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A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey, Part 5: Can’t Turn Back Now!

March 6, 2015 Leave a comment

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Cadalyst’s blog series by Patrick Hughes, A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey into Modern Times. In this three-month series, Hughes chronicles his transition from AutoCAD R14 to v2015 and from an outdated PC to a state-of-the-art professional workstation. Follow along and enjoy!

A CAD Dinosaur's Journey into Modern TimesIt has become clear that digging deeper into AutoCAD 2015 is going to take me away from how I worked in R14. Oh, I’ll be using much of the same approaches I’ve always used, but I will incorporate many of the best current tools 2015 offers.

I don’t know when AutoCAD originally introduced associative dimensions, but when I started with AutoCAD 10 they were already in place and I’ve used them from the start. Some colleagues refused to use them and their dimensions were un-associated and they ended up with simple text and geometry entities. When grip editing came along, finally I could demonstrate to my colleagues how easy it was to perform updates and edits, and they finally adopted associative dimensions.

Now in 2015, imagine my surprise (note, flailing wee arms) when examining the properties of existing drawing dimensions that they were reported as non-associative. Upon further investigation I discovered that way back in R2002 DIMASSOC came onto the scene. This new variable truly associated the dimension to the geometry. This means that any change to the geometry affects the dimension as well adding new intelligence to the dimension. (It blows my walnut-sized brain!)

Original placement of each dimension type: autocad-dinosaur-part5-01 Awesome, new way: Intelligent associated dimension after moving the geometry. autocad-dinosaur-part5-02 Old school way: Non-intelligent associated dimension after moving the geometry. autocad-dinosaur-part5-03 You might not be able to tell that there is an inserted block made up of a circle and two centerlines. I performed a Move operation by grip editing the insert. I was pleased to note that when I performed a Scale operation on the insert, the dimension maintained the intelligent association.

I know I’ll get a lot of benefit from this. I don’t have to select the insert and the dimension nodes with a poly crossing window. Now, I can just pick-and-go. There may be occasions when the intelligent association breaks, but not to worry — they can easily be re-associated. Even this Dinosaur can figure it out.

Take me to your Leader, QLeader, or MLeader

Back in the day, we had leaders that would vaguely associate text (sorry, annotation) to an arrowed line and landing. I haven’t explored what they have to offer such as adding geometric tolerances or blocks, I’ve only used them in their basic form. That’s changing — starting now. (Insert dino foot stomp here.)

Although QLeaders were included as a bonus tool in R14, I didn’t use them. Now, as I take a look at the options available, I can see the advantages of the MLeader object which was introduced in AutoCAD 2008. In the past, when ballooning an assembly drawing or an exploded assembly illustration, it was a pain to position the labeled balloon. Back in the dark ages, I used a little AutoLISP routine the let me pick the leader start, the text location, and then finally place the balloon. It worked just fine as long as I didn’t need to reposition it. It got even more complicated if I had to re-align the balloon and text to an opposite quadrant from the pick point. On top of it all, the annotation wasn’t associated to the leader.

Now with MLeader at my command I can see that substantial time savings and improved appearance are in the cards for me. I’m able to reposition my annotation at will and the leader follows it around, properly realigning when I move across the leader start point.

I find it helpful to keep the Properties palette available. Just a quick double-click, I can easily modify all the settings that affect the display of my annotation. It’s also very convenient to immediately see the effect of modifying via the property palette as you scroll through the options.

Something else new to me (well, most things are) is the Selection Preview (new since R2006). When I first encountered it, I found it distracting. But, I’ve come around and now find that it allows me to make quick and accurate selections. A related item that is new to AutoCAD 2015 is the Command Preview that provides visual feedback to certain editing operations. When chamfering, filleting, trimming, and extending, you can see the results before committing to the edit. It’s like having your very own time machine to look into the future. How cool is that?

Rawrrr!

In closing, there’s an old saying that I know you’ll relate to: The only thing that is constant, is change. I think one of my old fossil cousins coined that phrase. I’ve found it to be true and confirmed on an almost daily basis. Whenever I “finish” a model or a drawing, there seems to be a never-ending march to “improve” upon it. The newer functionality of associated dimensions, easy maneuvering of MLeaders, quick and easy changes to properties, and automatically seeing my edits are an awesome way to cope with this constant change.

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About the author: Patrick Hughes, machine designer and owner of Engineered Design Solutions in Rockford, Illinois, has worked with AutoCAD since 1991. He has developed a number of AutoLISP and other software solutions to automate his workflow and increase productivity, including the commercially available time tracking program, CadTempo.

A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey, Part 4: Get the Lay of the Land

March 3, 2015 Leave a comment

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Cadalyst’s blog series by Patrick Hughes, A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey into Modern Times. In this three-month series, Hughes chronicles his transition from AutoCAD R14 to v2015 and from an outdated PC to a state-of-the-art professional workstation. Follow along and enjoy!

Live Long and ProsperEarlier I mentioned that the most obvious difference I’d discovered between AutoCAD Release 14 and modern-day AutoCAD was the ribbon interface. In truth, that difference only scratches the surface of what’s in store when you update AutoCAD. Some users dislike the ribbon (undeservedly, in my opinion), there are several significant changes that are of great value.

Many of you coming from a more recent AutoCAD version are more familiar with these features, but 2015 improves on them. One such feature that I’ve been eager to sink my teeth into is the Multiple Document Interface (MDI). The MDI was introduced in AutoCAD 2000 and lets users work on several drawings within one AutoCAD session. You no longer need to close one drawing to access another. Previously, many advanced users opened two or more AutoCAD instances to switch between drawings — never more. Now, if I could only figure out how to toggle with my tiny arms!

AutoCAD 2014 brought forth file tabs. File tabs let you easily navigate between your open drawings. When you hover above a file tab, it displays thumbnail images of the various layouts that are contained in the tabbed files. As you move your cursor across the thumbnails, the main AutoCAD window displays the content. Plot and Publish icons appear above the thumbnail and open the selected layout when clicked. Clicking into the desired thumbnail brings the selected layout into editing focus.

AutoCAD file tabs show thumbnails of files within them.

AutoCAD file tabs show thumbnails of files within them.

It might not be clear above, but I was focused on the 015-….DWG file, but because I hovered over the 025-….DWG file, those are the thumbnails that displayed. Hmmm, looking over my drawing name, I see I erred in excluding an underscore in the name — I’m only a mere dinosaur, you know. Perhaps there are tools that will help me prevent these types of mistakes; I’ll keep you posted on that.

The Layout tabs are also new to me and I’m just beginning to learn how I might want to use them. For the time being I primarily use them for viewing purposes, but I can see the potential for a much more efficient workflow. I’ve likely developed some bad habits (Bad Dino!) over the years, so I hope I can learn to use the layout features as they were intended.

As you can see, I conduct my machine design work with 3D solid models. I’ve been chomping at the bit to get to use all the new 3D visualization tools that are a part of AutoCAD 2015. 3D Orbit was introduced in AutoCAD 2000 and enhanced in 2007. For viewing purposes, this is a huge improvement over the Dview command. Additional viewing tools were added with the ViewCube, introduced in 2009, which makes it painless to navigate around a model. I look forward to trying the Steering Wheel more — it looks like it has some great navigating capabilities.

Visual Styles also made its appearance in 2007 and I’ve found the Conceptual style to be especially helpful in a densely populated model, as well as quite helpful in communicating the design. Check out these next two images for examples.

AutoCAD 2015 offers greatly improved visual display styles

AutoCAD 2015 offers greatly improved visual display styles compared to Release 13’s limited wireframe display.

 

Conceptual visualization brings a model to life.

Conceptual visualization brings a model to life.

Rawrrr!

In closing, being a dinosaur my needs are simple. Most often I work in AutoCAD’s wireframe view so I can select points on solid objects that are behind other solid objects. There are times when I need to view the model from an opposite side or 3DOrbit to a different vantage point and my frame of reference becomes disoriented. On these occasions, I find it quite useful to switch to the conceptual visualization to reorient myself and select points as needed. There are a slew of visual styles available and I’ll experiment with them as time permits. Well, that and getting these dino-eyes modernized.

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About the author: Patrick Hughes, machine designer and owner of Engineered Design Solutions in Rockford, Illinois, has worked with AutoCAD since 1991. He has developed a number of AutoLISP and other software solutions to automate his workflow and increase productivity, including the commercially available time tracking program, CadTempo.

A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey, Part 3: Installing AutoCAD 2015

February 27, 2015 Leave a comment

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Cadalyst’s blog series by Patrick Hughes, A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey into Modern Times. In this three-month series, Hughes chronicles his transition from AutoCAD R14 to v2015 and from an outdated PC to a state-of-the-art professional workstation. Follow along and enjoy!

Installing AutoCAD 2015When AutoCAD 2015 arrived at my desk I eagerly ripped open the cellophane wrapper with my sharpened claws and inserted the 64-bit install CD. I had previously uninstalled the 2014 trial copy and was relieved that there were no conflicts during the 2015 install. The support files, block libraries, and customization files I had copied previously remained in place since they resided in a folder structure independent of the Autodesk files. I merely needed to adjust my file paths within the Options dialog box.

Upon initial startup, as was true when I used the V2104 trial version, I was greeted with the default dark drawing background, but this time AutoCAD also displayed the new dark scheme interface for the ribbon and other elements. Being the crusty old dinosaur I am, I figured I should explore my options and set the scheme to light and the background to white. I do think the new dark scheme is attractive and perhaps I’ll give it a more thorough try at some point. For now, these old dino-eyes are grateful once more for AutoCAD’s easy customization.

I updated from the default dark screen scheme to the white background. Oh, so much easier on my Dino-eyes!

Change Color Scheme in AutoCAD 2015

I updated from the default dark screen scheme to the white background.

Changing Color Scheme of AutoCAD 2015

Oh, so much easier on my Dino-eyes!

 

Speaking of customization, since I began using AutoCAD roughly 23 years ago, I’ve written my share of AutoLISP routines and integrated them into custom menus and toolbars. Upgrading from R14 to 2015, I now had a whole new set of tools to learn and a mental shift in how to put them to use. One feature that I am enjoying is the new Customize User Interface (CUI).

Up until AutoCAD 2006, customizing menus and toolbars required creating and editing MNU and MNS text files. The CUI Editor replaces the need for editing those files in a text editor and provides a rich graphical way to add and arrange elements by dragging and dropping them into place. With AutoCAD 2010, the CUI became XML-based CUIx.

I’m by no means fully up to speed in making my desired changes via the CUI, but I’m eager to make good use of the tool. In some ways, I miss the simplicity of right-clicking on a toolbar icon and entering a new command sequence, but I’m rather certain that those of you who are responsible for a large group of CAD operators appreciate the more refined control the CUI offers.

Rawrrr!

In closing, when Autodesk first introduced the ribbon interface I worried that it consumed too much drawing real estate. After all, I’ve always thought you could never have enough drawing area. Now that I’m used to it, it’s not a major hindrance. As I continue to make modifications, I now realize how flexible it is. My biggest challenge is arriving at an efficient grouping and placement of the commands I most commonly use. However, as I discover the latest tools AutoCAD 2015 has to offer, those tried and true (but tired) methods will likely be replaced with new approaches. I already feel my T-Rex reach lengthening; soon I may even be able to scratch my nose.

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About the author: Patrick Hughes, machine designer and owner of Engineered Design Solutions in Rockford, Illinois, has worked with AutoCAD since 1991. He has developed a number of AutoLISP and other software solutions to automate his workflow and increase productivity, including the commercially available time tracking program, CadTempo.

A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey, Part 2: Getting Started in AutoCAD 2015

February 24, 2015 Leave a comment

Editor’s Note: Welcome to Cadalyst’s blog series by Patrick Hughes, A CAD Dinosaur’s Journey into Modern Times. In this three-month series, Hughes chronicles his transition from AutoCAD R14 to v2015 and from an outdated PC to a state-of-the-art professional workstation. Follow along and enjoy!

A CAD Dinosaur's Journey into Modern TimesMy new CAD workstation arrived! I threw my T-Rex arms up in delight! The trouble is that they’re so tiny that no one noticed…. I really need some arm extensions. Maybe with time they’ll grow.

Due to my office remodel, I delayed setting the new workstation up for a week or two. Plus, after an anxious wait, Autodesk agreed to supply a new AutoCAD license in exchange for my writing a blog about my journey out of the dark ages of hardware and AutoCAD software. Now, I had to decide if I wanted a license to 2014 or wait for the soon-to-be-released 2015?

I decided to download the free 30-day trial version of AutoCAD 2014 to get familiar with it, and then move to the full version of AutoCAD 2015. (As you might recall from Part 1 of this series, I was using AutoCAD R14, so I had a LOT of catching up to do.) Reviewing the product selection on the Autodesk web site, I choose to go all in and sample the Autodesk Product Design Suite Ultimate to get a taste of the product offerings related to my machine-design needs.

Gigabytes Are Large

I’m not sure what I was thinking. Maybe I wasn’t thinking. I’m a dinosaur, you know, so there’s not a lot of room in my brain for such things. At any rate, I didn’t immediately realize that 33 GB is somewhere around 1,000 times more than 33 MB, which doesn’t sound too bad. But I did come to that realization shortly after I started the download process at 6:45 p.m. After 10 minutes, I checked on the download progress; the system indicated that 1 day, 14 hours remained. Oh, no! I finally gave up around 11:30pm and retired for the night. The download completed overnight, and upon snooping around I noted the last file timestamp was 12:50 a.m. That put the total download time at just over six hours. Compare that to a calculated download time of 40 minutes for AutoCAD 2015 (3.9 GB), based on a rate of roughly 17 Mbps.

Getting Acquainted

Installation went smoothly — a very nice surprise. I have etched in my tiny memory the pain of installing software during the Microsoft Windows 95 era, so there is always a certain amount of trepidation when it comes to installing a hefty program.

I anxiously launched AutoCAD 2014 and was greeted with the default dark background. Long ago I had accustomed my eyes to a white background and adjusted my display and linework colors accordingly. Changing defaults was no problem — setting options is still a right-click in the command window, so I simply adjusted the settings in the Options Display dialog box to my color preferences. Whoa, you can see by the two images that AutoCAD includes a much greater number of optional settings, and the dialog box is even resizable. I started by saving the default settings to a separate profile and made a new one for changes. (Note that images shown are from 2015)

Difference in options for AutoCAD 2014 versus AutoCAD 2015

AutoCAD Release 14 Preferences (left) versus AutoCAD 2015 Options dialog box (right). Note that 2015 offers MANY more options.

The grid is turned on by default as of AutoCAD 2011, although I prefer to work with the grid turned off, so adjustments also were in order. Hmmm… I didn’t see a specific setting in the Options dialog box, so I have to dig around. Once I start banging around with my stubby appendages, I finally discover that <F4> brings up the Drafting Settings dialog box where I can turn off the grid and updates other settings.

Options in AutoCAD 2015

I think it might take me a while to get to know all of the new options and how they will improve my workflow, but I’ve got a feeling they’re going to benefit me in many ways yet to be discovered.

Next up was copying my support files, block libraries, and customizations to the new workstation along with some current project files. I anticipated that some of my customization files would need modifications to work properly, but I wasn’t under any sort of tight schedule to do so. That turned out to be a good thing, too, as there was much to get up to speed with.

The most obvious difference between R14 and 2014 was the ribbon interface along with tool palettes and other sundry display and input options. I had become somewhat familiar with the ribbon interface, having previously used DWG TrueView, Inventor Fusion 2013, and other Autodesk software. I was determined to further acquaint myself and commit to its use.

The Best-Laid Plans of Mice and Dinosaurs

I had hoped to get more familiar with AutoCAD 2014 and the plethora of software included in the Autodesk Product Design Suite before my trial expired. As it turned out, I was able to only dabble with several programs, including Inventor, one of my greatest interests. Surprisingly, 30 days goes by rather rapidly — in fact, it was over in what seemed like no time at all.

But soon AutoCAD 2015 would be on the scene, and I would begin my journey out of the swamp.

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Interested in giving the AutoCAD ribbon a(nother) go? Check out “Give the AutoCAD Ribbon a Second Chance,” a four-minute video from Cadalyst and Lynn Allen, Autodesk evangelist, that illustrates the advantages of moving to the ribbon and offers tips for making the transition as easy as possible.

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About the author: Patrick Hughes, machine designer and owner of Engineered Design Solutions in Rockford, Illinois, has worked with AutoCAD since 1991. He has developed a number of AutoLISP and other software solutions to automate his workflow and increase productivity, including the commercially available time tracking program, CadTempo.