Archive for T&T

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.


While reviewing an E-News Letter  recently from our Autodesk vendor I came across an interesting link in their featured Blog posts that took me to an Autodesk help site. Here I found a help series labeled “The Hitchhikers Guide to AutoCAD“.  Now if you are new to AutoCAD or have been a long time circle and line jock, but not much on more advanced features, this might be a good spot to start your climb.  This does not by any means have the info to make you an advanced Rock Star AutoCAD user, but if there is one or more areas that you have not ventured in to, like  creating your own Blocks, using Paper Space, using multileaders or Mtext, in lieu of the old Dtext that so many still use, these are straightforward, easy to understand  mini-tutorials on how to so these things.

Below is a basic capture of the home screen and the cool graphic that they use.

Welcome to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to AutoCAD—your guide to the basic 42 commands you need to create 2D drawings using modern AutoCAD or AutoCAD LT.

This guide is a great place to get started if you just completed your initial training, or to refresh your memory if you only use AutoCAD occasionally. As you can see from the illustration, the 42 commands are grouped together according to types of activity. In addition, these groups are arranged sequentially to follow a typical workflow.

  1. Basics: Review the basic ways to control AutoCAD.
  2. Viewing: Pan and zoom in a drawing, and control the order of overlapping objects.
  3. Geometry: Create basic geometric objects such as lines, circles, and solid-filled areas.
  4. Precision: AutoCAD provides several features to ensure the precision required for your models.
  5. Layers and Properties: Organize your drawing by assigning objects to layers, and by assigning properties such as color and linetype to objects.
  6. Modifying: Perform editing operations such as erase, move, and trim on the objects in a drawing.
  7. Blocks: Insert symbols and details into your drawings from commercial online sources or from your own designs.
  8. Layouts: Display one or more scaled views of your design on a standard-size drawing sheet called a layout.
  9. Notes and Labels: Create notes, labels, bubbles, and callouts. Save and restore style settings by name.
  10. Dimensions: Create several types of dimensions and save dimension settings by name.
  11. Printing: Save and restore the printer settings for each layout. Output a drawing layout to a printer, a plotter, or a file.

Link:  The Hitchhikers Guide to AutoCAD

If you are new to AutoCAD or a casual user, I highly recommend you check this out!

Once you have checked it out and let me know what you think!


In a previous post I listed some videos for AutoCAD 2013 by Brian Benton and Revit MEP 2013 by Simon Whitbread, all published through Infinite Skills. Below are some additional resources that combine Blog articles, Videos and websites. I will update this post as new ones are found. If you have found some useful resources that you would like to share, send them to me and I will get them posted or add them as a comment to this post.


AutoCAD 2013:

Added Resource Link

08-24-2012 Lynn Allen’s AutoCAD 2013 Tips and Tricks Booklet

08-24-2012 Autodesk’s Features Demos/Tutorials

08-24-2012 Lynn Allen’s AutoCAD 2013 – “See What you have been Missing”

Revit MEP:

Added Resource Link

08-24-2012 YouTube – Starting a project in Revit

Note: There are tons of videos on YouTube that show you “how to do something”.
Go to and enter a search for a topic you are interested in.

08-24-2012 Club Revit video on New Revit MEP 2013 features

T&T – Email Drafts

As I am cleaning up and finalizing everything in preparation for vacation, I  created a vacation auto-response message at work – for this I used a template and an Outlook rule (Not on Exchange).  Creating this reminded me of some other standard ‘Draft Templates’ I use in Outlook to make my Email life easier and more efficient.

Why do I use Drafts?

I have to send out numerous emails at the end of projects and at the end or beginning of each week and they are the same type and format each time.  The subject lines change and the project names and numbers are different, but the rest of the email is the same.  So I write up one really good, thought out, detailed email with everything I need to cover for the recipient and format it so that the only changes made are the subject line, the attachments and a short detailed summary area when required on Project Report emails.

How is this helpful?

By creating a master draft, every weekly email I send out always has the pertinent data needed, I do not have to create an email each time from memory, waste time typing the same thing over each time or if I can’t remember the last one, open an old one and copy paste the content.  I just open my drafts folder and select “forward” on my specific draft template and change the particulars for this project or report, select who it goes to and hit send.  In fact if you send to the same people all the time, their names can already be included in your drafts TO and CC.  Keep in mind that you write some of these same emails over and over, spending about the same amount of time on each one – stop wasting your time, write it, save a draft, select forward, change the names to protect the innocent and send!

How do I do it?

As I said above I write up one really good, thought out, detailed email with everything I need to cover for the particular topic I am creating the email for.  For project reports, I create standard subject line with text that is meant to be changed that says job# – job name.  I replace these with the actual information prior to sending.

 Note: The nice thing about this is that I can save this email for others to use for their reports or use in my absence for me and I know the same information is being provided each time. (like fill in the blank)

 I include a summary area with changeable title, project name or number, square footage, service size, address, or whatever is applicable.  I format it with italics, bold, underlines, colors etc.. spell and grammar check it, make sure my signature is included (depends how you have Outlook setup for signatures), and save!

When I am ready to send out a report or info email, I open drafts, select the required draft, right-click and select “forward”.  If the TO and CC lines are already filled out, I just modify the “fill in the blank” info and send it.

 Important Note:  Always select forward!!!  If you open the draft and select, send after your changes – You have lost your draft and you need to re-create it.

If in the future, if I need to add additional recipients, change the formatting or add content, I open the draft, make the changes and resave it. Done!

What are examples of good draft templates?

–      Electronic file Transmittals

–      Weekly, Daily, or Monthly Status Reports

–      Permit, utility, or project coordination notices

Why do this?

–      Speed – saves time!

–      Consistency – always the same!

–      Accuracy – nothing forgotten!

–      Green – Recycles your work! : )

Now stop typing the same stuff over and over, type it, draft it, and forward it!

For other good Email habits, make sure you read my Email Etiquette post.


Some people just can’t seem to make the leap to paper space – even though there would be many productivity gains to do so.  As I have been told and heard, we are quite content with how we do things now and see no reason to change.  Many people resist change as they believe it will slow them down or be too hard to learn.  You can usually tell the ones that are natural resistors to changes in AutoCAD software features by the rest of their AutoCAD tools and methods.

–      Older versions of AutoCAD  (2004 – 2010 still very common)
–      Working in Model space only
–      Inserting templates DWGs with blocks and layers rather than using Layer states, automated scripts and DWTs.

Although I prefer to convince those to change their ways and learn something new, sometimes it takes and in-between method to boost their productivity and understanding and so, I offer this productivity tip.


Working in model space and using different scales:

A common practice I see is for some firms to draw various plans with different scales, all on one sheet and scale it up or down to make it look right.

Example:  A building plan is setup to plot at 1/8″ scale with blown up part plans on the same sheet at 1/4″ and 1/2″ scales.  The most common problem is the most obvious – they are not drawn to scale.  Yes, when plotted they will scale out properly with an architects or engineer’s scale, but while working on it they are not.  I.e. you want to draw an air handler, mill work, or represent a piece of equipment that is 2′-4″ off the south wall and 4′-9″ off the east wall. So how do you place it?  For a 1/4″ scale blow up, you would double the distance for your offsets – so 4′-8″ off the south wall and 8′-18″ or 5′-6″ off the west wall.  The more odd the dimensions, the more math you do and the more chances you have to make mistakes – and trust me – you will make mistakes.


This one is pretty easy, but even so, I have made a few assumptions.

The user:

  1. Is familiar with and uses Xrefs and understands clipping.  (If you are not using Xrefs yet, WOW… I do not know what to say – except I am here to help and I charge reasonable rates!) – Seriously – you are missing out on so much productivity – use them!!
  2. Knows basic scaling (i.e. if you are working on a 1/8” drawing and you want to attach a 1/2″ drawing, you scale it up by 4)


  1. Create a separate DWG file for each of the alternate scaled items.  (YES – if you have a lot of blow-ups you will have a lot of additional drawings, and if that is the case – are you sure you do not want to consider Paper Space?)
  2. Draw each of these to the scale you want represented and using the xref command, attach them to your 1/8″ scale drawing and scale them up appropriately.
  3. When you need to modify the enlarged plan, just select it, right-click and select open xref.  Note: If you choose to edit the xref n place, you will be using the current dimstyle, textstyle, etc. of the 1/8″ drawing and not the enlarged drawing – choose open.


  1. Accuracy – Your drawings are to real scale, not only when scaled on paper, but while your editing them.
  2. Productivity – Multiple people can be working on a sheet – one on the master drawing and others for each of the enlarged details or blow-ups.
If you can’t get over the Paper space hump right now, at least setup your drawings in a way that can be more productive and accurate until you do.