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Keeping Tabs on Palettes in AutoCAD 2008

AutoCAD 2008 contains more than a dozen palettes (more than a half-dozen in AutoCAD LT). Palettes, or modeless dialog boxes as the geekier types prefer to call them, made their debut in AutoCAD 2004 and were enhanced and expanded in AutoCAD 2006.

Modeless is just a fancy way of saying that these dialog boxes don't take over AutoCAD in the way that modal dialog boxes do. While a modal dialog box is open, you can't do anything else in AutoCAD. A modeless dialog box, on the other hand, can remain open while you execute other commands that have nothing to do with the dialog box. You return to the modeless dialog box when or if you need its features.

The more commonly used palettes are

  • Properties and DesignCenter: Used to control object properties and named objects (layers, blocks, and so on), respectively.
  • Tool Palettes: Unlike a splodgy painter's palette, each tool palette holds content (drawing symbols and hatch patterns) and/or commands (not regular AutoCAD commands — what would be the point? — but macros that make commands do specific things) instead of paints.
  • Sheet Set Manager: Provides tools for managing all of a project's drawings as a sheet set. (AutoCAD LT does not support sheet sets.)
  • External References: Used to attach external files to the current drawing; file types include raster images, Drawing Web Format (DWF) files, MicroStation DGN files, and other drawing files.
    AutoCAD 2008 adds support for MicroStation DGN files. The External References palette lets you attach DGN files as underlays in much the same way as you can underlay DWF files. You can also import DGN data directly by choosing File --> Import.
  • Markup Set Manager: Displays design and drafting review comments from users of Autodesk Design Review.
  • QuickCalc: A handy pushbutton scientific calculator. You'll know if you need this.

You toggle palettes on and off by clicking their respective buttons near the right end of the Standard toolbar. Alternatively, several palettes have Ctrl-key shortcuts. You can toggle these by pressing Ctrl+1 (Properties), Ctrl+2 (DesignCenter), Ctrl+3 (Tool Palettes), Ctrl+4 (Sheet Set Manager), Ctrl+7 (Markup Set Manager), or Ctrl+8 (QuickCalc).

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