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Having Words with Your AutoCAD 2005 Drawings

In AutoCAD, adding text to a drawing is only slightly more complicated than adding it to a word processing document. Here are the steps:

1. Create a new AutoCAD text style, or select an existing style, that includes the font and other text characteristics you want to use.

2. Make an appropriate text layer current.

3. Run one of these commands to draw text:

• mText draws paragraph (also called multiline) text.

• TEXT draws single-line text.

4. Specify the text alignment points, justification, and height.

5. Type the text.

You're probably familiar with most of these steps already — especially if you've ever used a word processor. Now have a look at the particularities of AutoCAD text styles, the two kinds of AutoCAD text, and ways of controlling height and justification.

Simply stylish text

AutoCAD assigns text properties to individual lines or paragraphs of text based on text styles. These text styles are similar to the paragraph styles in Microsoft Word: They contain font and other settings that determine the look and feel of text. An AutoCAD text style includes

  • The font
  • A font height, which you can set or leave at 0 for later flexibility
  • Special effects such as italic
  • Really special effects such as vertical and upside down, which almost nobody uses

Before you add text to a drawing, use the Text Style dialog box to select an existing style or create a new one with settings that are appropriate to your purpose. Your AutoCAD notes may generate strange responses (or no response at all) if they appear in Old Persian Cuneiform or the Cyrillic alphabet.

Most drawings require very few text styles. You can create one style for all notes, object labels, and annotations, and another one for special titles. A title block may require one or two additional fonts, especially if you want to mimic the font used in a company logo or project logo.

As with layers, your office may have its own text style standards. If so, you'll make everyone happy by following those standards. One of the best ways to make your use of text styles efficient and consistent is to create them in a template drawing that you use to start new drawings. (If your office is well organized, it may already have a template drawing with the company-approved styles defined in it.) Another handy technique is to copy existing text styles from one drawing to another by using the DesignCenter palette.

Font follies

When you create a text style in AutoCAD, you have a choice of a huge number of fonts. AutoCAD can use two different kinds of fonts: native AutoCAD SHX (compiled SHape) fonts and Windows TTF (TrueType) fonts:

  • SHX: In the Text Style dialog box, SHX font names appear with a drafting compass to the left of the name. SHX fonts usually provide better performance because they're optimized for AutoCAD's use.
  • TTF: In the Text Style dialog box, TrueType font names appear with a TT symbol to the left of name. TTF fonts give you more and fancier font options, but they slow down AutoCAD when you zoom, pan, and select and snap to objects. TrueType fonts also can cause greater complications when you exchange drawings with other AutoCAD users.

It's okay to use a TrueType font sparingly for something like a title block logo, but in general, you should stick with standard AutoCAD SHX fonts whenever possible.

The most popular AutoCAD font is ROMANS.SHX (Roman Simplex). (You may also run into SIMPLEX.SHX, an older version of Roman Simplex.) ROMANS.SHX is a good, general-purpose font for drafting in AutoCAD. Avoid complicated, thick fonts. They can slow down AutoCAD, and they're usually more difficult to read than the simpler fonts.

Whenever possible, avoid custom fonts, which are font files that don't come with AutoCAD or AutoCAD LT (both programs come with the same fonts). AutoCAD installs its standard SHX fonts into the C:\Program Files\AutoCAD 2005\Fonts folder — as long as you haven't added any custom fonts to that folder, you can refer to it for a list of standard fonts. If you use a custom font, exchanging your drawings with other people will be more complicated. If you're compelled to use a custom font, make a note of it and remember either to send it whenever you send the DWG file (assuming that the font isn't copyrighted, which many custom fonts are) or to warn the recipients that the text will appear different on their systems. It's far less hassle to eschew custom fonts altogether.

Get in style

The following steps describe how to select an existing text style or create a new one before you enter text into a drawing. (If you want to experiment with an existing drawing that contains a variety of text styles, you can use \Program Files\AutoCAD 2005\Sample\Hummer Elevation.dwg.)

1. Choose Format --> Text Style.

The Text Style dialog box appears.

2. In the Style Name drop-down list, select each style in turn to see what text styles have been created in this drawing.

Note the font name and look at the Preview panel to get a feel for what the different fonts look like.

3. If you find a suitable text style, select it in the Style Name drop-down list and then skip to Step 9.

What constitutes a suitable text style depends on industry practices, office standards, and personal preferences about how the text should look. The information in preceding sections may help you decide. If not, ask an experienced drafter in your office or look at some printed drawings and try to match the text on those.

The selected text style name becomes the current style.

4. If you don't find a suitable text style, or if you prefer to create your own text style, click New.

The New Text Style dialog box appears, with an edit box for you to type a name.

5. Type a name for your new text style and then click OK.

Your new text style is added to the Style Name list and becomes the current style.

6. Choose a font from the Font Name list.

ROMANS.SHX is the best all-purpose font for most drafting work. If you'd like to use a different font, review the font suggestions and warnings in the previous section.

The font that you choose becomes the font that's assigned to your new text style.

7. Set the remaining text style settings as follows: Height = 0.0, Width Factor = 1.0, Oblique Angle = 0.0, and all four check boxes unchecked.

A text style height of 0.0 makes the style variable height, which means that you can specify the height separately for each single-line text object. Assigning a fixed (that is, nonzero) height to a text style forces all single-line text using the style to be the same height. Variable height styles are more flexible, but fixed height styles usually make it easier to draw text of consistent height. The decision to use variable height versus fixed height styles is another aspect of text that depends on office practice, so if you work with other AutoCAD users, ask around.

8. Click Apply.

9. Click Close.

The Text Style dialog box closes, and the text style that you selected or created is now the current style for new text objects.

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