Starting AutoCAD Your Way with Desktop Shortcut Icon Switches autocad desktop shortcut e1534480613186

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.

AutoCAD Classic Interface

Recreating the AutoCAD Classic Workspace

Despite several improvements to the Ribbon interface over the years, many AutoCAD users still prefer the AutoCAD Classic workspace featuring menus and toolbars. Since introducing the Ribbon interface in AutoCAD 2009, Autodesk has been nice enough to provide a classic interface to aid users transitioning from the old interface. The menu and toolbar-based AutoCAD Classic Workspace was included with the 2009-2014 versions of the software, but beginning with AutoCAD 2015 the AutoCAD Classic Workspace was retired from the default installation.

While I would encourage those still using menus & toolbars to give the Ribbon a chance, that's not the purpose of this post. Although the AutoCAD Classic interface is no longer included in the default installation of AutoCAD 2015 or AutoCAD 2016, the good news is it's not terribly difficult to recreate on your own. Watch the video above for a step-by-step look into recreating the AutoCAD Classic Workspace.

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.

Where did the Coordinate readout in the AutoCAD status bar go? Customize Menu

Where did the Coordinate readout in the AutoCAD status bar go?

Whenever you first learned AutoCAD, there's a good chance at least some portion of the class/book included a discussion about the Cartesian coordinate system used throughout AutoCAD. I'll spare you the details, but to summarize coordinates help us identify the precise location of objects in our drawings. While I would argue coordinates are important for any design discipline, there is perhaps no discipline where coordinates are more critical than civil engineering. Since the x- and y-coordinates represent the precise Easting and Northing location on a project site, knowing where you are on a project site is a critical bit of information.

AutoCAD 2012 Coordinate

Ever since I started using AutoCAD with release 12 for MS-DOS, the coordinate readout has been in the lower-left corner of the Status Bar. In an attempt to save screen real estate, AutoCAD 2015 combined the Layout tab interface with the Status Bar interface. I'm not quite sure why, but the default composition of the interface omits the coordinate readout from the Status Bar.

AutoCAD 2015 Status Bar


While I cannot answer the question of why this was omitted from the default interface, I can answer the question of how to add it (back) to the interface. The secret is to click the Customize button (three horizontal lines) located on the far-right side of the Status Bar. Choosing that button will open a menu where you can select Coordinates.

Customize Menu

Adding the coordinate readout is as simple as that. As soon as you choose Coordinates from the Customize menu, the coordinate readout is added to the far-right side of the Status bar.

Coordinate readout

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.

Display Drawing Mode Icons as Text


Despite my best efforts I never had the chance to blog nearly as much as I wanted from Autodesk University 2009.  Suffice to say, with 4 on-camera interviews, 3 classes to present, 1 lab to assist, and a partridge in a pear tree, it was a busy week. Ok, so maybe I made up the partridge in a pear tree part, but with such a busy schedule, what blogging I did get done was late at night from my BlackBerry. I will however try to put together an AU wrap-up post for everyone to read shortly.

If you follow my twitter feed, you’ve heard the news about my latest project – a book.  That’s right, sometime around June 2010 you’ll be able to pick up AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT: No Experience Required, authored by yours truly.  If you’re interested in picking it up, and I hope you are, jump over to Amazon and have them notify you when the book becomes available.

It’s just my luck that I had a chapter due the Monday after returning from AU.  Since I had so much “free time” while at AU, the landing of my flight was quickly succeeded by me landing in front of my computer to get the chapter done. As the chapter started to come together, I did come across a nifty tip I thought was worth sharing here on my blog.

By default, the Drawing Modes (OSNAP, Snap, Grid, etc) located on the AutoCAD status bar are represented by a series of icons.  Several releases ago these same drawing modes were represented by text, and I’ve worked with many who haven’t quite figured out the icons since the switch.  If this describes your relationship with the Drawing Mode icons on the Status Bar, use this tip to change them back to text.

Right-click on any of the Drawing Mode Icons, and select “Use Icons”


When you do that, AutoCAD will update the Status Bar, and display your Drawing Modes as text.


Introduction to AutoCAD Script Files

Although each release of AutoCAD translates to bigger and arguably better features one thing has never changed; its malleability. In fact some would argue the malleability of the software as being its best feature. Be it the CUI command, LISP routines, or even VBA and .NET applications. Each of these features is included in the software for one reason – user customization. Even still, LISP and .NET customization can be rather illusive for all but a small minority of the AutoCAD user base.

An Easy Path to Customization

Luckily script customization affords even rookie AutoCAD users a way to automate AutoCAD with endless possibility. While I know the sheer term “Script File” intimidates many, but truth be known, you’ve been writing script files for as long as you have been using AutoCAD. So how is that possible? Well, an AutoCAD script file is really nothing more than a sequence of standard AutoCAD Commands. Thus if you know how to type commands at the command line, you know how to write a script file.

Scripting Commands with Dialog Boxes

Let's take a look at how we might create a script file which creates a new layer named C-ROAD-TEXT, sets its color to Yellow, and then sets the layer current.

The LAYER command is among a growing number of AutoCAD Commands which have both a dialog box version and a command line version.  By default, AutoCAD uses the dialog box version of a command.  While this is great for general usage, script files have no way to interact with dialog boxes.  For this reason, we must explicitly tell AutoCAD to use the command line version of a command.  Generally, this can be done by prefixing the command name with a hyphen (-).  Consequently, rather than typing LAYER which opens the Layer Manager Dialog, we will need to type -LAYER.  This will suppress the dialog, and present the entire command at the command line.