Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Customize the Dashboard

Hi again! This time let's look at how to customize the Dashboard.

I know it's hard to change the way you've always accessed your commands, so I thought perhaps if you knew you could customize the Dashboard to look the way you want it, you all might just give it a try.
First of all, so we're all on the same page - the Dashboard was there in AutoCAD 2007, but only in the 3D Workspace.
Now in 2008 they've added it to the Workspace named '2D Drafting and Annotation'. They've also added a lot of functionality; you can customize your Dashboard now like you could the toolbars, and since they hide themselves when you don't need them, you can maximize your drawing space. (I mean it doesn't have to be all filled up with toolbars any more.)

Each of those rows with the faint grey line underneath is a control panel. You can control which control panels show. Right click on any control panel, you'll see the list of available panels. Only the ones that are checked will show. So, the first way you can customize the user interface is by choosing which control panels you would use. Once you have that set up, go to the Workspace Toolbar ( or the Tools menu; Tools>Workspaces ) and save as a new name. Next time you want just those Control Panels, choose that Workspace from your list and voila, you've got it. ("Tish, you spoke French!")

The fun part is making your own control panels. You can right click on any of the panels (not anywhere else on the Dashboard) and select "Customize". It'll put you into a folded-up display of the CUI dialog box. ( Customize User Interface). In the illustration here I've labeled where you click to open up the dialog box.

To open up the list of exising Dashboard panels, in the top left section of the CUI dilaog box, where it says "Customization in all CUI files" click the "+" in front of "Dashboard Panels". Right click exactly on those words and one of your choices will be "New". I selected that, in this picture you'll see my new panel.
One way to add commands to my panel is to find them from the list on the bottom there, and just drag them one at a time onto the Control Panel. If I wanted to, for example, I could drag every different Arc command onto one Control Panel and have them all at my fingertips.

By right-clicking on your Control Panel, you can add another row, a separator or a flyout; duplicate an object, or remove it.
Another, faster way to make Control Panels is to drag an entire toolbar onto a Control Panel. Up in the top section, find a toolbar that has most of the commands you want, and just drag and drop it onto your Control Panel. You need to drag it right onto the name , it will make a flyout on the row if you drag it there. The tool palette turns into a row on your Panel

Now on the right side of this dialog box you can see a preview of your new Control Panel. Notice the toolbar you dragged down formed a row, and the original row is now moved and became the 2nd row. By right-clicking on it, you can delete the other row if you don't need it.

Also, by right-clicking on individual buttons, you can delete any you don't want.
The fun part is adding new commands to these. Any command that you can find in the bottom left section of the CUI box can be dragged onto any dashboard. In the next illustration, I dragged a command from Express Tools that doesn't have an icon assigned to it. Notice the question mark for a button.
Also notice in the lower right corner, all the icons used for Toolbars and menus are showing there. It's not hard to customize one of those to make your own icon.

Scroll through the icons until you find one that's close to what you would like for your command. For the following example, I dragged the command for snapping Midway between two points onto my toolbar, so I started with the icon for Osnap-midpoint. In the picture below you can see it in the background, I clicked on Edit and then changed the bitmap as you see here. Then I just pick the "saveas" button, and AutoCAD puts me into one of those deeply buried folders, named Icon. Use that to store your custom icons.

Once you've saved it, the icon shows in your list, so all you have to do is scroll down to the bottom of the list and select it. Then it'll show up on your Control Panel.
By the way, if you don't use the botton now, it won't show up here later easily. It's best to do these one at a time.

Here is another custom button I made, for the Express Tools command "Replace block with another block". In this illustraton you can see the path where my custom icons are saved by default. Using this default location makes it easy for you to transfer these next time you upgrade the software.

Last of all, if you want to assign an image to the Control Panel itself, it's as easy as pie. Click on the title of your dashboard, scroll through the icons and click one. It'll then be assigned to the edge of your control panel. You don't have to do that of course. I made a custom one, and perhaps I shouldn't have used red, since all the other icons are just shades of blue. What can I say ? - I like a lot of color!

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