Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ten Ways to be More Efficient at AutoCAD

After 15 years of experience using AutoCAD and other Autodesk products, I have put together a list of ten tools and methods (not in any particular order) anyone can use to be more efficient in AutoCAD.

  • Keyboard Commands - pgp file
  • Templates - star with dwt files
  • X-ref and Data Reference - why do things twice
  • Sheet Sets - organize your work
  • Fields - change your data globally
  • Dynamic Blocks - minimize your library, make quick changes
  • Tool Pallets - find it, drag it
  • CUI - put your tools where you want them
  • Standards - keep everyone on the same page
  • Drafting Tools - classic osnaps, tracking, and more
There are so many things, steps, and tricks and you can use and take in order to make your design documents more quickly and accurately. I have come up with these ten basic concepts that I will delve into more deeply in future posts.

It is my experience that CAD users need to work less, not faster, to increase accuracy and to decrease drafting time. Let me explain the theory here. The less I have to do, the quicker I can get it done. What I mean is that use the tools in AutoCAD to automate your work. The above tips focus on this concept.

I do not mean for drafters to do less work, well, ok I do. The only way to draw faster is to move the mouse less, click less, pick less, and type less. One other tip is to be a two handed drafter. Keep one hand on the keyboard and one on the mouse. Forget toolbars, menus, ribbon, etc. and enter your commands with one hand on the keyboard while positioning your cursor with the other. If you take the time to move the mouse, click, move it again, click, and then start working you have wasted much time. BUT if you move and type at the same time, eventually you will get your work finished sooner.

This is one way in which AutoCAD users can work more quickly. I will take a look at my other ideas later on.

But before that starts, what do you think? What do you feel is the number one thing AutoCAD users can do to be more efficient? Why? What do you do? How do you use it in your day to day routine?

Happy CADDING.

15 comments:

  1. Thanks Shaan. I'm glad you liked it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Brian,
    I'm a visual learner; so when I taught myself cad, I found using toolbars to be easy and after 10 years I can find the tools I need without really thinking about it. Now however, carpal tunnel and tendonitis are forcing me to use my mouse less. Do you have any tips for learning and remembering keyboard shortcuts? I know the more I use them, they'll become easier to remember, but I need to learn them all first.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great question Jennifer. Ii is my opinion that there are two (and maybe a third is emerging) generations of AutoCAD Users. The oldest used AutoCAD before windows and entered commands via the keyboard, tablet, and menu screen. This group learned AutoCAD pre release 14. The Second generation, post 14, entered commands via toolbars. Admittedly, I am partial to keyboard entry. Ultimately there is no right or wrong way to use AutoCAD. If a user has learned the software with a particular style it will be difficult to re-learn the program. Thus the many complaints about the ribbon (perhaps the third generation of AutoCAD users.)

    In order to learn keyboard entry or to improve your speed at it, learn the keyboard. Take a Typing/Keyboarding class or get some software. There may even be online help.

    Second, print out the PGP file in AutoCAD. Become familiar with it.

    Thirdly, make your own. I recommend doing this as a last resort, but often times it is easier to remember the shortcuts when you create them yourself. When anyone creates their own Keyboard Shortcuts within the PGP file, make sure to put those at the bottom of the file. AutoCAD reads the PGP file from the top down. If you don't like the shortcut for the circle command, don't edit the preset shortcut, simply add it to the bottom of the list. That way it is easy to reset the PGP file to the out of the box settings.

    I hope this helps Jennifer.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for your reply. I'll give what you suggest a try.

    (I can type pretty well as long as I can look at the keyboard.) ;)

    ReplyDelete
  5. If you already type well, then i would skip that part and I'm glad to be able to help.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Brian, I really enjoy reading your blog. As someone who is developing warning signs of repetitive stress injury after years of typing at 90wpm and drafting in CAD, I'm trying to come up with ways to use the mouse less. Thanks for your blog entry.

    My biggest problem is using the mouse wheel to zoom in and out. I'm trying to force myself to use the 'z p command to "zoom previous" and to save myself some scrolling. Any other tips? I don't really use named views much because the maps that I draft are generally by the PLSS section or quarter-section, so I don't think named views would be too helpful in my particular case.

    Anyway, thanks for this series.

    ReplyDelete
  7. RJ, great question. I don't know what release of AutoCAD you are using, but if you have release 2006 or later (maybe even 2005 but I'm not sure) you can use the realtime pan and zoom commands. Start the command and move the mouse back and forth to zoom in/out. Also, you can pick up a 3DX Connection 3D Mouse.

    http://www.3dconnexion.com

    I have one that I use when I do 3d Work. Twist the knob to zoom, pan, rotate, etc. It could provide you with a different means of input. I know you are trying to get away from using a mouse, but perhaps this will provide some relief by providing options for input.

    You could also set up some custom buttons programmed to zoom in/out or pan, etc. Perhaps one of the buttons performs a zoom extents, then invokes the zoom window command. The possibilities are endless. If you need assistance programming the buttons let me know what you want them to do and I can offer the code.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Wow, thank you for the link and helpful comments. I have some custom buttons for frequently-used commands, such as line by direction. I have not done any for zoom commands, but that is a fabulous idea.

    I started learning CAD almost 10 years ago, but didn't start using it every day until 2002 when I began working in land surveying and using the Softdesk land desktop add-on to AutoCAD. Now I work for a municipal government doing cadastral mapping. I attended my first training at AUGI CAD Camp in Denver last week!

    My department just upgraded to a new deployment of Civil 3D 2009, but I still use the Land Desktop Companion as a crutch to do 90% of my work. From what I understand, this 2009 deployment is the last year that Autodesk will publish the Land Desktop Companion, so I'm trying to branch out and use Civil3D only.

    Thanks again for this series on efficiency!

    ReplyDelete
  9. You are correct. Land Desktop is no more, after the 2009 release. They even stopped producing VIZ!!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Here is a tip from someone that suffers from arthritis and carpotunnel. Buy a trackman mouse by logitech. It made a world of difference for me. You use your thumb to move instead of pushing the mouse. Let me know if it helped you. It's a little different at first but now I could never go back.

    benoitjolin@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  11. I agree. A Trackball style mouse can help users in many ways. It is also nice to use with a laptop or where a regular mouse is difficult to use. I've used them before, nut not nearly as much as a standard mouse. I think they are great, but they do take a bit to get used to because of the way you have to move the ball instead of the mouse. Good tip.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi Brian,
    A word about efficiency and comfort.
    I'm a seft taught AutoCAD user that started with "hot keys" and am still trying to get better. One very helpful piece of equipment I bought 10 years ago is a swivel arm rest. I was getting painful wrists from drawing all day when a friend (a pianist) told me to raise my arms to keep my wrists from bending improperly. The adjustable swivel worked. You can operate a mouse or mouse-pen sometimes by not moving your wrist but your shoulder. However you draw, it's MUCH more comfortable for an 8 or 10 hour day. (...and THANKS for your tips.)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Yes you are so right! Making sure your body is comfortable and getting damaged is vital. I wore a wrist brace for a few years until I started making sure my forearm was elevated. That way my wrist didn't bend as you said. Being efficient in AutoCAD means making sure you can do the physical work efficiently. Great tip. I need to finish this series! Maybe even put them all together in an e-book. What do you think? Would that be a valuable asset?

    ReplyDelete
  14. One tip I use, drives you mad at first but soon becomes second nature, is to have the "Snap to" setting on the mouse enabled. Saves a lot of "mousing" as jumps to the default button of any new dialog

    http://rcd.typepad.com/rcd/2007/01/avoid_mouse_han.html

    ReplyDelete

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