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Getting to Know 3D Features in AutoCAD 2007

Two new features in AutoCAD 2007 help you get your 3D feet wet: the 3D Modeling workspace and the Dashboard. Before you start making stuff or even start looking at already-made stuff, it's important to get a firm grasp on these two features:

  • A workspace is a named collection of toolbars and tool palettes that you use for specific processes. The new 3D Modeling workspace loads the Dashboard and adjusts some of the other tool palettes.
  • The Dashboard is a large, palette-like area at the top-right of the screen. It contains a number of panels that give access to different aspects of working in 3D.

Rather confusingly, selecting the 3D Modeling workspace (or the AutoCAD Classic workspace, for that matter) doesn't visually change the drawing area. You need to start a new file and choose the appropriate drawing template file.

The new 3D visualization and rendering abilities of AutoCAD 2007 have upped the system requirements substantially. The full version of AutoCAD will run in 512MB, but if you want to work in 3D, Autodesk recommends 2GB of RAM and a video card with at least 128MB of its own memory. If you're thinking of buying a new system, check Autodesk for a list of supported video cards.

When you start AutoCAD, by default you see a Workspaces dialog box that asks whether you want to work in the old 2D environment (AutoCAD Classic) or in 3D (3D Modeling).

You may have checked the Don't Show Me This Again option in the Workspaces dialog box that displays when you start AutoCAD. To restore the dialog box, choose Tools --> Options --> System, and in the General Options area, check the box beside Show All Warning Messages.

If you don't see the dialog box (probably because you checked Don't Show Me This Again) you can switch between the 2D and 3D environments by switching workspaces. Here's how:

1. Choose Tools --> Workspaces --> 3D Modeling.

Toolbars and palettes flash on and off, and eventually AutoCAD settles down and displays the Dashboard and the Modeling tool palette.

You now have a 3D Modeling workspace, but you're still in a 2D drawing.

2. Choose File --> New.

The Select Template dialog box appears.

3. Choose acad3d.dwt if you're working in imperial units, or acadiso3d.dwt if you're working in metric. Click OK.

A 3D modeling space appears.

To switch from 3D to 2D, follow these steps:

1. Choose Tools --> Workspaces --> AutoCAD Classic.

After more flashing toolbars and palettes, AutoCAD settles down and displays (by default) the Sheet Set Manager and Tool Palettes. Again, you need to start a new drawing to complete the process.

2. Choose File --> New.

The Select Template dialog box appears.

3. Choose an appropriate template file and click OK.

If you want to work in imperial units, choose acad.dwt for color-dependent plotting, or acad -Named Plot Styles.dwt for named plot styles. For metric, choose acadiso.dwt or acadISO -Named Plot Styles.dwt.

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