AutoCAD Light Interface

Brighten up AutoCAD with a Lighter Color Scheme

Customization has long been among AutoCAD's core strengths. Even as changes are made to the program it's typically always possible to tailor the interface to your liking. One recent change that some users love, and others could do without is the graphite interface. Those who enjoy the graphite interface cite the reduced eye strain, whereas others seem to prefer the contrast of the former (lighter) interface.

Whilst I don't have a strong preference either way, I have found the light interface to work a little better for me when presenting to an audience with a projector. Given the number of presentations I do for my job at CADD Microsystems, it likely goes without saying I typically change the AutoCAD interface to its former - lighter interface. Watch the video above to learn how to make this change on your own system.

Applying Child Dimension Styles: A Geek and a dimension is born

JacksonWrapping up my sixth edition of AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT: No Experience Required; few things can top the excitement of sharing months of hard work that, as an author, I sincerely hope will help others get a footing in the industry - much as I did many years ago. I emphasize few things can top that excitement because Shaan Hurley, longtime friend and Between The Lines blogger, recently spotlighted one of those moments that even exceed the definition of excitement. My wife and I just celebrated the 1-month birthday of our first child, a baby boy, that we chose to name Jackson. Joining in the festivities (and the subject of Shaan's blog post) was the outfit my company, CADD Microsystems, had made for our little guy. The outfit that set off an incredibly geeky Facebook thread simply reads "Latest Autodesk Product." Needless to say, my wife and I couldn't be more excited to welcome Jackson into our lives, and I certainly can't wait until the day I get to begin teaching him about design.

In the spirit of children, I thought I'd share a quick tip on creating and using Child Dimension Styles. If you're not familiar with the concept, Child Dimension Styles are an absolute necessity when you need to change the appearance for different types of dimensions. As an example, many architectural plans use Architectural Ticks for linear dimensions, but an Arrow may be more appropriate for Radius dimensions. In lieu of creating a different style for Linear and Radius dimensions, Child Dimension Styles can capture both dimension types into a single (centrally managed) dimension style. Have a look at the video to learn how.


Converting External Reference Path Types with Action Macro's

In my last blog post I wrote about the new External Reference tools you (probably) didn't know about in AutoCAD 2014. As someone who uses external references nearly everyday, it goes without saying these new features are among my favorites in this release. More specifically, the ability to convert full path references to relative path references has proven invaluable.

Automating External Reference Path Type Conversion

Although the External References Manager does a great job at allowing you to convert the path type of individual references, what if you have multiple references you would like to convert at once? The easiest way to accomplish this is with the new PATHTYPE function within the -XREF command. I briefly suggested using this function for the purposes of scripting, but the good news is you can take advantage of this function even if you're not familiar with scripting AutoCAD.

Introduced back in AutoCAD 2009, another frequently forgotten feature of AutoCAD is the Action Recorder. The beauty of the Action Recorder is that you can start automating certain functions within AutoCAD even if you know nothing about scripting or programing. I find the Action Recorder especially useful for automating simple routines like converting full path references into relative path references.

Creating an Action Recording

Automating such a procedure is easier than you might think:

  1. Navigate to the Manage Ribbon tab, and click the Record button within the Action Recorder panel.
    Doing this will start a new Action Recording meaning anything you do in AutoCAD will be recorded for playback later.

    Creating a new Action Recording
    Creating a new Action Recording
  2. Type -XREF and press Enter to start the command-line version of the external references command.
  3. Choose the pathType function

    Choosing the PATHTYPE function at the command ine
    Choosing the PATHTYPE function at the command ine
  4. Enter * the designate all external references at the Enter xref name(s) to edit path type: prompt.
  5. Choose the Relative function at the Enter new path type [Full/Relative/None]: prompt.
  6. Click the Stop button within the Action Recorder panel on the Manage Ribbon tab.
  7. Stopping an Action Recording will open the Action Macro dialog. From this dialog you can specify how this recording will perform the next time you play it back. In this example I'll name my Action Macro C2RPATH, and uncheck Check for inconsistencies when playback begins.
  8. Click OK to save your Action Macro.

Applying Action Macro's

Action Macro Configuration
Action Macro Configuration

After creating an Action Macro you have a couple options for actually using it. Perhaps the most obvious method is to click the Play button on the Action Recorder panel of the Manage Ribbon tab. While this method works, it does require you to switch to the Manage Ribbon tab.

A lesser known method for playing back Action Macros is to enter its name at the command line. I named my Action Macro C2RPATH in the example above. Since Action Recordings also function as AutoCAD commands, that means I can also play my external reference macro by entering C2RPATH at the command line.

The new External Reference tools you didn't know about in AutoCAD 2014 convert path type

The new External Reference tools you didn't know about in AutoCAD 2014

Each new release of AutoCAD brings with it a number of significant enhancements. For instance the 2014 version introduces incredible tools such as Design Feed and Live Maps from Bing. As useful as these are, I oftentimes find the smaller, less celebrated features to be among my favorites. One such enhancement in AutoCAD 2014 is the new external reference (xref) tools we find in this release.

Since xref’s are the way I typically assemble projects, I find these new, less celebrated, tools incredibly handy. Specifically, AutoCAD 2014 provides us with the ability to change both the xref type (attach/overlay), and the xref path type (full, relative, no path) for xref’s already in your drawing.

Changing Xref Attachment Types

Based on the way I assemble my plans, I prefer using the Overlay path type when setting up xref’s for my projects (this helps me avoid the dreaded circular xref’s). Regardless of which side of the fence you fall on, you’ve undoubtedly run into an instance where an xref in your drawing was opposite from your preferences. In my case, I have a drawing that’s been attached to my drawing:

An Attached External Reference
An Attached External Reference

Prior to AutoCAD 2014, fixing this typically meant detaching the xref, and then reattaching it - losing any custom settings like layer states in the process. With AutoCAD 2014 there’s no need to apply such a cumbersome process, as the type cell in the Details panel of the External References Manager is now a dropdown list. All you need to do is click on this dropdown list, and choose your preferred path type:

Changing the attachment type of an existing External Reference (xref)
Changing the attachment type of an existing External Reference (xref)

Changing Path Types

I have been a strong advocate for Relative Path xref’s ever since their introduction many years ago. Unfortunately, even the most diligent project setup was easily destroyed by fixing a broken xref path by browsing to it (as this converted the path to a Full path xref). Thanks to AutoCAD 2014, these all-too-common changes do not have to destroy your project setup any longer. Provided AutoCAD can find the reference file, you can now change the Path Type of any reference by right-clicking its name in the External References Manager. In the example below, I want to change from the current Full path to a Relative path xref:

Converting a Full Path external reference (xref) to a Relative Path xref.
Converting a Full Path external reference (xref) to a Relative Path xref.

While this integration into the External References Manager is great, it’s also important to point out the Path Type function has also been added to the -XREF (command line version) command. Starting the command-line version of the command now gives you the option to select a PATHTYPE function.

The PATHTYPE function within the command-line version of the XREF command.
The PATHTYPE function within the command-line version of the XREF command.

Even if you don’t typically type your commands, this is an important inclusion as it allows you to write a script to manage xref path types in your drawing.