Creating Dynamic Viewport Scale Labels in AutoCAD 2018 dynamic autocad scale

Creating Dynamic Viewport Scale Labels in AutoCAD 2018

The AutoCAD 2018.1 update makes it easier than ever to change the scale of a viewport, but how do you ensure that change reflects across your view scale annotations? The process of managing viewport scales and view scale annotations inside AutoCAD are typically separate workflows, and ripe for falling into an asynchronous state. The good news is these two tasks do not have to remain siloed.

Leveraging AutoCAD Fields

Fields are an often overlooked but powerful function inside AutoCAD. You can insert a Field into any text in your drawing including multi-line text, block attributes, and table cells, The purpose of inserting a field into your drawing is to display a real-time string of data. That data can be anything from the current filename, the length of an entity, or as we're interested in this example - the scale of a viewport.

Dynamic Viewport Scale Label

Leveraging AutoCAD Fields, you can associate a string of text with a viewport in your drawing. The power of this association is anytime the properties of your viewport changes, so too will the text labeling it. Translated, that means you can have a piece of text that automatically displays the current viewport scale.

The process of adding Fields to your drawing isn't terribly difficult. Check out the video above to see the entire workflow in action. Do you use Fields in your drawings? Offer your suggestions for the creative ways you use Fields in the comments below.

Sheet Setup Made Easy with AutoCAD 2018.1 Views and Viewports view and viewport enhancements e1514874430526

Sheet Setup Made Easy with AutoCAD 2018.1 Views and Viewports

It's only been about four months since Autodesk released AutoCAD 2018, but that hasn't slowed the development team. Just last week the team introduced AutoCAD 2018.1, a mid-release update that brings with it numerous incremental updates to AutoCAD 2018. The update is free to anyone with an active subscription or maintenance agreement to AutoCAD, AutoCAD-based verticals, Design Suites, and Industry Collections.

You can read about all of the improvements introduced in AutoCAD 2018.1 on the AutoCAD Blog, but in this post, I wanted to explore one of my favorites - Views and Viewports. This selection may seem like an odd enhancement to call a favorite, but my reason for it is just how much I've seen people struggle to setup drawing sheets with views at a particular scale.  It's an everyday workflow that's clunky at best, and far from something many AutoCAD users would call intuitive.

The AutoCAD 2018.1 update aims to simplify much of the workflow associated with setting up drawing sheets at a particular scale. Achieving this, we see a new relationship between Named Views and Viewports. Viewports have long been standard operating procedure for setting up sheets, but Views are something I've seen very few AutoCAD users use. Beyond establishing a relationship between Views and Viewports, the 2018.1 update also offers a simplified workflow for creating Named Views.

Defining Views

Historically, the process of creating a Named View in AutoCAD involved navigating the (cluttered) View Manager dialog. Although that workflow still exists, we now have a direct link to create new Named Views through the New View command.

To create a new Named View in AutoCAD 2018.1:

  1. Choose the New View command from the Named Views panel of the Views Ribbon Tab. The New View/Shot Properties dialog box opens.
    Sheet Setup Made Easy with AutoCAD 2018.1 Views and Viewports AutoCAD 2018.1 New View
  2. Enter a unique name for your view and an optional View Category.
    Sheet Setup Made Easy with AutoCAD 2018.1 Views and Viewports AutoCAD 2018.1 New View Properties
  3. Choose between Current Display or Define Window as a Boundary. For more precise control, I prefer choosing the Define Window option. Selecting Define Window will temporarily close the New View/Shot Properties dialog box allowing you to select a view boundary graphically.
  4. Pick opposite corners to specify the boundary of your View graphically. Press Enter to accept the result. The New View/Shot Properties dialog box reopens.
    Sheet Setup Made Easy with AutoCAD 2018.1 Views and Viewports AutoCAD 2018.1 Define Boundary
  5. Click OK from the New View/Shot Properties dialog box to create your view. The New View/Shot Properties dialog box closes, and the NEWVIEW command ends.

Placing Views

Views have always had a loose association with Viewports, but never a direct relationship. That's the foundational improvement with Views and Viewports in AutoCAD 2018.1. There is now a direct workflow to place Named Views onto drawing sheets.

Do the following to place a Named View onto a drawing sheet/Layout:

  1. Switch to the Layout Tab you would like to place a view onto. The selected drawing sheet appears, and the contextual Layout Ribbon Tab opens in the Ribbon.
  2. Select the contextual Layout Ribbon Tab, and select the Insert View command from the Layout Viewports panel. A gallery of named views stored in the current drawing displays.
    Sheet Setup Made Easy with AutoCAD 2018.1 Views and Viewports AutoCAD 2018.1 Insert View
  3. Choose the Named View you would like to place from the gallery view. An outline of the selected View appears around the drawing window cursor.
  4. Pick the center point of the view. The Named View is placed onto your Layout/drawing sheet.
    Sheet Setup Made Easy with AutoCAD 2018.1 Views and Viewports AutoCAD 2018.1 Place View

Changing a View Scale

Historically, changing the scale of a viewport was far from a refined process. The process included unlocking the viewport, specifying a new scale, adjusting the viewport frame, using the PAN command to readjust the view composition, and finally relocking the viewport. That same process in AutoCAD 2018.1 is now a two step process:

  1. Select the view whose scale you would like to adjust. Grips for each corner, the center of the view, and a scale selector appear.
  2. Click the triangular viewport scale grip, and select the desired scale. The viewport scale and viewport frame update to reflect the selected scale.
    Sheet Setup Made Easy with AutoCAD 2018.1 Views and Viewports AutoCAD 2018.1 Change View Scale

Creating a View from a Layout Tab

Up until this point, we've talked about creating Views and Viewport as two separate processes. Because of the new relationship between Views and Viewports added to AutoCAD 2018.1, it is now possible to create both as a single process:

  1. With a Layout tab displayed, switch to the contextual Layout Ribbon Tab.
  2. Select Insert View > New View from the Layout Viewports panel of the Layout Ribbon Tab. A Model Space view with a light blue boundary opens.
    Sheet Setup Made Easy with AutoCAD 2018.1 Views and Viewports AutoCAD 2018.1 New View Layout
  3. Pick two opposite corners to define the boundary of your new view. Press Enter. The Layout tab reopens, and a view boundary displays at the drawing cursor.
    Sheet Setup Made Easy with AutoCAD 2018.1 Views and Viewports AutoCAD 2018.1 Define Layout View
  4. Pick a point on your Layout to place the new view. The new view is placed onto your drawing sheet.

See each of these workflows in action by watching the video at the top of this post, and be sure to stay tuned as we explore some of the other new features inside AutoCAD 2018.1. Curious about the practical application of one of the other new features inside 2018.1, or simply want to offer your thoughts about the View and Viewport functionality highlighted in this post, let us know in the comments below.

AutoCAD Selection Effect

Disable the Glowing Line Highlighting Effect inside AutoCAD

By default, when you select objects in AutoCAD, a blue glowing effect displays to indicate the selected state of an object. The glowing visual effect has been the default for many years now, but some AutoCAD veterans might recall the former dashed effect used to indicate when objects are selected. Although many have come to appreciate, or at least accept the glowing effect, others still prefer the dashed effect from yesteryear. The good news when using AutoCAD is that most things like this are customizable, and the selection effect is no exception. In fact, there are technically two ways to enable the dashed line effect should that be your preference.

The first is a byproduct of understanding what allows the glowing effect in the first place. AutoCAD only displays the glowing effect when running with a graphics card capable of hardware acceleration. So if you don't see the glowing effect, and never turned it off, there's a good chance the answer as to why rests with your hardware. Of course, if you see the glowing effect and would prefer to disable it, you can technically do so by disabling hardware acceleration. I say technically since, while it does enable the dashed line selection effect, it prevents you from taking advantage of the many other benefits of hardware acceleration. Put simply; this is not the method I recommend if the dashed effect is what you're after.

So what should you do if you wish to disable the glowing effect? The answer rests in the SELECTIONEFFECT system variable. The glowing effect displays when this variable is set to its default value of 1. Changing the SELECTIONEFFECT variable to 0 will disable the glowing effect, instead of displaying the dashed line effect. Best of all, the SELECTIONEFFECT variable has no effect on hardware acceleration. That means you can enable the dashed line effect while keeping all the advantages of hardware acceleration.

What is your preferred setting for the SELECTIONEFFECT system variable? Likewise, what other settings are you interested in switching inside AutoCAD? Let us know in the comments below.

A CAD Geek’s First Impression of AutoCAD 2018 AutoCAD 2018

A CAD Geek’s First Impression of AutoCAD 2018

Spring is in the air, and a new version of AutoCAD is now on the street. Today Autodesk announced the release of AutoCAD 2018, and it is one worth celebrating. Not only does it introduce some impressive new features, but it also represents the 35th-anniversary of AutoCAD. To put that milestone in perspective, MS-DOS 1.0, an operating system long succeeded by Microsoft Windows (not to mention discontinued in 2000),  turned 35 in August of 2016.

35 Years of AutoCAD

AutoCAD reaching its 35th anniversary is both an incredible accomplishment, as much as it is a liability of the platform itself. Just as we celebrate the fact AutoCAD 2018 can still open drawings from those earliest versions, it is hard not to ask whether 35 years of baggage is a good thing?

What excites me most about AutoCAD 2018 is what I believe this release represents along that 35-year timeline.  While there are certainly new features to talk about in this release, I think the biggest takeaway is the investment Autodesk has made to both modernize and innovate the AutoCAD platform itself. Opening AutoCAD 2018 for the first time you will find both tangible and intangible examples of these efforts. While there are 35 years of DNA inside AutoCAD 2018, there are not 35 years of baggage.

The Modernization of AutoCAD

In the simplest of ways, this modernization has meant restructuring the underlying code of AutoCAD to apply best computer science practices for the year 2017 – not 1982. In some cases, this means a new feature in the desktop version, but in other cases, it means Autodesk can achieve greater feature parity between the desktop and mobile versions of AutoCAD. Even if you are not (yet) among the group of people using the mobile version of AutoCAD, a more scalable codebase is a good thing for all AutoCAD users.

A CAD Geek’s First Impression of AutoCAD 2018 autocad 2018 high resolution 4k

It is for those reasons I find AutoCAD 2018 to be such a fascinating release. In my eyes, this version represents the 35-year legacy of AutoCAD as much as it does the very future of AutoCAD. The simplest example of this is the introduction of full support for high-resolution (4K) monitors. You can now run your monitor at full resolution without fear of interface elements within AutoCAD not scaling correctly. Autodesk even updated the classic toolbars to support 4K monitors.

Modernized Collaboration – External References

For those of us still waiting for our hoverboards, the future sounds great, but the fact of the matter is we are all stuck in the project-based realities of today. The bottom line is a tool like AutoCAD must, above all else, support my project collaboration needs of the present. Squarely addressing those needs are the many enhancements to external references (XREFs).

Relative path external references have been an option within AutoCAD for many years, but my experience is most users struggle to make sense of them. Currently, the second most popular search about relative paths is “AutoCAD Relative Path Cannot be Assigned.” That tells me my experience supporting AutoCAD users is not isolated. Despite being a long-standing best practice, many people simply give up on relative paths since they are too difficult to tame. Although this seems to save time at the moment, it ignores the project collaboration issues that are likely to arise later.

Although the core functionality of external references is unchanged in AutoCAD 2018, the workflow for creating references is significantly improved. The first small but significant change is the application of a relative path to all new external references. You still have the option to choose Full Path if you wish, but the out of the box default is now Relative Path.

For those with a strong knowledge about the differences between Full Paths and Relative Paths, you know you cannot set a Relative Path until you save the drawing. If Relative Path is now the default, conventional AutoCAD wisdom tells us we have a mess on our hands. That is where the second key improvement to external references comes into play. You can now specify a Relative Path reference before you save your drawing. Apart from crowning a new second-place search result, this change alone should make relative paths far more approachable for users.

Other improvements to external references include a notification to update reference paths when you save a drawing in a place that breaks an existing reference path. While it is still possible to break external reference paths, AutoCAD 2018 makes it far harder to do so. In cases where you still encounter broken reference paths, the Find Replace Path tool from the Reference Manager is now inside AutoCAD.

The external reference tools you are familiar with are still inside AutoCAD 2018; they are just better-designed for the needs of project-based collaboration now. From my experience troubleshooting issues with external references, just this improved feature set alone could be reason enough for some firms to upgrade to 2018.

Another Express Tool Grows Up – Combine Text

Over the years, many of the Express Tools (or Bonus Tools as longstanding AutoCAD veterans like to call them) have “grown up” to become full AutoCAD commands. While this promotion means little to many AutoCAD users, it can be a big deal for AutoCAD LT users.

Starting with AutoCAD 2017.1, the Convert to Mtext Express Tool is now the Combine Text tool. Unlike the Express Tool version, this new version is available for both AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT users.

A Design Tool for Today – and Tomorrow

There are far more new features inside AutoCAD 2018 than outlined in this post. Stay tuned over the coming weeks as I take a more detailed look at many of those features. Before we reconnect for those posts, I do need to share one last detail about AutoCAD 2018 – the DWG file version. AutoCAD 2018 saves to a new AutoCAD 2018 DWG file format. Like previous releases of AutoCAD, you can save to previous versions of AutoCAD if needed. In my limited testing, I did not notice any compatibility issues saving 2018 drawings back to the 2013 file version.


In summary, while the new features inside AutoCAD are beneficial, I find the real benefit of 2018 to be what rests behind the user interface. In addition to being more scalable, a modern code base means AutoCAD runs even better on your current hardware. Using AutoCAD 2018 over the last several months, I have noticed increased performance with everyday tasks like opening and saving drawings. Though your mileage may vary, the incremental gains tend to add up quickly over the period of several days to a week.

Current subscribers of AutoCAD can download AutoCAD 2018 from the Autodesk Account website now. If you do not already subscribe to AutoCAD and would like to setup a chat to discuss AutoCAD 2018, I invite you to complete a quick form. If you would like to learn even more about AutoCAD 2018, read my First Look at AutoCAD 2018 on the CADD Microsystems blog.


Hatching Open Areas in AutoCAD using a Gap Tolerance final office hatch

Hatching Open Areas in AutoCAD using a Gap Tolerance

Hatches help us assign context to specific elements of our plans by adding texture to what would otherwise be a flat engineering document. As the “paint bucket” tool of AutoCAD, inserting hatches isn’t especially difficult, however they do come with one simple rule. You can only hatch closed areas, and if the area you select isn’t closed AutoCAD calls you names with the following notification:

Closed Boundary Cannot Be Found

On any given day, you probably come across several instances where the area you need to hatch is open, and thereby disqualifies you from using the HATCH command until you add some temporary linework your drawing to “close” the area. The interesting this is it doesn’t have to be this way, as it is possible to hatch open areas using the lesser known “Gap Tolerance” function of the command.

Typical room layout with door openings.
Typical room layout with door openings.

In the above example I have a series of rooms I would like to hatch. As any good room should, each of these rooms has a door leading into them. To work around this, you could draw a temporary line to close the door opening, and then erase the line after you draw the hatch.  Although this method works, it does add several steps to what should otherwise be a simple task of drawing a hatch.

An alternate approach is to apply a Gap Tolerance to your Hatch by doing the following:

  1. Start the HATCH command from the Draw panel of the Home Ribbon tab.
  2. Expand the Options panel on the contextual Hatch Creation Ribbon tab. Here you will find the Gap Tolerance slider. In my example I know my door openings are no more than 3’-0” wide, so I’ll set the Gap Tolerance to 3’-0”.
  3. With the Gap Tolerance set, you can continue using the HATCH command as you would for closed areas. The only difference is that AutoCAD will warn you that the area you selected isn’t closed. Simply select Continue hatching this area to proceed with the hatch.

By utilizing the Gap Tolerance setting I was able to hatch each of the offices in my floor plan even though the door opening made these open areas.