Funny Text

This probably sounds like I’m going to start talking about the latest joke book, but that’s not what I mean by Funny Text…… I’m talking about subscript, superscript and special characters.

The two ways I usually use are – Alt Codes and using the stack options in the MText editor. 

Alt Codes

  1. Go to Start>All Programs>Accessories>System Tools>Character Map
  2. Have a look around for the symbol you want, and select it.
  3. In the bottom right you’ll see something like Alt+0178.
  4. Go back to where you want to insert the symbol and hold down the Alt key and type 0178. This will insert the special character.


  1. If you want to have superscript, write what you want to appear as superscript followed by the ^ character, then followed by as many spaces as the number of characters you want to be superscript. In the example below I only want one character to be superscript (²), so I have included a single space after the ^ character.
  2. Select the text, including the trailing spaces (as below), and click the stack button circled in red.

For subscript, the text and spaces should be the other way around – so in this example, to create a subscript 2, you would use the text ” ^2″. You can also have a combination of both subscript and superscript, but using text instead of spaces on the opposite site. You can exchange the ^ character for the / character, and this will include a line between the subscript and superscript to signify a fraction.

I hope this helps!


Saving Images Within the Drawing

Have you ever wanted to insert an image, without it being a reference? If so, you’ll be pleased to know that it is quite possible.

If you’ve ever embedded an Excel table in AutoCAD®, you’ll have some idea that you can embed Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) objects. There is a type of OLE object called a bitmap image, and this is how we can embed our images without the need for an externally referenced image file.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. You need to have a bitmap on the clipboard, ready to be pasted into AutoCAD®. If you’re just testing it out, just punch the PrtScn button to capture the whole screen as a bitmap. As an aside, you can use Alt+PrtScn to capture only the active window – something I frequently find handy.
  2. Next, you want to go to the Edit menu.
  3. Choose Paste Special, and select Bitmap Image.
  4. Choose the location of your embedded OLE image.
  5. Done!

This can be quite handy where you need to (for example) bind everything into a drawing so that it can be sent off to a client or something. But bear in mind whilst this is possible, it’s probably better from best practice point of view that you keep drawings and images separate, so that we don’t have any unnecessary bloat in the resulting .dwg file.


Image Frames and Borders

So you’ve attached your image most likely using one of the following methods:

  1. The IMAGEATTACH command
  2. Insert>Raster Image Reference
  3. Attach Image on the Xref dialog box
  4. Drag/Drop an image file from windows explorer

But now, with your image in your drawing, you’re getting a horrible border or frame around your image. Chances are a lot of you will have come across this already but for anyone that hasn’t it is fixable using the IMAGEFRAME system variable. With this set to 0, you will have no border whatsoever. Great, but with this option you can’t select the image! Setting IMAGEFRAME to 1 makes frames visible again, and you can therefore select them again. But you don’t really want to keep switching between the two all the time when working. Setting IMAGEFRAME to 2 solves the problem – the image border or frame is visible in AutoCAD®, but is hidden when printed.



Ortho Mode vs. Polar Tracking

Ortho mode and polar tracking are two methods of constraining user input to an axis. You’ve probably become accustomed to using one of them, but if you think they are the same, you may want to look again. Of course, I am talking about these options at the bottom of AutoCAD:

Ortho Mode

Ortho mode constrains user input to horizontal and vertical input. That is, if you draw a line, it will draw it from the first point in either the horizontal or vertical direction. Of course if you snap to an object this will override ortho mode, but you can still use other objects as a reference by using object snap tracking. With object snap tracking, hovering over a snap point will cause a small temporary marker to appear, and you can then use the horizontal and vertical axes of that point as a reference. But, I digress… with ortho mode enabled, you are constrained horizontally and vertically, which is often complemented by the use of object tracking.

Polar Tracking

Polar tracking does not force the constraint to either the horizontal or vertical axis in the same way that ortho mode does. With polar tracking, you are only constrained to the axis if you are in close proximity to the axis, in a similar way to how you will only snap to objects you hover over. During a command if you are hovering over the horizontal or vertical axis, polar tracking will constrain you to that axis. In my opinion, this is the better way, because there is very rarely the need to turn this option off. If you want to draw vertically, hover in the vertical direction. If you want to draw horizontally, hover in the horizontal direction. If you want to draw randomly, draw in a random direction! I believe that polar tracking gives the user a bit more freedom to choose, without the need to turn it on/off.

There is another reason I particularly enjoy polar tracking – a technique I’ve called polar tracking 45. And, this is simply setting up your polar tracking to include tracking in 45° increments.

What’s the point of that you say? You rarely draw things with 45° angles so you hardly see this being useful…

Fair point, but what IS useful, is bearing in mind a few properties of lines drawn at 45°. For example, if you draw horizontally from 45° line, whatever distance you draw will be the exact same distance vertically:

This can be handy in situations where you want to maintain some known distance. Also, having a 45° can work wonders in combination with the mirror command – you’ll be inventing new and wonderful ways to draw things all day:

You’d have never guessed that this cross, comprised of only right angles, was actually drawn using 45° angles. This is only an arbitrary example, but there are a surprising amount of practical uses you will find when working. Try it out for a day – you’ll like it!

So that’s my piece on ortho mode vs polar tracking – in my opinion, polar is the way to go.

If you found this post useful, please do subscribe – I’m always trying to add new tips like this. So if you liked this, you should like what’s to come. Also, I’ve decided that it could be of benefit to this site to add the work of others on here, subject to suitability of course – so, if you have written a manual about something CAD related and want to become a published author (lol), get in touch! I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Thanks for your ongoing support.


The RENAME Command

Here is quite a useful command to bear in mind for the future – the RENAME command. Not only is the most basic functionality useful, but there are also some advanced usages that can be even more helpful.

Basically, the RENAME command allows you to rename blocks, layers, styles and various other things in an AutoCAD® drawing. Whereas before you may have exploded a block and re-blocked it, this way makes life much easier, allowing you to give a new name to existing objects.

For layers, you may question how useful this really is, but here’s one of the best things about this command. You can rename many things at the same time. Using the * wildcard, you can match any text in your named objects, and replace with something else. This is really useful if you have an unwanted prefix or suffix for example in all your layers. You can simply specify the old name of “prefix_*” and new name of “*”, and this will strip the suffix from the objects.

I hope this helps you out,


The CHSPACE Command

It can be quite annoying when you’ve drawn something in paperspace, but in needs to be located in modelspace. Thankfully there is a quick fix for this. The CHSPACE command will move objects through a viewport, scaling the entities suitably to retain their appearance as viewed in paperspace.

Here’s a simple step-by step guide:

  1. From paperspace, select the objects that you want to move through a viewport.
  2. Type the CHSPACE command, or select it from the modify menu.
  3. Next, the command needs to know which viewport you want to “push” the  objects through. This will determine how the objects are scaled and their final positions in modelspace. Bear in mind that if there is only one viewport in the active paperspace layout, this will be a automatically selected, and this step will be skipped.

The reverse of this procedure also works, allowing you to pull objects from modelspace to paperspace.

There are a few other occasions where the use of CHSPACE can be quite handy. If you’re ever working on a drawing with a poorly managed and very messy modelspace, it can sometimes be difficult to know what your viewport is looking at in modelspace. A quick an easy way to identify where the viewport is looking is to draw two xlines with a random direction that intersect on the viewport. CHSPACE to move them to modelspace, and then all you have to do is zoom to the intersection of the two xlines to fine where the viewport is looking.

Another use for this command is for pushing notes or dims through the viewport, if the notes or dims are in the wrong space. There is also the odd occasion where you want to move dims or notes onto a viewport looking at the same thing in another layout, or onto another viewport in the same layout showing the detail at a different scale. This can be achieved with a two stage CHSPACE. First push the objects through to the model, then you can pull them back out of whatever viewport is desired.

I hope you found this post helpful. I’ve loads more tips and tricks to share, so please do consider subscribing below.


The Modelspace or Paperspace Argument

I’ve been looking forward to this post, as this argument has raged for over 10 years between the many other CAD professionals I know. Ironically, the conclusion I have come to doesn’t have much to do with which way is best. It is more of a philosophical conclusion about social behaviour and perception, explaining why this has remained unresolved for so long. Continue reading “The Modelspace or Paperspace Argument”


Here’s a quick little nugget that I stumbled across recently – the SUPERHATCH command.

Sometimes you’ll want to “hatch” and area with some unusual pattern, but you don’t have the hatch you’re looking for, nor do you have the time or knowhow to create your own hatch pattern. This is where SUPERHATCH comes in. SUPERHATCH allows you to “hatch” and area using an image, block, xref or wipeout. So if you want a custom hatch, you can create a tessellating block and use that. Ok – you’re not going to be using this command every day, but certainly bear it in mind, because when you do need this functionality, it will be a godsend.


CAD Document Management

After a lovely break over Xmas, I thought I’d get back into the swing of things on here.. and I’m starting off the year with CAD document management – a crucial yet sometimes overlooked aspect of computer aided design.

I’ve seen some pretty horrifically non-existent filing systems, so I know all about the woes of poor CAD document management. I’ve had to determine whether a file named “New.dwg” is in fact new as advertised verses a file which has a newer last modified date. I’ve had to perform mass searches on networked drives for “*.dwg”, and sift through hundereds of files looking for something I’ve been handed in a hard copy, that doesn’t have a drawing number on it… Not very helpful at all, and potentially costly to projects as time is wasted trying to find out stuff we should already know. And this is totally avoidable, with very little effort. Hopefully you’re doing this already, but if you’re not, you must implement some standard CAD document management.

What do I mean by this? It can be anything from a full-blown electronic document management system (EDMS) to simply keeping your drawings saved in “/SomePath/CAD/ProjectCode/DrawingNo.dwg”. The scale of the work you are doing usually dictates what level of document management is best suited for the job. More often than not, projects with 50 drawings or less are easily accommodated by a simple folder structure. Above 50 and you might want to consider some managed solution. Look into things like Autodesk Vault to keep better control over your drawings and revisions.

Another option to keep better control over your drawings is to use sheet sets. These are really useful not just for keeping things tidy and well managed, but also has some neat batch plotting functionality that is really worth using.

Whatever you do, have something in place. The most costly option is to have nothing, as this leads to a whole range of problems. Make sure all drawings have a drawing number. Make sure you name your files sensibly. And finally, make sure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet – ensure you communicate to others working on the same project and get them to work in the same way.

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