AutoCAD For Dummies book cover

AutoCAD For Dummies

By: Ralph Grabowski Published: 03-15-2022

You’re one step away from creating crystal-clear computer-aided drafts in AutoCAD

Ever started an AutoCAD project, only to give up when you couldn’t quite get the hang of it? Or do you have a project coming up that would really benefit from a few meticulously created drawings? Then you need the latest edition of AutoCAD For Dummies, the world’s bestselling retail book about the wildly popular program.

With coverage of all the important updates to AutoCAD released since 2019, this book walks you through the very basics of pixels, vectors, lines, text, and more, before moving on to more advanced step-by-step tutorials on three-dimensional drawings and models. Already know the fundamentals? Then skip right to the part you need! From blocks to parametrics, it’s all right here at your fingertips.

You’ll also find:

  • In-depth explanations of how to create and store your drawings on the web
  • Stepwise instructions on creating your very first AutoCAD drawing, from product installation and project creation to the final touches
  • An exploration of system variables you can tweak to get the best performance from AutoCAD

Perfect for the AutoCAD newbie just trying to find their way around the interface for the first time, AutoCAD For Dummies is also a must-read reference for the experienced user looking to get acquainted with the program’s latest features and essential drawing tips. Grab a copy today!

Articles From AutoCAD For Dummies

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AutoCAD For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 02-22-2022

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.

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How to Create a 2D View from a 3D Model and Other 3D AutoCAD Tricks

Article / Updated 01-22-2020

AutoCAD can be your best friend. The latest version of AutoCAD is packed full of 3D tricks. Use the information below to make the most of AutoCAD. Would you believe that it took less than five minutes to produce the image below? Follow these steps to produce a 2D view from a 3D model: Click the Workspace Switching button on the status bar, and then choose 3D Modeling. Toolbars, palettes, and Ribbon panels flash on and off, and soon AutoCAD settles down to display the Ribbon, as configured for the 3D Modeling workspace with a few additional panels. Set up a 3D model. Create a new model or open an existing file that contains a 3D model.You can find the files used here at this link. Go to and download afd23.zip. The drawing named afd23a.dwg contains the model Use in the following steps. Switch to paper space. Click the Layout 1 tab near the lower-left corner of the screen. Delete the existing viewport by clicking the viewport object (the frame of the viewport) and then pressing Delete. By default, new drawings created from a standard template file contain a single viewport. If you’ll frequently create new drawings like this, set up a template file with the viewport already deleted. Click the Base button from the Create View panel on the Layout tab of the Ribbon, and then choose From Model Space from the drop-down list. The VIEWBASE command creates several new layers automatically. By default, they’re the opposite of the screen color (black or white), but they always print in black. You can change these layers to any color you want. Position the base view. AutoCAD automatically selects what it thinks is an appropriate scale, assuming that you’ll place the three standard orthographic views and one pictorial view. However, you can change it. Select a suitable place in the lower-left quadrant of the layout sheet.The Drawing View Creation contextual tab appears on the Ribbon, a drop-down list of view options appears at the cursor, and an option list appears on the command line. Define the base view. Using any one of the three selection methods — Ribbon, cursor, or command line — set up the base view as follows: Orientation: The view shows what appears to be the bottom view of the part because AutoCAD defines top, bottom, and so on relative to the world X,Y coordinates. Select Orientation and the Top to create the view you want. Hidden lines: The preview image in paper space always displays in shaded mode, regardless of the visual style of the model in model space. Change the Hidden Lines option to Visible and Hidden. The view won’t change yet, but don’t worry — it will after you complete the steps. Scale: This setting defaults to 1:4, which is suitable for your purposes if you started from the sample drawing. Visibility, or Edge Visibility: This setting specifies how to display edges that are formed where tangent surfaces meet. The normal practice is not to display them, but it sometimes causes features to disappear (or partially disappear). If you change this setting, hover the cursor over the Edge Visibility button in the Appearance panel of the Ribbon and pause for a few seconds; a much more extensive tooltip list then explains each option. Move: Specify a new location for the view before it is finally created. This isn’t such a big deal, though, because views can always be easily moved later. Exit: Or press Enter. You can edit any of these view specifications later, view by view. Place the other drawing views. When you finish placing and defining the base view, AutoCAD automatically runs the VIEWPROJ command. All you need is three quick clicks to place the top, isometric, and right-side views; then press Enter to have AutoCAD generate the views. Edit the isometric projection. Isometric projections don’t normally show hidden lines. Double-click anywhere in the isometric projection to bring up the Drawing View Editor tab on the Ribbon. Click Hidden Lines on the Appearance tab and choose Shaded with Visible Lines from the drop-down list. If a Ribbon button has a drop-down list, the Ribbon displays the last button that was used. Any one of four different buttons may be in this particular location. The image below shows three ortho views and a shaded isomeric view, which was created in 37.6 seconds. Add annotations. Add dimensions and text notes in the paper space layout. Dimensions are associative to their matching geometry if you use object snaps to the geometry when you place them. While you’re at it, perhaps you can use VIEWDETAIL to create a detail view at a different scale.When you submit a drawing to your boss, they’ll be impressed that you managed to create such a complex drawing, including the shaded isometric projection, in only three days. Place text and dimensions on their own layers. An isometric view and an isometric projection are different creatures. An isometric view is normally drawn so that lines that are parallel to the three principal axes appear in their true length, and an isometric projection foreshortens them due to the tilting and rotating of the viewing angle of the object. Traditional paper-and-pencil drawings use isometric views, whereas AutoCAD creates isometric projections. If you truly want an isometric view, the solution is simply to ignore the usual rule about drawing and inserting at full size. When creating an isometric projection, use this approximate scale factor to produce an isometric view: 1.2247441227836356744839797834917 You can also edit the insertion later, to make it match this scale factor. Editing views in AutoCAD You can apply two different types of editing to 2D views that were generated from 3D models. You can edit the view specifications themselves (start with the easy one): Select the base view, and then select the blue grip box that appears in the center of the view. Drag and drop the view into a new location. Interesting! If you move the base view, all the ortho views projected from it follow along, with some constraints. The ortho views don’t move in perfect unison as a single group, but they maintain their orthographic relationship to the base view.Similarly, you can move projected ortho views in only the direction that still maintains their ortho relationship to the base view. Better yet, all attached dimensions (you hope) also follow along. You can also double-click a view and then change the specifications that were used to create it. Refer to Step 9 above. To experience the magic of creating 2D views from a 3D model, return to model space and edit the model. For example, add a second hole (hint: subtract a cylinder), extend the length of the peg, and then return to the paper space layout. All your views and their dimensions are updated. AutoCAD creates the views as a series of anonymous blocks. They behave much like regular blocks, but because they don’t have normal names, you can’t access them directly to edit or explode them Additional 3D AutoCAD tricks To fully cover the 3D capabilities of AutoCAD would easily require a full book on its own, but meanwhile, here are a few high points: Don’t want four views? If you don’t want four standard views, you can create only the base view and then change its scale factor to better suit the sheet size. Need additional base views? If necessary, you can have more than one base view in a single layout. For example, one large drawing might show an assembly and its component parts. Didn’t create enough views? Use the VIEWPROJ command to add more projected views later. They don’t have to project from the original base view, but can project from an existing projected view. No longer need a view? You can delete a view, even a base view, without affecting the other views — except that doing so breaks the horizontal and vertical links between the views that were projected from it. No 3D model in your drawing? You can use the VIEWBASE command to generate views from a 3D model that lived in the model space of the current drawing. AutoCAD’s top model You may have generated 2D drawing views from a 3D model in model above. But if the VIEWBASE command cannot find a 3D model in the current drawing file, it opens a standard file dialog box so that you can browse for an Autodesk Inventor Inventor is the 3D parametric modeling software from Autodesk, primarily intended for the mechanical design field. Inventor is fully parametric, in that dimensional constraints drive the profiles that define the solid features that consist of the parts that comprise the assembly model that drives the 2D drawing views that Jack built. If you change a dimension on a 2D drawing of a part, everything updates, all the way down the line. The Inventor file isn’t inserted into the AutoCAD file. Instead, it’s attached like an xref. VIEWBASE creates a 2D drawing view based on it, and additional views can be projected from the base view. Here’s the magic part: The AutoCAD drawing views are still linked back to the Inventor file so that any changes made to the Inventor file reflect down to the AutoCAD file, updating it. Better yet, you can send the AutoCAD DWG file to a client or vendor without having to send the source Inventor file. The AutoCAD file contains only anonymous blocks for the 2D views and has nothing in model space. On the other hand, whenever the AutoCAD DWG file has access to the Inventor file, the AutoCAD drawing views update and remain in step with any changes made to the Inventor model. Here are more tips for working with AutoCAD and Inventor files: Mix and match 2D drawing views. If VIEWBASE finds an AutoCAD solid in your part, you can tell it to ignore it and let you attach it to an Inventor file instead. You can have more than one base view in an AutoCAD drawing, so you can mix and match 2D drawing views. One or more base views can come from an internal AutoCAD 3D model, and others can be linked to external Inventor files. Select additional solids. If model space contains more than one solid, VIEWBASE allows you to switch back to model space, where you can select and deselect solids to appear in the base view. For example, a model of a gearbox assembly might consist of many components. Separate views can be created, perhaps on several different layouts: one showing an outside view of the entire gearbox (which doesn’t need to include the internals such as gears and bearings); another showing only the input shaft, gear, bearings, and seals; and another showing the output shaft and its related components. Choose a different scale. The VIEWDETAIL command generates detail views at scales different from the parent view. Use different section views. The VIEWSECTION command has five options for creating section views: Full, Half, Offset, Aligned, and From Object. This command creates section views based on existing views in the layout. The cutting plane line that it generates can be manipulated like any regular polyline, and the section view then updates accordingly.

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AutoCAD Commands for Modifying and Editing 3D Objects

Article / Updated 10-11-2019

Many modification techniques and AutoCAD commands that you use in 2D drafting can be applied to 3D modeling. In addition, a specialized set of 3D editing commands is available in AutoCAD. All these AutoCAD commands are in the Modify panel on the Home tab when the 3D Modeling workspace is current. Selecting subobjects in AutoCAD Three-dimensional objects themselves are complex objects that can be made up of several hundred, or perhaps even thousands, of objects. Although these objects never stray from their parents, you can access them individually or in groups via subobject selection: selecting a vertex, an edge, or a face of a 3D object. After you select a subobject, you can use grip editing and the 3D gizmos to manipulate it. To more easily select subobjects, you can enable subobject filtering from the Ribbon. Vertex, edge, and face filters are located on the Subobject Selection Filter split button in the Selection panel on the Home and Solid tabs. The CULLINGOBJ and CULLINGOBJSELECTION system variables help limit object selection to the faces that are visible in the current view by ignoring faces around the back of the objects being viewed. By default, both these variables are turned off, so you can select objects in front and behind. If you have a complex model, turn on culling by clicking Culling in the Selection panel on the Home tab. To turn off culling, click the Culling button again. The button is shaded blue when the feature is enabled. If you need to select only a face on a 3D object, press and hold the Ctrl key and select the face you want to select. This method can be faster than turning subobject filters on and off. Working with gizmos in AutoCAD Although you can use the Move, ROtate, and SCale commands to modify 3D objects, they can sometimes give unexpected results in 3D. Enter the 3DMOVE, 3DROTATE, and 3DSCALE commands, which all use a gizmo or grip tool when a non-orthographic view is current. A gizmo restricts or constrains movement along the X,Y plane and the Z-axis. To use a gizmo, click an axis on the tool to restrict movement to that axis. You can access the three gizmos by using these methods: 3DMOVE: Click 3D Move in the Modify panel on the Home tab, or type 3DMOVE at the command line. 3DROTATE: Click 3D Rotate in the Modify panel on the Home tab, or type 3DROTATE at the command line. 3DSCALE: Click 3D Scale in the Modify panel, or type 3DSCALE at the command line. You can also access the Move, Rotate, and Scale gizmos in 3D by selecting objects when no command is active. You can set the default gizmo that is displayed when you use grips in 3D by opening the Gizmo drop-down menu in the Selection panel on the Home tab and selecting the gizmo that you want to be active. Right-clicking a gizmo lets you switch between different gizmos and constraints. More 3D variants of 2D AutoCAD commands Moving, rotating, and scaling objects are certainly the Big Three operations of 3D editing, but a number of other 3D variations on 2D editing commands are hiding in the wings, awaiting their turns in the spotlight. Getting your 3D AutoCAD ducks in a row Making objects align with each other in 3D can be a challenge at times, especially if you need to not only move an object in 3D but also rotate and scale it based on the specified alignment. AutoCAD has two commands you can use to align objects: ALign: Used to align 2D and 3D objects based on one, two, or three pairs of points. Based on the number of pairs of points that are specified and how they’re selected, the ALign command might move and rotate the selected objects into place. It can also be used to scale objects. On the Home tab, choose Align from the Modify panel slideout. 3DALign: An improved version of the ALign command that includes additional options as well as the ability to move and rotate a copy of the selected objects and use Dynamic UCS with the command. Click 3D Align in the Modify panel on the Home tab. Holding up a mirror The MIrror command is limited to working on the X,Y plane. If you want to mirror objects in 3D, you use the MIRROR3D command. Click 3D Mirror in the Modify panel on the Home tab. The MIRROR3D command is similar to the MIrror command, but you can control the plane on which the mirroring is performed. The generic 2D MIrror command works also in 3D, but you must employ a trick. As indicated in the preceding paragraph, MIrror works only in the X,Y plane — but it doesn’t have to be the World X,Y plane. The command works equally well in the X,Y plane of the current User Coordinate System (UCS). Associative arrays work in 3D as well as in 2D. AutoCAD has long had the 3DARRAY command; it’s similar to the old-style ARray command in that it doesn’t create an associative array object. For information on creating rectangular, polar, and path array objects, refer to the online Help system. Editing solids in AutoCAD You can edit 3D solids in a variety of different ways that you can’t edit other objects. You can use grip editing to change the shape of 3D solids, or use Boolean operations on a 3D solid to create complex models. You can fillet and chamfer the edges of a 3D solid by using the FILLETEDGE and CHAMFEREDGE commands. Using grips to edit solids Grip-editing is one of the most direct ways to modify an object. To edit a 3D solid by using grips, select the 3D solid when no command is running, and then select the grip that you want to use to edit the solid. Pay close attention to the grip you select; some grips give you control over changing the overall size of a solid; others might change only part of a solid, such as the face or top radius of a cone. Boolean operations You can join 3D solids by using the UNIon command to create a new 3D solid. You can also subtract volume from a 3D solid by using another, intersecting 3D solid to determine what should be removed with the SUbtract command. The INtersect command can be used to calculate a new 3D solid based on the volume that is common to two or more intersecting 3D solids. See the image below for examples. You can find these three commands in the Boolean panel on the Solid tab. Boolean operations are probably the most-used of the 3D commands. Yes, primitive solids such as a box or a wedge are easy to use, but most real-world 3D objects are more complex than the simple primitives. Something as apparently simple as a connecting rod on a car engine might require a dozen or so Boolean operations to add and subtract simpler solids until you arrive at the final design. You will often need to change to a different user coordinate system (UCS) before placing the next subobject to be combined with the base object. The easiest way to do this is to turn on UCSDETECT (F6) on the status bar. Then, as you move the cursor around while a create command is active, AutoCAD will automatically snap the UCS to any planar surface that it passes over. Filleting and chamfering Because fillets and chamfers are common real-world features, it’s logical that tools for creating them are available. You can fillet or bevel the edges of a 3D solid by clicking the Fillet Edge (or Chamfer Edge) split button in the Solid Editing panel on the Solid tab. Both commands allow you to select multiple edges to fillet or bevel. When you select an edge, AutoCAD gives you feedback on how the selected edge will be affected. The following image shows an L-shaped 3D solid that has been filleted and chamfered. To remove a fillet or chamfer, start the Erase command. Then, at the Select Objects prompt, hold down the Ctrl key and select the fillet or chamfer to be removed. For fillets, you may need to also remove nearby filleted corners that might have been created during the application of the fillet. The FILLETEDGE and CHAMFEREDGE commands were new in AutoCAD 2011. You can still use the Fillet and CHAmfer commands on 3D solids, but the new commands are much more efficient. Slice The SLice command lets you cut a 3D solid along a plane. You can slice a 3D solid by using a planar curve, such as a circle, 2D polyline, or surface, among many others. When you slice a 3D solid, you can choose which part of the 3D solid is retained, or you can keep both. This image shows a solid model that has been sliced in half. To start the SLice command, choose Slice from the Solid Editing panel on the Solid tab. After the command is started, specify a 3D solid to slice, an axis or object to define the cutting plane, and then, finally, which new 3D solids to keep. Use this guide to uncover more AutoCAD secrets.

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The Internet and AutoCAD: Options for Sharing Your AutoCAD DWG Files

Article / Updated 10-11-2019

The days of sending drawings are largely gone and, just as AutoCAD provides new tools for modern design, the web gives you options for sharing your drawings. Now remember, the web is changing so quickly that it’s almost impossible to spell out exactly how everything works and what’s best for you when it comes to sharing your AutoCAD files. The following features are ones that are widely used to transfer AutoCAD files to and fro. This is known as the CYA (Cover Your bAckside) paragraph. Here, you will find certain Internet features as they are known to exist at the time this content was created, but things are subject to change without notice. There is no warranty, expressed or implied, that everything will be the same when you try to use it. For example, one function changed names four times in six years. Sending AutoCAD files via email Email and the cloud have largely replaced blueline prints and overnight delivery as the standard means of exchanging drawings. Snail mail is dead for envelopes but is otherwise rapidly growing because of online shopping. Sending and receiving AutoCAD drawing files doesn’t differ much from sending and receiving other kinds of files, except that DWG files tend to be bigger than word processing documents and spreadsheets. Consequently, you may need to invest in a faster Internet connection, and you can easily run up against email attachment size limits. You can easily forget to include all dependent files. An AutoCAD file may not be an island unto itself, but it can also require other files to go with it. It’s often not completely obvious how to plot what you receive. Solving plotting puzzles is a frequent punchline among seasoned AutoCAD users. Whenever you send DWG files, ask the recipients to open the drawings you’ve sent as soon as they receive them so that you both have more time to respond if there’s a problem. Prepare it with AutoCAD’s eTransmit Many people naively assume that an AutoCAD drawing is always contained in a single DWG file, but that’s often not the case. Each drawing file created in AutoCAD can contain references to more than a dozen other kinds of files, the most important of which are described in the following table. Thus, before you start exchanging drawings via the Internet, you need to assemble the drawings with all their dependent files. Kinds of Files That DWG Files Commonly Reference Description File Types Consequence If Missing Custom font files SHX, TTF AutoCAD substitutes another font Other drawings (xrefs) DWG, DGN, DWF, DWFx, PDF Stuff in the main drawing disappears Raster graphics files JPG, PCX, TIFF, and others Stuff in the drawing disappears Plot style tables CTB, STB Lineweights and other plotted effects don’t look right when the drawing is plotted The table above doesn’t exhaust the types of files that your DWG files might refer to. Custom plotter settings (such as custom paper sizes) may reside in PC3 or PMP files. If you use sheet sets, DST files contain information about the sheet structure. An FMP file controls some aspects of font mapping. Look up sheet sets and the FONTALT and FONTMAP system variables in the AutoCAD online help system for detailed information. Using AutoCAD’s rapid eTransmit Fortunately, AutoCAD’s ETRANSMIT command pulls together all files that the main DWG file depends on. Follow these steps to assemble a drawing with all its dependent files by using ETRANSMIT: Open the drawing on which you want to run ETRANSMIT. If the drawing is already open, save it. You have to save the file just before using ETRANSMIT. Click the Application button and choose Publish→eTransmit from the Application menu. The Create Transmittal dialog box appears. On the Files Tree tab or the Files Table tab, remove the check mark next to any file that you want ETRANSMIT not to copy with the main drawing. Unless you have assigned custom font mapping, you can omit the Acad.fmp file (in AutoCAD) or acadlt.fmp (in AutoCAD LT). Select a transmittal setup from the list. Transmittal setups contain settings that control how ETRANSMIT processes the drawings and creates the transmittal package. Click the Transmittal Setups button to create new setups or modify existing setups. The default Standard transmittal setup works fine for most purposes. In any case, you should view the settings (click the Modify button) just to see what options you can change if you need to later. If you want AutoCAD to include SHX and TTF font files, including any custom fonts that you’re using, you must turn on the Include Fonts setting in the transmittal setup. However, many custom fonts work like licensed software. Sending them to others is just like sharing your AutoCAD program installation media with others: illegal and unethical. Don’t share licensed text fonts outside your organization. Click the View Report button. You see a report listing the files that ETRANSMIT will copy, along with warnings about any files that it can’t locate. Review the report and make sure that ETRANSMIT was able to find all the files. If files are missing, find them and move or copy them to the location where ETRANSMIT expects to find them. Click OK. Specify the name and location of the transmittal package. Click Save. ETRANSMIT creates the transmittal package (which is a ZIP file by default). Zipping creates a single, tidy, compact package of all your DWG, DGN, DWF, PDF, raster image, plot style table, and font files — all ready to be emailed. FTP for you and me: Sharing your AutoCAD files File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a system for sharing files over the Internet. A computer that’s connected to the Internet can act as an FTP server, which means that part of its hard drive is accessible over the Internet. The person who configures the FTP server can place restrictions so that only people who enter a particular logon name and password can see and download files. FTP overcomes the file size limitations that often occur with email. Because of all these FTP benefits, people at larger companies commonly place drawing files on their company’s FTP sites and tell you to get the files. This approach relieves them of having to email you the files, and it relieves you of having to wait for that 19.9MB email download when you least expected it. The person making the files available to you via FTP usually sends you a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) that looks like a web page address, except that it starts with ftp:// instead of http://. Simply enter the FTP URL into the address field of your web browser and follow any instructions regarding the login name, password, filename that may appear. Increasing cloudiness: Using cloud services to swap AutoCAD files The trend these days is away from private FTP sites due to the proliferation of free or inexpensive services such as Google Drive and Dropbox. These services work on pretty much the same principle. You upload a file or files and assign access rights. The intended recipient or recipients then receive an invitation email that grants access to the specified file or files. Okay, here’s a change already. Until recently, A360 was called Autodesk 360. Subject to change … … Oops, it changed again. Bad reception? If you are on the receiving end of incoming drawings, as soon as you receive them (zipped, hopefully), copy the file to a new folder on your hard drive or a network disk and then unzip the files. Check at least a few drawings in the package to make sure that all the xrefs and other reference files, fonts, and raster image files are included. Open each main drawing in the folder, press F2 to view the AutoCAD text window, and look for missing font and xref error messages, like this example: Substituting [simplex.shx] for [helv.shx]. Resolve Xref “GRID”: C:\Here\There\Nowhere\grid.dwg Can’t find C:\Here\There\Nowhere\grid.dwg Write down each missing file and then tell the sender to get on the ball (in a nice way, of course) and send you the missing pieces. If you receive drawings with custom TrueType font files (files whose extensions are TTF), you must install those files in Windows\Fonts folder (not in one of AutoCAD’s support folders) before Windows and AutoCAD will recognize them. All you need to do is to right-click the TTF file name, and then choose Install. If you move project folders around or transfer drawings to or from somewhere else, AutoCAD may not be able to locate any raster image files and DWF/DWFx, DGN, PDF underlays and font files. The ETRANSMIT command does a good job of gathering dependent reference files, raster files, and font files, but it can’t gather what AutoCAD can’t locate. The AutoCAD Reference Manager utility (not included with AutoCAD LT) is a real lifesaver if you’re suffering from file-path perils, whether they occur in your own company or when sending files to, or receiving them from, others. Reference Manager is a separate program, not a command inside AutoCAD. Follow these steps to launch the utility from the Windows desktop: Start Reference Manager. The process depends on your version of Windows and how you have set it up. The bottom line is that Reference Manager is a separate program, so it must be started accordingly. The Reference Manager program opens. Click the Add Drawings button to add one or more DWG files to the Drawings pane on the left. Navigate to the folder that contains the drawings you want to send, select them, and then click Open. In the Reference Manager – Add Xrefs dialog box, choose Add All Xrefs Automatically Regardless of Nesting Level. The Reference Manager processes the drawings and displays all referenced objects in its right pane. Click Export Report to create a text report listing all dependent files and their paths, or click Edit Selected Paths to modify the paths of selected reference files. If you choose to modify any selected paths, click Apply Changes. When you’re finished exporting reports and repathing reference files (or finding reference files that you may never have suspected you had if you hadn’t run the Reference Manager), close the Reference Manager window. Click the Help button in the Reference Manager to find out more about the utility’s capabilities. If you always store parent and child DWG files in the same folder, which is the simplest approach to dealing with xref paths, you probably don’t need to use the Reference Manager. AutoCAD can also save files in the ubiquitous PDF (Portable Document Format) from Adobe Systems. Files can be opened, viewed, and printed from virtually any type and model of computing or communicating device. This format can be particularly useful when you want to show drawing information to people who aren’t particularly CAD literate (that is, they aren’t fellow geeks).

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The Importance of Being DWG in AutoCAD: A Brief Guide to AutoCAD Versions and File Formats

Article / Updated 10-10-2019

AutoCAD has been around since the 1980s. Needless to say, there are quite a few AutoCAD version floating around. To take full advantage of AutoCAD in your work environment, be aware of the DWG file format — the format in which AutoCAD saves drawings. Here are some DWG facts to keep in mind: In many cases, an older release of AutoCAD can’t open a DWG file that’s been saved by a newer AutoCAD release. The table below shows the relationship between AutoCAD versions and their corresponding file formats. A newer release of AutoCAD can always open files saved by older versions. I have sample files dating back to 1984 that open in AutoCAD 2020. Some previous AutoCAD releases can open files saved by a subsequent version or two. As the following table shows, Autodesk changed the DWG file format every three years or so starting in 2000 but has leveled off recently so that drawings created in or saved by AutoCAD 2017 can be opened You can use the Save As option in a newer release to save a file to an older DWG format. In fact, AutoCAD 2020 can Save As all the way back to AutoCAD Release 14, in the last millennium (1997). In addition, you can save a file as a simple text-based DXF format as far back as Release 12 (1992). The table below shows which versions use which DWG file formats. AutoCAD Versions and DWG File Formats AutoCAD Version AutoCAD LT Version DWG File Format AutoCAD 2018-2020 AutoCAD LT 2018-2020 AutoCAD 2018 AutoCAD 2013–2017 AutoCAD LT 2013–2017 AutoCAD 2013 AutoCAD 2010–2012 AutoCAD LT 2010–2012 AutoCAD 2010 AutoCAD 2007–2009 AutoCAD LT 2007–2009 AutoCAD 2007 AutoCAD 2004–2006 AutoCAD LT 2004–2006 AutoCAD 2004 AutoCAD 2000, 2000i, 2002 AutoCAD LT 2000, 2000i, 2002 AutoCAD 2000 AutoCAD R14 AutoCAD LT 1998, 1997 AutoCAD R14 AutoCAD R13 AutoCAD LT 1995 AutoCAD R13 AutoCAD R11, R12 AutoCAD LT R2 AutoCAD R11 Earlier formats may not support all the features of later formats. AutoCAD does its best at translating, but some items may be lost or may not fully survive the round trip to an older AutoCAD release and back to the newer one. So, do you have to use AutoCAD to produce DWG files? The answer is no. Several low-cost to no-cost programs claim to be compatible with AutoCAD’s DWG file format. They usually come with a few crunchy bits, however. Because these programs have to reverse-engineer the file format, they are often one release behind AutoCAD’s current version. These programs usually don’t fully support all AutoCAD features because of copyright, patent, or perceived market size limitations. In particular, annotative objects, parametrics, and 3D models may not survive unscathed from a round trip to the other brand and back to AutoCAD. Yes, a line is a line and a circle is a circle in a DWG file, but the commands that you use in other programs to put them in the file may not operate in the same way. Just remember that newer versions of AutoCAD are constantly being released and that new features are available to make your life easier.

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10 AutoCAD Secrets

Article / Updated 10-10-2019

You may have already figured out that your mother never told you about a few necessary principles for living your life. Well, AutoCAD has a few principles that are carefully guarded secrets as well. Contained below are ten additional AutoCAD subjects that you will want to explore on your own to truly make the most of your software. AutoCAD’s sheet sets Very large projects usually involve a great many drawings. At times, you may want to look at or plot specific drawings repetitively from a collection. You can use the Sheet Set Manager to link individual drawings, and even specific paper-space layouts within drawings, into named sets. See the SHEETSET command. The PUBLISH command can perform similar functions. AutoCAD’s custom tool palettes Do you regularly use three or four different hatch patterns for your AutoCAD drawings? Or the same five or six standard symbols or details? No problem. If you can drag and drop, you can create custom tool palettes from which you can drag and drop elements back into your drawings. See the ToolPalettes command. AutoCAD ribbon customization The Ribbon, and indeed the full specifications for the menu bar and toolbars, are stored in a single CUI (Custom User Interface) file. It can be edited and you can also have AutoCAD access a secondary CUI file to customize AutoCAD’s interface to suit your specific needs. See the CUI command. AutoCAD’s toolsets AutoCAD has a series of specialized toolsets that became available in the last update to the 2018 version. These include special block libraries and functions for the unique needs of mechanical, electrical, civil, architectural, and other users. You can install them through your AutoCAD Desktop app. Programming Languages supported in AutoCAD Macro recorder: If you repeatedly perform the same drawing or editing sequence, you can turn on the Macro Recorder to record the sequence as you perform it once, and then replay it endlessly. (“Holy macro, CadMan!”) See the ACTRECORD command. DIESEL is generally used in menu macros and to display program data on the status bar. AutoLISP is best suited to custom applications that primarily stay inside AutoCAD. .NET, Object ARX, and VBA generally work best in custom applications that interact with other types of programs, such as Excel or Word. See the Developer area of the online Help system. Vertical versions of AutoCAD AutoCAD isn’t the only product made by Autodesk. In fact, the company has about 175 products and combinations of products called collections, covering a wide range of markets in the design and entertainment fields. Virtually all Hollywood special effects are produced on Autodesk software (Avatar is one example) along with the vast majority of video games and virtually all car ads on TV. The design products include special versions of AutoCAD for applications such as electrical control design, civil engineering, and architecture as well as specialty products such as Fusion 360, which is parametric 3D design and analysis software. Do you need to do a stress analysis? Autodesk. How about a virtual wind tunnel? Autodesk. Doodling on an iPad? Autodesk. Managing a construction site? Autodesk. Photographing an object and then 3D printing a copy of it? Autodesk, but be careful. One user photographed a worn, cracked part for his 1927 Rolls-Royce Phantom II and then had a metal part 3D printed. What came back was a perfect replica of his worn, cracked part. AutoCAD language packs AutoCAD has been available in a number of languages for many years. AutoCAD 2013 made using AutoCAD is another language even easier: After installing AutoCAD, simply go to Autodesk’s site and click the Support & Learning link. Browse to find the Downloads section for AutoCAD. There you can find a number of different language packs — download and install the ones you need. You can then switch between languages simply by launching AutoCAD from the appropriate desktop icon. Multiple projects or client management in AutoCAD If you regularly switch between different projects or different clients or both, you can make your life easier. For example, you can modify the properties of the shortcut icon on your desktop to have AutoCAD start from a specific template file folder, use a specific default folder, use a specific default template file, and start from a specific profile in the Options command. Next, create several desktop icons, one for each set of circumstances. Then, when you are working on a particular project, simply start AutoCAD from the appropriate shortcut, and it comes up ready to rumble. Data extraction and linking in AutoCAD AutoCAD (but not AutoCAD LT) can extract properties of objects, including elements such as the areas surrounded by polylines, and then write them to a table within the drawing or extract them to an Excel spreadsheet (or both). See the DATAEXTRACTION command. Untying AutoCAD’s ribbon Some AutoCAD users grumble about the space taken up by the Ribbon as screens get wider, not taller. If you want the graphic screen to be closer to the same proportions as a plotted drawing, reduce the screen so that it displays only the panel names. The panels fly out when you hover your cursor over their names. The Ribbon can also be docked along one side or the other instead of across the top, and individual tabs can be dragged to a second monitor.

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AutoCAD Drawing Scale and Limits in Millimeters

Article / Updated 06-02-2019

If you prefer to work in millimeters when using AutoCAD, you still want to set your limits correctly. This allows you to display the drawing grid over your working area, among other things. Here are the dimensions for different paper sizes at different drawing scales.

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AutoCAD Drawing Scale and Limits in Feet and Inches

Article / Updated 06-02-2019

In AutoCAD, setting limits correctly lets you display the drawing grid over your working area, among other things. The following table lists the dimensions for different paper sizes at different drawing scales.

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Top Keyboard Shortcuts in AutoCAD

Article / Updated 06-02-2019

Since AutoCAD came into almost 40 years ago, the one input method that's remained constant is typing into the command line. The following table lists useful keyboard shortcuts for AutoCAD.

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AutoCAD Drawing Setup Roadmap

Article / Updated 06-02-2019

AutoCAD’s drawing setup can seem complicated at first. The following table lists the fundamental setup commands you should use to set up your drawings, what they do, and various ways to find them.

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