Friday, September 19, 2008

Ten Ways to be More Efficient at AutoCAD-Part 2

Previously I began posting on a series called "Ten Ways to be More Efficient at AutoCAD." Part one introduced our discussion of increased efficiency.

My efficiency philosophy is to do less work. It's not because I am lazy, instead I base this theory on my experience using AutoCAD, and other design/drafting software. The theory is that the less I have to do, the quicker and more accurate I am. It is easier and quicker to draw one line than it is to draw two or three lines. Also, drawing one line means that I have one chance to be wrong, where as if I draw two lines I now have 2 chances to be wrong. Therefore, working less means it takes less time and there is less opportunity to make a mistake.

Part One discussed using Keyboard input rather than toolbars or menus. The idea was to use both hands, not just one. Two hands (one on the keyboard, one on the mouse) can do twice the work in less time. Use the mouse to position the cursor while the other hand inputs the commands and data.

In Part Two we will discus using Templates. I am sure most user take advantage of templates, even if they are not aware of it. AutoCAD comes standard with many different types of template files and most companies have established their own set of templates. Fantastic. Why are templates so important? Templates are the starting point of every model file or sheet file. Without a template, users would be forced to recreate each file every time they started one. Why would you do this? Even when we were still drafting on the board we used standard sheets pre-made with borders and title block lines. We even used sticky back sheets to apply standard notes and details. Yes, old timers used "blocks" even before CAD was invented.

There are many benefits to using templates. The main benefit is that users start off doing less. The drawing environment is already set. In theory, the user should open the proper template and begin drafting or modeling. If the user is required to change settings and variables, load layers, line types, text styles, or dimension styles, the template is not doing its job. Remember, the key to efficiency is to do as little as possible. Therefore, if users find they need to set up a file before they can use it then analyze those settings and find a way to incorporate them into the template. Perhaps a new template should be created.

What should be contained in a template? Here is a short list: layers, dimension styles, plot styles, text styles, multi-leader styles, table styles, and any type of style used. Are you getting the idea? Templates should contain the basic building blocks in drawing creation. Before Paper Space, users would often set up templates to common drawing scales. That was a headache to maintain. When ever a standard layer, dim style, or block changed, it had to be updated in each template. I recommend that users make as few templates as possible in order to be more efficient and more accurate, applying the same theory, less work requires less time spent.

What about blocks? Should blocks be in a template? Perhaps there are a few that meet a specific function that could go into a template. I am of the opinion that, generally speaking, blocks do not belong in a template. the belong in a block library and accessed through Tool Pallets. That way, according to our efficiency theory, they are kept in one place and only have to be updated once. Less work, less time, more accuracy. If users have a block that never changes and is used in every drawing, then that might be an exception to the rule. However, keeping to a standard is very important in maintaining best efficiency practices.

In conclusion, use templates. Set the variables the way you or your users need it to be in order to produce the construction drawings as required. Keep them up to date, according with company standards, and make as few as possible.

Happy CADDING.

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