Simplify AutoCAD Plotting by Hiding System Printers

With the plethora of available options, plotting from AutoCAD can feel intimidating no matter how long you’ve used the software. A common question I receive from both veteran AutoCAD users and novices is why they get inconsistent plots when plotting to the same plotter. Though the answer to this question is as nuanced as plotting itself, a common reason is you didn’t actually plot to the same plotter.

Sure, you plot came flying out of the same hardware device, but what about the system device? This is where I see plotting breakdown for many of the clients I assist in my role at CADD Microsystems.  The most common scenario I encounter is users have two options for the same plotter in their list of available plotters. Typically, one of these is for the Windows system device and the second is an AutoCAD-specific plotter configuration.

What is an AutoCAD Plotter Configuration?

When plotting from AutoCAD, you have two basic options. You can plot to any printer installed on your Windows machine, or you can plot to an AutoCAD-specific PC3 device. While the Windows devices may seem more convenient, they’re often more difficult to standardize across an organization.  Although you and I may plot to the same device (aka option in the list), there’s a good chance our plots will emerge looking different, or misaligned to the sheet.

This is the fundamental place AutoCAD Plotter Configuration files come in. By creating a PC3 file, you can standardize the way AutoCAD plots to a plotter in your office. The benefits of creating PC3, or Plotter Configuration files for AutoCAD could be a blog post unto themselves. Suffice to say, in my experience; it’s always best to plot using a PC3 file, not a system printer.

That begs to question if plotting using a PC3 is recommended, is there a way to hide all the stuff (aka system printers) users shouldn’t choose? Why yes, yes there is.

Hiding Windows System Plotters

Using a default installation, both Windows system printers and AutoCAD Plotter Configurations (PC3s) display within the Plot dialog box. You can reduce the noise, and redundancy, of Windows system printers with a single setting in the OPTIONS command.

Do the following to hide Windows system printers:

  1. Start the OPTIONS command by entering it at the Command line, or choosing the Options button located in the lower right corner of the Application Menu (aka the big A at the top of the screen). The Options dialog opens.
    Accessing the AutoCAD Options Command
  2. Choose the Plot and Publish tab in the Options dialog box. Within the General Plot Options group on the right side, select the Hide System Printers check box.
  3. Choose OK to close the Options dialog box, and save the Hide System Printers setting change.

Defining Plotter Configuration Paths

AutoCAD Plotter Configurations, otherwise known as PC3 files, are like any other file you might create and are stored in a directory somewhere on your computer or network. When the Hide System Printers setting is enabled, only plotters with a PC3 file will display within the Plot dialog box. Now, once upon a time, in an AutoCAD release long long ago, you could only set a single Plotter Configuration Path. That changed some years ago, and it’s now possible to set multiple Plotter Configuration paths within the Options dialog box. This change is important because it means you can centralize company standard plotter configurations in a read only network path while maintaining the flexibility of a local path with both read and write permissions.

Do the following to add Plotter Configuration Paths:

  1. Start the OPTIONS command by entering it at the Command line, or choosing the Options button located in the lower right corner of the Application Menu (aka the big A at the top of the screen). The Options dialog opens.
    Accessing the AutoCAD Options Command
  2. Choose the Files tab in the Options dialog box, and locate the Printer Configuration Search Path listed under the Printer Support File Path node.
    Printer Support File Path AutoCAD Options
  3. With the Printer Configuration Search Path setting selected, choose the Add button to configure a second search path. Manually enter the network path, or click the Browse button to define the desired path.
    Network AutoCAD Printer Configuration Search Path
  4. Select the newly established network Printer Configuration Search path, and then choose the Move Up button on the right side of the Options dialog box. This will place the network path above the local path. Since AutoCAD reads paths defined in the Files tab like a book, the path at the top of the list is read first, the second path second, and so fowarth. Its best the configure network paths at the top of the list just in case the same plotter configuration exists in both locations. With the network path at the top of the list, AutoCAD will use it in lieu of the local copy.
    AutoCAD Search Path Order
  5. Click the OK button at the bottom of the Options dialog box to close it, and save your new Printer Configuration Search Path settings.

 

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