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AutoCAD 2005 Instruction
AutoCAD Customization & Instruction | Weekly AutoCAD Tips
Important AutoCAD Related Sites | Free AutoCAD Lisp Routines

Weekly AutoCAD ® Tips

Check back weekly for more tips and tricks

The Week of January 21, 2005 -

The first versions of AutoCAD back in 1982-1983 included the "Text" command for creating text entities. The user was prompted for a start point, rotation angle and then provided only a single line of text at a time.

AutoCAD Version 2.5, released in 1986, included the new "Dtext", or dynamic text, command. It allowed you to input additional lines of text below the first line simply by hitting enter to proceed to the next line. This allowed the creation of the first paragraph like text, but unfortunately, the text was not tied together in any way, and thus lost its paragraph formatting very easily during editing operations.

Finally, true paragraph text, called "Mtext", was added in Rel 13. It allowed much more flexibility in creating associated paragraph text.

What many newer users don't realize is some of the power and flexibility still available in the older text creation tools, particularly, Dtext. If you need to create rotated text to align with an object, mtext will not allow it, but text and dtext will. At the text rotation prompt you can use any object snaps to align with almost any object on screen, and all following lines of text will maintain that alignment. Also, you can select a new start point at any time while in dtext. Instead of hitting return or entering more text, pick any point on screen and the next line of text will start at that point, using whatever alignment and justification you've already set. You can also list all available styles, or select any valid text justification with dtext, prior to starting your text. Like most older command line based commands, it benefits you greatly to read the command prompts and experiment with some of the options. You may just find some situations where it does things not available with any other commands.

If you check out the Free lisp routines page here you will find some routines written specifically to ease working with text objects.

James R Wilson
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The Week of August 16, 2004 - Working with Solid hatches and Xref's

At one time, you had to create a work around to draw a solid shaded area in AutoCAD. We used to use the "solid" command on a shade layer to create the illusion of a shaded fill area. Another trick was to use an extremely dense hatch pattern so an area would look filled. The problem with either of these methods was always time; the time it took to fill an area with the solid command or the time it took to open, regen or plot an area with a dense hatch. Now, with the solid hatch pattern in AutoCAD it is much simpler to deal with.

The problems that arise involve the display order of objects. As you may or may not know, newly created objects will always appear to be "on top" of older objects. This is usually not a problem, until you try to plot, at which time your newly created solid hatch will cover up both the border of the hatch as well as any older objects under or crossing the hatch.

AutoCAD's display order commands in the tools pull down menu were created to deal with this very issue. Select any objects under the solid hatch and pick the move to top display order command. You will find that the hatch now appears below the selected objects. Or you can use the display order "send to back" command to send the hatch backwards in the display order and it will accomplish the same thing. It works well in the current drawing, BUT not when you reference that file into another drawing for plotting. That's when display order becomes an issue once again.

Say you have a base drawing with a solid shaded parking lot. You want your parking striping and pavement edges to show above the shading. In your base drawing you use display order to bring the stripes and pavement edge to the front and everything looks fine. Now you go into your working drawing, reference your base parking layout into it and finish up your proposed additions for the construction plan set. Plot your new file and you may well find that the hatch in the base drawing is once again covering up your parking layout. Display order worked fine in the original base file, but now it doesn't appear to be working at all, why is that? Well, chalk it up to another unidentified cad bug.

How to fix it? Easy! Go to the lisp download page on here and add the rge.lsp to your new lisp tool kit. Go into the original base file, load and start the rge.lsp command and select all the stripes and pavement edges you want brought above the shading and hit enter. The command will create new, exact copies of all the entities, in the exact same location and then erase the old entities underneath. Now, save the file and open the drawing it's referenced into and plot away. Your hatch will now plot correctly underneath the stripes and pavement edges, just as you originally intended.

James R Wilson
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The Week of August 9, 2004 - Selecting Under Other Objects

Back in the days of Rel 9 and 10 I used a lisp routine that would allow me to select an object if it was directly below another object. It was used mostly for deleting duplicate lines and such. AutoCAD's object selection has always picked the most recent object when you use the pick box selection.

For example, when you try to select an object within a really crowded area of a drawing, you will almost always get the most recently created object within the range of the selection box. If you need to select below that object, or another object within close proximity you can use the object selection cycling.

When prompted for a selection, hold down the control key first, then click in the area of the object you want to select. AutoCAD will prompt you with <Cycle on> and one of the objects will highlight. Keep the control key held down and click again in the same spot. AutoCAD will "cycle through all the objects within the pick box selection area one by one. When the object you want selected is highlighted, let go of the control key and AutoCAD will select that object as well as prompt you that "cycling" is now off.

Object selection cycling can be used in combination with any of the other selection set options while you build a selection set of objects to work with.

James R Wilson
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The Week of August 2, 2004 - 2005 Layer Dialog

For those of you using Land Development Desktop 2005 or Architectural Desktop 2005 and totally frustrated with how slow the layer dialog is to open I have a great unknown, undiscovered tip for you fresh from my LDD frustrated day today. I checked on Autodesk.com and of course came across the updated layer dialog dll download at this support page. So, i download and installed it and it made almost no difference.

Now the biggest difference from Release 2002 was the addition of a filter list on the left side. And, of course, my filter list was loaded with about a zillion unknown, unneeded filters inherited from someone else's .dwt template file. So, after the light went on in my head, I selected the top filter, scrolled down to the last one, shift selected it which highlighted all the filters and hit the delete key. Once the filters were cleared out, I closed and reopened the layer dialog and it came up instantaneously.

No more waiting two minutes for a layer dialog!!!! Zap your unwanted filters from your existing files including all .dwt templates and you should be just fine. TA DA!!!

James R Wilson
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The Week of July 25, 2004 - Point Filters

I'm not really sure how many people actually know and understand what point filters are in AutoCAD, but I think once you use them you may never forget.

Point filters are used in conjunction with base point selections for the move, rotate and scale commands as well as any other command requiring a base point. There are times when the point you want to use for the base point may not be easily found through the standard object snaps. For example, you may need to move an object to a new elevation but maintain its current xy location. The simple way to do that is with point filters.

You would start the move command, select your object to move, and, at the first base point request, select any end point or snap point on your object.

But, when it asks for the base point to move to, you would enter .xy. This is a way of telling AutoCAD that the next point you select, only use the x and y coordinates and you will supply a z coordinate separately. When you type in .xy and select a point, AutoCAD will store the x and y coordinates and prompt you to select or enter the z value to be used. You can provide the z value by selecting a snap point that has the desired z value or by entering a valid z value at the command line.

You can enter almost any combination of filters. The valid filters are:

.x, .y, .z, .xy, .xz, .yz

Another good example of using point filters would be as shown in the following illustration:

You'd like to move a detail box so that it aligned with the details above and beside it. After selecting the details and box to be moved, pick a base point at the lower left corner as shown. For the move to base point you would use the .x filter and snap to the lower left corner of the detail box above. This will lock you into the proper X coordinate. Then, at the enter point yz prompt you would snap to the lower right corner of the box to your left. Now you are aligned exactly with the edges of the detail boxes above and next to your new detail. No need for construction lines, rays etc. Please note that there is no need to enter the second set of filters, as AutoCAD assumes the next snap will supply the desired coordinates.

Point filters in conjunction with object snaps can provide complete control of the accuracy of your final drawing. Try them out and you may become a believer!

James R Wilson
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The Week of July 18, 2004 - Object Selection with SSX.LSP

My first year of AutoCAD training in 1987 included the suggestion, "Learn to use the ssx lisp routine, it will come in handy many times in your career." The instructor was so right. I've learned it inside out and still use it constantly to this day.

For those of you not familiar with it, ssx is a sample lisp routine, located in the Express tools subdirectory. It has been around for many years and is still included in the current release although it used to be in the Support subdirectory.

It was first created by one of the original programmers around 1986 and was essentially lost to most users because it was a throw in routine that was not accessible through any of the menu's.

In AutoCAD 2005, with the express tools loaded, it can be used simply by typing ssx at the command prompt. If Your express tools are not loaded, or you don't have the express tools, you may have to load it yourself in order to use it. It can be loaded through one of the lisp autoload functions (Check your online documentation), the appload command under the tools/autolisp menu or it can be hand loaded by typing (load "ssx.lsp") at the command line prompt.

If you don't have access to ssx.lsp you can down load it here.

Most Cad users are familiar with the standard AutoCAD selection options. I will cover some of the more obscure options in a later tip, but the one you need to remember here for use with ssx is the P, or previous, option.

Previous, when entered at a select objects prompt, will re-use the last created selection set, no matter what command it was used for, no matter what objects were selected, no matter how those objects were selected. If, however, you deleted or removed the objects from the last select objects prompt, you will obviously get a null or empty selection set the next time you use the previous object selection option.

SSX can also be used transparently during any command that allows transparent object selection, by typing 'ssx at the select object prompt. But we will use ssx first to create a selection of objects and then start the desired command and use previous to select the objects.

Once loaded, ssx will prompt you to select an object. You actually have two choices here. You can touch an object on screen to create a selection set of similar objects or you can hit enter and it will prompt you to select the object variables you would like to use. Try selecting an object first and ssx will present you with a list of the objects properties in the form of an dxf list. Check your documentation for dxf codes if you don't understand them. As an example, the following is a line on layer 0 when selected at the command prompt:

Current filter: ((0 . "LINE") (8 . "0") (210 0.0 0.0 1.0))
Enter filter option [Block name/Color/Entity/Flag/LAyer/LType/Pick/
Style/Thickness/Vector]:

O is the dotted pair dxf code for the object type, such as a line. 8 is the dxf code for the objects layer. If you hit enter at this point, all lines on layer 0 will be returned as a selection set. You would then start any command, such as move or copy, and at the select objects prompt, enter p for previous and AutoCAD will use all the lines on layer 0 as your selection set. As you can see, this is very beneficial in large drawing with lots of objects. You could select all text on layer ps-text with style L80 and change it to a new style with the chprop command.It will select all related objects, even of layers that are off, or objects that are off screen.

Or, instead of hitting enter at the above second prompt, you can type E and enter to remove the object option from the set and you would then be selecting everything on layer 0. If you typed LA for layer and hit enter you then be selecting all lines in the drawing regardless of layer. You can continue to remove properties from the any ssx selection set until you have exactly the object properties you are searching for.

If you prefer, at the first ssx prompt, you can hit enter and you will be presented with the following prompt:

Enter filter option [Block
name/Color/Entity/Flag/LAyer/LType/Pick/
Style/Thickness/Vector]:

Now you can Select objects by defining the color, entity type, block name, layer, Linetype Text Style, object thickness, or its vector. You can build a selection set you desire based on any combination of the above. The Pick option will return you to the first selection prompt, if you really prefer to define the set through a selected object.

While AutoCAD has improved the selection process considerably over the years, including the new filter command, SSX.LSP is still the quickest way to select a large set of similar objects. Change the style of 372 pieces of text, no problem. Now you can do it with two easy steps in less than 5 seconds flat! Learn it and use it, ssx.lsp can be the answer to a lot of your editing needs.

James R Wilson
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