Monday, June 30, 2008

Groups - You Gotta Keep 'em Seperated

Do you ever need to move or edit objects together but still have the need to edit those same objects individually? AutoCAD can do that with GROUPS.

Groups are different from blocks. With blocks, you can manipulate the block as a whole, and that’s it. If you need to edit a part of the block, you have go into the block editor (more or less) and make your changes. This will change every instance of the block in your file.

With Groups, you can edit the object but it won’t change other instances of that group. And you can’t share groups from file to file.

One example of where you might want to use the group command is in details. If you have a sheet file that has several details on it, you might need to be able to edit each detail, but you also want to move them around, scale them, etc. Drawing notes and labels can also be used in groups. Perhaps you have a title that is a different font or height. You can change this in the MTEXT editor, but you want to keep the integrity of the text properties in tact. So you create on instance of MTEXT for the note title (bold and underlined) while you create a second Mtext instance underneath it that has standard text properties in it. You want them to stay together but you need to edit them individually. Groups work well here.

Making groups is rather easy. Start the group command (type in GROUP).

Fill out the GROUP NAME field (to name your group) and enter a description. If you don’t enter a description you can always fill this out later. Then hit the NEW button. Select the items you want to group and hit enter. You’re done. You now have a group.

So, what can you do with a group? I can GRIP edit the items individually, or I can move/copy/scale the group as a whole. Double clicking the text in a group won’t invoke the text editor. You have to start the text editor command then select your text to change it.

Now what else can I do with a group? Open the GROUP Manager (type in GROUP). You will get a list of every group in the file. Pick one, and then hit the HIGHLIGHT button. That group will be highlighted in your file making it easier to find. A ZOOM TO feature would be nice. You can remove the selectable feature from a group, if you want to (do this to be able to delete a specific item). That will remove your ability to copy/rotate/scale/move the group as a whole. You can put it back later if you want to.

With the Group Manager, you can add or remove items from a group. Click the proper button and then select the items to add/remove to/from the group. You can reorder the order in which the groups appear in the manager, you can explode a group, rename it or edit the description.

Try out the group command. It’s a way of managing the objects in your files that is a little less permanent and easier to edit than a block.

This tip idea came from a CAD-a-Blog reader, Sony Khatri. If any one else has a tip idea please let me know. I will be happy to take a look at it. I will always give credit and a link to your website if you want me too.


AUGI Salary Survey

Today is the last day or us to participate in the AUGI Salary Survey. My Friend Melanie Perry (visit her blog Mistress of Dorkness) runs this survey and she does an excellent job on it.

Here is the link to it: AUGI Salary Survey

This survey has thousands of participants and is used by even more to help better their pay and to make sure employees are compensated accurately. It only takes a few minutes, so please, go and fill it out.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

CAD-a-Blog: It's what's inside that counts

In case you are new to CAD-a-Blog, here are some links to some posts from the past.

AutoCAD 2009 - This is a list of all posts on CAD-a-Blog that have anything to do with AutoCAD 2009. Check them out.

How to stay up to date with AutoCAD – This article was guest written by Ellen Finkelstein. It provides methods and resources that will help you keep your AutoCAD skills current, a very difficult job.

Impression – This link will take you to all of the posts about Autodesk’s Impression software. I write about impression for AUGI World Magazine.

Quick Tips – Need a little CAD pick-me-up? These tips are short and to the point. You might know about most of them, but sometimes, just a little bit of information can go a long way.

CADsmart Review – This is the first of three articles written on CAD-a-Blog reviewing an AutoCAD assessment Program and service provided by CADsmart. I have used the software and feel it is great. Check out the second and the third reviews articles too. You need them all to get a more complete picture.

Store – Are you a CAD Nerd, or a CAD Geek? Do you need t-shirts proclaiming your geekdom? Well, visit this link and get yourself some CAD GEEK GEAR! You can customize the shirts and color changing coffee mugs if you don’t like what I came up with.

If you like what you see then feel free to sign up for either the e-mail alert or the RSS feed to CAD-a-Blog. These alerts will let you know when a new post has been, well, posted!

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Friday, June 20, 2008

What's in a Name?

Well, I've wanted CAD-a-Blog to have its own domain name for some time. Its easy enough to do. I was all set to sign up, but guess what, is taken!!! It's a Japanese website, and its in Japanese so I can't read it.

I sat down, and came up with some other ideas and thought I'd bring it to you, the readers. So, I put a poll on the side. Pick the one you like and after about a week or so I'll let you know which one was picked. It doesn't mean tat is going to be the new name, but I wanted some input.

If you have an idea for a new name that isn't on the list post it here in a comment, or e-mail me.

Tanks for the help.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Blogging from my mobile phone

Well, in my quest for supreme dorkness, coupled with my newly gained powers of adding a data plan to my cell phone, I can now post to CAD-a-Blog from my cell phone!

Who needs a computer anymore? Since this is my first post via cellular telephone, I don't want to over do it because I don't know how it will turn out!!

Does it make me a better blogger if I can blog from anywhere I can get service?

Autodesk gives away FREE Video Camera!

Well I got mine. How about you? What’s the catch? Well, you have to use it. What? Sure, it’s that simple. The first place I heard about this promotion from Autodesk was on Heidi Hewett’s blog.

Here’s the idea of the giveaway. Autodesk sends you a free Flip Camera and you create a video on what you do with AutoCAD. The specifically ask for AutoCAD, not the verticals (Civil3D, Inventor, etc.) When you get the camera, make the video, but keep it short, five minutes or so. And the file can’t be any larger than 100 meg!! They suggest you break it up into several shorter videos if you need to. Then the camera is yours!!

If they choose your video, it will get displayed on the website and at Autodesk functions, etc. It’s a way for Autodesk to show its users, using their software.

I got my camera yesterday and have already started messing with it. It is extremely easy to use. It’s not advanced or high end, but it’s a very light and simple device. It even has a USB plug on it so you can quickly download the files to a computer.

Autodesk is giving out 100 cameras (I know of a few other people that already got theirs, so there are at most 98 left) so hurry up or they will all be gone.

Send your request to:

Give a high level overview of yourself and describe what you want to show in your video. Most requests should be returned in a few days.

If any of you get the video camera let me know. Maybe we can have a cross promotion on CAD-a-Blog. If you don’t get a camera from Autodesk, send me your videos too. When I get enough I can make some posts and links to them for all of us to enjoy.


Good luck, and Happy CADDING!

2 Articles in AUGI Hotnews

Hello everyone. I just wanted you to know that AUGI was kind enough to print two articles of mine in Hotnews this month!! That's a record for me, two at one time!
They are about AutoCAD 2009 Action Recorder and Impression's similarities with AutoCAD.

Here are the links:

Action Recorder

Impression: A Familiar Face

I hope you find them useful.

Monday, June 9, 2008

How to stay up to date with AutoCAD

I have a treat for you today. Today's post is guest written by Ellen Finkelstein. She is the author of several AutoCAD books, including the AutoCAD 2008 Bible. Her latest, the AutoCAD 2009 Bible will be available soon. She has also written several books on PowerPoint and other topics. Here are some links to Ellen's website and blogs.
AutoCAD Tips Blog
PowerPoint Tips Blog

Thanks Ellen for sharing with us.

How to stay up to date with AutoCAD

AutoCAD is a complex program and it's crucial for your work. Obviously, the better you know how to use the program, the quicker and more accurate your drawings will be. This is where the importance of education comes in.

Education has two parts:

  • Learning more about the base AutoCAD features that you use, or could use.
  • Keeping up with new releases as they come out

Some organizations upgrade only every few years. I sometimes get e-mails from people who are upgrading from R14 to R2008! But many upgrade every two or three years, which means that education is a regular feature of the job.

Autodesk has a subscription program in which you pay an annual fee and automatically get every new release. Additional benefits are "extensions" (new features released between major releases), e-learning tools, and Web-based support. While companies on the subscription program get each release as it comes out, they don't necessarily install and use it. But they generally upgrade more often than companies not on the subscription program. Even with the e-learning tools, retraining becomes a feature of life.

How can you learn as much as possible about AutoCAD and also keep up with new releases?

Basic learning resources

When you first learn AutoCAD, it may be from your dealer, from a book, or from on-the-job training. But it's never enough. Why?

  1. You forget a lot of what you learned, because you don't use it every day.
  2. New tasks arise and you need to discover the best method of completing them.
  3. There's always pressure to be more competitive, which completing tasks more quickly. Therefore, you need to regularly incorporate new customization and automizing techniques.
  4. Problems arise, whether due to the melding of drawings from many sources, network issues, having to incorporate multiple software applications, etc.

Here are some resources when you need to learn a new feature, answer a thorny question, or just find a better way:

  1. Your peers: If others in your organization use AutoCAD, ask them first. They may have figured out what you need to know.
  2. Books: Always have a good reference book on hand. The answer may be as simple as looking in the index or table of contents. (Shameless plug: Look on the right for links to my books.)
  3. Discussion groups: The Autodesk AutoCAD discussion group is very active and will often give you an answer within an hour or two.
  4. User groups: There are many AutoCAD user groups around the country and the world. Go to AUGI (Autodesk User Groups International) to search for the one nearest you. Their site is also a great source of support.
  5. Courses: Many colleges, especially community colleges, offer courses in AutoCAD. The schedules are often geared around working people, so you can take them in the evenings or on weekends. Bonus: The teacher and other students can become a permanent networking resource. You can also purchase video courses.
  6. Events: Autodesk University (annually) and CAD camps (several times a year) are great learning opportunities that offer classes specialized by discipline.
  7. Newsletters: Several newsletters, including mine (AutoCAD Tips Newsletter), offer regular tips, techniques, and articles. Subscribe!
  8. Web sites: There are loads of Web sites, too many to mention. Just start searching and you'll find many. They have free code to download, free tips, and lots more.

Updating your skills

There are several things you can do to specifically help you with new releases. Most of these are time-dependent, matching the cycle of the new software:

  1. Beta programs: You can apply to participate in the AutoCAD beta program, which evaluates the software before it's finalized. You need to have some time to commit to this, as you're usefulness is related to the amount of testing you do and comments you submit. You'll learn the new features before they go to market, giving you a jump on the training process.
  2. Upgrade training: Most dealers offer upgrade training for each release. Ask your dealer about it.
  3. New feature articles: Just after a new release comes out, many sites and newsletters publish a description of the new features. For example, you can find my list of 2009 new features here.
  4. If you're a subscription member, you'll have access to e-learning content for the new release.

Succeeding in the AutoCAD world means being a perpetual learner. Hopefully, this list will help you find the best learning tools.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Displaying Reoccurring Data in a Drawing Set

I started this off as a CAD-a-Blog QUICK TIP, but it got too long, but, do you ever need to show the same information, a name, number, amount, etc. on many of your drawings in a set ? Is that information subject to change through the drawing process? One way to deal with this is to use fields and sheet sets.

To set it up with sheet sets, open your sheet set manager. Load the sheet set you need. Right click on the sheet set name. Then open the properties window. At the bottom of this window is a button, EDIT CUSTOM PROPERTIES. Click it to open the Custom Properties window.

Here you can add any bit of information to your sheet set. Click the ADD button and fill it out. Give it a NAME and a default value. Click ok and close all of the windows.

Now go to your drawing file. Edit the text you want the info to show up in. This can be Mtext, Dtext, Leader Text, Multileader text, or in a dimension. Wherever there is text you can add a field, which is what we are going to do.

In your text editor, press CTRL+F, or right click and then click ADD FIELD. This opens the FIELD manager window thingy (I don’t know what it’s actual name is, sorry.) In the FIELD Category pull down menu, select SHEET SET. This will bring up all of your field options in that sheet set.

Go to the sheet set (in the Field Names menu), in the sheet set navigation (yes it’s complicated, but you’ll get it quick enough) browse to your sheet set (it should open up to the proper one automatically). Then select your field property in the PROPERTY menu at the bottom right corner, then click ok, ok, ok, etc.

When done, you will see the information displayed in your text. Do that on every sheet wherever you need it and when the info changes, just go to the sheet set manger, load your sheet set, open the custom properties again and edit that value. Bingo!! All instances where your field “links” to that value will be updated.

This is a real quick "how to set it up" kind of a tip. I plan on getting into it more deeply in later posts.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Review-CADsmart-Good for Managers?

I want to talk to you again about CADsmart. I have posted about it a couple of times now (here and here) giving you some information about the software. We first spoke about what it does, generally speaking. Then we took a look at the assessments and how they work. Now I want to look at CADsmart from the manager’s aspect. What can we do with the information we just collected?

CADsmart really excels in the larger firms and for assessing interviewees. It doesn’t perform as well with small firms that have four or five CAD techs. If you are managing only five CAD users, then you already know where they struggle and where they excel. But if you have twenty, fifty, a hundred, or more, then you don’t have the time to know them as well. That’s where CADsmart can help. I also like it when assessing interviewees. It provides a fair environment for the tester, which gives you a more accurate assessment. Many firms have customized their CAD environment and that can intimidate and overwhelm a candidate if they are trying to get a job by taking a test in a place they are unfamiliar with. Sometimes upper management doesn’t understand these types of situations. CADsmart is a fairer assessment process.

Now that we have assessment data on our CAD users, how do we get to it and what do we do with it? Access is easy enough. Go to CADsmart’s website and log in. You will need an account to be able to do this. We will talk about getting an account later on. When you log on there are several options available to you. You can go directly to the performance charts, or go to the assessment results.

The performance charts provide a quick visual guide to the information collected. You can see your scores sorted by group (employee, interviewee, etc.) The charts provide you with a performance spread in one graph and a stage performance in a second graph. This gives you an overall look and a more detailed comparison. There are different color codes to help you differentiate between the groups and the benchmark. Hopefully the benchmark is the lowest set of scores you have! Everything here is online, but you can get the data and print it, transfer it to a PDF, or export it to a spreadsheet. There are many ways to see the data and to get it to use for yourself.

The assessment results tab is where you can go to get more detailed information about the individual test results. You can sort the data by any column and in any order. You can sort it and then resort it by clicking on the headers. You can add and sort your users results by groups. The default groups are Employees and Interviewees. In my test I added groups for our departments; engineering and surveying. This is a nice feature if you need to manage the results from different offices or departments.

The assessment results tab lists each user by name. If you click on the users surname it will open up a window that provides the basic testing data (time, date, CAD platform) and recommendations for training based on the assessment results. If you click on the result score, another window opens up providing a more detailed analysis of each stage. It provides the end score, the time taken, and an analysis. The analysis lets you know what the candidate did incorrectly! This is a great feature because it can better explain to you why they scored the way they did. How useful is an assessment that just says, “You scored an 85%.”? Not very. At the end of the assessment results it compares the score and time with the benchmark letting you know how your skills compare. When you are finished, you can click the print button to print out the certificate (that’s what they call the data sheet.) I was disappointed that CADsmart didn’t provide other output devices as in the Performance Chart Tab like the PDF and Spreadsheet options. That’s how you look at and use the assessment data. It’s very simple to use.

There are other tabs too that you would expect; account details (name, address, password, etc.), resources (this is where you download the assessment software and instruction guides), software settings (turn off testing options like the clock, intro movie, welcome message, and extra candidate labels), booking system (where you can schedule assessment times), support (where to go if you need help), and logout (that one’s obvious!)

You can see that with CADsmart, managers have many tools available to them to better assess the CAD skills of their users. There are many resources to go to for help (like the managers’ video) and more instruction. CADsmart also has some customization features that might help you out too. Overall I feel that CADsmart is a good program and a great service. It is easily used and implemented.

The biggest question is; how much does it cost? CADsmart has two methods, the Premier and the Classic. The premier provides unlimited use and with all the assessment data, recommendations, the whole thing. The Classic level of subscription only provides unlimited use of the Assessment Software and access to your data. This might be enough for some managers. It will depend on you, your needs and your budget.

The pricing varies from the classic to the premier and by the number of users. It seems to me that they are looking for a general usage amount. The website states that you can assess your users as many times as you want including as many interviewees as you have.

The price difference on 1 to 15 users from the classic to the premier was only about $300 (U.S.), ranging from about $1500 to about $1800 per annum. The price on 100 users ranged from about $6300 to about $7500 per annum. You will need to check for yourself as prices may change. They also provide pricing for other countries. The more users you add the higher the price.

Depending on the amount of employees you have, the price will obviously vary. If you have about 100 users, then the cost will be about the same as one license of your CAD software! I think that is a good price and well worth the money spent. I feel that CADsmart is a good investment in your company.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Multileaders with Blocks

CAD-a-Blog posted earlier about Multileaders and Multileader Styles. Now lets take a look at Multileaders with Blocks for annotation.

When you set up a multileader style, you have three options for the annotation: Mtext, Block, or None. You can set this in the Multileader Style Manager under the CONTENT tab. It’s the first option in the tab. Just click the arrow and the available options will be displayed. Select the one you want. Today we want to look at the BLOCK setting.

This setting will create the callout as a block. You can pick from several standard blocks that come with AutoCAD, or you can use your own. Do what you need. If the standard blocks fit your needs, then why make one? If they don’t then make it the way you like it.

Having the annotation as a block works great for assemblies, subassemblies, charts, or any other drawing that you need to display similar objects in. The other great thing about making the annotations (or callouts) blocks is that it makes it so much easier to be able to extract that data from your drawing.

Imagine that I (or you) am working on a landscape drawing. It shows the types and amounts of different shrubs and trees that we need for the project. I can count each symbol, or I can use data extraction (see previous post) to read the multileader block information and count it for me, and place it in a table for my drawing or report.

The other benefit is visual. I can use different blocks to represent different types of objects. For example, in my landscape drawing we mentioned earlier, I can use hexagon shaped blocks for shrubs, round blocks for trees, and square blocks, for flowers. This will make the drawing much easier to read for other people.

If you want to get real fancy, create blocks with fields and extract that data, or tie it to other objects in your drawing.

Give multileaders with blocks a try. I think you will find them useful.

Happy CADDing.


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