Monday, September 29, 2008

How to be More Efficient at AutoCAD - Part 5

CAD-a-Blog has been running a series called "How to be More Efficient at AutoCAD." Part 5 is going to take a look at using Fields to increase Efficiency and decrease errors.

Part One talks about "double fisted" cadding. I call it Double Fisted because the theory takes advantage of both of the users hands to input commands and data. One hand works the keyboard while the other manipulates the mouse. This way time is saved by eliminating mouse movements across the screen to invoke commands.

Part Two discuses Template Use. Starting a file with a template provides a file that is already set up and ready to use. Users will not have to tale the time to get the file where it needs to be in order to draw. Another time saver.

Part Three looks at referencing files. Referencing files means that users can create a data source that can be used in multiple files. Change the model, or base file, and the sheet files are instantly updated. We also, briefly, discusses referencing OLE objects, sharing data between reports, letters, and drawings.

Part Four demonstrates how Sheet Sets can be used to manage your drawing sets, files, data management and batch plotting.

How to be More Efficient at AutoCAD
- Part 5 -

In part four we introduced Sheet Sets. Sheet Sets can be used to hold and maintain project data. BUT how do users get that data into their files and drawings? Fields.

Autodesk Fields are links to data sources that display that data inside text. If the data is changed, then the field will update inside the text. Fields are used most inside of Title Blocks. They can display Project Names, Drafter Names, Company names, Sheet Numbers, Titles, and so on. There are many preset field values available in Sheet Sets. Sometimes users need more, or more unique data fields than what are provided. Easy enough. If you want the data to be project related just add the property to the Custom Sheet Sets Properties and link your field to it. If you want the field to be in the DWG file, open the file properties and add the appropriate info.

Fields can also read object data and display it. Add the field, and select the object in the file. Any data that can be displayed in a field will be listed. Just pick it. When that specific data of that object changes, the field will be update. This procedure can be useful for bill of materials, or descriptions, etc. Here is an example: Users may need to display the area of an object. Insert a field, select the object and pick the area data. It's that easy. Now change that object and see the field update. No need to change the object, determine the new area, and edit the text. There are at least two chances to make a mistake. Using a field for the area, just change the object's area and you are done. Also note that the user saved two steps. If there are several sets of areas that need changed and displayed then the time saved will add up.

Fields are definitely a big part of the "Less is Less" practice of efficient CAD work.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Animation - Lens Resolution

The September issue of AUGI Hotnews featured an article in the Tip-Niques column about creating animations in AutoCAD. I think it's it a great article, but of course I am biased.

I have received some questions about something I left out of the article. Users are asking me how to adjust the camera view. When a real camera is used, users can zoom in for a close tight shot, or they can zoom out for a wide angle shot. AutoCAD can do that to.

Adjust the LENSLENGTH setting. The default setting is 50, but you can set it to what you need. The setting is measured in millimeters, just like a real camera lens. Using a larger number value for the lenslength setting will produce a tight, closeup view. A lower number will produce more of a zoomed out, panoramic view.

Which ever camera view you need, simply adjust the lenslength setting to accommodate.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

How to be More Efficent at AutoCAD - Part 4

CAD-a-Blog has been discussing ways to be more efficient at AutoCAD. This will be Part 4 in the series, Sheet Sets.

Part One talks about "double fisted" cadding. I call it Double Fisted because the theory takes advantage of both of the users hands to input commands and data. One hand works the keyboard while the other manipulates the mouse. This way time is saved by eliminating mouse movements across the screen to invoke commands.

Part Two discuses Template Use. Starting a file with a template provides a file that is already set up and ready to use. Users will not have to tale the time to get the file where it needs to be in order to draw. Another time saver.

Part Three looks at referencing files. Referencing files means that users can create a data source that can be used in multiple files. Change the model, or base file, and the sheet files are instantly updated. We also, briefly, discusses referencing OLE objects, sharing data between reports, letters, and drawings.

How to be More Efficient at AutoCAD
- Part 4 -

Sheet Sets were introduced into AutoCAD several releases ago (release 2005 I believe) but many of us are not using them, YET!!!! Sheet Sets is a group of tools used to manage , well, a set of sheet files. It also much more than that. It is also a means to manage project data, to some extent. At a minimum, users can use Sheet Sets to organize and manage files. This will place the project files in order and allow easy access to them. Clicking on a file in the list will open it. No more keeping track of each departments "strange" file naming procedures. Plotting can also be done through the Sheet Set Manager, as well as publishing. If there are multiple sheets in a project, and your client needs 15 sets plotted, just do your batch plotting through the Sheet Set Manager. Right Click on the Set, select PRINT, and tell the print manager how many copies you need.

Sheet Sets can also manage the way your users create new files. You can set which template is to be used for new files, thus taking advantage of Part Two's advice, using templates.

One of the biggest advantages to using Sheet Sets is its data management abilities. Project information can be stored in the Sheet Set and applied to drawing files. In Part Five will will look at fields and how they can reference data from sheet sets. Sheet Sets can be a place to store data that needs to be shown on multiple drawings. Some examples are: Project Name, Sheet Numbers, Project Information (Like number of parts, rooms, etc.), Client Name, Engineer/Architect Name, or anything that is needed to display.

These features follow the theory we have been discussing. Less is Less. For example, project names often change throughout the design life. How annoying is it to set up all of your drawings with a project name in a title block, notes, etc. only to have the client decide they want the name the development something else. GRRRRR!! Now you have to go, open each file, change it, and so on. If you stored that information is a Sheet Set, and referenced that data, all you have to do is to change the data in the Sheet Set and every drawing is now updated!! No brainer here.

The concept here is similar to using x-ref's for a drawing's geometry. Sheet Sets are an "x-ref" for data. Any data that needs to be in multiple drawings and could potentially change should be in the projects Sheet Set. Important data used for the design, or calculations, should also go into the sheet set even if the information does not need to be displayed in a drawing. That way the data can easily be accessed by anyone that will need to know it.

Sheet Sets are a place to store and share data. They also provide a means for file management and batch plotting. Use them, you will do less work throughout the project's life span.

Happy Cadding.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

AUGI-Hotnews for September 2008

AUGI's September issue of Hotnews is out. This month I have an article called "Lets Get Animated."

This article takes a very basic look at the animation capabilities in AutoCAD. If you have ever wanted to create a simple animation for a presentation or project proposal with AutoCAD, check out this article. It will give you enough information on how to di it.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Ten Ways to be More Efficient at AutoCAD - Part 3

Do any of you want or need to do your work in AutoCAD more quickly? Do yo need your work to be preformed in a more accurate fashion? CAD-a-Blog has been discussing a theory of AutoCAD use based upon the cliche "Less is More." The less work you have to do, the less time it will take. The less you touch the files, the fewer the opportunities there will be for error. This post is Part Three of the series, "Ten Ways to be More Efficient at AutoCAD."

In Part One we discussed using Keyboard Commands as a form of input to decrease the time needed to work. Using both hands to input your commands and data is naturally more efficient than making movements back and forth from button to button. For more in depth discussion see the post.

Part Two took a look at using templates. This concept involves starting a new file with a customized template (a DWT file.) Doing so will allow your users to all start at the same point. Everyone in the firm will be using the same fonts, dimension styles, and layers. It also eliminates the need to devote time to setting up files the way you want them to be.

How to be More Efficient at AutoCAD-Part Three

In Part Three of this series I want to discuss using file references. Many of us already use X-refs in our design file process. But are you using them efficiently? Why do you use them? How should you use them? What goes in them? When shouldn't I use them?

If you have used any of Autodesk's verticals (like Civil3D) then the concept of DATA REFERENCING is not knew to you. If you ave never used an Autodesk Vertical, and only "vanilla" CAD, and have used x-ref's then you ARE familiar with data referencing.

There are essentially two main uses of DWG files (there are of course exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking there are only two.) The most common use of a DWG file is as a Sheet File. This is the file used as a drawing, and is printed out for the client. We ave all used DWG files in this function many times. The other function of a DWG file is as a MODEL file. This file contains the project's line work or geometry and is referenced by the sheet files. This is where users create the design objects.

Let's look at a few examples. An architect (should be using Arcitectural Desktop or Revit, but in this case is using AutoCAD) will design a building in a file. When drawings are needed, a new file is created (the sheet file) with a title block, border and the model file x-ref'd into it. Now, in the sheet file, create all notes, dimensions, callouts, bill of materials, etc.

Now go on and create all sheet files required to produce the construction documents.

Now the client calls and wants the Architect to remove a room on the east side and extend the room on the south. Since you used x-ref's all you have to do is change the model file's line work one time. Open the sheet files affected and update the annotation. The alternative is to be forced to change the linework in every file, along with the affected annotation. One change, one time.

Besides saved time, accuracy is ensured. Well, at least it is ensured that all sheets will have the same data. Either they are all wrong, or all correct! It happens.

What goes in a model file? Linework. Annotation belongs in the sheet file. Data defining the objects, that will be frozen in the sheet file, can be placed in the model as a sort of meta-data.

Another form of referencing envolves OLE objects. These are outside files like a spreadsheet or word processing document. Using this type of data link can also speed up drafting time and ensure acuracy, especially if you use the spreadsheet in a report. This way the drawings and the report are ensured to contain the same data.

Changes in design and design data occur througout the design process of any project. Using references will speed up revision time and increase accuracy throught the construction and design documents.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Off Topic - 42 and the Meaning of Life

I have always been a geek, nerd, dork, ok, not a dork (tough some may argue this.) I can remember reading Hitchhikers Guide as a kid and loving it. I never read any other books in the series, but I loved the humor behind. in fact, I love the quotes from Douglas Adams. I recently watched the movie that was made back in 2005 and thus began reminiscing the Hitchhikers guide. 42 is the meaning of life, for so many reasons that I don't want to get into that discussion here. Anyway, for those of you that may know what I am talking about, I feel sorry for you, but you are not alone.

I just discovered after reading about 42 and the meaning of life in Wikipedia that if you place the following into a Google search:

the answer to life, the universe, and everything

exactly as typed, you get 42.

How cool is that huh?

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.


Quote of the Day

'Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.
- Abraham Lincoln

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?


Georeferenced DWF Files-From the CAD Geek

DWF files are one of the best methods of providing drawing data to outside vendors, clients, or agencies. Donnie Gladfelter, the CAD Geek, has written a great post on setting up and using DWF files to share your data in a safe manner.

I suggest that you book mark this post for future reference.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

AUGIWorld Salary Survey

AUGI World's Annual Salary Survey is out. Here is a link to the article.

Check out this survey. My friend Melanie manages it and she does a fantastic job. This article breaks down the data collected into several categories. This year it was decided to release the survey earlier than normal.

Save Time With Impression Blocks

AUGI World Magazine's September/October edition is out! There are several great articles, as usual.

My article, Save Time With Impression Blocks, is there on page 14. This article takes a look at using and applying blocks in Impression. It also discusses how to use the block library, edit blocks, and more.

Check it out. If you are using Impression, how do you use blocks in it? Do you create new ones for each project? Or do you import the blocks from AutoCAD?

Let me know.


Monday, September 8, 2008

FREE AutoCAD Navigation Tool

YES ITS FREE!! Autodesk is providing its users with a free navigation tool!

The new tool (did I mention it's free?) allows for forward and backward navigation inside of AutoCAD. It acts much like the forward/backward navigation within a web browser.

It is like a zoom previous, but more intuitive.

I am told that this navigation tool works in AutoCAD 2008 and in AutoCAD 2009. It integrates with the ribbon in 2009, of course.

You can get this NAVIGATION TOOL at the Autodesk Labs web site. The Labs has a ton of free and up-and-coming things. Impression got a start here, as well as Inventor Light,and other add-ons.

What to use, and why?

There are few tings in this world that I would consider myself advanced in. AutoCAD and 2D Drafting are members of that short list. I am venturing into 3D CAD and know which direction I am going there, as many as possible!! However, I am having difficulty determining where to go into visual design.

What is the difference between 3DS Max and Maya? And what about Flame, Smoke, Flint, Inferno, Combustion, and Toxik? I want to venture into visualization software but I don't know where to start.

My first applications would be to add content to websites and videos.

So, I am turning to the great readers of What do you use? for what and why? What is the difference between the programs?

Tanks for the help.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

New Features Workshop

Do you update (I would say UPGRADE, but new doesn't guarantee better) your AutoCAD software regularly? Or do you update it in intervals? Regardless, it can be difficult to know and understand what the new version has to offer. There is a built in tool inside of AutoCAD that will help you know and understand the new features and improvements in AutoCAD. It is called the NEW FEATURES WORKSHOP.

When a user starts AutoCAD for the first time a window pops up. It is the New Features Workshop window. When the New Features Workshop window appear, you can turn it off FOREVER, turn it off until the next time you start AutoCAD, or view it now. I ask that if you don't want to view it now, wait till later to view it, or else you might forget. Don't just turn it off right away, it's easy to forget that way.

If it is turned off, you can get it back, don't worry. Go to the HELP function and it will be an option there.

Each new feature will be broken down in its appropriate section.  Some of the instructions now ave a very short animation to more clearly demonstrate the new process.  Each tip can be viewed over and over again.  

If you are a manager, or simply in need of material, you can use the New Features Workshop as a training guide, especially after a new install.  This works well for instructors because it eliminates the need to develop training material, at least for the new features.

The New Features Workshop has new features for the past Three (3) releases.  If you just installed AutoCAD 2009, there will be information for releases 2007, 2008, and 2009.  This is handy as several of us AutoCAD users often don't update every release, but will skip one, two or even three.  This means that what you missed in past releases can easily be picked up on by you and your users.

If you haven't use the New Features Workshop in AutoCAD before, thats ok, try it out and you might be amazed by what you didn't know!


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Earning Respect

In a previous post I asked, As a CAD User, What Are Your Issues? Several of you expressed a lack of respect, or understanding as to what you bring to your firm with your skill set as a CAD User. I have experienced this as well as the opposite. It is much more appealing to be treated with respect and to be viewed as a valuable employee. Respect is easy to deal with. But how do we, as CAD users, meaning non-licensed professionals, deal with supervisors that don’t appreciate what we do?

This question is asked by every employee in every industry. Here are some general guidelines to help you build your reputation at work in a positive way.

Speak to your boss frequently. BUT don’t be annoying! And don’t talk so much that your boss feels you talk more than you work! Balance. Discuss your boss’s expectations of your work and make every effort to reach them, at a minimum.

Seek a mentor. Somebody at your firm has probably worked there longer than you have. Glean from their experience.

Ask for Advice and take their criticism. Nobody knows everything, no not even me. Don’t act like you do. You don’t know what you don’t know. When given instruction, follow it. I the given instructions cannot be done, explain that in a positive way. Demonstrate the issues that make the request unable to be accomplished. These actions will help to build a relationship with you and your boss in a positive manner. If you take instruction then your boss will feel you can be trusted and will give you more.

Demonstrate Leadership Qualities. Be proactive, confident and assertive. Do not be aggressive or arrogant. Be brave. If you are unwilling to make an attempt, you could be labeled as timid and will not be respected. Look for ways that you can improve.

Exceed your boss’s expectations. Remember that your job is not your job, or at least not all of it. When asked to do a task that needs done but nobody wants to do, do it. But don’t be taken advantage of. Take on more responsibility when the opportunity arises, even if your pay does not increase. Think outside of the box (even if you work in a cubicle.) Look for ways to increase your skill set. Volunteer to assist a different department. This will make you more valuable to your employer.

You are a professional, act like one. Remember that you are at work, not a friend’s house, and not your house. Keep your workspace neat and organized. Keep the pets and toys at home. Dress accordingly and speak like a professional.

I am sure that most of you are doing these things and more. What other tips do you have that have worked for you?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Google Chrome - review

Google has released their very own browser.  It is called CHROME.  With all of the browsers out there why would anyone want to release yet another one?  More importantly, why would anyone want to switch browsers?

I can give one reason-it's better.  Yup.  I have been using Chrome for about a day now and I have to say that it is much better in performance than Windows Internet Explorer.  What has long been the standard method for users to surf the internet is now the worst option that any one can take.  These are strong words I'm sure, but it is my honest opinion.  

Users are much better off using either Firefox, Safaria or Chrome.  I have been a loyal user of Firefox for a long time and I love it.  I have test run Safari for the past several months and I feel it too is a much better solution than Internet Explorer.  It's lacking in a few areas of adons, but give it some more time.

Now enter CHROME!!  That name sounds like one of the stars of the American Gladiator show!  After I downloaded the beta (yes, it's only in beta now) and installed it I ran it.  The screen asked if I wanted to import all of my Firefox or I.E. bookmarks, cookies, passwords, etc.  I said yes and it did!!  Great feature for switching over, and a must in my book.

There are two features that I particularly enjoy about Chrome.  It's simplicity and it's speed.

By simplicity I mean that the interface is neat and clean.  There are no extra frills making more room for screen real estate.  By speed I mean its lightning fast.  I didn't run any benchmark tests, but it is visibly faster.  Try loading this blog on your normal browser, then load it on Chrome.  See what I mean?  WOW!!  That's the very first thing I said when I tried it out.

One short coming when compared to Firefox is Chrome's lack of add ons.  But give it time, with Google's mode of operations, thhey will be here soon.

Anyway, I recomend trying Chrome.  

Monday, September 1, 2008

As a CAD User, what are your issues?

Tell me your problems. I don't mean problems in using CAD, like how do I divide a line into three equal parts? I mean work related issues. For example:

  • How do I deal with a difficult CAD Manager?
  • How do I deal with difficult CAD Users?
  • My boss knows nothing about CAD but tells me how to use it?
  • Our CAD Standards are awful.
  • My hardware is unreliable, what do I do?
  • How do I improve my skills?
  • My boss is a jerk, now what?
  • I need a job, so what do I do?
I am looking for questions from a CAD Technician's point of view, or from a CAD Users perspective. I am not looking for CAD Managers issues, though the two often share the same problems.

So, what are your problems? And how do you handle them?


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