Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Autodesk University 2008 Class Schedule - preliminary

By now I'm sure you have heard that I, Brian Benton, will be speaking at Autodesk University. I am very proud to be representing the company I work for, Heidt & Associates, Inc. and my very own blog, CAD-a-Blog!!! I will be teaching a class on Creating CAD Manuals.

Rest assured there will be other classes available besides mine. Autodesk has released a preliminary list and schedule of classes. There are over 600 to choose from!!! I don't even know where to begin. You can find the preliminary class schedule here. Keep in mind that this schedule will probably change. I think they released three different schedules last year until they were able to figure it out. There's a lot for them to do.

I am the (a) chosen One!!

No, I'm not Neo from the Matrix. Nor am I miraculously imbued with a higher midichlorian count than Master Yoda (though I am looking for a second opinion on that one). The gracious, or perhaps the delusional (at least slightly confused), people at Autodesk have chosen me to be a Speaker at Autodesk University 2008! YAY ME!! To bad for the class attendees!

Enough about me, lets talk about my class. The class name is "Creating and Maintaining a CAD Manual." Pretty deep huh? This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. Standards, CAD Standards; You know them, love them, hate them, and crave them all at the same time. We won't look at creating a standard, but instead we will look at taking the standards you already have and organize them. Perhaps a few standards will be needed here and there, but for the most part, some sort of standard or rule of thumb are already set in place.

My class will be help on Thursday (December 4th) at 8:15 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. I hope you are all morning people! Somebody please bring me a Starbucks! Venti!! Sign up for my class. If I don't have at least 20 people register Autodesk will cancel my class!! We don't want that. By we I mean me and my wife. For teaching a class, Autodesk lets me in for free!! Oh the power!! But if my class is canceled, well, there goes the perks and all of a sudden I have to pay to get in!! OUCH!! To me its only money, I can always make more.

Anyway, I am very excited to be going to AU and to be Speaking. If you aren't going then shame on you. If you are, then come to my class. We'll hang out, have fun, talk CAD, whatever. After class you can buy me lunch!! Just kidding.

Happy CADDING!!!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Updating Your Fields

I wrote an article for AUGI Hotnews last month about Fields. It goes over the basic uses and implementations of fields. Nothing ground breaking, or earth shattering, unless you don't use fields but have repeating data in a drawing set.

One of the articles readers, a licensed engineered, has an issue with fields. When the object data changes, the field doesn't automatically display the new data!!! What?? I thought that's what fields do. Well, it does, it just doesn't change the text until you do a refresh or a regen all type of thing.

I told him that when I update object data that has a field linked to it, I type in RA (keyboard shortcut for REGEN ALL) and BAM!!! it's updated. I've never seen it as a detriment, but, the reader makes a great point. The filed should automatically change right away.

This is how fields work: They reference data. They have a connection to the data source but it is not a constant connection. It has to be told to read the source data in order to display it properly. When you do a REGEN ALL, that tells the filed to look at the source data and display the value. It does. It is something that we have to deal with.

Now, here is my question, which is actually our readers question that I could not answer for him. Is there a setting or method that can be used to have the filed automatically update when source data is changed without doing a regen? I don't think so, but i am wrong all of the time.

So CAD-a-Blog readers, how do you do it? What do you propose? Is this setting out there? Let me know, either by e-mail or post a comment here.

Thanks for the help.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

AUGI Article - Those FLexible Fields

Please forgive me as I neglected to let you know about my latest article in AUGI Hotnews for July, 2008.

This article, TIPniques: Those Flexible Fields - July 2008, discuss the basics of fields and ways to use them. they can be used for sheet numbers, object data, file data, and more.

Check it out. What should I write about next for AUGI?

Poll Results-Autodesk release Cycle

CAD-a-Blog conducted a readers poll (completely unscientific of course) to see how often you think Autodesk should release a new version of AutoCAD. This seems to be a hot topic at the moment due to many users unhappiness with AutoCAD 2009.

Here is what you said:

Out of 45 readers participating (I know, not that many) nobody wanted a 6 month cycle. I don't even think this is possible unless there is only one item to the update.

2% of the voters would like to see an 8 month cycle!! That's fast, and again, I'm not sure that's possible either.

4% wanted a 12 month (or yearly) cycle, which Autodesk has done since the 2003 release of AutoCAD 2004. It would seem that most people are unhappy or not fully satisfied with this type of a cycle.

13% would like to see an 18 month cycle which would be every year and a half, or two releases in a three year period. They would like to see Autodesk take a little bit more time to work on the program.

49% of the voters would like to see a 24 month, or bi-annual release of AutoCAD, that's almost half.

31% of users participating said a 36 month or three release cycle is the way to go. Is that too long of a wait?

Well, this pole is clearly not scientific, or far reaching enough for us to make any conclusions about the users. However, it does seem to coincide with other polls and discussions on the internet. It seems that keeping up with AutoCAD every year is becoming a hassle for many of its users, managers, and companies.

How long before this rapid release cycle takes a big enough toll on companies where they stop upgrading every year? there are many problems with a yearly release cycle on the users end, cost is the biggest, or course. Everything comes down to the bottom line. Autodesk has to serve not only their clients, but their stockholders. In fact, the big guns in charge at Autodesk answer first to the stockholders. The stockholders answer to their desire for valuable stock. In order to affect change in the stockholders perspective, the stock has to change value. The more profitable it is the more they will stay the same, and more of it. The less valuable it is, the more likely they are to change policy.

My point here is that everyone involved is in this thing to make money. Autodesk wants to make money selling the software to users. Users want to make money selling drawings, models, etc. by using the software. Perhaps the best question to ask is what do the user's clients need? That will dictate what the users will purchase and how they will work and for how much. Which will in turn direct Autodesk on what and how to produce in their software.

Sometimes the software provider, in its interest, has to create a need, hence the verticals of AutoCAD. Many users didn't know that they needed new and improved software to do their jobs until it was available. It's like color TV. Nobody knew the needed it until it was available. they were happy with black and white TV.

That's my two cents, please don't ask for change!!


AutoCAD 2009 - Service Pack 1 (it's about time!)

Autodesk has released Service Pack 1 (or SP1) for AutoCAD, AutoCAD LT, and other products.

I know that many CAD-a-Blog readers have discussed issues with the FIND command and its lack of "zoom to" features. Essentially when you used the FIND command, and did a "zoom to", then closed the find command, your screen would return to a previous state, and not on the object you zoomed to. Well, this service pack fixes that, even though it isn't stated in the README file. So, rest assured that this feature now works properly!!

To get the file, go to this Autodesk Service and Support page. The download and instructions are there. Make sure you read the README file. It will tell you what has been updated, how to install it, how to uninstall it (you never know), and more.

Here is a partial list of topics that were updated in this patch:
  • 3D Visual Styles
  • Annotation Scaling
  • External References (xref) palette
  • Raster Images
  • Partial Open
  • Plot
  • Properties Palette
  • Hatch
  • Remote text (rtext)

General Updates

The following defects have also been fixed:


Annotation Scaling



Export a Layout to Model Space

When you export a layout to model space the following occurs:

External Reference ESW



Menu Browser

Multileader (mleader)

Multiline Text (mtext)


Partial Open


Property Palette


Quick Properties




Visual LISP


I hope this helps you out with your AutoCAD 2009 experience.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Signs you are using autocad too much

For those of us who spend far too much time on autocad:

Signs your using AutoCAD too much:

1. you find yourself pushing the space bar instead of the enter bar at the end of sending a message on gmail

2. you know exactly where the tr and ex buttons are

3. you know what OSNAP is


5. You know what each of the F button on top of the keyboard do without even thinking about it

6. You start using AutoCAD hot key commands in other programs 10 times then realize its not AutoCAD your working in.

7. You try to zoom in and out with you roller ball with every other program you use.

8. Instead of doing simple math of a right triangle, you use AutoCAD to do the work for you.

9) When you keep pressing the middle button hoping to drag the page around.

10) When you qsave your word document by accident.

11) When you have used the saveall then exit command to shut down autocad rather than file..save..

12) When you start to press ESC ESC in every other program to undo what you just done

If You Were an AutoCAD Command?

If you were an AutoCAD command, which one would you be? I saw this question on a Facebook Group the other day. Well, today I was thinking about it again. I still can't figure out which command I would be. I thought I would ask you guys.

If you were an AutoCAD command, which one would you be?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bye Bye Land Desktop - Hello Civil3D!!

How many of you work in a Civil (or AEC) related field? How many of you use Land Desktop? How many of you have moved to Civil3D? How many of you are trying to move to C3D but can't seem to get 'er done? Autodesk has officially announced the long expected demise of Land Desktop. What now?

Don't worry, your license of ALD (Autodesk Land Desktop) is still good and will work just fine. BUT (there's always a but), what if you come to a time when you have to update your software? You won't be able to. If you are on subscription with ALD, then maybe you need to review your contract. I'm not sure how Autodesk will handle that. Keep in mind that your subscription contract does indicate that there is no guarantee of a new release! If you just signed a three year subscription for Land Desktop, then, well, hmmmm.

What if you are in a situation where you don't use ALD but have set up an elaborate customization of routines, menus, tablets, blocks etc. to do your design and drafting work? This means that you need to start looking at Civil3D because your competition will be. Autodesk has reported several times that many Civil3D users see around a 33% (plus or minus of course) reduction in design drafting time. That means Civil3D companies can under bid you by 50%!! Can you compete with that? Where did I get 50%?

Lets say that it take $100 to do a job. If I use Civil3D, then I can do the job for 33% less. That means it will cost me $66 to do the job. $100 minus $66 is $34. $34 is about half (or 50%) of $66. If I do the job for $100 and my competition does it for $66, then I am making a bid on a job that is 50% higher than my competition !! I think that we would loose clients and eventually shut down. The other alternative is to reduce costs by 30%. How do you do that?

My point, even if you don't use Land Desktop, this will affect you.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Why the Ribon is Bad and Good

There has been a lot of discussion with regards to Autodesk's changes to AutoCAD's interface. There have been many complaints about the ribbon and that it is considered inefficient by many of its users. I feel that the claims of inefficiency are valid when compared to using toolbars and somewhat agree to its comparison to pulldown menus. The issue here is that it takes more clicks to get to the command needed. You can’t disagree with that because it’s true, just count the clicks and mouse movements to get to a command.

I am not saying the ribbon is garbage; I only want to point out the fact that if you are a user that works with toolbars and menus, then you will have efficiency issues.
I propose that toolbars and menus are still less efficient to use then keyboard input. Admittedly I am an old DOS based AutoCAD user and learned to use cad with keyboard entries, a tablet, and the menu screen. Perhaps that makes my opinion a biased one.

If a user can type with the left hand and work the mouse with the right then this, in my opinion, is the most efficient use of time. This work process means a user doesn’t have to move the mouse back and forth across the screen increasing the time it takes to work. It is much quicker to use the keyboard and mouse simultaneously. I call this method “Two-Handed CADing.” “One-Handed CADing” would have the user ignoring the keyboard as much as possible while moving the mouse over the entire screen. This method also takes up more screen real estate. Because more buttons (menus, toolbars, etc.) are needed. If the toolbars and menus change, then the user can not work as efficiently until the new interface is learned.

Two-Handed CADers use keyboard shortcuts. What if they change? Then they can easily open the old alias file, copy and paste the customizations into the new one. They do not have to learn anything unless it is for a new command. Much easier than relearning a program they already knew.

This is where I feel the Ribbon fist best, with Two-Handed practices. Even though TH (Two-Handed) users key in commands, several often use toolbars, palettes, or menus every once in a while. I know that I do. Sections of the Ribbon can be pulled out (like toolbars) and placed anywhere on the screen, while the rest of the Ribbon is collapsed, docked, hidden, or left alone. This has the potential of using even less screen real estate.

For these two reasons I like the Ribbon. It fits well with my Two-Handed style of CAD use.
Do you like it or hate it? Why?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Who is Responsible for Your Training?

CAD-a-Blog was recently blessed to have Ellen Finkelstein guest blog an article called HOW TO STAY UP TO DATE WITH AUTOCAD. This article gave tips and methods to users that wanted to make sure they have the latest and best AutoCAD skills available to them. Well, who's responsibility is it to make sure that CAD users can use the software their companies are providing?

I have heard many users proclaim that it is the companies responsibility to make sure they can use the software. I have also seen companies that refuse to train their employees, for what ever reason. I would like to venture my own opinion in this article. I feel that the skill sets of a CAD user are the responsibility of the CAD user. It is my job to make sure that I can do my job. It is my job to make sure my employer wants to keep me as an employee.

That being said, I also feel that an employer has a responsibility to make sure their employees are preforming efficiently with the tools provided.

An employer can hire only people that already have the skills needed. That's tough to do in today's 12 month release cycle of software. That means that whoever you hire is guaranteed to have an obsolete skill set in 12 months, maximum. Well, maybe it's not obsolete, but it is not complete either. And that is assuming the company upgrades, or updates their software. If a company never updates the software, then training becomes cheaper and easier. However, if their competition updates and trains (and the new release is better) then eventually not upgrading and not training will cost the company in clients.

Everyone wins when the CAD Users trains themselves. The User gets to remain employed (or skills for employment elsewhere), and the company gets more efficient workers at no cost. With that in mind, I feel that it would benefit each party if the employer expects the CAD User to self train, then the User's rate needs to be a little bit higher. In the long run, it might be cheaper for the employer to keep the rate down, and fork over the cash come training time.

Training is difficult to do from both users end and the employers end. On the job training is the best method, however that training is typically industry specific. General CAD training out side of the workplace has the potential to teach methods that are needed in a specific settings. Employers want to avoid this if possible. All they need is for the CAD user to be able to do the work they require as accurately and efficiently as possible.

As a CAD User, what is your job? What are you required to do? What are your responsibilities? That is what you need to know how to do. And I feel that is all the employer needs to teach you how to do. I read a CAD Management article one time (sorry I don't remember where it was, or who wrote it) that said something to the effect of: Which is worse, to train your employees and have them leave, or to NOT train your employees and have them stay?

Training employees to do a specific job is required. But what if the needs of a department or company change? This limits what can be accomplished. Cross training employees takes time and resources, but could have major benefits done the road. As a CAD User, I try to make sure that I can do as many jobs as possible. It has kept me employed at least two times that I am aware of. At my past to places of employment we went through a down turn and had to lay off employees. I was told, both times, that I was kept because I could preform more than one task. How did my cross training happen? I kept my eyes out for the chance to learn. I didn't expect nor demand that my boss train me to do somebody else job. I often reminded them that I am willing to do other things, but I never became a nag about it.

As a CAD Technician (my official title by the way), I am a professional AutoCAD User and expert. By expert I mean an individual that "supposedly" knows the major (and minor) ins and outs of the software and how to apply them to create the construction documents needed for my firm. A CAD User can open the software and use just enough of the tools to preform a specific task. I am expected (as a full time user) to be able to solve problems and determine proper methods using the CAD software to get any job accomplished.

How do I acquire these skills? Well, there are many ways. My skills have come from over 15 years of experience and from self training. I have received very little training from my employers. In fact, most of the training done where I have worked has come from me teaching others. I have been able to do this because of the mindset that I have chosen. That mindset being that I am responsible for me. Nobody else is responsible for me. Therefore I am the one that needs to make sure that I am able to work and preform as best as I can.

BUT (there is always a but) a wise employer will know and understand how much more valuable a well trained employee is and will make an effort to train. I am very happy to say that my current employer has taken some steps to train its employees, thought I feel those steps could be better taken, but at least they are doing some training.

To sum this up, I feel that it is the CAD Users responsibility to make sure they are trained. I also feel that it is the employers responsibility to make sure the employees are trained to better use the software in the company. Going above and beyond is the responsibility of the user.

What do you think? and why?

Autodesk Release Cycle Poll

How often do you think Autodesk should release a new version of AutoCAD?

Why do think the way you do?

Would you change your answer if you had more or less employees?

Are you a CAD user or a CAD Manager?

Does this affect your answer?

Are you on subscription?

Leave a comment to answer these questions or send me an e-mail.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Cadalyst Magazine Luanches CAD Tip Web site!

CAD-a-Blog Exclusive!

Cadalyst Magazine will be launching a new feature, CAD Tips. This is a collection of all of their CAD Tips they have received over the years! Right now it is still in Beta, but will be released around the 9th of July to the public. Upon it’s unveiling, there will be nearly 1800 tips available to browse and search through. These tips come from the Hot Tip Harry column. Cadalyst has plans to add their other tips on a later date.

This new feature will work similarly to a wiki, but not exactly. You will be able to add your own tips, comment and tag other tips, etc. Many of them have LISP or VBA files that you can download and use. The nice thing about this website is that all of the tips will be in one place making it easier to find them.

I am very familiar with the content of this project as I was fortunate enough to be able to work with Cadalyst on it. I helped with the initial tagging of the tips, and other CAD related concepts. I started to tag the newest tips and worked my way back in time. It was very interesting to see the needs and wants of CAD users and how they approached solving different issues. Many of the tips and routines preformed tasks that Autodesk later added to AutoCAD as a main feature. My favorite tip, and one of the oldest, that I came across was a tip on how to take care of Plotter Pins!!! Do any of you use a pin plotter today? Most of the older tips seemed to help in aligning text (remember when all we had was DTEXT?)

Because of my involvement, Cadalyst has given me the go ahead to let CAD-a-Blog readers in on this new secret a few days earlier than the rest of the world! The site is up and running. Just go to it, sign up (it’s free) and take a look. Rank some tips, tag some tips, submit your own, etc. Keep in mind that it is still in Beta Form and you might run into a few snags. If you do, feel free to e-mail those issues to: webmaster@cadalyst.com

Before I forget, here is the address for the new site: http://cadtips.cadalyst.com/

Enjoy this bit of news and enjoy it before the rest of the world does!

CAD Wars

Ok, I'm having a Geek moment here, but what do you expect from me? I am what I am. Here is a video that was created entirely in Autodesk Inventor 2009!

According to responses the creator left on the You Tube site, this is how long it took him to make this video:

40-50 hours
25 hours of rendering
2 gig bitmap data :)
resolution: 720 x 486

i did it in Inventor because i am trainer/supporter/evangelist for an Autodesk reseller who mainly sells... guess what?
Inventor :)

the explosion shows what i was able to do in that short of time i had... 1 week for modeling and animations, 2 days for rendering, 1 evening for editing and sounds&arrangement.. :))

I think this is wicked cool because Industrial Light and Magic, George Lucas' special effects company, work with Autodesk products like Maya and Studio max 3D. They also use their own software called Sabre. This isn't to far off from how Hollywood does things.

Great work. Can any of you make a video like this? Make one, or two, post it to You Tube and let me know. I'd be happy to link to it here.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

New Name/URL For CAD-a-Blog

I want to thank everyone for voting on the new name for CAD-a-Blog. The new name and URL (web address) has been chosen, and I feel that we have chosen wisely. My problem occurred when I went to purchase a URL for CAD-a-Blog. It so happened that cadablog.com was taken. It is some sort of Japanese website. I don't know exactly what it is about as I do not read Japanese.

I panicked!!!

So, I came up with the idea of renaming the site. My wife and I brainstormed a few ideas, and we couldn't decide. So I brought it to the readers of CAD-a-Blog. You all choose "WILL CAD FOR FOOD". I love it!!

During the voting process, a reader of CAD-a-Blog e-mailed me. Bobby Michaels asked why I just don't use:


I'll tell you why, because I didn't think about that!! What a moron I am!! Well, I did think about, for two seconds, and I didn't like having hyphens in the URL. After Bobby's e-mail, I gave it a thought and said why not? It's makes sense to keep the name the same. Do you know how much work I would have had to do to change the name??? What was I thinking??

So, I bought cad-a-blog.com and have set it up. So now, if you type in cad-a-blog.com you will get here!!! The old URL still works two, so use it if you want to. There is no need to change your bookmarks, links, etc, unless you want to. cad-a-blog.com will get you to the home page and you can surf around just the same as before.

This also means that I have a new e-mail address. it is: bbenton@cad-a-blog.com

Again, the old e-mail will still work, but please use the new one if you can. And yes, I have completed my journey to the GEEK side. I now have my own URL!! Who doesn't these days right?

I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate each and every vote. i might do something with the WILL CAD FOR FOOD slogan some day!!


AUGI Wishlist-Voting Now Open

Vote early, vote often. It's the current mantra of politicians and AUGI alike. Well, AUGI only lets you vote once, politicians, well, that's another story.

If you are a member of AUGI, go here and vote for your favorite wish list items.

AUGI Wish list

If you aren't a member of AUGI, go there anyway, sign up and vote. It's free and Autodesk listens to what AUGI has to say.

AUGI members can all submit their wishes in the wish list forum, but you have to participate. The list is already made for this round, but you can start submitting for the next time.

Oh, there are also other wish list's there too!!! Check them out.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Quick Tip - Fielding Your Object Data

If you make a bill of material, parts list, quantities, etc. to put on your drawing, try using fields and tables to help yourself out. For example, I often need to show acreages for a residential site plan and total them.

The old way: measure the areas, add them up, and enter the text. If they changed, I had to do the same process, again.

New Way: for those areas, use a closed polygon, boundary, region, or hatch. Where you text is for your list, use a FILED, link it to the objects and display that objects area. If the area of the object changes, your text will update. Put these in a table, have the table do the math for you and you are done.

It's a little more complicated than this to set it all up and there are some things to be careful with, but this is a quick tip. It's meant to get you started.

If you have any questions, just comment them here or e-mail.



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