Learn to go Beyond AutoCAD, and Save the World

AutoCAD has been recognized as the industry-leading architecture and engineering documentation platform for thirty years now. The thing is, the last several years have seen the AutoCAD platform extend beyond simple 2D design documentation. AutoCAD 2010, 2011, and even 2012 each saw the introduction of some incredible 3D modeling tools. Beyond the AutoCAD platform itself, the introduction of Design Suites just last year means many AutoCAD users now have access to a portfolio of tools that were previously cost prohibitive.

Trouble is, despite all of these notable advancements, there’s the unfortunate truth that many of these tools become what I like to call “shelfware”. That is tools, which no matter how incredible they may be, stay affixed on the shelf, verses helping me achieve my design objectives.

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Automate Sheet Setup with Action Macros

Although there’s no shortage of ways to customize AutoCAD, nearly every one requires some familiarity with programming. Given the barriers of learning a programming language, I find so many of the AutoCAD users I come across simply survive with the tools they already have verses learning to create new ones. This is the fundamental reason I love Action Macro’s so much; they allow users, with or without programming experience, to create new AutoCAD tools in an instant.

The beauty of Action Macros is the way that anyone who can use the command line inside AutoCAD can also customize AutoCAD. Given how simple they are to create, I have found a wide range of ways to create and apply Action Macros over the years. One of my longtime favorites is using them to automate the setup and creation of new drawing sheets.

The best way to ensure all of the sheets for a project plot the same is to create every sheet from a common layout template with the same page setup applied. While the procedure for doing this isn’t especially hard, it does involve several steps, and frequently becomes cluttered among the library of different sheet sizes used by most companies (Letter, Ledger, Arch D, etc). Using Action Macros I can dramatically simplify this process by creating a series of custom commands that will automatically create a new layout tab at the desired size.

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XREF Drawings from Autodesk 360

Like most releases, AutoCAD 2013 introduces a lengthy list of worthwhile enhancements to the product in this, it’s 30th anniversary year. While these are each welcome improvements, I feel the biggest opportunity surrounding AutoCAD 2013 is its integration with Autodesk 360. Formerly known as Autodesk Cloud, the family of Autodesk 360 products and services present new ways to interact with, and visualize my designs.

I think one of the greatest opportunities surrounds collaboration, and the way we exchange files between sub consultants on a project. Central to Autodesk 360 is its cloud storage product. With the 2013 release, everyone on Subscription receives 25 GB of storage (heck, even those without Subscription receive 3 GB of storage). Earlier this week I was testing out some of the things I could accomplish with the tight integration between AutoCAD and the storage I not have access to as part of my Autodesk 360 Subscription benefits.

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Quick Quantities using Field Conversion Factors

Quick Quantities using Field Conversion Factors GripEdit thumb

The long list of inquiry tools within AutoCAD provide many ways to approach the task of performing quantity takeoffs on your drawings. Yet as powerful as these tools are, one limitation that has long challenged me is way 1 doesn’t always equal 1 in the context of quantity takeoffs. A common example of this is the need to calculate the number of parking stalls throughout a site. Because of site design elements such as parking islands, it’s likely some stalls will not have a painted stripe separating it, meaning it’s not necessarily possible to get an accurate count by simply calculating the number of paint striping lines in my drawing.

Despite this limitation, one consistent parameter with parking stalls is their width. It stands to reason that an accurate count could be achieved by adding up the length of a parking stall run, and dividing it by the width of a single stall. Interestingly enough, this can be automated using a lesser known Conversion Factor parameter for Fields.

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Automagically Manage Scale Callouts with Fields

Automagically Manage Scale Callouts with Fields SNAGHTMLb63814b

Automagically update scale calloutsStarting a new job, writing papers for the classes I’m presenting at AU, coupled with creating some exciting content as this year’s AU Virtual host has left very little time for blogging (in case you hadn’t noticed). Despite my rather chaotic schedule of late; my new position with CADD Microsystems has been incredible, and my part as the AU Virtual Host gets more and more exciting as we (Autodesk and I) work to finalize my on-site conference schedule. I don’t have any juicy details to share quite yet, but let’s just leave it at this – IMHO even those attending AU in Vegas will want to tune into some of the exclusive content being produced for AU Virtual.

So enough about all the things that’s been keeping me busy, let’s talk CAD!

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Get Organized with Layer Filters – Part 1

Get Organized with Layer Filters – Part 1 PATTFilter thumb

Layers are great, but we’ve all encountered those drawings that are absolutely inundated with layers (sometimes by necessity, other times by ignorance). Whatever the reason, it doesn’t make locating that ONE layer any less arduous. Ironic as it may be, sometimes layers (the supposed foundation to all things drawing-organization) need a little organization of their own. And that my friend is why we have Layer Filters.

In this short series, we’ll explore some ways you can put Layer Filters to use for you. First we’ll take a look at what I call Quick Filters. Typically you wouldn’t use Quick Filters to locate (filter) layers you use every day, but rather assist you in tasks like turning off all hatch layers in a given drawing. So let’s explore how you may accomplish this very common task using Quick Filters.

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Use Performance Monitor Gadget to keep AutoCAD Virtual Memory in Check

Use Performance Monitor Gadget to keep AutoCAD Virtual Memory in Check PerformanceMonitor thumb

In July I provided a first look at Project Photofly, an uber-cool technology from Autodesk that lets you build 3D models from photographs. Now I’ll admit it’s difficult to exceed the cool-factor of something like Project Photofly. Still that doesn’t mean Photofly’s slightly less glamorous cousins are any less attractive and/or useful.

Performance Monitor for AutoCAD; it’s small, lightweight, and very useful Windows Gadget that monitors the virtual memory usage of your AutoCAD based products. Don’t feel bad if that doesn’t sound cool enough to spend (waste) your time downloading and installing; I too nearly skipped past it without ever looking back. At first glance I thought, oh that’s nifty, but was pleasantly surprised after finally downloading and installing.

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AutoCAD for Mac and iOS Announced

AutoCAD for Mac and iOS Announced acadformac

BIG NEWS – after an 18-year absence, AutoCAD is returning to the Mac! Of course, much to Autodesk’s dismay, this hasn’t exactly been a secret to nearly anyone following who follows the CAD industry. Now for the part I hadn’t expected (but makes perfect sense); AutoCAD is also coming to the iOS (aka. iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad).

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