Command Aliases in AutoCAD® with acad.pgp

by Will on November 19, 2010

Thought I’d share something that I did a while back which turned out to be a really good move, though it may not be for everyone. The rationale behind this exercise is to make commonly used commands more at the fingertips of the user, and thus improve productivity.

I have set up a range of one and two letter command aliases that can be entered solely with the left hand using various combinations of the keys normally associated with touch typing with the left hand. I can now use my pointing device with one hand, and invoke up to 240 commands with the other.

This is arguably faster than clicking a toolbar icon, but this is not the only benefit. The user benefits from more screen space if they choose to remove toolbars they no longer need. More significantly, the user can interact with the PC without taking their eyes off the screen to type (or locate their right hand correctly to type), and can zoom/pan & analyse and think about the drawing WHILST entering commands.

It does come at a cost though, because you have to remember all the keybinds! To combat this, it helps to have some logic behind how they’re laid out – for instance I have my keybinds laid out as follows:

Commands beginning with A draw things, commands beginning with S modify things, commands beginning with D have to do with dimensioning/annotating, and commands beginning with F are miscellaneous. Notice that the first letter of each command resides on one of the keys your fingers should naturally rest upon when touch typing. Also, the commands are organised from left to right in order of when they would normally be used when constructing a drawing: Draw things, Modify them, Dim them up then Anything else.

Again to assist with remembering commands, I’ve tried to assign a second letter that corresponds well to the command itself. For example, AC is the CIRCLE command, AR is the RECTANG command, AS is the SPLINE command, SA is the ARRAY command, SF is the FILLET command, DR is the DIMRADIUS command, DS is the DIMSTYLE command etc… You get the idea.

Finally, commands that are very frequently used such as line, polyline, move and copy can be assigned to a single keystroke. For example, I’ve set A to LINE, S to MOVE and D to DIMLINEAR.

Having used this input method for quite a while now I can certainly say I like it. I currently have ZERO toolbars on my screen, and I can invoke any command I need from my left hand within about half a second. Once you’ve got used to it you instinctively know how to drive CAD – you can focus your energy on keeping your mind focussed on what you’re doing, and you need not be distracted by moving your mouse over to toolbars etc… It might sound trivial but keeping your eye on what you’re doing is helpful. You can snap your mouse to the right spot while you input the command.

Here’s my list of keybinds:


;GENERATED_KEYBINDS
;Anything entered beyond this point will be DELETED upon the next automatic update.
;Please input your own customisations BEFORE the GENERATED_KEYBINDS tag.
;Defined KeyBinds
AE, *ELLIPSE
AR, *RECTANG
AT, *MTEXT
ATT, *TEXT
AA, *LINE
AS, *SPLINE
AD, *HATCH
AF, *INSERT
AZ, *RAY
AX, *XLINE
AC, *CIRCLE
AV, *-VPORTS
AB, *BLOCK
SW, *OFFSET
SE, *MIRROR
SR, *ROTATE
ST, *TRIM
SY, *LENGTHEN
SA, *ARRAY
SS, *COPY
SD, *BLOCK
SF, *FILLET
SG, *CHAMFER
SZ, *PEDIT
SX, *EXPLODE
SC, *CHSPACE
SV, *STRETCH
SB, *SCALE
DQ, *QLEADER
DW, *DIMJOGLINE
DE, *DIMDIAMETER
DR, *DIMRADIUS
DT, *MLEADERALIGN
DA, *DIMANGULAR
DS, *DIMSTYLE
DD, *MLEADER
DDS, *MLEADERSTYLE
DF, *DIMALIGNED
DZ, *UNITS
DX, *MLEADEREDIT
DC, *DIMCONTINUE
Q, *QSAVE
E, *ERASE
R, *REGEN
A, *PLINE
S, *MOVE
D, *DIMLINEAR
F, *LAYER
\, *PSPACE
Z, *U
X, *XATTACH
V, *VBAMAN
FE, *PURGE
FT, *ALLON
FA, *LAYISO
FS, *LAYUNISO
FD, *LAYFRZ
FF, *MATCHPROP
FG, *LAYMRG
FC, *LAYMCUR
QQ, *SAVEAS
QW, *CLOSE
QE, *SAVEALL
QR, *CLOSEALL
QA, *QNEW
RE, *REVUP
RR, *REGENALL
RC, *REVCLOUD
K, "\\SWIN-FS-01\water\wh\CAD\CAD UTILITIES\Macros\keys3.dwg", 1,,
XX, *IMAGEATTACH
XC, *XCLIP
VR, *VBARUN
VA, *VBAIDE
C, *COPYCLIP
CA, *AI_SELALL
CX, *CUTCLIP
CC, *COPYBASE
CV, *PASTECLIP
CB, *PASTEORIG
PP, *PLOTPDF
PD, *PLOTDWF

One final thing, I’ve created a script embedded into a dwg file that automatically updates the acad.pgp file with keybinds. In the dwg are some QWERTY style keyboards so that you can visualise your keybind layout. Within this dwg file you can simply edit the text on each key to set what command it is associated with. Then, you can just save the drawing file and it will add the keybinds to the end of your acad.pgp file. Download the file here:

keybinds

To use this file, simply copy it to the same directory as your acad.pgp, open the .dwg and edit to suit.

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