Annotative objects were introduced in AutoCAD 2008, ending 25 years of calculating agony, but a quick show of hands in classes at Autodesk University and AUGI CAD Camp reveals that only 20 percent of students, on average, have ever tried using annotative objects — and most of the students abandoned them to return to the old way, in the belief that they weren’t working.

Make sure that you’re in model space, and follow these steps to enable the use of annotative scaling for new or modified annotation objects.

  1. Set the Annotation controls.

    In the lower-right corner of the AutoCAD status bar, you find three buttons with variants of a triangular symbol. They represent the end view of an engineer’s triangular scale; an old-timer in your office should be able to show you one and how they worked. (If the person has a rubber band in the other hand, be ready to duck).

    Click the Annotation Visibility (middle) and Automatically Add Scales to Annotative Objects (right-hand) buttons, until they’re grayed out and don’t show a small, yellow splash in them. If the Annotation Scale (left-hand) button doesn't display the scale 1:1, click it and select 1:1 from the drop-down list.

  2. Select an annotative text style.

    Use the STyle command and set the Annotative text style current. Set its paper text height to 0.125.

  3. Create a text object.

    Use the TEXT command and create a line of text that says Scale 1:1.

    The first time you place annotative text, you’re asked to select a drawing scale, and it defaults to the current scale, which is probably what you want, anyway. Eventually, it becomes a nuisance, so the check box lets you turn it off.

  4. Change the drawing scale.

    Click the Annotation Scale (left-hand) button and choose 1:2 from the drop-down list. This step sets the current drawing scale to 1:2. Hey, the first piece of text disappears!

  5. Create a text object.

    Use the TEXT command again to create a line of text that says Scale 1:2, and another one that says Both scales. Note that they’re twice as tall as the now-invisible Scale 1:1 text, even though you didn’t specify a height.

  6. Change the drawing scale.

    Click the Annotation Scale (left-hand) button and choose 1:1 from the drop-down list. Interesting! The first piece of text reappears, but the other two disappear!

  7. Add another scale to an object.

    Click the Annotation Scale (left-hand) button and choose 1:2 from the drop-down list. Then click the Both scales text and right-click. Choose Annotative Object Scale and then choose Add/Delete Scales. When the dialog box appears, click the Add button in the upper-right corner and then choose 1:1 from the list. Click OK, and then click OK again to return to the drawing screen.

  8. Change the drawing scale.

    Click the Annotation Scale (left-hand) button and choose 1:1 from the drop-down list. Interesting! The Scale 1:1 text reappears, Scale 1:2 disappears, and the Both scales size changes to match the height of the Scale 1:1 text!

  9. Change the drawing scale again.

    Click the Annotation Scale (left-hand) button and choose 1:5 from the drop-down list. All three text items disappear!

Here’s what you need to remember about annotative objects:

  • Upon creation, annotative objects automatically size themselves to suit the current drawing scale; they’re visible only when their annotation scales match the current drawing scale; and they can have more than one scale attached, so they’re visible in more than one drawing scale setting.

    Better yet, they exhibit this same behavior in paper space viewports.

  • If an annotative object has multiple scales attached and you edit its location at one scale, its location at the other scales isn’t affected.

  • When viewing an object with multiple scales, you aren’t looking at multiple objects but rather at a single object with multiple representations. To understand different representations, change the text string of the Both scales text object that you created earlier to a different value. The new value automatically appears in all scale representations for that text object.

Now here is the dirty, dark secret of why most people give up on annotative objects. It all goes back to the annotative controls:

  • When both the Annotation Visibility (middle) button is turned on, all the annotative objects at all scales are always visible, regardless of the value of the current drawing scale, even if none of the objects has a scale that matches the current drawing scale. You should only turn this option on when you want to move the different representations of your annotative objects around on-screen.

  • If you turn on the Automatically Add Scales to Annotative Objects (right-hand) button and then change the drawing scale, every annotation object retroactively gets the current scale added to it. This is not something you want to do except in the situation of when you create a drawing to print at a specific scale and then decide to change the scale to suit a different printer or paper size.

By themselves, both options can give you some headaches, but if both options are enabled at the same time and you switch the current scale it is not obvious that you might have accidentally added the current scale to all the annotative objects in your drawing.

Most of the time, there are way too many scales listed in the Add Scales to Object dialog box. AutoCAD has a handy-dandy Edit Drawing Scales dialog box that lets you remove those imperial scales from the current drawing if you never work in feet and inches.

To run through the scales, choose Scale List on the Annotation Scaling panel of the Ribbon’s Annotate tab. If you make a mistake, pressing the Reset button restores all default scales. You can remove those extra scales for all drawings in the Default Scale List dialog box, accessible from the User Preferences tab of the Options dialog box.