Clever AutoCAD Paper Space Tricks

By Bill Fane

The final product of your work in AutoCAD, remember, is a printed drawing on a piece of paper. In most industries, paper drawings are legal contract documents, so they need to be easy to read and understand. The following list shows a few useful tips and tricks that will help you become a paper space guru:

  • Create additional layouts as necessary. You can do this in several ways, including using the New button in the Layout tab of the Ribbon menu or simply clicking the + (plus) sign to the right of the rightmost layout tab.
  • Delete unused layouts. Simply right-click the undesired layout tab, and then click Delete in the context menu that appears.
  • Viewports don’t have to be rectangular. The Ribbon’s Layout tab includes three options in the Layout Viewports tab, but two will be hidden under the last one used. The options are Rectangular, Polygon (you pick a series of points that lasso the desired region), and Object, which lets you choose any existing closed shape and convert it to a viewport.
  • Freeze layers in individual viewports. You don’t always want to show everything in every viewport. If you enter model space by double-clicking inside a viewport, the Layer Properties Manager lets you freeze selected layers in the current viewport. Conversely, the drop-down list below the Layers panel of the Home tab includes a command to freeze the layer of the selected object in all other viewports except the current one.
  • Snap into model space. Even when you are in paper space, it’s still possible to snap onto objects in model space that are visible in a viewport. This technique was used mostly before self-scaling annotations came along. Dimensions could be applied from paper space without having to worry about scaling them. The problem is that it’s usually more helpful to have the dimensions in model space when you are working there.
  • Use templates. Ah, now here’s the biggie. A template file serves as the starting point for a new drawing and can contain anything that a normal drawing file can contain. This includes all of these items: layouts, viewports, plotting configurations, borders, title blocks, and so on. John Walker, one of the founders of Autodesk, is rumored to have once said that an AutoCAD user should never have to do anything twice.

But wait! There’s more! A bit of exploring will reveal that the commands for creating and configuring layouts and viewports all have a From Template option. You can browse through the current drawing and through any existing drawing or template file anywhere to inhale the complete layout setup specifications. Complete means everything; for example, if you are setting up a layout from a template and the source includes viewports, a border, and a title block, it all comes over to the new layout, including the creation of any new layer, text, and dimension specifications and block definitions required.

If the current drawing contains any specifications with the same names as the source, the host drawing wins and the incoming specifications are ignored. The existing specifications will be applied to the incoming objects.