Choosing an AutoCAD Editing Style

By Bill Fane

In AutoCAD you usually spend more time editing than drawing objects from scratch. That’s partly because the design and drafting process is, by its nature, subject to changes, and also because AutoCAD lets you easily edit objects cleanly.

AutoCAD offers three styles of editing:

  • Command-first
  • Selection-first
  • Direct-object (grip)

AutoCAD refers to command-first editing as verb-noun editing and to selection-first editing as noun-verb editing. When you see this terminology in the Options dialog box or the online Help system, for example, don’t worry — you haven’t dropped back into fifth grade English class!

Command-first editing

In command-first editing, you start a command and then select the objects on which the command works. This method is also the only way to use certain editing commands (such as Fillet and BReak). It’s no surprise that command-first editing is the traditional editing style in AutoCAD, and the one you should be the most comfortable using.

Selection-first editing

In selection-first editing, you perform the same steps — in the same order — as in most Windows applications: Select the object first, and then choose the command. Some people claim that selection-first editing tends to be easier to master and makes AutoCAD more approachable if you’re a new or an occasional user.

Direct-object manipulation

In direct-object manipulation, you perform common editing operations by using the mouse to grab the selected object and perform an action on it, such as moving all or part of it to a different place in the drawing. No named command is involved; the act of moving the mouse and clicking the mouse buttons in certain ways completes the editing changes.

AutoCAD supports direct-object manipulation via the powerful technique called grip-editing. Grips are the little square, rectangular, or triangular handles that appear on an object when you select it. You can use grips to stretch, move, copy, rotate, scale, or otherwise edit the object.

Choosing an editing style

AutoCAD, in its heart of hearts, is a command-first program. In fact, it started out offering only command-first editing and later added selection-first methods; current releases of AutoCAD inherit this ancestral trait. Command-first editing is a good idea for these reasons:

  • Longevity: It’s the oldest editing style in AutoCAD, and the one with which experienced AutoCAD users are most familiar.
  • Naturalness: Would you say, “I want to eat my lunch”? or “My lunch I want to eat”? Okay, so Yoda might say, “Eat my lunch I want to!”
  • Consistency: It works consistently with all editing commands — some editing commands remain command-first only.
  • Flexibility: It provides added object selection flexibility, which is useful when you work on complicated, busy drawings.

After you know how to do command-first editing, you can simply reverse the order of many editing operations to perform them in selection-first style instead. But if you don’t become familiar with command-first editing in the beginning, you’ll be bewildered by a few useful AutoCAD commands that work only in the command-first style; commands such as these ignore any already selected objects and prompt you to select objects before you can continue.

If you find that object selection or grip-editing is working differently than expected, click the Application button, click Options from the bottom of the Application menu to open the Options dialog box, and then check the settings on the Selection tab. The following check box settings should be selected, and all other check box settings should be deselected:

  • Noun/Verb Selection
  • Object Grouping
  • Implied Windowing
  • Allow press and drag for Lasso
  • Show Grips
  • Show Grip Tips
  • Show Dynamic Grip Menu
  • Allow Ctrl+Cycling Behavior
  • Show Single Grip on Groups
  • Show Bounding Box on Groups
  • Selection Preview when a Command Is Active
  • Selection Preview when No Command Is Active
  • Command Preview
  • Property Preview
Options dialog box
Setting selection options in the Options dialog box.

For information on what these options do, hover the mouse pointer over an option to display a tooltip with information from the online help system.