Starting AutoCAD Your Way with Desktop Shortcut Icon Switches

You’re likely familiar with many of the ways we can customize AutoCAD. Many of these discussions focus on things we can do inside the software. While such customization options are indeed endless, did you know you can begin customizing AutoCAD before you ever start it?

A lesser discussed customization method rests with the desktop shortcut icon you use to launch AutoCAD in the first place. In all, there are more than a dozen different ways to customize the way AutoCAD starts on your computer. While each is powerful in their own way, the real power rests in the ability to combine switches to start AutoCAD just the way you like it.

Available Desktop Shortcut Icon Switches

So what desktop shortcut icons are available? AutoCAD provides more than a dozen shortcut icon switches. With these, you can choose to automatically run a script file at startup, set the default workspace, disable Hardware acceleration, and more. Best of all, you don’t have to choose just one. in fact, you can combine as many switched as you need to start AutoCAD your way.

Here’s a list of the available desktop shortcut icon switches inside of AutoCAD:

/b – Run a Script File

Have a set of system variables that you want to set a specific way each time you start AutoCAD? Create a script file with those variables, and AutoCAD will make sure they’re set to your liking each time you start the software. Prepare to say goodbye to the dreaded FILEDIA = 0 configuration with this switch.

If the script file is in the Start In folder, a full path to the script file is required unless this security measure is suppressed either by including the /six command line switch or setting the LEGACYCODESEARCH system variable to 1.

/ld – Load an ARX or DBX Application

Have a compiled ObjectARX or ObjectDBX application you would like to run each time you start AutoCAD? The /LD switch is here to help! Add the path and filename to your application after the switch, and AutoCAD will load it into each session you start. One idea for this switch is to leverage it to automatically load a customization such as the Navisworks Exporter.

Apply the following format to use this switch:


Some things to note about this switch. First, if the path or file name has spaces, then the path or file name should be wrapped in double quotes. Similarly, if no path information is included, the program search path is used. Finally, the same security measure as described in the /b switch above applies to ARX and DBX files.

/nologo – Disable the AutoCAD Splash Screen

Continuing the trend of disabling parts of the software, the /NOLOGO switch disables the splash screen upon startup. This can have the perception of speeding up the AutoCAD startup process, but I find the improvement tends to be minimal with modern hardware. What you will miss out on with this switch is the abstract hero artwork for AutoCAD.

/nossm – Suppress the Sheet Set Manager Palette

After its introduction in AutoCAD 2005, Sheet Set Manager quickly became one of my favorite features. Much to my dismay, you can disable the Sheet Set Manager palette from appearing at startup with the /NOSSM switch. Should you change your mind about Sheet Set Manager after startup (and I hope you do) the full SSM toolset is still available after startup.

/set – Automatically Open a Sheet Set

Opposite to /NOSSM above, the /SET switch loads a sheet set of your choice at startup. I like to use this switch in tandem with the /P switch to build standardized AutoCAD configurations for specific projects. Use the following format to use this switch:

<path><sheet set data file>.DST

/p – Start With a Custom Profile

The /P switch is the single switch I use the most. With it, you can apply a custom AutoCAD Profile (ARG) file to any session of AutoCAD. Beyond leveraging to setup AutoCAD, this switch is especially helpful when maintaining multiple client-specific standards.

At its core, this switch specifies a user-defined registry profile for starting the program. Since the selected profile is only in effect only for the current session of the program, you can apply this switch without fear.

You create or import profiles on the Profiles tab in the Options dialog box. With the /p switch, you can specify the name of a profile that is listed in the Options dialog box or the file name of an exported profile (ARG) file. If the profile does not exist, the current profile is used.

/pl – Automatically Publish a Drawing Set

Looking for a way to automate plotting? The /PL switch may be your answer. With it, AutoCAD publishes a drawing set defined within a drawing set descriptions (DSD) file in the background upon startup. That means plotting could be as simple as starting your software and letting it take care of the rest. The following format should be used with this switch:

<path><drawing set descriptions file>.DSD

/s – Add Support Folders

Although the /P (profile) switch is what I most often use to configure the Files Tab of the Options dialog box, the /S switch is designed to compliment it. The /S switch allows you to override the support folders to something other than the current ones. Configurable paths include text fonts, menus, AutoLISP files, linetypes, and hatch patterns. Each folder, up to a maximum of 15 folders, is delimited by semicolons.

/nohardware – Disable Hardware Acceleration

Assuming you have a compatible graphics card, I typically recommend keeping Hardware Acceleration turned on. Though an incredibly helpful setting, it’s also a setting that can cause occasional problems. With this in mind, I’ve most often used this switch for troubleshooting.

For example, disabling hardware acceleration is a common first step when troubleshooting display issues. With this in mind, the /NOHARDWARE switch is an incredibly helpful tool to make sure hardware acceleration is disabled from the start.

/safemode – Disable Custom Code with AutoCAD Safe Mode

I often use this switch in concert with the /NOHARDWARE switch mentioned earlier when troubleshooting the software. With it, loading of all executable files is prevented in the current session. Although core AutoCAD commands are unaffected by this switch, commands outside the core, such as Express Tools, is prevented from loading with this switch. Given the impact of this switch, I suggest reserving it for emergency situations.

/six – Start in Execution

Although the Start In folder is typically specified as part of a program’s shortcut icon, the /SIX provides a way to search for executable files in the “Start In” folder. Important to note when using this switch are the security measures in place for AutoCAD. Even with this switch, searching in folders other than the Start In folder is disabled. This behavior is controlled by the LEGACYCODESEARCH system variable. To search in folders other than the Start In folder, set the LEGACYCODESEARCH system variable to 1.

/t – Start with a Custom Template

If configured, the QNEW template is used to create “Drawing 1” when starting AutoCAD. If no QNEW template is specified, AutoCAD uses the default acad.dwt template. In either case, the /T switch provides a way to override these settings.

Starting AutoCAD with a /T switch enabled will open a new drawing (Drawing 1) with the template specified. This switch is especially handy when configuring AutoCAD for client specific standards.

/v – Start with a Custom View

Model space and paper space are the principle views inside every AutoCAD drawing. Using the /V switch, you can specify which of these AutoCAD opens with. Likewise, you can even specify a named view such as “Plan 1” if it exists in the drawing.

/w – Set a Default Workspace

AutoCAD Toolsets such as AutoCAD Architecture or AutoCAD Map 3D include one to many workspaces beyond the default AutoCAD workspace. You can force a specific workspace, such as the Map 3D Planning and Analysis workspace to load every time you open Map 3D with the /W switch. Additionally, this switch is also helpful if you have client-specific interface customizations (such as a custom Ribbon tab for client-specific LISP routines).

With more than a dozen desktop shortcut icon switches available, the combination of switches is virtually limitless. The ability to set an AutoCAD profile with the /P switch and specify a custom template with the /T switch is likely among my most used switches.

Which of the above switches do you commonly use, and in what way? Let us know in the comments section below.

Donnie Gladfelter
Donnie Gladfelter

Donnie is author of the book and Autodesk Official Press, AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT: No Experience Required, a columnist for AUGIWorld Magazine, Autodesk University speaker, and former member of the AUGI Board of Directors.

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