Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Custom Multileader Style

Hello and welcome to the CAD Cafe. Unless you live high up in the mountains or right next to the sea, it's HOT where you are! So get yourself an iced drink - if your IT guy lets you have liquids near the computer - relax and try something new from AutoCAD 2008.
Today we're going to make a custom Multileader.

In case you aren't familiar with that phrase, let me explain. It's simply an arrow pointing at something you want people to notice, with a number that corresponds to a keynote, usually with a shape around it like a rectangle or a circle. There are a lot of them that come with AutoCAD, but maybe you want to use the same one you've always used. It's part of your company's signature drawing style! Still, wouldn't it be great to have the functionality offered with 2008 multileaders? You can!

This first illustration shows the different types of multileaders that are included with AutoCAD. I created a few different styles to show that you can use any arrowhead, line/spline, and shape combination you like. The process for creating these styles is exactly the same as for a custom Multileader, just choose one of the shapes from the block list.

First step: create a block if you don't already have a custom one. Draw your keynote & insert an attribute at the size you want your keynote to print out in paperspace. I used this ellipse at the size you see dimensioned here.

Important Note! Don't use an annotative text style for your attribute!
Another thing you might want to consider is creating all this in a template file you always use, so once you've gone to the trouble of creating it, the style is available to you.

Next, make your block but make sure it's NOT annotative. All the annotation happens in the Multileader style.
You'll want to make sure to Save at this point. AutoCAD won't put your block in the list if you haven't saved the drawing. Plus who wants to make the block over again just because they forgot to save?
Second step, use the button in your Dashboard to start the Multileader Styler command.
This is a lot like creating a dimension style, you choose options from each tab.

Reading from left to right; under the Leader format tab you choose either lines or splines, line color, linetype, lineweight, also arrowhead style & size. Next is Leader Structure where you can specify how many points your line will have, as well as a specific line angle if you need that. Here you'll choose how it's scaled - annotative or not, same as with dimension styles. As you choose things you'll see the preview of your multileader change.
The last tab, Content, is where you choose your own block.

Here is illustrated all the choices you have when you create your own Text Multileader Style. I was going to explain it all, but in this case a picture is definitely worth a thousand words, and those of you who aren't interested in this can just skip this picture, and you won't have to read a thousand more words!

Below is the Content tab with 'Block' chosen; you
can see all the choices that come with AutoCAD.
I clicked where you see the words "User block" highlighted, then a list of all the blocks in the drawing popped up and I chose my 'Custom Keynote' block.

Here you can see my preview, I chose my custom block, straight lines, annotative scale and all colors by layer.
Remember, if you want your Multileader to be Annotative, you make it annotative here in the Style Manager, on the Leader Structure tab, under 'Scale'. You don't use an annotative block, it won't work.
Guess who tried it? Right in one! So when I tell you it won't work, you can believe me.

Here are my custom Multileaders, inserted through the viewport and all scaled perfectly. I added more leaders to one of them to demonstrate that a custom block multileader style has all the functionality of the ones that come with AutoCAD.

I couldn't resist changing the layer colors per viewport, just so the electrical would stand out more in that second viewport. While in Paperspace, I clicked inside that viewport, opened the Layers Manager and changed the colors in the "VP Color" column. Here's a picture so you could see which ones I changed and how they're highlighted when you do change them.

I hope this was helpful - you can use the new Multileader functionality in 2008 and you don't have to give up any custom keynote blocks you're already using.
Keep cool until next time!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Feature Line Labels

So, you have a feature line that you would like to label and you want to see the elevations of the verticies. Well, I've got good news for you. You can create a general line label style that can do that.

First thing you'll need to do is create a label style. The general line label styles are found on the Settings tab of your workspace -> General -> Label Styles -> Line. Right click on Line and select New...

Give your new label a name. In this example, I'm creating a label for the end of the line so it's called "End Elevation" (original, I know). On the layout tab, go ahead and remove all the components (select the component name and hit the red X) so we are starting with an empty style.

Now, let's go ahead and build the style. If you've looked at the anchor components, one thing you'll notice is there is no apparent way to attach a piece of text to anything other than the anchor point; which is the middle of the line. Well, we can get around that fairly simply. What we need is a component that goes from the start point of the line to the end point of the line and the component that does that is the direction arrow. So let's go ahead and add the direction arrow to our label.

A couple things to keep in mind. First, we don't want to see the direction arrow, we just want to use it so make sure to set the visibility to false. Second, we want the direction arrow to go from the start of the line to the end of the line so make sure the fixed length is also set to false. Now that have the start and end points of our line, via the direction arrow, we can attach text to them.

A couple notes on this component. We want the anchor component to be the direction arrow and the anchor point to be the end. This will place the label at the end point of the feature line. Now, we need to compose the text value of our lable. Click on the ellipses (that's the three little dots) in the value cell for the text contents to bring up the Text Component Editor.

For the text properties, we want to use the General Segment End Z, format it how ever you like, and then hit the blue arrow to insert it into the label. That's all there is to it. You've just created a style to label the end points of your feature lines. You'll probably need to repeat the process to create a label for the start point, as well as labels for the start and end of curves. Now, when you want to add the label, simply go to the General menu, Add Labels... and select Line and Curve for your feature and the styles you just created for the label styles and away you go!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What? Me use Sheet Set Manager?

I've noticed a disturbing trend in the classes I've been teaching recently. Apparently, not many engineers out there are using the Sheet Set Manager in AutoCAD. In my humble opinion, this is by far the best thing that came out of AutoCAD 2005. If you look through the help file, you may find yourself thinking, "Yeah, so it can help me open, plot, and create sheets. Big deal!" These things are nice but the real beauty of the Sheet Set Manager is the fields.

Let's look at a for instance. Say you have a set of drawings that consists of 100 sheets. That's a big set but not too extravagant in this day and age. Now, you've set aside sheets 3-8 for the surveyor's plat and you've gone out and created the rest of your sheets. The day of the submittal roles around and your surveyor forgot to mention that he had to add an additional sheet to his plat. Oh great! Now you have to go open all 90+ sheets to renumber them. Not if you are using Sheet Set Manager.

The way to set this up is to have the piece of text in your title block that displays the sheet number consist of a field. In this example, the sheet number, the project name, number, and address are all fields that are referencing the sheet set. To create these fields, simply edit the text, right click where you want the field to be, and select "Insert Field..." The dialog box for creating the field has a lot of different options (I use this for labeling my labeling my assemblies as well but that's a topic for a different post).

The field you'll want to use to get the sheet number in your title block is CurrentSheetNumber. Set your Field Catagory to Sheet Set and then under Field Names: select CurrentSheetNumber. Now, whenever your sheet number changes in your sheet set, the drawing will reflect that value. The nice thing is, you don't even have to open any of the drawing to make this change. Simply open the sheet set, right click on the sheet you want to renumber, select Rename & Renumber and away you go. The next time the sheet is opened (even if through publishing) the sheet number will be updated.

Now, back to our example, the surveyor added another sheets and now you have to renumber them. Well, since you're using the Sheet Set Manager, simply open the sheet set, runumber the sheets, and your done. Shouldn't take more than a few minutes to do this.

You can use this for other things as well, such as the sheet name, project number, client information, etc. but there are other (possibly easier?) ways to handle that information.

As a last word, if you aren't utilizing the power of the Sheet Set Manager, you really must learn it. It's definitely a huge time saver!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Saving Back with Annotative Styles

I received a question about what happens to these annotative objects when you have to send your drawing to someone with an older version of AutoCAD. A really good question, and one I'd want to know the answer to before I started making all new styles of text and
dimensions. Happily, the answer is short and easy.

Here is the example drawing I'll be using. I made some text and dimensions that only had one scale, and some that had several. Then I saved it back to a 2004 type file, and went and opened it in AutoCAD 2006.

As you can see, when you look at all the viewports in paperspace, it's almost perfect! The only thing you lose is the layer color or linetype per viewport. But everything is showing only in the viewports it's supposed to, and at the right scale.

You can see why - AutoCAD copied my layers and added the appropriate scale factor to the layer name. How clever is that? You can also see that the correct layers are frozen per viewport - so it all works, and someone can view your drawing in an older version. (by the way, if you save as an older version and then just open it in 2008, it doesn't do this. It looks just the same.)

The next logical question is, "What do these annotative objects become? Can I still edit the text, or change a dimension?"
In Model space, you can see everything all at once, so it looks a little confusing. When you click on an object that had several scale factors attached to it, you'll see that each size is there and they're all one object -they've been made into a block.

In the example, I exploded the block and it turned back into two dimensions. Instead of creating new dimension styles, Style Overrides are added. I chose both dimensions, did LIST, & took a picture of this so you could see it. (notice the dimscale)

Hopefully, this will increase your confidence in using the new annotative text. You can save back to earlier versions and still work with the objects formerly known as Annotative.