Mastering the AutoCAD Select Similar Command

Leveraging the AutoCAD Select Similar Command

AutoCAD provides many ways to select objects in a drawing. Among these is the infinitely useful Select Similar command. What is the Select Similar command you ask?

The Select Similar command lets you select objects with shared properties. With it, AutoCAD will search for and select all other objects that are like the object(s) you have selected. For example, you could quickly select all the lines, but not the arcs or polylines, on a layer, or all the dimensions, but not text in a drawing. Whatever the combination, the result of the command is always based on what you have selected.

How to use the Select Similar Command

The basic use of the Select Similar command is pretty straightforward. Select objects with properties like the other objects you want to select in your drawing.

To use the Select Similar command:

  1. Select an object whose properties match the other objects you would like to select in your drawing. In this example, I've selected a desk as I'd like to select the other desks in my drawing.
    Leveraging the AutoCAD Select Similar Command autocad select single object
  2. With the initial object(s) selected, right-click and then choose the Select Similar option from the contextual menu that opens.
    Leveraging the AutoCAD Select Similar Command autocad select similar command
  3. In this example, interprets my selection of just one desk to find all the desks in my drawing.
Leveraging the AutoCAD Select Similar Command similar autocad objects selected

Although the above example uses a block, you can use the Select Similar command on any object in your drawing. For example, you could use the same procedure to select all of the dimensions or text in your drawing.

Configuring the Select Similar Command

Although the basics of Select Similar are simple, what many users don't know is that you can customize how the command behaves. Put another way, you can specify what properties AutoCAD considers as it selects similar objects.

To configure how Select Similar evaluates objects:

  1. Enter SELECTSIMILAR at the command-line.
    Leveraging the AutoCAD Select Similar Command launching the select similar command
  2. Choose Settings at the Select objects or [SEttings]: prompt.
    Leveraging the AutoCAD Select Similar Command select similar command line
  3. Choose the properties you would like the Select Similar command to evaluate, then choose OK.
    Leveraging the AutoCAD Select Similar Command autocad select similar settings

That's it! AutoCAD will now evaluate the objects in your drawing based on the similar properties you chose.

Leveraging Select Similar for Quick Quantity Takeoffs

There are many uses for the Select Similar command, but one of my favorite uses is for quick quantity takeoffs. By selecting a block in my drawing, I can use Select Similar in tandem with the Properties palette to get a quick count of blocks.

Circling back to the desk block selected at the start of this post. Opening the Properties palette, I can quickly see I have 43 desk blocks in my drawing. Although a data extraction table is probably a better tool for calculating many quantities across your drawing, the select similar tool is an awesome tool for quick counts.

What are your tips for using Select Similar in AutoCAD? Share the creative ways you use the command 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.

Distributing and Sharing eTransmit Transmittal Settings with your Team create transmittal

Distributing and Sharing eTransmit Transmittal Settings with your Team

With the many resource files necessary to display many AutoCAD drawings, sending your DWG files to an external consultant can prove to be a challenging endeavor. Of course this was the very reason Autodesk introduced the ETRANSMIT command to AutoCAD many versions ago. Although the ETRANSMIT command isn’t the most complex command in AutoCAD, it does have it’s share of settings for you to specify.

eTransmit Transmittal Setups Dialog
The eTransmit Transmittal Setups Dialog

If you use the ETRANSMIT command with any frequency, there’s a good chance you’ve discovered the ability to create what AutoCAD calls a Transmittal Setup. These are a great little tool that will let you recycle your eTransmit settings drawing after drawing, and can be a real time saver if you exchange a lot of drawings. Unfortunately, while AutoCAD provides a way to save Transmittal Settings, the ETRANSMIT command will not let you share them across your company for the purposes of standardization.

Although the ETRANSMIT command does not provide a way to distribute your Transmittal Setups, the Sheet Set Manager functions provide an interesting workaround to sharding standardized Transmittal Setups across your organization. To accomplish this:

  1. Open your Sheet Set Manager Template, and select Transmittal Setups by right-clicking on the Sheet Set Name.
    ssm transmittal setups

  2. Click the New button from the Transmittal Settings dialog, and then specify a name for your new transmittal configuration from the New Transmittal Setup dialog.
    New Transmittal Setup

  3. Create your new Transmittal Setup like you would using the ETRANSMIT command.

Your new Transmittal Setup is now stored within your Sheet Set Manager template. To use this Transmittal Setup, simply right-click within Sheet Set Manager, and choose eTransmit.

Accessing the eTransmit command within Sheet Set manager

Using the eTransmit command within Sheet Set Manager is very similar to using it outside Sheet Set Manager. After AutoCAD finished scanning your drawing, the Create Transmittal dialog will open allowing you to specify your new Transmittal Setup.

Creating a new eTransmit Transmittal using Sheet Set Manager


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.

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.


Automagically Manage Scale Callouts with Fields SNAGHTMLb63814b

Automagically Manage Scale Callouts with Fields

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!

Get Organized with Layer Filters – Part 1 PATTFilter thumb

Get Organized with Layer Filters – Part 1

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.

Maximize the Power of Page Setups by Importing

Continuing the topic of using Named Page Setups (started with my last post titled “Name That Page Setup and Win (Save) Money”) to help you more efficiently manage plotting I wanted to take a look at how you might implement their use in the real world. The true versatility in Named Page Setups is found with the ability of importing them from one drawing to another. Here’s a look at how to import page setups from one drawing to another:

Name That Page Setup and Win (Save) Money

AutoCAD provides an almost infinite number of possibilities when preparing a drawing for plotting. Setting up drawing to plot is like an artist making a reproduction of a painting; the two paintings will look very similar, but they’ll never look exactly the same. This is much like plotting in AutoCAD; you’ll probably find the right combination to correctly plot sheet 1, but reproducing those settings for sheet 2 will likely be a shot in the dark. Even if you do manage to perfectly reproduce those settings for subsequent sheets - how much time did you waste?

You may have seen a quick tips video I filmed for the AutoCAD Exchange with Heidi Hewett where she and I chatted about a solution to this problem - Named Page Setups. Instead of manually configuring the PLOT command for each drawing you produce, why not capture those settings in a way you can quickly and easily apply them to future sheets? This is the exact role Named Page Setups play in every modern release of AutoCAD. Since I could, and well did write several pages on this topic alone in my upcoming book AutoCAD 2011 and AutoCAD LT 2011: No Experience Required, I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest version in this post.

The X Factor – Placing text above and below dimension lines

image Many veteran users already know this tip, as it has been around for a while now. Still, for the uninitiated figuring out how to get text both above and below a dimension line (without breaking the line) can quickly resemble one of those puzzles where you have to get a metal ring off an interwoven mess of bent metal. As you fumble with the metal ring, usually getting it more tangled than when you started, you think to yourself; I know there’s a simple solution, but I just can’t seem to figure it out.

So that everyone understands what I’m talking about here’s a pretty standard dimension line with the text positioned above the dimension line.

Dimension above line


Lynn Allen AutoCAD 2010 Tips & Tricks Now Available


Here in Richmond, VA it’s spring break for the local schools, and with Helen being a school teacher I thought I’d take off a few days myself.  Nonetheless, one thing that did hit my mailbox early this week was an e-mail from Mark Kiker, president of AUGI, letting me know Lynn Allen had agreed to give AUGI a sneak peek of her infamous AutoCAD 2010 Tips & Tricks booklet. As an AUGI member you get all the goodness Lynn’s Tips & Tricks booklet has always been known for, AND something extra special in this years booklet is a bonus section on Autodesk Impression 3 (which was made available to subscription members today). Here’s an excerpt from AUGI on the Tips & Tricks booklet:

You all know the value of Lynn Allen’s Tips and Tricks. You know that she has saved you tons of time and effort. Now Lynn Allen, Autodesk technical Evangelist and AUGI Sweetheart, is offering an exclusive to our members. A sneak peek at the AutoCAD 2010 Tips and Tricks.
That’s right – before anyone else gets to see them, Autodesk is allowing AUGI members an exclusive downloadable version. This PDF download is stuffed with the best of the best from Lynn. You have used them in the past and they have made you more productive. Get the latest in a long stream of helpful hints directly from Lynn to AUGI members. You must be a member to download the booklet.

The only catch to this deal is that you have to be an AUGI member to get access to the download.  But, in my opinion, that’s not a catch at all.  AUGI membership is FREE, and with your membership you get things like AUGIWorld (bi-monthly magazine), AUGI Hot News (monthly e-zine), free training, and more!  In addition to joining AUGI you should check out the Autodesk Imagine Tour.  There’s a good chance the tour is making it’s way to a city near you, where you can see Lynn present her Tips & Tricks live!