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Exercising Creativity with AutoCAD 2005 Templates

When you start AutoCAD 2005 with its desktop shortcut or from the Windows Start menu, AutoCAD creates a new, blank drawing based on the default template drawing (Acad.dwt). When you explicitly create a new drawing from within AutoCAD, the Select Template dialog box appears by default so that you can choose a template on which to base your new drawing.

A template is simply a drawing whose name ends in the letters DWT, which you use as the starting point for another drawing. When you create a new drawing from a template, AutoCAD makes a copy of the template file and opens the copy in a new drawing editor window. The first time you save the file, you're prompted for a new filename to save to; the original template file stays unchanged.

You may be familiar with the Microsoft Word or Excel template documents, and AutoCAD template drawings work pretty much the same way — because Autodesk stole the idea from them! (Encouraged, of course, by Microsoft.)

Using a suitable template can save you time and worry because many of the setup options are already set correctly for you. You know the drawing will print correctly; you just have to worry about getting the geometry and text right. Of course, all this optimism assumes that the person who set up the template knew what he or she was doing.

The stock templates that come with AutoCAD are okay as a starting point, but you'll need to modify them to suit your purposes, or create your own from scratch. In particular, the stock AutoCAD templates aren't set up for the scales that you'll want to use.

Follow these steps to create a new drawing from a template drawing:

1. Run the NEW command by pressing Ctrl+N or choosing File --> New.

The Select Template dialog box appears.

The first button on the Standard toolbar runs the QNEW ("Quick NEW") command instead of the ordinary NEW command. Unless you or someone else has changed the Drawing Template Settings in the Options dialog box, QNEW does the same thing as NEW.

2. Click the name of the template that you want to use as the starting point for your new drawing.

3. Click the Open button.

A new drawing window with a temporary name, such as Drawing2.dwg, appears. (The template you opened remains unchanged on your hard disk.)

4. Press Ctrl+S and save the file under a new name.

Take the time to save the drawing to the appropriate name and location now.

5. Make needed changes.

For most of the templates that come with AutoCAD, you need to consider changing the units, limits, grid and snap settings, linetype scale, and dimension scale.

6. Consider saving the file as a template.

If you'll need other drawings in the future similar to the current one, consider saving your modified template as a template in its own right.

The simplest, no-frills templates are Acad.dwt (for people who customarily work with sheet sizes expressed in inches) and Acadiso.dwt (for people who customarily work with sheet sizes expressed in millimeters). Most of the remaining templates that come with AutoCAD include title blocks for various sizes of sheets. In addition, most templates come in two versions — one for people who use color-dependent plot styles and one for people who use named plot styles. You probably want the color-dependent versions.

If you dig around in the Options dialog box, you may discover a setting that turns on the old Startup dialog box, which offers several options other than starting with a template. Among these options are the enticingly named Setup Wizards. These so-called wizards were lame when they first appeared; they're no better now. Autodesk acknowledges as much by making them almost impossible to find in AutoCAD 2005.

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