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AutoCAD 2007+ AutoCAD Tips & Tricks

CAD Productivity Usage

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Application Interaction

Is there a limit on rows/columns from my

OLE spreadsheet?

There is a limit, and that limitation is not

necessarily AutoCAD's fault. To see a graphical
example of this, select a large range in the
spreadsheet, then look at the clipboard viewer.
You will find the clipboard viewer in the
accessories or system tools section of the
Windows start menu. If you don't have this
program you will need to use the Add/Remove
Programs applet of the Windows Control Panel to
add it. It will be in the System Tools section of
the Windows Setup tab.

When you look at the clipboard viewer, you

should see that the Windows clipboard has
limited the data when presented in certain
'flavors'. When you use the ole link, you lose
rows and/or columns.

If the link is not required, you may be able to

get more of the data into AutoCAD by using the
Paste Special option from the menu and
choosing an option like 'AutoCAD Objects'.

Shaking the OLE from Excel Graphs

When you paste pie/bar graphs from Excel into

AutoCAD, they can exhibit all the problems of a
typical OLE insert, including plot rotation, etc.
Use this procedure to 'shake off' the OLE.

1. In Excel, copy your graph to the

2. In AutoCAD, issue the PASTESPEC
command, choose Excel Chart, your only
choice at this point.
3. In AutoCAD, right click on the chart and
choose CUT.
4. In AutoCAD, issue the PASTESPEC
command again, choose AutoCAD
5. Erase the outer border and background
solid to reveal a good looking collection of
native geometry


How do I control the prompt

order for attributes?

When building the block definition,

the selection order is the key. If
you simply window off the geometry
there is a good possibility the
prompt order will not be as
desired. When selecting objects for
a block definition, first individually
pick the attribute definitions
individually in the order you want to
be prompted, then select the rest of
the geometry.

Importing Block Definitions

If you want to bring in only the
definition of a block (such as a
symbol on disk), you can use this
little known trick. After issuing the
insert command and selecting the
file, press the ESC key at the first
(insertion point) prompt. You will
have the definition in the current
drawing for latter use.

Add Descriptions to Blocks

Later versions of AutoCAD have the

ability to add descriptions to the
block definitions in the drawing.

1. Issue the BLOCK command.

2. Select the block from the list
at top.
3. Click in the lower
'Description' section and
enter the description.
4. Choose OK to redefine the
block with the new

Building a block with fields


This procedure will explain how to

create a coordinate label block that
updates as you move or copy it.

1. Issue the BEDIT (block edit)

2. Enter the desired name, like
COORDBLOCK and chose OK.
3. Draw the desired point
identifying geometry, such
as a circle at 0,0 with a
radius of 0.25.
4. Issue the ATTDEF command.
5. Turn on the Preset toggle in
the upper left, this makes for
faster inserts as AutoCAD
won't prompt for the
attribute values (which is
automatic anyway).
6. Enter NORTHING for the tag
and prompt fields.
7. To the right of the Value
field, click the 'Insert Field'
8. In the Field Names list on
the left, click
'BlockPlaceholder', this is a
special area only available
during block building.
9. In the middle column,
choose the 'Position'
10. In the right column, format
your output as desired. In
this example turn off the X &
Z fields and 'Current Units' is
the recommended value.
While you can lock the
precision to a fixed number
of places, it's not easy to
modify a field based
attribute later.
11. Choose OK after completing
the field formatting.
12. Change 'Text Options' as
desired. For this example we
are only changing the height
to 1.0.
13. Most likely you will want to
turn off the 'Lock Position'
toggle so you can move the
attribute after the insert.
14. Choose OK to complete the
first attribute. When
prompted for the insertion
point, pick a location or
enter coordinates such as
1.0,1.2 for this example.
15. Repeat at step 5 for the
attributes, the only other
difference being that the
'Align below previous' toggle
should be turned on to make
positioning easier.
16. Issue the BCLOSE command
or choose the 'Close Block
Editor' button at the top.
17. Choose Yes to save the

At this point the COORDBLOCK is

defined and ready to insert. As you
insert them into the drawing the
coordinates are filled in
automatically. After moving an
insert issue the REGEN command to
update the values. To make the
block available for inserting into
other drawings, it will need to be
WBLOCKED to a separate DWG file.

1. Issue the WBLOCK

2. Choose the Block button and
select COORDBLOCK in the
3. Click the [...] in lower right
to specify a filename.
4. Changing the Insert Units to
'Unitless' is recommended.


Inserting Drawings, Consider

the BASE

When inserting blocks (or entire

drawings) from a seperate DWG
file, it may not come in 'attached' to
the cursor, or in the right place.
When preparing a drawing and its
geometry to become 'insertable'
into another drawing, you must
consider its coordinates and then
optionally the BASE variable. The
preferred method for blocks is to
move the geometry from the
desired 'anchor' to coordinates of
0,0,0. If you don't want to do that,
you should issue the BASE
command and pick a point at the

Another problem scenario to watch

out for is when the geometry has
been moved to 0,0 and the current
drawing had a base other than 0,0.
In this case simply issue the BASE
command and type in 0,0,0.

Some offset distances are

greater than specified?

This can expecially occur when

offsetting polylines. As the interior
angle decreases, the distance
between offset endpoints
increases. However in parallel
sections the perpendicular distance
'should' always be 100. For example
with a 100 unit offset.

 135° interior angle = 108.35

 45° interior angle = 261.60

In general a more accurate

representation of the offset would
be achieved if you filleted the
resulting polyline to 100, making
most points along the path truly
100 units away, even in the 'bends'.

AutoCAD 2000 addresses this issue,

see the OFFSETGAPTYPE system

Why won't AutoCAD create my

large array?

AutoCAD sets a default limit of

100,000 segments. If the quantity
of rows * columns would exceed
that, AutoCAD refuses to create the
offset. However you can change the
default value to any number from
100 to 10,000,000. To increase the
value, enter the following at the
command prompt. The example
shows increasing the value to
50,000. Note that the name
MaxArray is case sensitive and must
be entered as shown.

Command: (setenv "MaxArray"


Relative Coordinates

Frequently in designating points in

AutoCAD, you need to specify the
relative position of the next point.
There are several ways to do this:

Relative Cartesian: You simply

specify the X/Y difference as
positive or negative values. The
following example indicates the next
point is 12 units to the right
(positive X) and 6 units down
(negative Y). (Example)To Point:

Relative Polar: You specify the

distance and angle to the next
point. The following example
indicates the next point 15 units
away at a 45 degree angle.
(Example)To Point: @15<45

Relative Cylindrical: Much like

relative polar except you have the
ability to designate the amount of
rise or drop at the new point. The
following example indicates the next
point 15 units away at a 45 degree
angle, but also is 6 units lower.
(Example)To Point: @15<45,-6

Relative Spherical:Much like relative

cylindrical except the rise or drop is
determined by an angle. The
following example indicates the next
point 15 horizontal units away at a
45 degree angle in plan view, but
also lifts 12 degrees in the XY
plane. (Example)To Point:

AutoCAD's Geometry Calculator

People often don't know about

AutoCAD's built in geometry
calculator. While it lacks in
interface appeal it more than makes
up for it in capability. Take the
ability to snap to a point between to
endpoints. Consider this example
where a circle is placed halfway
between the endpoints of two lines.

Command: CIRCLE
Specify center point for circle or
[3P/2P/Ttr (tan tan radius)]: 'CAL
>> Expression: MEE
>> Select one endpoint for MEE:
>> Select another endpoint for

The key is when prompted for any

point, enter 'CAL and type in the
expression. In the case of MEE it
knows you want endpoints and you
don't have to use an object snap
when picking. Also bear in mind
that MEE is only one of dozens of
expressions available at the
prompt. Read your AutoCAD
documentation on the Geometry
Calculator for more.

How do I enter boundaries in

bearing & distance?

First you need to set the

appropriate units in the DDUNITS
command. Set the angular units to
'Surveyor', then choose the
direction button and make sure that
'Angle Direction' = east, 'Rotation'
= counter clockwise. Even though
you have set to Surveyors Units it
won't work right unless set this

Then using the LINE or PLINE

command you enter the calls as
relative polar coordinates.

Command: LINE
Start Point: (Pick One)
Next Point: @123.45<N45D30'15"E
Next Point: @234.56<S25D10'10"W

Notice the syntax for the relative

polar coordinate. You put the @
sign first, which means relative to
the last point. Next comes the
distance. Last is the bearing. Its
enclosed in the quadrant NE, NW,
SE, SW, note the use of letter D to
indicate the degrees.

The underutilized AutoCAD

MULTIPLE command

When you need to repeat a

command several times, consider
the MULTIPLE command. At the
command prompt type MULTIPLE
followed by the command. Take the
POINT command for example.
Without the multiple prefix you
would need to reissue the command
before each pick location, now you
can repeatedly pick the points until

Press ESC to cancel the repeating


Using BPoly to Shrinkwrap

Users often need to generate a

boundary polyline around multiple
polygons or a collection of 3dfaces
forming a surface definition.
Bpoly/Boundary is overlooked as a
tool to help with this, because its
considered to only work from the
inside out. Simply surround your
geometry with a rectangular
polyline. Create a new layer and
set it current. Then issue the BPOLY
command, and pick a point inside
the rectangle.


Why does AutoCAD regen every

time I zoom or pan?

You may occasionally receive a

drawing from an outside source that
causes this problem. Simply type
VIEWRES at the command prompt,
say YES to fast zooms, and set your
circle zoom percent to around 200.

Why does the Object Properties

Toolbar Stop Working?

When you pick objects at the

command prompt, they highlight
and grips appear. On the object
properties toolbar the layer and/or
color of the object usually appear so
that you can change them. But on
some systems this stops working.
This is because the noun/verb
selection has been turned off.
Simply type DDSELECT at the
command prompt and turn on the
'Noun/Verb Selection' toggle. The
Object properties toolbar will start
working again.

Number of Command Lines

When you press F2 and look back at

the command history, you may
notice that at some point it stops.
The default number of lines is set to
400. On R14 you could change it in
the preferences dialog.
Unfortunately 2000 and higher has
regressed. You have to use a to lisp
expression setting like MaxHatch.

To check the current number of

lines set:
Command: (getenv "CmdHistLines")

To set a new maximum number of

Command: (setenv "CmdHistLines"
The number you use must be in a
range from 25 to 2048!

Lost Command Line

Almost all AutoCAD users utilize the

command line area to some extent.
Recent versions of AutoCAD allow it
to be turned off and it can be as
easy as accidentally pressing Ctrl +
9. You can use these commands to
control it.

Command: _CommandlineHide
Command: _Commandline

Keeping the UCSICON in the


If you don't use a UCS you might as

well use UCSICON off. If you do you
might want to keep it in the lower
left corner. Use the 'Origin' and 'No
Origin' options of the UCSICON
command to control the position of


Why won't AutoCAD create my

dense hatch?

AutoCAD sets a default limit of

10000 segments. If the hatch that
would be created would exceed
that, AutoCAD refuses to create the
hatch. However you can change the
default value to any number from
100 to 10,000,000. To increase the
value, enter the following at the
command prompt. The example
shows increasing the value to
100,000. Note that the name
MaxHatch is case sensitive and
must be entered as shown.

Command: (setenv "MaxHatch"


Why is my hatch scrambled?

Sometimes when you attempt to

hatch an area (especially in large
coordinate drawings), the hatching
can appear scrambled. The hatch
pattern does not have enough
precision to work properly in the
larger coordinates. Use this simple

1. Issue the SNAPBASE

command and pick a point
slightly below and to the left
of the area to hatch.
2. Hatch the area, it will look
correct now.
3. Reissue the SNAPBASE
command and put in 0,0 (or
previous value).

Adding Custom Hatches

In AutoCAD versions prior to 2000,

you could put additional hatch
pattern definitions at the end of
your ACAD.PAT file, and add
the appropriate slides to the
ACAD.SLB file to make them show
up in the BHATCH dialog.

AutoCAD versions 2000 and later do

not use the ACAD.PAT/SLB at all.
Instead of putting all the definitions
in the ACAD.PAT, it is best to put
each pattern definition in a separate
PAT file. The path where these PAT
files reside must be in the AutoCAD
support paths as well. There is
some benefit to using a short path
such as C:\CADSTUFF, because the
BHATCH dialog shows the path
before the patten name, and long
paths make the pattern name fall
off to the right of the list.

To select your custom pattern, issue

the BHATCH dialog and choose the
pattern select button {...}, then
choose the Custom tab to select
your pattern.

Hatch Pattern Snaps (2005+)

There has been a change in

behavior in AutoCAD 2005
regarding the object snaps on its
geometry. In previous releases
osnaps would honor hatches, in
2005 they are ignored by default.
To turn on the snap to hatch,
access the OPTIONS dialog (Tools
menu), go to the Drafting tab, and
in the lower left you will find the

Also there is a command line

system variable OSNAPHATCH, set
to 0 for off (no snap), 1 for on


How can I make working with

IMAGES easier?

If you frequently insert images,

having to position, scale and rotate
them each time, try this simple
trick. Begin a new 'empty' drawing.
Insert the image, position, scale
and rotate it into place. Make any
other changes such as contrast,
then save the drawing. From now
on, simply insert the newly created
drawing, not the image. The
attached drawing will contain all the

Add Image Support to AutoCAD

By installing the Raster Design

Enabler, you can add support for
additional image formats (such as
MrSID) to your basic AutoCAD.

From the Autodesk Website: "The

Autodesk® Raster Design 2007
Object Enabler is a freeware
application that you can use to
display Autodesk Raster Design
2007 image files."

Simply visit the link below to

download the appropriate enabler
for the version of AutoCAD. After
you install it, check your image
insert 'files of type' popdown for the
new formats.

This is of course unsupported

(including by us), and while we
haven't tested all the formats, we
have confirmed the addition of the
MrSID and ECW format.

Image Clipping Expanded

The first procedure explains how to
clip multiple areas of a single image
insert. It assumes you have the
image in place and know which
portions you wish to remain visible.
Assume in this case you want to
keep the lower left and upper right
portions of the image.

Begin the IMAGECLIP command,

enter N for New boundary, then P
for Polygonal and pick the points in
this order. Note that picks for
C/I and D/H are the same location.

x ----
| | |
| D x x G ---
> /----
| H|
B x C x | ----
| I | |
A x----x-------- ----

Any number of points can be used,

just make sure you follow the path
back to the point of beginning. A
second procedure can be used to
create a blank hole in an image. In
this case C/J and D/I are the same

B x--------x-------x K
| I |
| | |
| E x x H x | --->
| +----+----+ |
| D |
| | CLEAR | |
| F x G x |
| +---------+ |
| |
| |
A x---------------- L

Finally, make sure IMAGEFRAME is

turned off. Note that this newsletter
is sent in plain text. If your mail
tool is set to force a proportional
font, these character graphics may
be skewed.


Horizontal Distance

To get the horizontal distance in a

drawing that has differing elevation
values, you can use AutoCAD's
point filters. In response to the
point prompt, enter .XY and press
the spacebar, pick your point with
the appropriate osnap, then enter 0
for the Z value.

Command: DIST
Specify first point: .XY of *PICK*
(need Z): 0
Specify second point: .XY of *PICK*
(need Z): 0

Find Command to Select Blocks

You can use the Find command to

select blocks by their attribute
values. Use this procedure.

1. Open the drawing containing

the blocks.
2. Initiate the FIND command.
3. Enter the value of the
4. Choose the [Select Objects]
button and select all the
5. Choose the [Select All]
button to select the

Of course ToolPac users take this

farther by specifying multiple fields
to match and operators such as less
than, greater than, etc.


How can I balance right click


Starting with AutoCAD 2004, you

can find a compromise between the
old rightclick=enter, and the new
rightclick=menu. A new 'time
sensitive right click' gives you the
best of both worlds.

When this is turned on, a quick click

of the right mouse button is the
same as pressing enter. Holding
down the right mouse button longer
than the specified time yields a
context sensitive menu (when

1. Command: OPTIONS
2. Choose the 'User
Preferences' tab.
3. Turn on 'Shortcut menus in
drawing area'.
4. Choose the 'Right-click
Customization' button.
5. Turn on 'Time Sensitive
Right Click'.
6. Change interval if desired.

Classic Commands

For those running AutoCAD for a

long time, the new image and xref
dialogs are a big change. To access
the old versions of the dialog, use

Restore Classic Appearance

Recent versions of AutoCAD are

evolving into an interface that
hardly resembles what many are
accustomed to. Here are a few
commands that can help return
AutoCAD (partially) to that state.


Classic (sets classic workspace)
Command: MENUBAR 1 (restores
pulldown menus)
Command: RIBBONCLOSE (turns off
the ribbon)

In addition, the WSSAVE command

can be used to save changes to a
workspace so they 'stick' and won't
revert when making changes.

Why isn’t my layer table sorted?

If you begin working with a large

number of layers (around 200), you
may notice that the layers are not
sorted in the layer dialog. Instead
they are shown in the order they
were created. AutoCAD uses a
system variable MAXSORT to
control how many layers to sort on
layer control as well as how many
files to sort on file open. Simply
type in MAXSORT at the command
prompt and put in a numeric value
larger than the default value of 200.
This value is stored in the
configuration files and won’t need to
be reentered in your next drawing.

Don’t Plot That Layer!

A trick in AutoCAD that has been

around for the longest time is a
layer name that won’t plot
regardless of its status. Create a
layer in your drawing called
DEFPOINTS. Use it to place notes to
yourself, construction lines, etc. It
also an excellent layer to put paper
space viewports into, since the
frames don’t plot.

No Xref Layer Filter

If you want your layer dialog to

show only layers in the current
drawing and exclude all xrefs,
create a filter with a name like
NOXREF, then put this in for the
layer name "~*|*" (without the
quotation marks).

Delete All Named Layer Filters

Later versions of AutoCAD have the

ability to delete all named layer
filters quickly.

1. Open the Layer dialog box.

2. Open the Named Layer
Filters dialog using the [...]
button in the upper left
3. Choose the [Delete All]
button in the lower right.

Copy Layer Table

Beginning with AutoCAD 2005, you

can copy the contents of the layer
dialog to the clipboard for pasting
into other applications, mainly for
printing. With the dialog displayed,
issue the Ctrl+A keystroke
combination to select all the
records, then use Ctrl+C to copy
the contents to the clipboard.

New Layers (Frozen in Existing


Starting with AutoCAD 2008, the

layer dialog has a new icon just to
the right of the 'New Layer' icon.
Use it to create a new layer that will
be frozen in all existing layout

Another Classic - ClassicLayer

Some users of newer versions of

AutoCAD are reporting slow
behavior in using the new Layer
dialog that floats and remains open.
This new dialog must constantly
monitor AutoCAD to maintain an
accurate reflection of the layer
status in the drawing, including
reacting to changing the active
drawing, etc.

For those who want faster response

or those that like the old way
better, use the ClassicLayer
command to initiate the old dialog.


Is there a limit to the number of

layouts in a drawing?

Yes, it is limited to a total of 255.

Autodesk notes this as a limitation
of the tab control used to display
the collection.

Why don't my layouts plot in the

correct order?

This is a bug in AutoCAD that still

remains. Click here for a (confusing
at best) explanation by Autodesk.


Why won’t my linetypes


Sometimes it seems that no matter

how you try, you can’t get line
types with breaks to show the
breaks. First thing to remember is
that 3D polylines in AutoCAD cannot
display a line type, nor can they
have width or contain arcs for that
matter. However, most other
objects should if things are set

First check the value of LTSCALE,

this master control variable
determines the scaling of the gaps
in linetypes. You may find this
variable set to 1.0, which would not
show breaks on a map. Enter
LTSCALE at the command prompt
and put in a value that is 50% to
66% of the scale at which you
would plot the map. For example, if
you would plot the drawing at
1”=50’, you should put in a value
between 25-35 for LTSCALE.

If LTSCALE doesn’t set things

straight, there is a possibility that
your geometry has a CONTINUOUS
linetype set to each object, in which
case it won’t take on the linetype of
the layer on which it is assigned.
Simply issue the CHPROP
command, select the geometry,
type LT for linetype, and enter
BYLAYER for the value.

If this still doesn’t display the

linetype’s properly, you probably
have polylines with vertices that are
close together. To correct this use
DDMODIFY, select the polyline, and
turn on the LTGEN toggle in the
Arc Text Linetypes

When using text in linetypes it's

often difficult to control the
direction the text reads, especially
in arcs. For true arcs you would
need to convert them to polylines,
using PEDIT. Next, be aware of the
effect of polyline generation. This
flag needs to be turned on for the
polyline to honor the direction. This
flag can be set using the PROPS
dialog. Lastly, you may need to
reverse the polyline to control the
reading direction.

The main thing to remember is that

without the polyline generation flag
set, the text will always read
counterclockwise in the arc
segments of the polyline.


Changing Elevations Using Move

Many AutoCAD users only think of

the MOVE command for moving a
selection set of objects in an XY
direction. Don't overlook the fact
that the MOVE command can work
perfectly for moving objects up and
down the Z axis as well. To change
elevations of objects where you
know the distance you want to raise
or lower, use this procedure.

1. Issue the MOVE command.

2. Select Objects to change.
3. For Base Point, simply pick
4. For 2nd Point, enter this:

Where ZDIFF is the amount you

want to raise or lower. Use a
negative number to lower and a
positive one to raise.

Misbehaving Trim/Extend

Sometimes users complain about

the TRIM or EXTEND commands not
creating the desired results. The
resulting point being short of (or
past) the target edge. These
commands are affected by the
settings of TRIMMODE and
PROJMODE system variables, which
should both be set to 1. You'll
notice these as options in the
commands as well.

Deleting Problem Objects

There are times when you would

like to erase all of a particular
object type from a drawing, such as
Wipeouts and Proxy objects. Paste
in the following at the command
prompt, then press enter.

Command: (command "ERASE"

(ssget "x" '((0 . "WIPEOUT"))) "")

You can use this same syntax and

replace the object type at the end
of the statement. For example on
proxies replace "WIPEOUT" with

Toggling Groups

If you start to manipulate an object

and multiple objects are
highlighted, that means they are
bound in a group or a block. If you
use the list command, it will list as
a block if that's the case. If it lists
as objects, you have a group.

If you have a group, you can toggle

the status of group selection with
Ctrl+Shift+A on newer versions or
simply Ctrl+A on older releases.
The command line will echo the
status of the toggle.


Object Cycling

Object Cycling has been around

since R13, but isn't a widely known
ability, perhaps because it's not a
command. Whenever you are at the
'Select Objects' prompt and have
overlapping objects, simply hold
down the Ctrl key as you pick a
location. AutoCAD will cycle through
the objects at that location,
highlighting each one until you
accept one and move on.


AutoCAD R14 brought with it many

new object types. Many of these
such as images are widely
accepted. Many more (such as
XLINE and RAY objects) remain

XLINE objects make an excellent

construction line. They don't change
the drawings extents so they don't
affect zoom extents. They never
need to be extended because they
run infinitely in the direction they
are drawn.

RAY objects work like XLINE, except

they extend infinitely only in one
direction. This can be used for radial
construction lines from a single

What are ProxyObjects and can

I delete them from a drawing?

They are custom objects that

require the presence of the
application that generated them to
be 'fully' functional. Sometimes
when the application is absent they
will still appear/plot the same but
you can't edit them or acquire
information about them.
Sometimes you might even get a
box with an X through it as in the
case of the RTEXT object.

The AEC group of Autodesk

deserves credit for releasing the
recent versions of the Object
Enabler. It is free and allows
recipients of drawings with their
proxies to see and do more with the
otherwise impossible

Depending on your situation, saving

the drawing in an R12 format
(different file name of course) is a
brute force approach to purging the
drawing of proxies. However
depending on whats contained it
can have ill effects.

Paper Space

Transporting Paper Space


During the process of wblocking or

copy/paste clip, Viewport objects
can appear to become zombies, not
displaying the model space
geometry they formerly showed.
Transporting viewports seems to
turn off the viewports. After any
wblock/copy+paste operation use
the MVIEW command with the ON
option to turn the viewports back
on. Once the viewports are turned
back on they should show their
previous contents properly,
including the layer status.

How do I switch between

overlapping viewports?

When you have two or more paper

space viewports that overlap or are
contained within another, it can be
difficult to impossible to switch with
the mouse pointer. Therefore the
keyboard command for this can be
indispensable. The keyboard
command USED TO BE Ctrl+V, but
since Windows knows this as paste,
Autodesk changed the command.
The new command sequence is

PSLTSCALE is per Layout

It's not widely known that the

PSLTSCALE variable has an
independent setting on each layout.
After you set the value for one
layout, you may need to switch to
other layouts and set it as

Layout Limit

Q: Is there a limit to the number of

layouts in a drawing.
A: Yes, there can only be 255
layouts in a given drawing.
PDF Related

Scanning to PDF a waste of time

Its recently came to our attention

that many scanners come with
software that scans old drawings to
a PDF, and that users are doing just
that. The follow up is how to put
that in AutoCAD.

This is a waste of time and effort.

The most efficient way is to scan to
a raster file and use AutoCAD's
IMAGE command to attach the
image to the drawing. Avoid using
JPG format, while it works well for
photos it does not work well with
line drawings. Use the PNG format if
available, or use TIF if not.

PdfUnderlay Performance

Some users are reporting slow

performance when they use the
new PdfUnderlay functionality in
2009 (w/subscription) and 2010. It
mostly depends on the content of
the PDF, which can often be a
bloated mess. Not all PDF creators
are equal. For example, while one
driver may write out text as a lean
text element, another may
(especially if its width factor is
changed) write out each letter as a
large collection of filled triangles.
Take for example this innocent
looking letter "S", which contained
471 objects!

AutoCAD doesn't know it's a letter S

and has to treat it with as much
importance as any other part of
your file. This users file (PDF Size
1.2mb) contained nearly 325,000
objects that obviously was bogging
down AutoCAD.

You can turn off the PDFOSNAP

system variable to improve snaps.

Cannot Snap to PdfUnderlay

Not all PDFs contain geometry that

AutoCAD can snap to. Many times
the PDF is a scanned image that has
such high resolution that the
content looks like linework. You can
usually zoom in tightly to begin to
see the jagged edges of an image.
Check your PDFOSNAP system
variable; it should be set to 1.


Quick & Easy Plot to Raster

While the highest quality result is

by defining a raster plotter (below),
it's easy to create a raster using the
favorite) commands.

Plotting to a raster file

A popular inquiry from AutoCAD

users is how to plot a drawing to a
raster file (or bitmap/picture). This
is often in response to the need to
provide a 'picture' of the drawing
without actually providing the DWG,
or perhaps a drawing is to be
displayed in a web page.

First is the simple to use (but less

control) command called BMPOUT.
It creates a Windows Bitmap .BMP
file, appropriate for Paintbrush but
not ready for a web page. It
captures the whole drawing
viewport so center your drawing as
well as possible before issuing the
command. The following procedures
can be used to 'plot' your drawing
to a raster file.


1. Choose File > Plotter

2. Choose 'Add-A-Plotter
3. Choose Next, then Next
again (accepting My
4. Under Manufacturers, choose
'Raster File Formats'.
5. Under Models, choose
'Portable Network Graphics
PNG'. (details on why below)
6. Choose Next until the Finish
button becomes available.


1. Issue the Plot Command.

2. On the Plot Device Tab,
choose the PNG output
3. Choose the Properties
button, and choose the
output resolution desired.
4. In the lower right corner,
specify the path and
filename to create.
5. Switch to Plot Settings tab,
specify the window and
complete the plot to file.

You may wonder why the PNG file

was chosen. It is a clean highly
compressed format. In comparison,
the JPG (JPEG) format is absolutely
NOT a desireable format for
representing linework in raster
format. While JPEG is fine for
photographs, it is a 'lossy'
compression and will produce
noticable 'snow' on line drawings,
expecially diagonal lines.

The PNG file is your best choice for

raster output. It is very compact in
size and is a 'loseless' compression.
It can be displayed by all 'current'
web browsers as well.

Plotting Multiple Sheets

Some may not know that in newer

versions of AutoCAD which support
the new layouts that you can select
multiple layouts to plot. At the
command prompt, simply hold
down the control key and click on
each layout you want to plot, or use
shift to select a range. Once you've
got the desired layouts selected you
issue the plot command.

Auto Publish (2008+)

Newer versions of AutoCAD contain

the capability to automatically
create a DWF or PDF (added in
2010) file when you save or close
your drawing. To setup the system
go to the OPTIONS dialog, then
choose the |Plot and Publish| tab.
In the lower left you can turn the
system on/off and control the

The settings dialog allows you to

designate when the publish is to
take place, where the files go, etc.
Various options exist in 2010 for
things like layer information, merge
control, and more.


Why won't my 3D polylines

display a linetype?

3DPOLY's cannot contain arcs,

display linetypes or show width or
thickness. However, you can assign
a linetype style to a 3D polyline and
it will retain the information.
Simply save the drawing, explode
the 3D polylines before you plot
(the LINES will display the
linetype), then undo to restore the
3D polylines.

Why don't my splined polyline

vertices go through the original

As you probably know, using the

Spline option ofthe PEDIT command
creates a splined polyline but the
path of the spline does not run
through the original control points.
In contrast the spline created with
the SPLINE command does run
through thecontrol points and is the
end result you want. Back on the
negativeside the SPLINE command
has an option to convert an existing
polyline, but only one that has been
splined. The converted spline is still
not what you want.

So the best way with stock AutoCAD

is to turn on the endpoint
osnap,issue the SPLINE command
and get starting picking points.
ToolPac users will find Convert
Polylines to Splines that will process
a selection set of un-splined
polylines and give you the results
you want.

How can I draw a tangent line

off an ARC within a polyline?

You may have noticed that when

you go to the ARC mode within the
PLINE command, the first and
consectutive arcs are tangent to the
previous segment. To create a
tangent line off the last segment,
first press L for Line mode, then
press a second L for Length. Pick or
enter a distance and the segement
drawn will be tangent off the last
arc. Its the 2nd L that does the

How can I convert R14

LightWeight Polylines back?

At the command prompt type

CONVERTPOLY. This undocumented
command built into AutoCAD R14
allows you to convert lightweight
polylines to the old 'heavy'
polylines, preserves arcs and
polyline width. Some 'not so
current' applications may require
standard polylines.


How do I disable 2004 Drawing


The password on 2004 (and higher)

is a potential nightmare. One
scenario is a disgruntled employee
who decides to password protect
important drawings on their way
out the door.

When installing, consider choosing

the Custom Install, and turn off the
Drawing Encryption option in
Special Features. After installation
use this procedure.

1. Choose Start > Settings >

Control Panel.
2. Choose Add/Remove
3. Find AutoCAD on the list.
4. Choose the [Change] button.
5. Choose 'Add or Remove
6. Choose 'Drawing Encryption'
7. Choose 'Entire Feature will
be unavailable'
8. Choose [Next] until


How can I convert a SPLINE to a


The new SPLINE objects introduced

in R13 are nice, but there arelimits
on what you can do with them. So
conversion to a polyline is
necessary. Carefully erase all the
geometry except for the splines,
then save the drawing in R12 DWG
(A2K users use R12 DXF) format.
Then open the original drawing,
erase the splines and insert the R12
file.The spline will now have
become polylines. If the splines
haddiffering elevations on the
vertices, the resulting polyline will
be a 3D polyline.

For ToolPac users, use Convert >

Splines > To Polylines. For others
SPL2PL.VLX in the Free Stuff section
will convert, but does not contain
the arc option like the one in

System Variables

What happened to my
PLOT/FILE dialogs?

You may occasionally find yourself

in a situation where the NEW,
OPEN, and SAVE commands do not
provide a dialog. Simply enter
FILEDIA at the command prompt
and enter a value of 1. If you
attempt to PLOT and fail to get a
dialog, simply enter ` at the
command prompt and enter a value
of 1.
Using File Dialog at prompts

Sometimes settings (such as

FILEDIA) can cause certain routines
to ask for a file name at the
command prompt. In these cases
you can enter the tilde ~ character
followed by enter to bring up the
file selection dialog.

Ignoring Object Snap Elevations

A frequent problem in objects snaps

is the inheritance of the Z value
when snapping to a point. AutoCAD
2006 addresses this with the new
OSNAPZ system variable. If set to
0, osnap uses the z-value of the
snapped point. If set to 1, it uses
the x+y of the snapped point and
the current value of the ELEVATION
system variable.

Also note that when creating

lightweight polylines, the elevation
of the first snap will determine the
elevation. After that, any snap to
other elevations will be ignored.


variable in AutoCAD 2000?

This system variable can have a

drastic effect on the appearance of
offsets. Its stored in the registry so
it affects all drawings. The initial
value is 0.

 0 Extends the segments to

fill the gap (the old way)
 1 Fills the gaps with a
filleted arc segment (the
radius of the arc segment is
equal to the offset distance)
 2 Fills the gaps with a
chamfered line segment


Users with HUGE drawings may

want to consider changing the value
of the TREEDEPTH variable. It
controls the AutoCAD Oct-Tree
Spatial Index, which specifies the
number of times the tree-structured
spatial index may divide into
branches. Setting the value to -
3020 flattens the Z index giving you
more granular nodes in the XY
which yields faster object selection.
It has no effect on the elevations of
your objects.

PELLIPSE System Variable

If you want the ellipse command to

create polylines instead of the true
mathematical ellipses, set the
PELLIPSE variable to 1.

SKPOLY System Variable

By default, the SKETCH command

creates a collection of line objects.
To create polylines instead, set the
SKPOLY variable to 1.


Table Spanning (2008+)

Tables can now be broken into

multiple parts but still be part of the
same table. At the bottom of every
table object is a triangular grip.
Simply click and drag this grip to
set the breaking height for the


How can I do
subscript/superscript text?

There is no way to do it in standard

TEXT. However you can do it in
MTEXT using the stack mechanism.
As an example bring up the MTEXT
editor dialog and paste in
something like:

Raise to the 3rd^ Power!

Basically the formula is to use the ^

carat symbol along with the same
number of spaces as you have
characters to shift up/down. In my
example above I would enter this
into the MTEXT editor dialog box,
there are three spaces after the ^,
two to balance the shift of the 'rd'
and a third for the natural space
between the words. In the MTEXT
editor I would highlight the 5
characters "rd^ ", then press the
A/B stacking button in the dialog.
The 'rd' then becomes superscript.
To achieve subscript simply reverse
the order putting the spaces and
carat first, for example " ^rd".

If you wanted to underline the

superscript or overline the
subscript, simply use a "/"
(forwardslash) instead of the carat

How can I select all TEXT that

contains a word fragment?

When you need a selection set of

text objects that contains a word or
word fragment, you can call upon
the FILTER command to help. When
at the select objects prompt, type
'FILTER and press enter. Pull down
the Selected Filter and choose Text
Value from the list. In the X field
enter the text fragment you are
looking for with appropriate *'s
included. For example *LINE* will
find all text string with the
wordLINE anywhere in the string.

Dtext Placement (2006+)

Changes in the default behavior

make it difficult for those who still
place single line text in various
locations. To restore the previous
behavior, enter DTEXTED at the
command prompt and enter a value
of 1.

Mtext Editing (2006+)

The new method of editing small

mtext (especially when rotated) can
be difficult with the in-place editor.
To bring back the old method, enter
MTEXTED at the command prompt
and enter OLDEDITOR. If you need
to change it back, enter the
command again and put in the
previous value of INTERNAL.

Background Masks

Recent versions of AutoCAD have

provided the best way to mask the
content under mtext objects. Unlike
all other approaches, the built-in
functionality grows/shrinks with the
mtext content. To control the mask,
make sure your Properties dialog is
displayed (command PROPS) then
select your mtext.

In the PROPS dialog you will see

Background Mask, click the [...]
button to bring up a dialog where
you can toggle the status as well as
control the size, color, etc. Note
that in AutoCAD 2007 you can only
turn the mask on/off.


Using the Startup Suite

Users often come across usable

code they want to add to their
systems but don't know how to
proceed. You may obtain a file with
the extension LSP, VLX, DVB, etc.
Another case is lisp code in the form
of text on a newsgroup or web
page. In this case we need to get it
into a file with this first procedure.

Inline LSP Code to File

1. Highlight the text in the

source window (email,
newsgroup reader).
2. Right click and choose Copy.
3. Open a Notepad or any pure
ASCII editor.
4. Right click and choose Paste.
5. Choose File > Save As.
6. Choose an appropriate folder
and enter the name
"FILENAME.LSP" including
the quotation marks.
Otherwise Notepad will name
which won't work.

Also, it's highly recommended that

you create a dedicated folder (like
C:\CADSTUFF) to place these files.
If you place them in the AutoCAD
folder they may be removed if you

Adding functions to Startup

1. Command: APPLOAD
2. Choose the (Contents)
button in the Startup Suite.
3. Choose the (Add) button,
then browse to the location
of the code file and select it.
4. Choose the (Close) button to
close the Startup Suite.
5. Choose the (Close) button to
close the Appload Dialog.

From this point forward, the

commands defined in these code
files should be available in future
sessions without needing to load
them each time.

Other Information

Tiny URLs

This is not CAD specific but is still worth

mentioning. Sometimes when you try to
refer to a long link URL in an email or
news post, the link can become broken
because the mail/news tool wraps the link
into two (or more) lines. Unknowing users
are frustrated because the link doesn't
appear to work when they click it, and
even experienced users have to paste it
into a notepad and remove the line

In this situation, head to and paste in your
long link. A tinyurl 'mapped' link will be
returned that's usually 20-30 characters
and will never break.

How do I change the default drawing

open directory?

Right click on your launch icon and

choose Properties, choose ShortCut, then
change the path shown in the 'Start In'
field. Note that if your new path contains
spaces like "C:\My Drawings" it should be
enclosed in parenthesis, otherwise they
are not necessary.

The default behavior beginning in 2000i is

for the application to remember the last
folder accessed, even between sessions.
This can controlled by the
REMEMBERFOLDERS variable which
defaults to 1. This is an integer (0/1) and
is stored in the registry, meaning you
only need to set it once. When set to 0 it
causes AutoCAD to behave as previous
versions, honoring the settings described

AutoCAD 2000 Properties Dialog

doesn't do Previous

A favorite procedure for some in older

versions of AutoCAD was to build a
selection set, then issue the DDCHPROP
command and specify P for the previous
set. With the new AutoCAD 2000
Properties command, which totally
replaces the DDCHPROP command, you
can't specify the previous set. A little bit
of LISP to the rescue. Place this code
snipped in your ACAD.LSP file so that its
automatically loaded, and simply type
issue CHGPREV command to wake up the
properties dialog with the previous
selection set.

(defun C:CHGPREV ()
(setq sset (ssget "P"))
(if sset
(sssetfirst sset sset)
(command "_.PROPERTIES")

How do you DXFIN into an existing


In the old days of R12/R13, you could be

in a drawing full of objects, and do a
DXFIN to merge additional objects from a
DXF file. But that changed in R14,
requiring you to begin a new drawing,
DXFIN, saveas a DWG, reopen the
original drawing, and insert the newly
converted file. Now using AutoCAD 2000,
you can once again bring DXF based
geometry directly into the existing

1. Issue the INSERT command.

2. Choose the BROWSE button.
3. Pull down 'Files of Type' and
choose *.DXF.
4. Select your DXF file and choose
5. Turn on the 'Explode' toggle.
6. Turn off the rest of the toggles.
7. Choose OK to complete the

Starting AutoCAD 2000 with no

starting drawing!

If you would like to start AutoCAD 2000,

but don't want a blank empty drawing,
and you are not using the 'Startup Dialog'
you can put this in your ACAD.LSP and
it'll create this effect.

(defun-q mystartup ()
(while (eq 1 (logand 1 (getvar
(command "_CLOSE")

(setq S::STARTUP (append S::STARTUP


In LISP code, don't (regapp) until

you have to!

It may be tempting to place the (regapp)

code at the top of your LISP code so that
you won't have any problems adding EED
during your application. But doing so
changes the status of the DBMOD, and
disables the already fragile ability to
DXFIN. Place the (regapp) in the specific
function that creates/modifies the object,
right before the code that actually creates

On the subject, its not a bad idea to

check to see if its already registered like:

(if (null (tblsearch "APPID" "MYAPPID"))

(regapp "MYAPPID")

AutoCAD Temp & Backup Files

In AutoCAD, other than the DWG file,

there are other files you are working with,
whether you know it or not.

1. BAK files: Unless you turn it off in

OPTIONS, when you save a
drawing that already exists on file,
the .DWG is renamed to .BAK,
then the new data is written to
.DWG. Don't rely on this for true
safety of your files, because .BAK
files have been known to become
2. AC$ Files: These are temporary
files created by AutoCAD during
the process of creating the
drawing. They are only of value to
AutoCAD during editing and are
usually cleaned up when AutoCAD
closes. These files are useless if
AutoCAD crashes.
3. SV$ Files: These are autosave
files, controlled by the setting
inthe OPTIONS dialog. These files
are the equivalent of a DWG, you
would only need to rename them if
AutoCAD crashes. It's important to
note that if AutoCAD closes
normally, these files are deleted!

Launch without the Logo

Save yourself a second and eliminate

some visual noise every time you start
AutoCAD by turning off the logo. Right
click on your launch icon and choose
Properties. On the Shortcut tab, in the
Target field, carefully append a space and
the /nologo switch.

How do I restore from a BAK file?

By default AutoCAD makes a backup file

with the extension .BAK as you work with
drawings. Some users aren't aware of
how to use this file when the DWG
becomes corrupt. The problem is mostly
to the fault of Microsoft and their explorer

1. Launch Windows Explorer and

navigate to the folder that contains
the file(s).
2. Choose Tools > Folder Options.
3. Click on the View Tab.
4. In the 'Files & Folders' section,
turn off the toggle on 'Hide
extensions for known file types'.
5. Choose OK (extensions should now
6. Left click on the BAK file to
highlight it.
7. Right click and choose Rename (or
press F2).
8. Change the name to something
9. Open the file as normal in

Note that AutoCAD has been known to

sometimes corrupt the BAK file as well.

Educational Plot Stamp

Be careful when inserting blocks or

drawings from outside sources, especially
those you have never worked with before.
If the party providing the file was using
an educational version of AutoCAD, you
can find your plots from a full license of

If you find yourself in this situation, you

can usually save the file in a DXF format,
then reopen it to strip the message. If
you're concerned about files of this nature
lying in wait to be batch plotted, you can
scan for these files with a tool from

EDU-Scan at

Little Known Reference Manager

Because it's not shown on the AutoCAD

menus, it's often overlooked. For recent
versions of AutoCAD, click the Windows
Start Menu, choose Programs > Autodesk
> AutoCAD. In the same group as the
AutoCAD launch you will find the
Reference Manager, which can be used to
repath xrefs, images, etc.

Prevent Unnecessary Problems with

Autodesk Service Packs

Many AutoCAD users don't realize that

after installation their system still needs
service packs applied. Failure to do this
can mean that they suffer through
problems that have already been fixed.
Autodesk does a good job of making
service packs available for all the versions
you are likely to run. We found patches
going all the way back to R12 for DOS!

1. Click on this link
2. Pull down the list and choose the
Autodesk product you use.
3. In the lower left corner of the
menu at left, click on "Data &
4. Under that section, click on
"Updates & Services Packs"
5. Find the version you are running
and the patches available.

Third Generation of OS Commandline


First there was the DOS copy command,

then people discovered XCOPY which was
faster and more capable. Now there is a
third generation called ROBOCOPY, which
stands for 'Robust Copy'. Take for
instance the need to create an exact
backup of an entire drive to a folder on
another drive, including the ability to
remove files from the copy if they have
been deleted from the source. Essentially
a mirror backup!

RoboCopy is one of many handy tools in

the 'Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit
Tools', but you don't need to be running
server to use them. You can download it
directly from Microsoft using this link.

Microsoft Download:

Viewing Slides (Inside Libraries)

Although interest has dimenished over

the past few years, users still want to
work with Slide (SLD) and Slide Library
(SLB) files. One process thats not well
known is how to view a slide that is
contained within a slide library. Use this

Command: FILEDIA
Enter new value for FILEDIA <1>: 0
Command: VSLIDE
Enter name of slide file to view
<Drawing1>: ACAD(ANSI31)
Command: FILEDIA
Enter new value for FILEDIA <0>: 1
Command: REDRAW

Note the syntax on the VSLIDE command.

You specify the library name, then the
slide name in parenthesis.

AutoCAD 2007 on Vista

While Autodesk provided a service pack

for this case, there was a remaining issue
with file dialogs (they constantly show as
large icons). To fix this, use this

1. Right click your launch icon,

choose properties.
2. Switch to the Compatibility tab.
3. Turn on the top toggle 'Run in
compatibility mode'.
4. Pull down the list and choose
'Windows XP SP2'.

Using Design Center

The Design Center included with AutoCAD

several versions back can be used for
many purposes. To launch it you can use
the ADCENTER command or the alias DC.

First consider it as a Symbol Manager.

You can navigate to a folder in the left
pane and it fills the upper right pane with
the symbol drawings in that folder, with a
small preview. Clicking on one of the
icons shows a larger preview, then
dragging the icon to the AutoCAD drawing
window initiates the insert process.

Next is symbol table imports, such as

layers. Navigate to a folder on the left
pane, click the [+] box to the left of a
drawing and the tree will expand to the
available tables. For example, clicking the
Layers item under the drawing shows all
the layers for that source drawing. Select
one or more layers and drag them to the
drawing window and they will be created
in the current drawing. Objects contained
in the source drawing will not be
imported, only the definition (including
the default color, linetype, etc).

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