10 AutoCAD Secrets - dummies

By Bill Fane, David Byrnes

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 they don’t tell you about that may make your life easier.

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.

Custom tool palettes

Do you regularly use three or four different hatch patterns? 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.

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/or you can have AutoCAD access a secondary CUI file, in order to customize AutoCAD’s interface to suit your specific needs. See the CUI command.

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.

Programming languages

AutoCAD supports a variety of different programming languages:

  • DIESEL is generally used within menu macros.

  • 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

AutoCAD isn’t the only product made by Autodesk. In fact, the company has about 140 specialized products, 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 Inventor, 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.

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.com and click the Get Support link. Browse to find the Data & 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.

Dynamic blocks

If you repeatedly use similar details — for example, you use four different workbench sizes — simply create a dynamic block of one bench, and then add the specifications for the other three. Then insert the block into your drawing and specify which variant you want, and everything re-sizes accordingly. See the BEdit command.

Data extraction and linking

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.