a design day or projects timeline blocks are moved, copied, mirrored, rotated and sometimes completely replaced.  An efficient way to reduce your work load and speed up some of these changes is to use dynamic blocks.  Dynamic blocks were introduced in AutoCAD 2006 and can be created and used in AutoCAD LT as we’ll.  Creating blocks that have dynamic properties or adding dynamic properties to an existing block will enhance the block’s usability and can greatly reduce block counts.  In the next few posts I am going to go over some basic features of Dynamic blocks that can make your regular blocks more flexible and save you editing time.

For the first post I’ll just discuss the options I will be covering moving forward and in the next post I will dig in with examples.

Dynamic blocks basically have two parts ‘Parameters’ and ‘Actions’.  Parameters are the defining points or properties of your block and the Actions are what gets done with or to the block.

dynamic-1 The Parameters that I will be covering are:

  • Point
  • Linear
  • Rotation
  • Alignment
  • Flip
  • Visibility
  • Basepoint

The coverage will not be in this order; it will be based on a building of features.

dynamic-2 The Associated Actions I will be covering are:

  • Move
  • Stretch
  • Rotate
  • Flip

Obviously there are more Parameters and Actions available, but I believe that the ones discussed here are the most commonly used for a variety of situations.  Plus, I need to leave a few for you to learn on your own!  In the next post I’ll dive in to the easiest and most impactful – Visibility States .

WES

AutoCAD 101 Series – Blocks Week 4 – Important Stuff

Are you new to AutoCAD? Have you been using AutoCAD for years but only use the blocks, styles, layers and tools that others have created?  Do you want to learn more or step up your game on features you’re not very strong in and pick up some practical examples of best practices?  If so, this series is for you.  Over the course of 12 months and maybe more I will cover the basics of a lot of AutoCAD tools and features that many may want or need to learn more about.

This is the 5th article in my AutoCAD 101 series – to read about the origination for this series, see the first post here: <Intro>  The last post in this series was about how to use AutoCAD’s Block editor <link>, this post will be about some important “stuff” when creating or fixing existing blocks.

There are some key things that you can do when creating blocks that will make your work easier and will make your blocks less likely to be exploded by other users later.  Two items that I believe are foundationally the most important are Insertion Points and original creation layer.  We will get into a lot more about layers in some future posts, but for now know that layer “0” (zero) will most commonly be the best block creation origination layer.

Origination Layer

Let’s start with the layer issue.  When creating an object many think or believe that the block should be created on the layer it will be used on – this is not your best option. Let’s look at our 2x4_light block that we have been working with.

If you’re an architect, you may like your lights on a lighting layer like ‘A-Lights’ or maybe you like to put everything on the ceiling on one layer like ‘A-CLG’ (please don’t do this, it’s a nightmare for anyone else using you ceiling plan). So when creating your block you create it on one of these named layers and set the color to Bylayer.  The good aspect of this is that the layer, if it doesn’t exist will get automatically added when you insert this block. That’s pretty much the end of the good points.  Now if the layer did not exist prior to inserting this block, you couldn’t insert it on that layer anyway as it did not exist until you inserted the block.  You will have to move at least the first block after insertion.

Let’s look ahead, a good practice to do when making blocks. If you at some point in the future are going to do an existing lighting layer, a new lighting layer and/or a demo lighting layer, how do you visually differentiate between them with the light fixture block?  You can create these layers and assign them different colors and line types, but since your block was created on say ‘A-Lights’, your block will maintain the properties of the ‘A-Lights’ layer no matter where it is inserted.

Let’s go back and create this block on the ‘0’ layer, often referred to as the ‘Chameleon layer’ due to its special properties.  When a block created on layer ‘0’ is inserted in to a drawing, it takes on the properties of the layer it is inserted on. So if your ‘A-Lights’ layer is yellow with a continuous line type your light fixture will be yellow and continuous. If you insert it on an ‘A-lights-Demo’ layer that is Cyan with a hidden linetype, your block will come in as Cyan with a hidden linetype, and so on…

Although you could create this block as a dynamic block with various color and line type definitions you will lose the ability to isolate blocks by their layer location.

There may be instances where specific details in the Block need to be hard coded to certain colors and line types, due to printing standards, but the first best choice is creating it on Layer ‘0’ and set color and line type to ‘Bylayer’.

NOTE: For some additional flexibility, create the block on Layer ‘0’ and set the color and linetype to ‘BYBLOCK’.  When the block is inserted, it will assume the color and linetype of the Layer inserted on, but the ‘BYBLOCK’ option allows it to be over-ridden.  Use this option with caution however, as lazy drafters will insert the block on the wrong layer and then manually change the color and/or linetype to what it should have been had it been inserted on the correct layer.  This will defeat your ability to isolate blocks by layer or select by properties.  Imagine a demo layer being Cyan/Hidden and a light fixture block is inserted on the ‘A-LIGHT’ and manually over-ridden to Cyan and Hidden.  You freeze the ‘A-LIGHT’ and it appears some demos lights go away – just one an example of what could happen.

Another potential issue is future standards changes and client standards requirements.  If you at some point decide to change your layer naming convention, all your blocks utilizing the old layers will have to be redefined.  With blocks created on layer ‘0’ the standards change is a non-issue.

If you’re not the team leader, and work as a sub consultant (electrical engineers, contractors, lighting designers) for a client and they require final drawings to maintain certain layer, color and line type standards, more issues will crop up with hard coded blocks.  The 2x4_light block created on layer ‘0’ is usable by all parties.

Insertion Point

The next big item I often see that is a bad practice is the blocks defined origin or insertion point.  Short of creating a block using the dynamic multipoint option (which in some situations is a great option) you need to choose an insertion point that makes sense. We will cover the multipoint insertion option during our dynamic block track.

For our 2×4 light fixture, it will most likely be inserted in a 2×2 or 2×4 grid.  With this in mind, creating the insertion point on one corner of the block is an excellent option.  You don’t want to make the insertion point off the edge of the block or the middle point of a line, because it will rarely, if ever, match up to a straightforward insertion point on your grid.

Bad insertion points will lead to blocks being ‘eye-balled’ on insert or inserted and moved, creating extra steps.

With blocks, you can’t just use the lower left or midpoint of a block as a standard insertion point, because each block has unique insertion properties. For example tank type toilets, counter sinks and beds are a few items that may be centered on a wall or stall, but are typically shown from 1″ to 3″ off the wall that they are up against.  Wall mounted toilets, sinks, and urinals may also be centered, but will actually be snapped on to the wall.

Janitor’s sinks are usually tucked in to a corner of a janitor’s closet or mechanical space, so it would make sense that their insertion point be on the back corner of the janitors sink.  The proper insertion points for blocks can vary greatly, but how the block is most commonly used is what should dictate the insertion point.  See image below for block examples with their insertion points shown (blue square/grip).

how-to-block-insert

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 1

These two items are just a couple important items, to consider when creating blocks, but there are some other items to consider as well as some best practices to follow when making blocks for your master library.

  • Unmark ‘allow exploding’
  • Set dimension styles, text styles, and table styles to ‘Standard’ and set the line type to ‘Continuous’
  • Set the current layer to ‘0’
  • Purge the block drawing of any unused line types, styles, dimensions, etc. so that they do not get carried forward like an infection into future drawing files. (This is a common issue for drawing bloat, especially in 2013 and newer drawings without the DGN hot fix installed).
  • When creating blocks with attributed text, make sure you check the worst case scenario for text length/size to avoid ‘Ugly’ blocks (see Figure 2).
  • Also for attributed text blocks, choose an appropriate text justification (see Figure 2).

blocks-important-2

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 2

Much of the above cleanup could be automated in a script which we will cover in a future customization post.

Follow these steps when making your blocks and you will have cleaner drawings and happier users.

WES

AutoCAD 101 Series – Blocks – Block Editor

Are you new to AutoCAD? Have you been using AutoCAD for years but only use the blocks, styles, layers and tools that others have created?  Do you want to learn more or step up your game on features you’re not very strong in and pick up some practical examples of best practices?  If so, this series is for you.  Over the course of 12 months and maybe more I will cover the basics of a lot of AutoCAD tools and features that many may want or need to learn more about.

This is the 4th article in my AutoCAD 101 series – to read about the origination for this series, see the first post here: <Intro>

The last post was about how to make blocks <link>, this post will be about using AutoCAD’s block editor. (BE, BEDIT)

BEDIT is useful in numerous ways, especially for long time novice block users or that never learned how to redefine a block.  If you have been around long enough, you have seen doors and toilets that are rotated at the wrong angle or scaled way out of proportion throughout an entire drawing because someone screwed up the block definition. If you have been using AutoCAD for along time and have staid away from editing blocks because of old memories or just go straight to “exploding” (UGH!!!), have no fear BEDIT pretty much makes those issues a thing of the past.

In the how to post, one item mentioned was that when creating a block using the BLOCK command you can check off the Open in Block Editor option when creating the block and it will open in new dedicated session for just the block being created – see Figure 1.

blockedit-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 1

If you are working in a drawing and you see a block that just does not look like what you need, but there are a bunch of them, the easiest thing to do is just edit it’s definition with BEDIT.  Lets say that we want to change the 2×4-Light fixture block to include a solid, angled hatch instead of the single diagonal line through it.  No problem, you can type BEDIT and select the block from the list (if you know the name) or just right-click on the block and select “Block Editor” from the pop-up menu – see figures 2 and 3.

blockedit-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 2

blockedit-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 3

Once you choose BEDIT, your screen will change, and it will vary based on your current configuration, but you should see at least the following three items.

1.     A block editor toolbar OR Block Editor Ribbon (see figure 5)

2.     Your block

3.     A Block editing palette

blockedit-4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 4

blockedit-5

 

 

 

Figure 5

To add the hatch, just start your hatch command however you normally do, pick a point to the right of the angled line and choose the solid hatch option.  Select Close Block Editor from your Toolbar or Ribbon, select save changes, and see your new block.

blockedit-6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 6

Now if you had 100 of these blocks in the drawing, they would all update immediately – beats re-copying around a hundred hatched areas and rotating them for horizontal or angled fixtures…

You can also rotate your block, change its colors, layers, linetypes, etc… so why Explode?!?!

Example:
You get a background from a client that has furniture and the furniture is RED, which plots to heavy on your drawings.  Even after changing the furniture layer to GREY, it still shows up as RED.  Dang Architect… They defined the block with color by entity instead of Bylayer.  No problem – open the block in your editor, select everything and set it all to color bylayer. Bam! – all done.

Now the BLOCKEDITOR can do a lot more than just change the look of a block.  In the editor you can:

  • Save the current block as a new block (sweet)
  • Edit or Define attributes
  • Add parameters and actions (Dynamic)
  • Test Dynamic options
  • Start new blocks from scratch

The dynamic options are the most powerful, and we will be getting in to them in a couple weeks.  I will skip this series next week as I will be attending Autodesk University in Vegas.  When I get back  we pick up by looking at some important options when defining blocks to get the best performance out of them.

WES

AutoCAD 101 Series – Blocks – How To

Are you new to AutoCAD? Have you been using AutoCAD for years but only use the blocks, styles, layers and tools that others have created?  Do you want to learn more or step up your game on features you’re not very strong in and pick up some practical examples of best practices?  If so, this series is for you.  Over the course of 12 months and maybe more I will cover the basics of a lot of AutoCAD tools and features that many may want or need to learn more about.

This is the 2nd article in my AutoCAD 101 series – to read about the origination for this series, see the first post here: Intro.  The last post was about what blocks are and are not and why you should use them – <link>, this post will be about how easy it is to make blocks.

Here’s how:

In the previous post, I gave multiple examples of items that could be blocks, in this post I will make one of those blocks to show you just how easy it is.  The following is a image of some basic blocks you would commonly use in your drawings.  The lines are dotted because i have them all selected in order to show the insertion point.  The color is controlled by the layer the block is on (we will discuss this in a future post) and the blue square shows the location of the insertion point of the block (we will get in to the importance of that in a future post as well).  For this post, I will show how to make the basic 2×4 light fixture shown on the left.

how-to-block-insert

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 1

There basically three commands in AutoCAD to make blocks, “Block”, “Wblock” and “Paste as Block”.  Since this is a basic level post, I will not cover every option, but rather the ones you really need.

The BLOCK and WBLOCK commands are very similar, with the difference being where your block ends up.  If you want to make a block that you only plan on utilizing in the current drawing, you would just use the BLOCK command.  If you want to save the block out to your hard drive or server for use in other drawings/projects, you would use the WBLOCK command.  Now, don’t worry if you’re not sure, because you can always save an existing block out of your drawing at anytime in the future using the WBLOCK command which will let you export an existing block just as if you had used WBLOCK from the beginning.

The paste as block option is “ok” if you just need to make a down and dirty temp block that you will not likely use again.  PLEASE – don’t make this your go to option, because if you want re-use your blocks, the “Paste as Block option will require you to do more work later to rename the blocks and fix insertion points.

To see the results of a bunch of ‘Paste as Block’ work done, see the image below that shows the Block names – do you know what the block ‘A$C0BDB529F’ is? …Me either…

rename-annon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 2

To show the differences between BLOCK and WBLOCK, I will show the most common options you should typically be using to create blocks.

BLOCK:

Draw the objects you want to make in to a block.  For this fixture I will use the RECTANGLE, OFFSET, and  LINE commands.

  • Create the fixture perimeter by typing RECTANGLE
  • Pick a point on the screen
  • For the other point, type @24,48
  • Type OFFSET and choose 2″
  • Offset the outer line inward
  • Draw a line from the lower left internal “intersection” to the upper right intersection using your OSNAPS – “Don’t eye-ball it!”

You now have your light fixture symbol, you just need to make it a block.

  • Type BLOCK
    • The Block dialogue will pop up. See Figure 3 for most important items. The red ones you will do for each block, while the Blue items should be your defaults.
  • After hitting ok, select the lower left outside intersection of the light fixture. this will be your insertion point when you insert blocks.
  • BAM! your done!

how-to-block-options

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 3

To use this block, just type insert, choose your insert button or ribbon and select the “2×4-Light” block to insert and choose an intersection for your grid to insert the light and rotate as needed.

WBLOCK:

Draw the objects you want to make in to a block.  Repeat drawing steps from above.

You now have your light fixture symbol, you just need to make it a block.
  • Type WBLOCK
    • The WBlock or ‘Write Block’ dialogue will pop up. See Figure 4 for most important items. The red ones you will do for each block.
    • Note that the Wblock option requires a few in and outs where you need to select the Insertion point, (this can be required in the BLOCK dialogue also, if you do not have ‘Specify on-screen’ chosen), the objects, and the Destination (‘File name and path’).
    • After selecting the Destination, insertion and objects, you would choose ‘Ok’
  • If you avoid any of the steps, it will prompt you to make your selections before finalizing the block.
  • BAM! your done!

how-to-wblock-options

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 4

To use this block, just type insert, choose your insert button or ribbon and select the “2×4-Light” block to insert and choose an intersection for your grid to insert the light and rotate as needed.

BLOCK VS WBLOCK:

You probably noticed a few differences in the process as well as some similarities.  There are some options in each that are not available in the other.  These difference come from how the commands are intended to be used most often.  BLOCK is meant to create blocks within your current drawing, where as WBLOCK is meant to write blocks out to an external storage location, typically your server.  Because WBLOCK allows you to do either, you may default to that.  But, keep in mind that the Block command gives you a few key options that the WBLOCK command does not:

  • Annotative
  • Allow Exploding
  • Open in Block editor

Annotative
Annotative allows you to make Annotative or ‘autoscaling’ objects that will autoscale by the current ‘Annotation scale’ setting.  This is great for symbolic objects that require scaling each time they are inserted.  Items that are useful as Annotative objects include: Column bubbles, Key notes, graphic symbols of objects like electrical outlets, room names, north arrows, plan titles, etc..  This is a whole other topic I will touch on in a future post.

Allow exploding
Allow exploding is something that most savvy block creators will uncheck.  How many times have you created a block only to find it exploded in a drawing?  Ughh – Why?  The user did not know how to adjust something in the block or as I have seen in some cases, clueless (non-educated) users think that exploding blocks will minimize drawing issues or is the only way to change a color or linetype. (See how to rectify this with the block editor in the next post).

Block Editor
Block editor is a very handy tool that has taken away a lot of the issues that happened in the past from users not knowing how to redefine blocks.  If you have been around long enough, you have seen doors and toilets that are rotated at the wrong angle or scaled way out of proportion throughout and entire drawing because someone screwed up the block definition. In the next post we will get in to this powerful and easy tool.

WBLOCK has one key feature that BLOCK cannot do – Write your blocks out of the drawing. Typically you make your blocks using the BLOCK command and then Write Block them out to you companies Standards folder(s).  Once you have created the 2×4-Light fixture using the BLOCK command, the following steps/graphic shows how you write it out to an external folder.

  • Type WBLOCK
  • Choose the ‘Block:’ option under ‘Source’
  • Type in or browse to the folder that you want to save the block to
  • Select ‘OK’
  • BAM! your done!

how-to-wblock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 5

Pretty easy huh?  A way to quickly have the Write Block dialogue choose ‘Block:’ and choose the correct block to write out automatically is to highlight the actual block prior to typing Wblock.

Old School

The steps above are based on command line typing, but you can access the BLOCK and WBLOCK commands through your ribbon and Toolbars as well – do whatever makes you feel more comfortable and start making your work go quicker with Blocks.

WES

AutoCAD 101 Series – Blocks – What and Why?

Are you new to AutoCAD? Have you been using AutoCAD for years but only use the blocks, styles, layers and tools that others have created?  Do you want to learn more or step up your game on features you’re not very strong in and pick up some practical examples of best practices?  If so, this series is for you.  Over the course of 12 months and maybe more I will cover the basics of a lot of AutoCAD tools and features that many may want or need to learn more about.

This is the 1st article in my AutoCAD 101 series – to read about the origination for this series, see the first post here: <Intro>

This month is all about Blocks (4 weeks – Define, Create, Edit, and Important Stuff)

  • What are and are not blocks (What and why)
  • Blocks are easy!!  Here is how….
  • Blockeditor (BE, BLOCKEDITOR)
  • Layer usage and flexibility in blocks (Layers, linetypes, colors, annotation scaling and Tips and Tricks) (redefining others blocks, macro and script usage)

What are Blocks?

AutoCAD defines Blocks as:  A collection of objects that are combined into a single named object. These objects can be symbols or details that are used to create representations of real world objects.  Typically, each of these blocks is an individual drawing file, perhaps saved in a folder with similar drawing files. When you need to insert one into your current drawing file, you use the INSERT command (or enter ‘I’ in the command window).

Examples of items that would be great as Blocks:

Furniture/Appliances/Equipment:

  • Desks
  • Bathtubs
  • Desks
  • Chairs
  • Electrical Panels
  • Air Handlers
  • Etc…

Drawing Symbols:

  • Section Cuts
  • North Arrows
  • Arrow heads
  • Column Bubbles
  • Light fixtures
  • Outlets
  • Etc…

Details:

  • Fire Proofing
  • Control Diagrams
  • Wall Sections
  • Equipment Connections
  • Structural footings
  • Etc…

What are NOT Blocks?

Basic line work that is drawn using standard drawing tools like line, rectangle, circle, etc. that are drawn and/or grouped together to represent one of the above items and copied around the drawing.  The issue is that these are just linework – not “Named objects” and therefore not Blocks.  They look pretty, but their also pretty useless.

  • Rectangles are NOT desks, bathtubs, light fixtures, etc…
  • Rectangles are NOT BLOCKS, but BLOCKS can be rectangles
  • Circles are NOT down lights, bollards, columns, sinks, manholes, etc…
  • Circles are NOT BLOCKS, but BLOCKS can be circles
  • Polygons are NOT Revision triangles, Section symbols, note tags, etc…
  • Polygons are NOT BLOCKS, but BLOCKS can be polygons
  • A bunch of lines drawn in to the shape of a chair is NOT a BLOCK, but a BLOCK can be made up of a bunch of lines drawn in to the shape of a chair

The above are all examples of linework that is drawn to look like something, then is inefficiently copied around to make a bunch of useless “copies”.  BUT, Hey – they look pretty!  Yes they do, but lets look at why this is a bad idea and why blocks are sooo much better.

Why use Blocks?

  • Let’s say you use a rectangle to represent a 2×4 light fixture and copy this around the drawing 60 times to represent your lighting plan.   No lets say the plan is reviewed and someones requires that you change the look of the rectangle – like add an offset line, change its color, add a hatch, add some detail to it – whatever…  To change the look, you would modify one of the rectangles and re-copy it to the other 59 locations – effectively starting over.  If this Light fixture (rectangle) was a block, you would just redefine it and as soon as you save it, all 60 get updated!  Yea!  And to add to it, you can then use this symbol over and over again in other projects!   What’s not to love?  Some of you are going Duh!!  Yea… well I see rectangles used as $#%&$ light fixtures waaayyy too often.  This same concept can be applied to nearly any item you create with linework.  Anytime you draw something that you intend to use again or “possibly” use again – make it a block.  I do this even for ‘one-off’ items.  I am sure you have drawn something on a job, then later,  wish you had that same thing on another job.  You typically go back and copy it and then paste it into the new job.  Depending on how you do it, you will end up with copies of linework again or an anonymous block if you “paste as block”.
  • Blocks reduce storage requirements  – In AutoCAD, each line, arc, ellipse, text, etc. uses up memory, both for storage and RAM memory usage.  If a chair is composed of 50 lines, arcs, etc and is copied around the drawing, multiple the number of lines by each copy – 6 times = 300 lines.  A BLOCK having the same amount of lines will be counted once and then a pointer will be used to reference all the other locations.
  • Objects (BLOCKS) are easier to move than linework – Try selecting all the copies of chairs or lights composed of basic linework vs selecting individual blocks. Even using the SELECTSIMILAR command, which depending on how you have it set will take possibly one selection vs many.  With linework you typically would use a window or crossing to select your items, which means you have a high probability of selecting other items as well.  Blocks can be grabbed with a single pick selection for each item or in multiples by using SELECTSIMILAR.

You may be tempted to use the Copy and “paste as block” option (Ctrl-Shift-V) to make temp blocks. that look like:  A$C19F91F38  This is not a BLOCK!

OK – it is a BLOCK, but it is a temporary block made by copying and pasting objects as a block. This is a sad example of a block – Why?

  • Does the name “A$C19F91F38″ mean anything to you? – Nope – not to anyone else either…
  • Can you control the insertion point? – yes but only if you edit it in the Block Editor – it would have just been easier to make it a standard block
  • Can you rename it? – Yes, but you will need to list it and try to remember the Number and letter sequence in the RENAME dialogue – do this a lot and this is what you will see:

rename-annon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, if you are in to making dumb drawings and wasting time, then you are good to go, but if not, then you should know that Blocks are way easy to create!

And in the next post I’ll show you how…

WES

AutoCAD 101 Series – Intro

I have been seriously lacking in my writing this year, an area that I am now working on rectifying.  To get things going again I am going to start out with a new series based on some much needed AutoCAD basics or AutoCAD 101 topics that are good for all levels of users.  

After working in the AEC industry for almost 30 years and of that about 20 using AutoCAD I have learned a lot. The majority of my learning came from on the job training, with most being self teaching through books, blogs, magazine, seminars and a lot of trial and error.  I have worked in Architectural, Mechanical and in current years Electrical offices for various firms and have consulted for a variety of other industries.  All of this has increased my education as well – not only in AutoCAD but of the specific industries.  Because of the variety of working fields and environments, I have also been exposed to a gamut of skill levels of co-workers, clients and consultants that use AutoCAD.  In this time frame I have determined that one thing is clear – AutoCAD skill sets are seriously lacking.

I believe that there are a variety of reasons for this:

  • Companies not investing in training for their employees
  • Companies not hiring the right employees
  • Employees (users) not interested in or practicing self development – for either time or money issues
  • Users not realizing the power of new commands or features due to lack of knowledge of their existence
  • As of late, users and companies not seeing the need to learn more about AutoCAD because they believe it is an old technology that will be replaced with a miracle product soon
  • Some combination of all of the above

Well – these can all be overcome and the focus of this series will be to expand users knowledge of AutoCAD features that can and will improve their productivity and efficiency now.  I have written numerous articles for AUGI world http://www.augi.com/augiworld on some of the topics above, including the importance of training, hiring the right people and how to be more efficient in AutoCAD.  As I tend to get long winded in my writing, the goal of this series is to be present bite sized chunks of information that can be followed up prior to the next weekly post in the series.

What will be covered?

There are numerous tools in AutoCAD that are very helpful and and can greatly increase a users productivity and efficiency, but they have to be used to realize it.  Some examples of commands and tools that I have seen so many users not use – because of lack of understanding/knowledge or just lack of exposure:

  •  Blocks
  • Dynamic Blocks
  • Xrefs
  • Paperspace
  • Annotation scaling
  • Layer management
  • Dimensions
  • Basic Customization (just knowing some basics can greatly increase efficiency) 

The first four posts will be all about Blocks – What they are, what they aren’t and how to make and use them.

If you know someone who is lacking in or just looking to learn more in any of the above these areas , I encourage you to share this blog with them.  If you are interested in reading more about some of the other topics I mentioned above, you can find them on the AUGI website http://www.augi.com/augiworld or you can download the specifc articles here: http://www.functionsense.com/authoring/

Also – another good source for learning is the AUGI (Autodesk User Group International) website.  Check it out and consider becoming a member.  I wrote about the membership options here:
http://www.functionsense.com/2013/12/augi-membership/

WES

Autodesk User Group International (AUGI) Membership

augiIf your an Autodesk product user, whether it be AutoCAD, Revit, 3D Studio, Inventor or many of the other Autodesk software products, I would recommend you look in to becoming an AUGI member.

I have been a long time AUGI member, and a NAAUG member prior to that.  Although AUGI has always had a free membership plan, two paid membership plans are now available – premium and professional.  Last year, when the paid membership plans were introduced, I chose the professional membership because I felt it was the most valuable.  Each of the plans have their benefits, but the value will vary by individual.  Below is an outline of some of the benefits of being a member as well as descriptions of each membership level. The majority of the data included here comes directly from AUGI’s website (AUGI.COM)

Why would you want an AUGI membership? The website has tons of timely and historical information for the AEC, manufacturing and multimedia industries. No matter your title or position, there is something for everyone.

AUGI has articles in their two publications, one of which is an email newsletter (Hot News) and one is a magazine (AUGI World) that is available as a printed version.

HotNews:

AUGI HotNews, a monthly newsletter sent to all AUGI members via email, disseminates timely information about upcoming events, special offers from Autodesk and its third-party developer community, general announcements, and a number of columns and feature articles designed to deepen your understanding and enhance your use of AutoCAD and other Autodesk products.

The AUGI Board of Directors also uses HotNews as its channel to keep the membership informed about new programs and policies being offered to the membership.

AUGI HotNews…it’s the way to stay in the know.

AUGIWorld:

AUGIWorld is the official magazine of Autodesk User Group International (AUGI). Published every month, it is distributed to AUGI members around the world.

AUGIWorld issues regularly include:

  • A unique cover story with topics such as CAD Management, Salary Survey, AutoCAD add-on’s, Tips & Tricks, and more.
  • Interviews with Autodesk or industry executives answering member questions on big issues.
  • User stories portraying successfully implemented industry solutions.
  • CAD management advice column.
  • Technical Tips & Tricks section
  • Training advice column
  • AUGI events and announcements

Do you regularly search for technical information online, or look for someone to provide support or guidance?  AUGI forums are here for you.

Forums:

The AUGI forums are an online community where AUGI members can discuss what they use everyday, Autodesk Design Software! These forums are the place to ask questions about your favorite design software or help others with their questions. As you frequent these forums, please offer your own tips and share any other helpful information you might come across.

You can view the forums as a guest, without being an AUGI member. But to really take advantage of what being a member of this community means, you’ll want to post. Only members can post, so if you’re just browsing now, be sure to join AUGI. These forums are one of the biggest benefits of being a member. This is, after all, the premiere destination to get technical support, and its free!

Membership Levels:

There are three membership levels, Standard, Premium, and Professional.

Which membership should you choose?

That depends on the value that you see for each membership level. Check out the links below and join up!

AUGI-Basic-member-logo-120x148

AUGI-Premier-member-logo-120x147  AUGI-Professional-member-logo-120x152
I encourage you to become a member and participate in the forums and possibly even consider getting involved as a volunteer.  If you have technical advice that you would like to share, consider becoming a contributing author for one of the periodicals.  I currently write for AUGI World myself. (Link)

WES

Autodesk University 2013 – #AU2013

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Another educational trip to Vegas for #AU2013! This is the third year in a row that I have been fortunate enough to attend Autodesk University in Las Vegas, Nevada and each year is more educational then the last.  This year my focus was more on customization, and Revit knowledge and as usual I have a lot to brain dump when I return home.  Although there were many classes that I did not get to attend (over 700 available), the ones I did attend were very good.

If you did not get to attend this year, it does not mean you have missed out, as much of the information is available online by just creating an Autodesk account if you do not already have one – if you do, just login.  Handouts and presentations are posted from the majority of the classes on the Autodesk University website at http://au.autodesk.com/.

Much of the AU experience though really has to be experienced in person.  Behind all the handouts and Powerpoint presentations were very knowledgeable and experienced instructors/presenters that brought the paper to life.  Although many are instructors in their day jobs, many were everyday product users like you and me.

The days started around 6:00am as you awoke and headed off to breakfast and concluded around 5:30 for classes. After that you head out for a few more hours for the evening events and vendor showcase.

Some of the funner the things you did miss out on were the nightly parties and events meant for networking and relaxing after each full day of data gathering.  The two biggest events being the AUGI annual beer bust on Wednesday evening and the closing Autodesk party on Thursday.

The weather was cold (28F on Friday) compared to my home state of Florida, but if you spend most of your time inside like me, it won’t matter.

Overall I had a great time, I attended a few evening events and enjoyed hanging out with some friends I do not get to see very often otherwise.  The final party was not anything like last years event, but was still a good time with lots of food and beer/wine.

I hope to make it again next year.

WES

P.S.  A special thanks to Autodesk and AUGI for another great year.

augi
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