AutoCAD® – Quick Layer Toggling With LAYWALK

Sometimes, using the standard layer managers for quickly looking at what’s on a layer can be a pain, especially when you want to just quickly flick through them to look at the content of many layers. Thankfully (and as usual), there’s a neat little command to do the job. The command is LAYWALK, which brings up a little dialog box with a list of layers, and you can simply select whichever layers you want to view, and it automatically toggles their visibility.

LAYWALK dialog box
LAYWALK dialog box

Have a play – it’s really handy for flicking through. When the command completes, the layer states are nealy restored to what it was before running the command.

Hope this helps, and if it did, subscribe below! (if you haven’t already)

Will

AutoCAD® 2012 – Free Download

Very nice of Autodesk to provide us all with a free copy of AutoCAD® 2012 this year ;-). Visit the download link at the end of this post to get your copy of AutoCAD® 2012!

The only catch is, it’s only free for 30 days – but well worth the download to test out all the new features. Of course, ensure that you have sufficient system requirements to install the software first.

Another final thing to note – be mindful of the fact that you’re using a new version, which is a trial. Remember to keep your work in a format that you will still be able to open with your previous version of AutoCAD® when the trial expires. Yes, this is the voice of experience…


Click here to download AutoCAD® 2012

Will

AutoCAD® – The TASKBAR System Variable

When I first started using AutoCAD®, I was never a fan of having more than one drawing open at a time, because flipping between them was cumbersome. I’d have to go to the menu bar and select the Window drop-down, and then pick the drawing I want to activate. I’d have much preferred them to all be accessible directly from windows in the taskbar. So, I was overjoyed when I discovered the TASKBAR system variable!

If you’ve not encountered this before, you’ll love it – it makes working with multiple drawings so much easier. Set TASKBAR to 1 and all of your drawings will earn their own little button on the windows taskbar. You can identify and switch to any drawing you have open by simply clicking it on the taskbar. Additionally, you can immediately see at a glance how many drawings you have open, which is sometimes a useful way to be reminded to close them to conserve PC resources.

Try it out – if you’re anything like me you’ll like it.

Will

Touch Typing

Today, I’m going to talk to you about touch-typing. A lot of people claim to be able to touch-type simply because they can bash out a few words really fast using a couple if different fingers without looking, before making a mistake and needing to look at the keyboard… This is not touch-typing. Before you get disinterested, thinking “how on earth is this relevant to AutoCAD”, I’ll get there… please do read on.

Touch-typing is the ability to type, using only an instinctive knowledge of where the keys are under your fingers. Even when you make mistakes, you know exactly what mistake you made, and exactly how to fix it, using only the touch from your fingertips. The benefits of touch-typing  extend across your whole computing experience – including in the context of using AutoCAD® too.

I’m sure this has happened to you before – a drawing goes off for checking/approval (you do have a robust checking/approval process for your drawings don’t you?), and comes back plastered with additional notes and annotation. Ideally this will be in the form of a dwf so that we can copy and paste them across, but life is rarely that kind to us now is it. I remember countless times getting a drawing literally plastered with red pen for me to add to a drawing. Although I could type fairly well anyway, this was the catalyst for me making a conscious effort to learn to touch type properly —— and it is without a doubt one of the most useful things I ever learned to do on a PC.

Consider:

  1. Not having to look at the keyboard……ever. If you have some text on paper to copy to AutoCAD®, just read it, and type it as you go. This is much faster than the “look at the paper, then look at the keyboard, then type, then look at the screen and repeat” technique. This freedom to read while typing easily makes copying text from paper at least three times faster, and that’s not even factoring in the increased typing-speed perk of learning to touch-type.
  2. Being free to daydream. What I mean by this is, a natural instinctive typing ability requires no thought whatsoever. Previously your mind is trying to do two things – think about the content you’re writing about (the important bit), and typing. This encumbers the mind. When you speak, you’re not thinking about the shapes you’re making with your tongue are you? You’re not consciously engaging your diaphragm to expel air from your lungs, engaging your vocal chords, and shaping your mouth to create words… Of course you aren’t. Your brain is thinking about what you want to say – the rest comes naturally. Touch typing enables this with a computer. Think of something you want to write, and it just appears in front of you on the screen. It can actually be quite pleasant to gaze out of the window whilst typing, in search for inspiration…
  3. Linking instinctive typing with carefully mapped left-handed (or right-handed) keybinds. Anyone that has read my post on how I’ve mapped my commands to my left hand only, you’ll already know roughly what I’m talking about. Think a command, and it’s activated.

These are but a few perks of touch-typing – there are so many.

Sadly, there is a cost. It will take you time to learn. The way I learnt was to set aside say 15 minutes every day (during my lunch break of course…), and browse the various touch-typing websites that exist. There are loads, and most usually have a free online touch-typing applet for you to practice with.

So, I advise that you seriously consider learning. It requires some effort, but it is justifiable on the merit of the AutoCAD® benefits alone, and greatly enhances pretty much every other aspect of using a PC.

Will

Speed Up AutoCAD

Everybody wants a faster AutoCAD®. The problem is there are so many ways to tweak and optimise the software that it can be a very daunting task. Thankfully, there are countless articles online that list precisely what can be done to help speed up AutoCAD.

Here is a very good list created by Ellen Finkelstein, which covers many of the ways to speed your AutoCAD® display when dealing with resource-hungry work:

Text

A large drawing with lots of text can slow down your work. Here are some text tips.

Quicktext

Quicktext turns text into rectangles and quickens your regens. Use the QTEXT command and choose on (displays rectangles) or off (displays the text). Then use the REGEN command .

Font substitution

Using a simpler font can also speed up your drawing, especially if it’s large and contains a lot of text. Create a new text style that uses one of AutoCAD’s own fonts, rather than TrueType fonts. You can switch back just before plotting. Note that a different font will take up a different amount of space, so the text may not fit properly. Two fonts that are very simple are txt.shx and simplex.shx.

To create a style:

  1. Start the STYLE command.
  2. In the Text Style dialog box, click New.
  3. In the New Text Style dialog box, give the text style a name and click OK.
  4. Back in the Text Style dialog box, choose a font from the Font Name drop-down list.
  5. Change other settings as desired, such as the height, width factor, and oblique angle. You can also make the text style annotative. You’ll see a preview at the lower-left corner of the dialog box.
  6. Click Set Current if you want to use the style right away. Click Close.

An easy way to change all the text in your drawing to your new style is as follows:

  1. Press Ctrl + A to select all objects. If you have Quick Properties on (it’s a button on the status bar), you’ll get a small window showing the properties of your objects.
  2. Click the drop-down list to select Text or MText; this filters out the other objects.
  3. In the Quick Properties window, click the current style and then its down arrow.
  4. Choose a new style from the list.
  5. Press Esc to deselect all the text.

Turn off text layers

You can always turn off text layers. From the Layer drop-down list, click the light bulb symbol next to a layer. Repeat to turn the layer back on.

Solid hatches and lineweights

Solid fills (solid hatches), wide polylines, and 2D solids can take a while to display if you have lots of them. Just use the FILL command and set it to OFF. Use the REGEN command to see the result.

If you’re using lineweights, these are also displayed as solidly filled areas, so you can turn off their display. Just click the Show/Hide Lineweight button on the status bar.

Regens and resolution

AutoCAD® automatically regenerates whenever needed, but you can turn off automatic regeneration and manually regenerate (using the REGEN command) when you want to; this reduces regenerations and gives you more control. Use the REGENAUTO command and set it to off.

The VIEWRES command sets the resolution that controls circles and arcs. You may have seen a circle that looked like a polygon. Usually, you can use the REGEN command to return its circle-ness. But you can speed up display by lowering the view resolution. Acceptable values are 1-20000. You can set it to 15 for example. A value like 2000 will usually suffice to show you smooth circles again.

When you use this command, you’ll be asked if you want fast zooms. You do. This is a legacy setting.

I hope you found this list as useful as I have. Ellen has a great blog full of all sorts of AutoCAD® tips, I suggest you go have a snoop around as there are many useful gems in there.

Will

AutoCAD® Command AutoComplete

Before I get into the specifics of this post, I’d like to acknowledge that you may have experienced a lull in posts and responses to comments over the last few weeks… I have been away from my usual lifestyle… celebrating my recent marriage on the 4th of June. That’s right – I’m now a married man… which I think will work out well for my readers – now that I have a wife to try to escape from, I’ll no doubt be writing more posts that I ever have! I am of course only joking – and without intending to paint my personal life all over these posts, I couldn’t be happier.

Secondly, I’d like to celebrate reaching 100 subscribers! I’m amazed at the response HowToAutoCAD.com is getting from you all. Rest assured that I have so far only scratched the surface of what I can write about – this site is certainly still only in its infancy. As an early subscriber, I’ll make sure you get special treatment at some point… 😉

So, what was this post going to be about again… ah yes… here goes…

This has undoubtedly happened to you. You know what you want to do, and you know that a command exists to do it. But for the life of you, you’ve forgotten what the exact command name is… but you kind of think it started with CONV. There’s a useful feature in AutoCAD® to deal with this – the command autocomplete feature. Just type in what you know, and you can toggle through all the commands that start with what you typed with the TAB key. So in the case of CONV, you could toggle all the way to CONVTOMESH and go “ahhh yes, that’s what it was called!”.

Pleasingly, this also includes system variables. So if you forgot the exact name for the system variable that controls polyline linetype generation, but you remember it started with PL, just enter what you know and tab through to PLINEGEN.

One of my subscribers has kindly been in touch with an addition. Laurie Comerford writes:

“Not only does your tip work for Autodesk created commands, but it includes new commands defined in .NET code, which is a joy for me as I’m currently testing these commands and instead of typing:

‘LaurieTestLandscape’ or some other overlong command names I’ve defined, all I need is Lau<Tab>”

This tip has helped me out several times, and I’m sure it will do the same for you if you didn’t already know it.

Will