AutoCAD For Dummies
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It's not enough to draw nice-looking lines anymore. If you want to compete in the AutoCAD realm, you need to carefully organize the objects you draw, their properties, and the files in which they reside.

This guide provides basic information and tools for the AutoCAD drawing setup, keyboard shortcuts in AutoCAD, and the AutoCAD drawing scale and limits—without putting a T-square through your computer screen in frustration.

The roadmap to setting up

At first, AutoCAD’s drawing setup can seem complicated. The following table lists the steps to take in setting up your drawings, along with what each command does and the various ways to access them.

Ribbon or Application Menu Command Name Keyboard Shortcut Description Your Action
Model Space        
Step 1: Application menu–>New Drawing NEW Ctrl+N Opens the Select Template file dialog box Define the initial settings of new drawings by choosing an imperial (acad.dwt) or metric (adadiso.dwt) template file.
Step 2: Quick Access toolbar–>Save QSAVE Ctrl+S Opens the Save Drawing As file dialog box The first time you save the new drawing, you need to give it a suitable name.
Step 3: Application menu–>Drawing Utilities–>Units UNITS UN Opens the Drawing Units dialog box Specify the units the drawing will be using.
Step 4: Right-click the status bar icon for Snap, Grid, Object Snap, Polar, or Object Snap Tracking DSETTINGS DS Opens the Drafting Settings dialog box Click each tab in the dialog box to choose which are needed for  Snap, Grid, and so on.
Step 5: View tab–>Palettes panel–>Properties LTSCALE LTS Opens the Properties palette Specify the linetype scale based on the scale at which the drawing will be printed.
Step 6: Annotate tab–>Dimension panel–>Flyout DIMSTYLE DIMSTY Opens the Dimension Style Manager dialog box Specify suitable values for dimensions.
Step 7: Annotate tab–>Text panel–>Flyout STYLE ST Opens the Text Style dialog box Specify suitable values for the look of the text.
Step 8: Application menu–>Drawing Utilities–>Drawing Properties DWGPROPS DWG Opens the Drawing Properties dialog box Enter appropriate values to help search for this drawing later.
Paper Space Layouts        
Step 9: Right-click each Layout tab–>Page Setup PAGESETUPMANAGER PAGE Opens the Page Setup Manager dialog box Enter suitable values for paper size, plotter configuration, and so on.
Model Space
Step 10: Quick Access toolbar–>Save QSAVE Ctrl+S Opens the Save Drawing As file dialog box Save your settings in a template file: Switch the File of Type to DWT Template and give it a suitable name.

Top keyboard shortcuts in AutoCAD

Since AutoCAD came into being nearly 40 years ago, the one input method that’s remained constant is typing on the command line. The following table lists useful AutoCAD keyboard shortcuts for , which can be faster than searching for a command on the Ribbon or menu bar.

Keypress Command Description
F1 HELP Opens the online Help window
F2 Expands the command line
F3 OSNAP Toggles the Text screen display on and off
F4 3DOSNAP Toggles 3D Object Snap mode on and off
F5 ISOPLANE Toggles the isoplane between left, right, and top
F6 3DOSNAP Toggles 3D Snap to Plane mode on and off
F7 GRIDMODE Toggles Grid mode on and off
F8 ORTHO Ortho mode on and off
F9 SNAP Toggle Snap mode on and off
F10 POLARMODE Toggles Polar mode on and off
F11 AUTOSNAP Toggles Object Track mode on and off
F12 DYNMODE Toggles Dynamic Input mode on and off
Ctrl+A AI_SELALL Selects all nonfrozen objects in the drawing
Ctrl+N NEW Starts a new drawing with a template
Ctrl+S QSAVE Saves the drawing
Ctrl+O OPEN Displays the Select File dialog box
Ctrl+P PLOT Displays the Plot dialog box
Ctrl+Z U Undoes the last command
Ctrl+Tab Switches to the next open drawing
Ctrl+PgUp Switches to the next tab in the current drawing
Ctrl+PgDn Switches to the previous tab I the current drawing


AutoCAD drawing scales and sizes in feet and inches

The following table lists the dimensions of drawings that fit a range of standard paper sizes when used with standard drawing scales.

These numbers are useful for setting the scale of size-dependent objects in model space, such as the height of text and dimension scaling. For example, when you use a laser printer that handles only A-size (8-1/2-inch-by-11-inch) paper, you can fit a drawing on the paper that’s as big as 34 feet by 44 feet by using ¼”=1’0″ scale.

AutoCAD sizes chart-feet and inches

AutoCAD drawing scales and sizes in milimeters

The following table lists the dimensions for standard metric paper sizes at different drawing scales. These numbers are useful when setting the scale for size-dependent objects in model space, such as the height of dimension text and linetype scaling.

AutoCAD sizes in milimeters

About This Article

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About the book author:

Ralph Grabowski is editor of upFront.eZine, a weekly e-newsletter that reports on the business of computer-aided design. He is the author of more than 240 books and e-books on CAD and other topics, and his renowned WorldCAD Access industry blog is widely respected in the industry.

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