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!

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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.

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New AutoCAD Features by Version (updated)

This is an update to my initial post about new AutoCAD features by version. This one adds AutoCAD 2014 to the list.

As was previously stated:  With each new version of AutoCAD there is typically a mass public release of blog posts, web updates and press releases with what the newest version does compared to the last or previous versions.   This is helpful for those that are considering making the move, but many skip multiple releases before taking the plunge.

The purpose of this Matrix is to let those know that may wait a long time between updates that there is often way more than just the current “New Features”.   AutoCAD 2014 for example has “4” NEW features, but a lot of enhancements to features that exist but are probably still new to many users.  If the new features alone convince you to purchase, then that’s great, but if you are on the fence, take a look at all new features introduced since your version and be sure to look in to one some of them can do for you.

Below are a couple links with more information about the changes made in AutoCAD 2014.  The first is a series of videos from Autodesk and  the second is a write-up on the “CAD-a-Blog” blog site by Brian Benton.

Autodesk – AutoCAD 2014 Features Videos

CAD-a-Blog – What’s new in AutoCAD 2014

 Note that I am a bit behind on this versions update, so you should know that Autodesk has recently released ‘Service Pack 1‘ for AutoCAD 2014.

More Info on AutoCAD’s Feature by version Matrix:

Many companies, all over the world that take the plunge are very often modifying the new versions of AutoCAD through the menu systems, toolbar changes and shortcut commands to get back as close to the old way of doing things as they can get, because “they cannot afford to be inefficient while learning the new software”.  It would be unfortunate for these companies to be using the latest version of AutoCAD in their old way, not realizing that some of the most efficient new features are buried just below the surface.  If these users learned more than just the tools that they typically use, they could be even more productive.

To educate some of these users as to a lot of the features that they may not even know exists, I have put together an AutoCAD Features by Version list and saved it here as a downloadable and printable PDF.

What is it:
A list of AutoCAD features by version since 2004.

Why:
To address users that may not be aware of some of the powerful features now in AutoCAD because they are still using older versions or using the new version just like their previous one.

How was it assembled:
Compiled from AutoCAD’s Release Matrices and various blog and website posts.

This list is not 100% accurate, but is hopefully pretty close to the actual new features introduced for each release of AutoCAD.  This list was composed from various Autodesk’s release comparison matrices, blog posts and websites that discussed each release as they came out. The Autodesk matrices were not consistent as to how the products were indicated as new and improved and each Matrix release had an inconsistent set of categories, so the mergers of features may be off.

Although I started out showing which features were improved with each version, that become very cumbersome so I removed it.  AutoCAD gets improvements on a regular basis, so the most exciting thing is when a completely new feature gets implemented.

This is meant to be a living document that will be updated as new versions come out and corrections brought to light. If you are aware of any discrepancies or are aware of an Autodesk version or other source that has created a more comprehensive version of this list, I would love to hear about it.

Download AutoCAD Features by Version PDF

Send any comments or questions to: walt@functionsense.com

WES

Taking CTRL in AutoCAD

Taking shortcuts in life will sometimes come back to bite you. But there are some areas in life where shortcuts come in handy and make you more productive.  In AutoCAD there are shortcut keys that you can use to increase your speed and productivity.  Many old-time CADD jockeys are very familiar with using shortcut keys either through CTRL keys and Function keys or through the ACAD.PGP file.

If you are one of the newer generations CADD Jedis that were trained in AutoCAD to do 95% of your work with mouse points and clicks – A faster way there is!   You may think you’re pretty productive that way, but adding in some shortcut keys can further improve your performance.

In this post I’m going to show the CTRL keys that are probably the most commonly used:

CTRL 1:     Toggles the Properties Palette

CTRL C:     Copies objects to the Windows clipboard

CTRL F:     Toggle running object snaps

CTRL L:     Toggles Orthomode

CTRL N:     Creates a new drawing

CTRL O:     Displays the Open Dialog

CTRL P:     Displays the Plot Dialog

CTRL S:     Saves the current drawing

CTRL Shift S: Displays the save as dialog box

CTRL V:     Paste data from windows clipboard

CTRL shift V: Pastes data from windows clipboard as a block (Use this sparingly)

CTRL X:     Cuts objects from the current drawing to the Windows clipboard

CTRL Z:     Reverse the last action (UNDO)

Some other shortcuts that are Non-CTRL keys:

F1:   Displays help

F2:   Toggles the text window (Very helpful when troubleshooting)

F3:   Toggles Osnap

F8:   Toggles Orthomode

Note that CTRL C, X, and V and F1 should be part of your everyday Windows toolkit. You can use this in all your office apps and most any program that allows copying, pasting and cutting – it is nearly universal. No more sliding up to the Edit menu and selecting copy, paste or cut.

As with the CTRL keys above these are not the only shortcut keys available in AutoCAD but more of a sampling of the ones I think that will help increase your productivity.

If you’re looking for a way to boost your performance try taking CTRL of AutoCAD. In a future post I’ll talk about ACAD.PGP file which takes shortcut keys to a whole other level.

I would be curious to know how many people are already using these keys regularly – drop me an email if you are and which ones you find most useful.

WES

Purge Your AutoCAD Files

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Over the years Email has become the most prevalent method of exchanging files. As our DWG files get smarter and our users get lazier, the files continue to grow in size.  A big market now is for file sharing applications that can allow users or entire companies to exchange files through a link instead of an attachment in an email.  I do like this method for various reasons:

Email databases (Outlook PST files and Exchange message stores) are getting bigger and bigger as users send and receive large attachments every day.  This has a domino affect in that it causes slow downs on servers, eats up network bandwidth, burns through backup media and extends backup and restore times.  You can always enable compression on the servers, or buy more storage and get faster processes and more memory, but to what end?

The nice thing about file sharing applications like YouSendit or Sharefile or even Dropbox is that for Email, it is just a text message with a link included – very small and very fast.  The files are automatically uploaded to an offsite location and therefore are only on your network once so you do not have them backed up twice – unless your doing Dropbox which may also store an additional local copy that you may be backing up as well.  There are a lot of variables in this which depend on the particular service you are using and which features, but the basic file sharing service uploads a copy offsite and then allows you to share it with a link.

File sharing programs add other perks as well – they offer Email notices when files are accessed or shared and can offer password authentication for security.

I have personally used both Sharefile and YouSendit and use Dropbox regularly for personal use and backups to make my critical data mobile. I like all three and for most businesses it would not be hard to justify their costs – they can even be free for small usage.

These services add some efficiency to your daily workflow and on your network storage, email stores and backups, but is there a way to reduce some of the space requirements even more?  Yes, and this is what this post is really about.  For AutoCAD users, sharing data is a common occurrence.  Architects share background files and other support drawings with their consultants and consultants in turn share their drawings back with the architects and other consultants. Most of thee file shares still happen through email and it is not uncommon to have project shared through a series of multiple emails because the files exceed either the sender’s or recipient’s email limits – especially those using “Free” email services for their email (That’s a whole other post entirely).

 

There are a few steps that the person sending or sharing the drawings can do to minimize the drawing size and should be standard practice.
  • Minimize copying other jobs in other current job to do your work.  Use standard libraries and menu customization to insert your work or copy pieces as needed.  I regularly deal with drawings with more than one project inserted in model space and in some cases I have seen up to five!  Besides the file size, now everyone has to dig though the drawing to see which are the plans/elevations/sections that they need or call the architect/consultant for clarification.
  • Use Blocks – rectangles are not desks or lights, they are rectangles and a job that could be handled with a couple of blocks that uses 100 rectangles for lights is not a very smart or lean drawing. (another future post)
  • Purge!  Yes, the big one.  Since so many users still do use past projects for setting up new ones and copy items in from previous projects to address details in current ones, occasionally (regularly) purge your drawing – and definitely do so when sending them out.
What is Purge?
Deletes unused applications from blocks, detail view styles, dimension styles, groups, layers, linetypes, materials, multileader styles, plot styles, shapes, text styles, multiline styles, section view styles, table styles, visual styles, regapps, zero-length geometry, empty text objects, or all.

 

Why Purge?
Reduce your drawing size and potential for file corruption.  This keeps your drawings lean and saves load and save times, server and backup space, network overhead and email storage and sending/receiving times.

 

How to Purge?
Purge can be done via the command line “-PURGE” or via a dialogue “PURGE”and it can be automated via a Macro or script.
Add this Macro to a toolbar button to make cleanup a single click:

 

^C^Cz;e;-purge;a;;n;audit;y;-purge;a;;n;qsave;close;

 

Note: This routine also does an AUDIT to check the drawing for errors. This routine was discussed in the “Macro Mania I” post and is included in the FS-Tools add-on menu that you can download here.

 

What can purge do for you?

On a recent project, there was an issue with the size of the  drawings being shared so the sender made one attempt and received some failure notices by some of the recipients. They then started over and made them available on their FTP site. When I received the files, I typically clean them up for our use, and in this case I was curious to see just how bloated they were.

I have a  simple toolbar Macro that I use nearly every day for this that purges the drawing and runs an audit to make sure their are no errors, does a zoom extents and saves and closes the drawing.  Running this Macro which is a single mouse click on the drawings knocked them down from 35meg to 18meg – nearly a 50% reduction – and that was without removing extra “stuff” from the drawings.  I did this same step yesterday and reduced the files provided on an FTP site by 60%.  This is a regular step in my cleanup and sharing process and takes seriously a couple seconds per drawing to perform.  Doing this with a script using Scriptpro, you could do an entire project in a flash.

I see these results on a regular basis, and sometimes the results are far greater.
I am curious if others deal with this issue as well – answer these four quick questions on purging and file sharing.

 

 

WES