10 AutoCAD Secrets - dummies

By Bill Fane

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 resources
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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.