Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Little Rotation Tip

Hi folks, today's a half-day at the office here, with not much going on - lots of people on vacation this week! I was just in the mood to write a little note to all of you. I meant to include this quick tip about an option in the Rotation command when I wrote about offset, but that subject just got too long. This Rotation tip is one of those things that works pretty slick. Slick as a country road in the winter...

Let's say you have an object that has been drawn at an angle, and it should be lined up with something else in your drawing. In my example I have what I'm calling a property line, and I want to line up this rectangular object to be at the same angle. You can imagine this thing to be anything you please; a tool shed, chicken coop, hot tub, garden plot, whatever. I put it in at an angle, but now things have changed and the angle is wrong.

In order to get the rectangle rotated to the same angle as the property line, I could find out what angle each one is rotated to now, and do the math to figure out how many degrees I need to rotate it to match. And then of course I'd have to adjust it, because it would be off by some fraction of a degree - you can pretty much count on that!
The easier way is to start the Rotate command, pick your base point as usual, and then you'll see "Specify rotation angle or [Copy/Reference] <0>:" so now choose the [Reference] option.

Next, to specify the reference angle, use your Osnaps to pick on two points on the object you're about to rotate.

Notice your command line says "Specify the new angle or [Points] <0>". If you knew the angle at which you wanted your object to end up rotated, you could type it in here, hit enter and you're done.

But my tip is for when you don't know that angle -then you choose the [Points] option, and pick two points on the line that is at the angle you want your object to match. ( I used the Nearest Osnap option to be sure I picked exactly on the line)

BANG! Your object will be rotated at the same angle as that line.

Easy as pie, right?

I hope this was helpful to some of you, whether beginners who've never seen it, or anyone who never noticed this cute little option when it came out in 06.
You might also want to play with the [Copy] option.

It's almost time to go home, and we have tomorrow off - I'm so glad!

I'll give you a hint at what I'm going to be doing with my free time...

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Little Text Thing

Hi all! Great weather we're still having, eh? Especially all of you poor folks back east!

I wanted to add a couple tiny tips about text, one new for 2009, the other is old but you may not know about it.

In this picture I have an Mtext object, I just made it on Friday when I was showing someone how fields work. There is some text I typed and a Date field, formatted so that every time I saved the drawing, he could see the seconds update, to show just how cool these fields are!
Cool as North Dakota in the wintertime! And you could say that North Dakota is one Big field!
Of course, you could say the same thing about eastern Colorado, or Kansas, or Nebraska, etc, etc.

Today, I double clicked on the text and started to change it. I wanted the note to be different, and I didn't want the field to update any more. One of the new features of the AutoCAD 2009 ribbon is when you're in the text editor, the ribbon automatically changes to a text editing ribbon. If you don't pay attention you might not even notice it.

In the picture you'll also notice that I have Spell-check ON, it's blue. When I misspelled a word, now the Text Editor underlines the word in red, just like most word processing software now. Also, if you right-click exactly on that underlined word, a list of possible words you might have meant to type is there in your right-click menu. (another reason to start using right-click menus!) I purposely misspelled "created" as "creatid" and it gave me "created" which was exactly what I wanted, plus a few other odd words. If the automatic spell-check bothers you, just click the spell-check button to turn it off.

But please, for your own sake, do a spell check before you send any drawings out! It's such a simple thing to do, and you look the opposite of intelligent when you send out documents with misspelled words in them. I'm sure I've done that here in this blog, and I'm sure you've noticed it! Spelling errors stand out!

The next thing I did in the text editor is select the Date field, and right-click. The old thing I meant to tell you about is that you can change a field into text.

If you used a field to get information from an object - or in this case, a certain date - and you don't want it to keep updating, right-click on the field and choose "Convert field to text". That is exactly what it does, so now you have text where there once was a field. You can edit all or part of it just like any other bit of text.

I hope someone, somewhere said "I never knew you could do that!" Maybe someone who is outstanding in their field, even.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

No More Late Nights in the Office

Have you ever had a deadline that meant you had to stay at the office until the project was finished, no matter how late it got? I know it can be exciting in a scary-movie kind of way to be alone in an office building late at night, long after even the cleaning crews have gone home...or not! Honestly, I'd rather be home at night. Even if I have work to finish I like it better if, once the job is finally done, my commute consists of walking from my desk to my bed!

If the place where you work has their AutoCAD products on Subscription, and you work for a commercial business (not, for example, an educational facility or Autodesk Reseller) and you have a decent home computer, there is another benefit to you that I think you will truly like. It's called Home Use, and it's only available to Autodesk subscription customers.

What it means is that you, as the licensee of the software, may install a second copy of the program at a second location away from your office location under the following conditions: (and I quote)
--Such second location may include installation on a computer located at the home of an employee or on an employee’s personal computer.
--The use of the software when installed at such second location shall be to produce work related to your internal business needs or for your employee’s personal education or training needs.
This Home Use benefit applies only for as long as your software is on subscription and only to the number of licenses of the program that are on subscription.

Even if your AutoCAD products are on a network license, you can still do this, you just have to apply for a companion stand-alone serial number. This will work as long as your subscription is current, and a company can do this for as many licenses as they have.
Most of the Autodesk products are eligible, except enterprise/server-based products and those that do not require activation. Only commercial licenses are eligible, as I said before. NFR (Not for Resale) and EDU (Education) licenses are not eligible, so if you work for a school or an Autodesk reseller, don't try this at home. If my experience is anything to go by, most of those folks have laptops anyways, and are constantly bringing work home...kind of takes the fun out of it, doesn't it?
CORRECTON! I made a mistake when I first wrote this, I stated that it wasn't available for Government offices. It is.
This benefit IS available to you if you work for a government office. Only NFR and EDU licenses don't have this option. All the rest are considered commercial, even though their purchasing is done differently than, say, a construction company, the licenses themselves are considered commercial.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Meet Some Old Options

I'm in the deep freeze today, like a lot of you all over the United States - did the weather ever change! In my town in Colorado it got up to 55 degrees F last week, it was such an unexpected gift...Then the big snow on Saturday, and now this morning it was -14! The drive in to work today was slow and painful, with the roads covered in snow that had been packed down and then frozen solid. However, when I saw the reports from all the ice storms in the east - where they're without power and heat - I know I better not complain! (It reminds me of what my children used to say, "I'm not complaining, I'm just mentioning.")

I was thinking it would be great if I could gather all the little-known improvements to AutoCAD into a one-day class. It would even be useful to anyone working in one of the specialized versions, like Architecture or Civil 3D. They spend so much time learning the software, and then the big changes each year, plus trying to finish drawings and beat deadlines, they truly don't have much chance to do anything else. It'd also be useful as an update class for folks who haven't upgraded in 5 years or so. But just to get you all feeling good, I'm going to mention a couple here today - maybe that'll warm you up.

Maybe if I type like mad, it'll warm me up!

So here's one little tidbit - from 2006 - did you know you can offset an object on to a different layer than the one it is on? When you first start the offset command, on your command line some of you will have noticed the line that reads, " Current settings: Erase source=No Layer=Current OFFSETGAPTYPE=0". So, there are 3 things you can set in the Offset command, let me tell you what they do.

If instead of typing in an offset distance, you choose the "Erase" option, and Yes, the object you offset will disapear, and a new one will be created at whatever distance you specified.

If you choose instead the "Layer" option, and change it from "Source" to "Current", your offset object will be created onto the current layer. This could really be useful; I often would offset things and then change their layer. In the picture, I offset the property lines 3' onto a different layer.

Notice that once you have chosen an object to offset, you can pick the Multiple option as well. This will continue to make offset copies of that object as many times as you click, all at that distance you specified, without needing to pick it again. Once you are in that option, you can undo one or more if you get a little click-happy and create too many.

In the Multiple mode, by hitting Enter, you accept the default option, which you see is "select next object". With this option, you can select a new object, and then offset it as many times as you like.

The thing to watch out for with these fine options is that once you set them, they stay set as long as you are in that drawing session. (by that I mean it stays that way until you close AutoCAD, even if you go into a different drawing...unless you reset it back) If you do start using them, eventually you'll get used to taking a quck glance at that old command line. It'll tell you every time which options are active.

Last of all is OFFSETGAPTYPE. Here is the explanation of what that System Variable does, straight from the Help files.

0 - Fills the gaps by extending the polyline segments
1 - Fills the gaps with filleted arc segments (the radius of each arc segment is equal to the offset distance)
2 - Fills the gaps with chamfered line segments (the perpendicular distance to each chamfer is equal to the offset distance)

This picture ought to explain it even better...I used the same distance for each offset, and changed that system variable each time. You can probably see why the default setting is 0.

Does everyone know that the space bar on your keyboard works as "Enter" ?? If you keep one hand on your mouse and one on your keyboard, this can save you lots of clicks. (Of course, in the Text Editor, the spacebar is the spacebar...) You don't have to take your hand off your mouse to go over to the Enter key, and you don't have to right-click and then choose Enter from the list. Just use your thumb to hit the Spacebar when you want to end a command, or restart the same one over again.

For those very experienced CAD users, who started out with "Right click is Enter" and refuse to change to using a right-click menu - my heart goes out to you, but get into the 21st century. We always have to change! Would you stick with a rotary dial telephone just because you grew up using one? (for the kids who've only known push-button phones - watch some old movies, you'll see what I'm talking about) There are so many good shortcuts on the right-click menu that you're truly handicapping yourself if you don't learn to use them!

AND check out some of those little-used options on often used commands - you might find some great old tools!