Friday, May 30, 2008

From Drawing to Display: The Value of Autodesk Impression

Here is a link to my latest article in AUGI World Magazine.

From Drawing to Display: The Value of Autodesk Impression

This article discuses some of the principles and basic methods of Impression. It mentions the similarity in interface with that of AutoCAD. The biggest selling point to Impression is that it is now FREE to subscription members.

Check it out.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Quick Tip – Blending Styles in Impression

If you are working in Impression and are trying to get a blended shade, but you can’t quite get it to work with a gradient fill, try placing multiple fills.

Create a fill with one style and place it in your object. Create a different style and place a second fill on your object. Mess with that fills opacity until you get a pretty neat effect. You can blend different colors together too, and remember to try gradient fills with this trick.

Quick Tip – Remove Columns in Layer Manager

Does your Layer Manager take up too much screen space? Maybe there are too many columns in the manager for your liking. Here’s a quick tip that reduce the amount of space it takes up.

Open the layer manager. Go to the top of the manager, where it lists the column headers (On, Lock, Freeze, etc). Right click anywhere there. A list of the available columns will open up. Click off the ones you don’t want to see. If you turn one off, just click it back on in that list. The data is still there, you just don’t have the columns taking up the space.

What’s Wrong With AutoCAD 2009?

Autodesk has released a new file that lists several known (and admitted) issues with the software. It also has some workarounds in it. Here are some of the topics in the list:
  • Installation Configuration
  • Network Licensing
  • Graphics Card Info
  • CUI
  • Vista Specific Issues
  • 64-bit Specific Issues
  • 3D Modeling and Animation
  • Miscellaneous Items
If you are having an issue within one of these categories, check it out. Maybe you can find your solution.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Review - CADsmart 2 of 3

A few days ago I gave you a brief overview of a software program I found called CADsmart. It is a program that you can download and run within AutoCAD (or Microstation) in order to assess your users’ general CAD skills. It doesn’t test programming skills, nor is it release specific, it only looks at general CAD drafting skills. Knowing what areas your users excel in along with the areas they don’t is very useful. It allows you to train them properly and where they need it.

Last time I gave an overview of what CADsmart can do, generally speaking. Now I want to get more specific.

Before you get started using it and before your users test with it, I recommend that everyone involved watches their online videos which let everyone know what to expect and how it works. This is a nice touch. It helps to relieve some of the stress that people have when they are being assessed, especially if they are taking it as part of a job interview or as a personnel review as an employee. People get nervous and they might not perform as well as they normally do when under pressure, so this feature helps.

Another feature that helps the scores be more accurate is that CADsmart runs within AutoCAD (or Microstation). It would be nice if you didn’t have to have AutoCAD to take the review, but this method does have a nice bonus to it. Since the user (if he/she is a current employee) is taking the assessment in a CAD setting that they are familiar with, they will perform better. They perform better because they are being tested in the same environment that they work in everyday. CADsmart also gives the user the ability to arrange the toolbars, pallets, icons, etc. to their liking before the exercise begins. This also helps interviewees test better in a new and different setting. Everyone involved gets better and more accurate scores.

Ten exercises are taken, each one covering different aspects. These ten topics are: Lines, Sheet Set Up/Xrefs, Circles & Arcs, Text, Blocks/Cells, Dimensions, Layers/Levels, Preferences, UCS/ACS. As you can see, these topics cover the general skills needed to be able to work with CAD software. It also breaks them up enough so that we can see what areas we do well in and in what areas need more training.

In order to take the assessment, the CADsmart software must be downloaded and installed on the testing machine. Once it is installed, log on and begin. If the candidate hasn’t watched the introduction movie yet, they will get the option during the set up phase. Some information about the user will have to be filled out in a form. This helps CADsmart identify who you are. They provide a guarantee that says they won’t give out that information to any third party; only CADsmart, you and your company will have access to that data. Once the form is filled out they can begin the assessment.

Each exercise will provide instructions and a preview of what is to be done. It is up to the candidate to figure out what to do and then do it. Be careful when reading the instructions, just as the video says, because if you don’t follow the instructions and do as you are told, your score will be lower than it could be! Once done, the candidate will receive an e-mail where they can go and find out their score. They will also receive an assessment comparing their score to the benchmark as well as recommendations on what areas to improve. This is one of the reasons they had to fill out all of that personal information, so that CADsmart would know who they are.

CADsmart is a simple to use program that provides valuable CAD skill assessment data and comparison. It is easy for users to test with and easy to set up. It is run in a CAD environment that is familiar to the candidate thus giving more accurate scores and skill assessments.

I’m going to stop again so that our minds won’t melt. In the near future I plan on taking a closer look as to what CADsmart offers the manager. We will look at the tools it provides in skill assessment, charts, data management, the benchmark, how to access the data, etc. We’ll also take a look at what managers can do with the information they just collected.

Happy CADDING

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Workaround - AutoCAD 2009 - Find/Replace - no Zoom!

In a previous post, AutoCAD 2009 - Find and Replace, I spoke about the changes in AutoCAD 2009's Find and replace command. It now automatically zooms to the text you find, but when you quit the command you are returned to where you were when you started the command. That means you can no longer use the find command to find text!

One of CAD-a-Blog's great and highly intelligent readers came up with a work around. Use the find command and zoom to the text. Close the command. then execute a Zoom PREVIOUS!!! Fantastic! It works, I tried it. It also works in 2008.

Just start the find command, find your text, zoom to it (it does this automatically now). Then close the command. Then start the zoom command, then type in P for previous and there you go, at your text!

Great tip, great workaround! Keep them coming.

Happy CADing!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Quick Tip – Slow Printing

If you are using AutoCAD 2008 or even AutoCAD 2009, you might have noticed the printing seems to move a little bit slower. Here is a quick tip on speeding up your printing.

AutoCAD 2008 introduced to us BACKGROUND PROCESSING for plotting. The theory behind it is that it will free up your computer while printing so that you can continue to work. It sounds good. I like it when I am publishing something or batch plotting through the sheet set manager.

BUT (there’s always a but in there somewhere), when I need to print single sheets, I don’t like it so much. What often happens to me is that I have two to three drawing files open and I want to print them. They might be from different drawing sets or whatever. The point is that I can only print them from the DWG files, one at a time. The background processing printing won’t let me print the second file until the first one is finished. So what’s the big deal?

The problem is that when you print behind the scenes, it takes longer. It takes longer because the computer is processing the printing, and processing your work. So I tried it. I switched it off and WOW!! The old printing speed returned. I have kept it off and my printing is much faster.

I usually don’t encourage people to turn off new features, because I want all of us to give them a chance. But this one works better for me when it is off. Perhaps the speed is not an issue (and even for me it isn’t always an issue) for you, and that’s ok too.

To turn it off, open up the OPTIONS (type in OP at the command line). Go to the PLOT AND PUBLISH tab. Near the left center area there is the option to toggle on/off Background Plotting. You have the ability to turn off Plotting and/or Publishing. I left the publishing on but turned the plotting off. Set it to fit your needs.

Happy CADDING.

Review - CADsmart

CAD-a-Blog is about teaching CAD skills, especially AutoCAD skills. With that in mind, I try to keep my eyes open for products or services that can help users (and me too!) better themselves. I feel that I have found such a product.

Consider this scenario; imagine that you need to hire a new CAD user for your company. How do you know if that user can in fact use CAD? How do you know the extent of his or her skills?

Also consider this; how can you measure the CAD skills of your current users?

Well I have come across a product that comes from the United Kingdom. It is from CADsmart.
CADsmart is a company that provides testing software that measures general AutoCAD (and Microstation) skills in users. It has the ability to measure CAD drafting skills, not programming, not customizations, but CAD skills. In a nutshell, the user takes a series of drafting based assessments, each one covering a specific topic. The results are compared to a benchmark that has been developed by CADsmart from thousands of users that have taken the same or similar assessments. The user is scored individually and in comparison to other users. For example, one segments score could state that you scored an 80%. That means that you were 80% correct. Now compare that score to the benchmark and you will have a means to measure your abilities relative to the thousands of users that have already taken the assessment. This software gives you a score for the user and tells you if it is a good score or not.

CADsmart’s benchmark is meant to represent the average user. If you score above that, then you should be a good CAD user. If you score below the benchmark, then there might be some areas for training. The assessments are scored separately on overall accuracy and time taken. These two measurements can be compared to the benchmark or to other employees in your company.

CADsmart’s assessments cover specific topics. Each one consists of a series of steps that the user must complete. It doesn’t matter how the user gets the work done, or how long it takes, only that the end results are what they need to be. This is one of the main reasons that I like this software because every user will work in a slightly different way and what matters is the final drawing, not so much as how it was drawn. I said that time doesn’t matter, well it doesn’t affect the accuracy score, but it is measured and compared to the benchmark. So keep it in mind that you need to be both accurate and quick, just like in real life!

Each category has its own benchmark that you can compare your score with. This is very useful because it provides a means of determining where your specific problems are. This feature is great for managers too because it enables them to find specific problem areas in their users so that they can concentrate their training programs exactly where they are needed. Time and resources are not wasted training the wrong people in the wrong skill sets.

CADsmart is not perfect. It is not cost productive for a single user to buy the software and use it on themselves, though this can be done. It works best in a group environment. You also have to have AutoCAD software on your machine in order to run it. One other thing that I understand, but didn’t like too much, is that while taking the test, I can’t pause it in case my attention is needed elsewhere (That happened to me while I was taking the test. I got a low score in the dimension portion because of it-maybe I’m just bitter!) Playing devil’s advocate, if I could pause the assessment, then I could stop it, figure out the task, then start again. That’s cheating, so I understand the reason behind it, but I want it anyway!!

That’s the gist of it. I don’t want to overload you with information, so I am going to write about CADsmart in smaller bite size parts like this. Check out their website, read about them, and let me know what you think. Later I’m going to get more into the workings of it, what it has to offer managers in terms of assessment tools, charts, and recommendations. CADsmart will test the user, show the assessment data, and provide recommendations on what areas to train the specific users in. It is a very helpful tool in my opinion.

Happy CADDING!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

100th Post

Yay CAD-a-Blog. we have hit a milestone here at CAD-a-Blog. This is our 100th post! Ok, it's not that big of a deal really, but hey, I'm having fun. I wanted to take this time to remind you, or if you are not aware, to inform you of some great ways to know when a new post is added to CAD-a-Blog.

There is the obvious way, just show up to the site. But lets face it, you'd rather that I came to you right? If you have e-mail then you can sign up for the free E-mail notification. When a new post is made you will get an e-mail letting you know. Click the link and you are there.

If you use an RSS reader, then again, when a new post is here, your reader will be notified. Click the link and you are here. I've posted about these things before.

Here are the links you need to use to sign up for either notification method. I will never pass out or sell your information, I promise. Right now there are over 100 people signed up for these notifications, and more are joining every week. So sign up, you know you want to.

Enter your email address:

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I also want to take the time to talk about some ideas that I have for CAD-a-Blog. If you have any ideas in mind, please let me know. Use the Skribit panel on the right to vote for the ideas you like. Or use it to post some of your own ideas. OR, e-mail me at benton.brian@gmail.com.

I am looking at setting up a discussion board. I haven't worked out all of the details yet, but I'm looking into it. I am also looking at setting up a Wiki. It would be similar to Wikipedia, but it would be CAD-a-Wiki. One other item that I want to add is video. I had a link to one of Lynn Allen's videos from her Cadalyst website. It seemed to work, what do you think?

I am also looking to expand the content topics to include GIS. I am getting more and more into that realm and feel it can have a place here at CAD-a-Blog. That one is a while away yet, but keep your eyes open.

I currently have links across the top of the site that take you to specific tag topics. They are:
  • Home
  • Articles
  • AutoCAD 2009
  • Impression
  • Store
I think that most of these topics are obvious as to what they cover. Home takes you back to the main CAD-a-Blog page. Articles takes you to posts that I have made about articles that I have written outside of CAD-a-Blog. The Store link is to the CAD-a-Blog store. There you can buy CAD related items, like t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc. I plan on adding more items soon. If you have a great idea for a CAD T-Shirt, or polo, or mug, let me know, I might be able to set it up in the store.

I am looking to add some topics, maybe remove the Articles link, add more content to those topics specifically. I have started some blogs with the title and tag QUICK TIPS. they are short tips about AutoCAD. They don't go deep in detail, but simply say, "Hey, here's a great command (or idea) that you might want to know about, try it out." Look for those in the near future. Once I get this video thing going I will probably make that one of the links too. Oh, and when AutoCAD 2010 comes out, there will definitely be a link for it! Other topic ideas I have are POD Casts (I might not do this if I can get the videos to work out right), WORKAROUNDS, BUGS, and News items. I have lots of ideas, just not enough time to do them. If I quit my day job . . . . (my wife would kill me!!)

One more item, I am planning on getting my own URL for CAD-a-Blog within the next few months. That will make CAD-a-Blog more searchable, more legitimate, etc. When that day comes I will let you know. It might not be until the end of the year, I don't know yet.

Well, that's that for my 100th post in CAD-a-Blog. I hope you all enjoy the site and that you can glean some type of valuable information from it, because that is it's purpose. Keep coming and I'll keep posting!!

Happy CADDING.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Multileader Styles

AutoCAD 2008 gave us Multileaders. I have previously posted on them here and spoke about their general use, multi leadered leaders. Now lets take a look and see how to set up a Multileader style.

Let’s start by creating a new Multileader Style. A Multileader style works just like any other style in AutoCAD. In fact, it has many of the same settings as the dimension styles do. Open up the Multileader style manager. Click the NEW button on the right. It starts you off by copying one of your current styles from the drawing file.

There is a default style called STANDARD. I recommend that you create your own default style that is called anything else except standard. This is true for all styles, if you can help it. The reason is that everyone using AutoCAD has a style called standard because it comes that way. If anyone copies your Multileader (or text, or dimension, or etc.) from your file and places it in theirs, it will take on the style attributes called standard that are in their file. Their STANDARD style might not be set the same way yours is! But if you give it a unique name, it is less likely to take on the wrong attributes.

I will call this one ml-001. No reason, only that it isn’t standard. When you give your new Multileader style a name, you have the option of making it annotative or not (meaning that it will be scaled by the annotative scaling feature.) Don’t worry, you can change this later if you wish.

The style Manager has three different tabs; Leader Format, Leader Structure, and Content.

Leader

This is where you set the type, color, linetype, arrowhead, and break size.Most of these items are pretty easy to understand, so I won’t go over every setting option. But here are what I feel are the most important:

  • Type:Straight, spline or none.The straight setting creates a “straight” lined leader.The spline creates a curved lined leader.
  • Color, Linetype, Linewight: use these to set the color, linetype, and lineweight for the leader.
  • Arrowhead Symbol/Size: This works just like the dimension style setting for arrowhead. Choose one or choose a to use a block you created. That is what your arrowhead will be and what size it will be.
  • Leader Break Size: Controls the settings used when adding a dimension break to a multileader.

Leader Structure

This tab is where you can set the constraints, structure and scale of the multileader:

  • Constraints-Maximum Leader Points: Specifies a maximum number of points for the leader line.
  • First Segment Angle: Specifies the angle of the first point in the leader line.
  • Second Segment Angle: Specifies the angle of the second point in the multileader landing line.
  • Landing Settings: Controls the landing settings of the multileader.
  • Automatically Include Landing: Attaches a horizontal landing line to the multileader content.
  • Set Landing Distance: Determines the fixed distance for the multileader landing line.
  • Scale: Controls the scaling of the multileader.
  • Annotative: Specifies that the multileader is annotative.

When the multileader is not annotative, the following options are available.

  • Scale Multileaders to Layout: Determines a scaling factor for the multileader based on the scaling in the model space and paper space viewports.
  • Specify Scale: Specifies the scale for the multileader.

Content

This tab contains the controls for the content of the multileader style.

  • Multileader type: You can choose from Mtext, Block, or None.

Here are the options associated with the Mtext type Multileader:

  • Default text: this text will be inserted in to the leader by default. You can always change it.
  • Text Angle: Always right reading, As Inserted, or Keep Horizontal.
  • Style, Color, Height: set the text style, color and height.
  • Always Left Justify: well, check this box and your multileader text will always be left justified.
  • Frame Text: Check this box and your text will have a frame around it.
  • Leader Conection – Left Attachement: if your text is on the left, then this setting tells AutoCAD where to place the landing, center, top, bottom, etc.
  • Leader Connection-Right Attachement: same as above, but when on the right.
  • Landing Gap: the gap between the landing and the text.

Here are the options if BLOCK is set for the multileader type:

  • Source Block: choose form several premade blocks, or create your own.
  • Attachment: sets how the block will be attached to the leader.
  • Color: set the color

Most of these settings are obvious and are easily figured out. Some might be a little tricky. Just set these the way you want them and save the style.

Happy CADDING.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Workaround – Drawing Arcs To Length

A CAD-a-Blog reader sent me this e-mail asking how to draw an arc to a particular length. Here is Saqib’s question:

If we have a curve or arc, we know its length and radius. If we want to divide or mark some points on given length so what is way of it. One way to do this use "DIVIDE" command then enter how many parts you need. But what I want is that we don’t need exact parts like 10,20,23,50 etc. How can I divide arc into desire length like 12.33,44.77,20.83 like so on.

These tow methods are how I do it. If anyone has a different method of doing this please e-mail me or comment to this post.

Method one:

Use the ARC, Center, Start, Length command. You can find it in the DRAW, ARC pulldown menu. Or start the ARC command, select the CENTER option (type in C at the prompt-then press enter), select the arc’s center point, then select your starting point, and finally type in the desired length. You have just drawn an arc of a known center point and radius to a specific length. Keep in mind that AutoCAD defaults the direction of an arc as going counter clockwise. That means that when you select your starting point that the arc will be drawn from that point and extend out in a clockwise manner. If I start at the top of the arc, then it will be drawn to the left of that point. If I start at the bottom of a circle, then my arc will start at the bottom and go to the right.

Method Two:

Use the lengthen command to change the length of an arc. Start the LENGTHEN command (type in LENGTHEN). Choose the TOTAL option (type in T). Now you have the choice to change the arc to a certain angle (or delta) or to a certain length. Type in the length desired and select the arc (you can select multiple arcs if you want to). Make sure that you know which end is your starting point. In this case, the starting point will be the first end point drawn.

I hope this helps. Happy CADDING.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Multi Leaders

In AutoCAD 2008, Autodesk gave us Multi Leaders. These are annotations that can have more than one leader coming from it. They can do more that that too. You can combine multileaders, you can align them, and you can use blocks in them as callouts.

You can start the command by typing in MLEADER. Or, in AutoCAD 2008 go to the Multileader toolbar, and click the mleader icon. OR, go to the DIMENSION pull down menu, and then click the Multileader button. In AutoCAD 2009 you can do the same as above, or in the Ribbon, go to the HOME tab, in the ANNOTATION Panel click the Mleader icon. OR in the ribbon, go to the ANNOTATION tab and then go to the Multileader Panel. Quick tip, don’t type in ML (I know, it seems logical) because that is the shortcut for Multi-Lines. Instead, type in MLD to create a new multileader. Here are some other out of the box keyboard shortcuts for multileaders:

MLA, *MLEADERALIGN

MLC, *MLEADERCOLLECT

MLD, *MLEADER

MLE, *MLEADEREDIT

MLS, *MLEADERSTYLE

Now that we know where to go to start the command, let’s start the command. You will quickly find the multileaders work and act in a very similar fashion to leaders. You pick the point where you want your arrow head to point to (get the point yet?) and then you pick the point where you want your landing (the landing is the horizontal tail that comes from the end of the leader and stops just short of the text.) Then enter your text. Easy enough.

Now, if you want to add a second leader to this callout, then click the ADD LEADER button. Then follow the prompts. Select the multileader you want to add to. A new leader is drawn and follows your crosshairs around until you designate where you want your new leader’s arrow head to point to. It will keep doing this until you hit the ENTER key. So you can add more than one leader to your multileader at a time. It can be fun. Go crazy, get a little wild, and add tons of leaders. Ok stop, that’s too many!!

How do you remove a leader? Good question. Go to your toolbar, pulldown, ribbon panel, whatever, and click the, any guesses, REMOVE Leader button. Select the multileader you want to edit, and then select the leader you want to remove. You can keep doing this until there are no leaders left to select. If you select them all, then the multileader will be deleted, oops!! When you select the ones you want to remove, they will be highlighted. Press enter to remove them. There you go.

Now that you have multileaders in your drawing, you need to edit them, move them, and adjust them. Go ahead. Use the grip edits to do this. You can move the arrow head around just like any other leader. Look at the image provided. I have selected the multileader. See the grips that are available? The grip at the top of the text will allow you to move just the text, while the arrow head stays in place, just like regular leaders that are associated. The grip at the end of the landing, just before the text, will stretch the landing and move the text, keeping the distance from the landing to the text the same. The grip where the leader and landing meet will stretch the leader and the landing while leaving the text and the arrow head in place. Cool huh? The grip in the middle of the landing will move it and the text around leaving the arrowhead in place.

To edit the text, just double-click it and it works just like mtext. If you change the text justification, the multileader landing will stay relative to the rest of the text. If you want to change the landing position to the text, select the multileader, open the properties palette, and change the left/right attachment setting. You can set it to line up at the top, middle, bottom, etc.

There is a lot more you can do with multileaders, but that will have to come in a different post. These abilities are what really set multileaders apart from leaders. You can align them, combine them, and use blocks, standard and custom, for your callouts. We will look at those later.

Happy CADDING.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Quick Tip – Clean Screen

The Clean Screen command in AutoCAD will provide a fuller view of your screen, making it easier to work with. It turns everything “off” on your screen except for the status bar, menu bar, and the command line. Invoking the Clean Screen command again restores your screen

Click the Clean Screen button in the lower right hand corner of the screen (it looks like a box) to toggle it on and off. OR, press “CTRL+O” (that’s the letter “O” not the number zero).

Happy CADDING

Friday, May 2, 2008

What do you want to see from CAD-a-Blog?

I found out about a widget (a widget is a gadget in a blog or on a website) called SKRIBIT. I'm all about bells and whistles and for trying out things, so i said WHY NOT? Anyway, Skribit is essentially a poll, but not just any poll. Most blog polls are created by the blogger (that's me) and the reader is limited to chose from the bloggers allotted choices. With Skribit, you get to say what you want, not me.

So, if there is a topic that you want to see in CAD-a-Blog, just click on the Skribit Widget on the right and add the idea. If you like the ideas that are already there, then vote for the ones you want. A vote is a yes vote. There is no "NO" vote. if you don't want it, don't vote for it. Got it?

To suggest a topic idea, click in the Skribit Widget on the "What Should CAD-a-Blog write About?" text. Then type in your idea. you only get 100 characters, so keep it short.

So, bring on your ideas. Skribit is my way of helping you to help me to help you ??!!??!? My head hurts now.

Happy CADDING.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Quick Tip - Layer Walk

What's on your layers? In AutoCAD, users can utilize the LAYER WALK command, or LAYWALK. Lynn Alan has posted a video on her CADalyst Website, Lynn Alen's Tips and Tricks Tuesdays, that talks about the laywalk command.

Laywalk used to be an Express Tool, meaning that you had to purchase the express tools add on to get it. It also meant that AutoCAD LT users couldn't get it. Now it is a standard AutoCAD command and is available to both "vanilla" AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT.

Type in LAYWALK in the command line to start it. A window comes up listing all of the layers in your file. Pick one and all items on that layer will be displayed. If a layer is blank, nothing will show up. If nothing shows up, there is a button to purge that layer.

Watch the video to get a visual on how it works.

Happy CADDING

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