CADnotes CAD Tutorials and Best Practices for professionals and students Thu, 23 Jul 2015 01:13:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 15 Ways to Access AutoCAD commands Wed, 22 Jul 2015 06:20:14 +0000 One common question that I get is how to access AutoCAD command quickly.

AutoCAD is a 30 years old software. People already use it before it runs on Windows. It was designed to run on different operating system and different standard interface until today. That’s why there are many methods to access AutoCAD commands. One method may be faster in general, but other method can be faster when doing other tasks.

For example command line is faster for most AutoCAD users for activating line command. But Function keys are faster to toggle Ortho mode. It would be better for you to know other methods, so you can decide which one works best for you.

So let’s try to explore all methods that you can use to use AutoCAD commands and see how you can use them effectively.

autocad commands

1. From AutoCAD Ribbon

Ribbon was introduced in AutoCAD 2009. If you learn AutoCAD after this version, you probably use this as primary method. I found that many occasional users also like ribbon. I’m not suggesting it’s the best method, but I do like it than toolbar.


Many AutoCAD veterans don’t like ribbon, because it’s a big change from toolbar to ribbon. It feels slow (personally I feel it becomes better in later version) and take too much screen real estate.

Ribbon doesn’t bother me too much, in prior to 2009 I don’t use toolbar that much anyway.

This is the most apparent way to activate a command in latest version. Even if you’ve never seen AutoCAD in your entire life, you know you can activate a command from here.

2. From Quick Access Toolbar

Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) comes with ribbon interface. It contains most frequently used AutoCAD tools.


If there are AutoCAD commands that you use often, you can place them here. Simply right click a command, then choose Add to Quick Access Toolbar in context menu.

3. Toolbar

Toolbar is a method to activate a command with graphical user interface, before we have ribbon. Each toolbar has several similar tools. You need to remember the icon because there is no label next to the icon. Yes, there’s tool tip to help you identify a tool. But it’s still not easy to find a tool if you use AutoCAD occasionally.

The benefit of using toolbar is it takes less space than Ribbon.


Since AutoCAD 2015, you need to create your own Classic Workspace if you want to use toolbar. You can read how to show AutoCAD toolbar here. And if you are familiar with CUI, you can show toolbar using CUI like shown here.

4. AutoCAD Menu

Like toolbar, AutoCAD menu is not shown by default. It’s available in Classic Workspace, but you can still use it.


What I like about menu is, I can always find the command I want there. If I can’t find it on ribbon or toolbar, I can find it on menu. It’s more detailed and straightforward for me.

If you want to use AutoCAD menu, change the MENUBAR system variable to 1. Change it again to 0 if you want to hide it.

5. Command Line

Veteran AutoCAD users love command line. When I teach other software to them, they always ask if the software had similar feature. Not many software use it. So command line makes AutoCAD quite unique.

Instead of using mouse and clicking the icons, you can type the commands here.


Command line has become more advanced, even new users can use it easily. It has AutoCorrect, AutoComplete and Synonym Suggestions that help you if you don’t know the command.

You don’t have to remember the exact command, you can type it in command line and AutoCAD will suggest it for you. Then you can choose it from the list.

6. Context Menu

Context menu is a standard Windows interface. We have it in every software.

If you select an object and click the right mouse button, you will see menu related to the object. What you can do to that particular object.

For example if you select a polyline, you will see Edit Polyline in the list.


7. Multifunctional Grips

If you select an AutoCAD object, you can see it has several grips. You can access several modify tools by hovering the mouse pointer above the grip.

Similar to contextual menu, the tools are related to the object you selected.

In this example below, you can see multifunctional grips menu for dimension.


8. Tool Palette

If you need to create object with specific properties, tool Palette is a great way to activate command. It’s not limited to inserting a block, you can use it for many AutoCAD drawing tools.

For example if you need to draw line on layer “centerline”, you can choose it from tool palette. Your line will be created on centerline layer, regardless what layer is current.

Tool palette is very easy to customize. You just need to drag and drop objects to the palette.


9. Other places

There are other locations where you can activate AutoCAD commands. But in these locations, the commands you can access are limited.

Application Menu


Application menu is the big A symbol. Most commands here are related to file. Like save, open, print and recover.

View Cube and Navigation Bar

View Cube and Navigation bar are on the right side of your drawing area. You can access navigation command here, like zoom and pan.

In-canvas Viewport control


You can use In-canvas viewport control to quickly access Model Viewport, Views and View Styles.

Status Bar

At the right bottom of status bar, you can see many buttons there. They are settings toggles. You can turn on/off some settings quickly here. Like OSNAP and ORTHOMODE.

Activating AutoCAD commands with Shortcuts

Now let’s see the fun part. Because AutoCAD has so many options to activate commands, there are many shortcuts that you can use. You can access a command quicker than moving your mouse and click the icon.

10. Ribbon Shortcuts

Yes, ribbon has shortcuts too. Press ALT key once, you will see letters above the tabs. Press H for home then you will see letters on each tool.


If you use ribbon, this is a nice way to activate a command quickly. Or move to other tab without moving your mouse pointer.

*This shortcut doesn’t work if you show menu bar (MENUBAR=1).

11. Command Alias

When using command line, you can use the command alias for faster access. For example L is alias for LINE. X is alias for EXPLODE.

You can easily modify the command alias to match your preference.

For example I prefer to change CO to CC for COPY command. The reason is I can type C twice faster and less mistakes than pressing C then O.

If you have Express Tools installed, you can Command Aliases tool (ALIASEDIT) to modify command aliases easily.


12. Function Keys

Function keys are the key between F1 to F12. Image below shows what does each function key do.


Image source:

13. Windows Shortcut Keys

AutoCAD has been a Windows software for a long time. So most Windows shortcuts work in AutoCAD. You can press CTRL + C to copy to clipboard. CTRL + P for print. CTRL + A for select all. If you often use them in other software, don’t worry. You can also use them in AutoCAD.

There’s also Mac version, but I don’t use Mac so I don’t know if there are shortcuts like in Windows. If you use AutoCAD for Mac, I appreciate if you share it in comment section here.

14. AutoCAD Specific Shortcut Keys

Besides the Windows shortcut keys, AutoCAD has specific shortcut keys. These shortcut keys only work in AutoCAD.

CTRL + SHIFT + I toggles Infer Constraint. CTRL + 0 will activate clean screen. CTRL + 1 will open properties palette. There are many shortcut keys that you can use, and you can make your own keys.

You can see the shortcut keys list in CUI or you can download shortcut keys list in this document.

15. Temporary Override Keys

You can use Temporary Override keys to override settings when you work. For example if you want to snap to center, you can hold SHIFT + C.

You can see the temporary override keys list in CUI or you can download shortcut keys list in this document.

What is your favorite way to activate AutoCAD command?

There are so many ways to activate commands. I listed 15 here, but you may can help me to add more!

I excluded old functions like screen menus, because it is obsolete and I think no one use it anymore.

What do you think? Which one do you use and help you work faster? I don’t believe that you only use one method.

Share with us in this comment area, maybe we can learn from you too!

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AutoCAD interface issues on high resolution display Mon, 13 Jul 2015 08:21:40 +0000 Computer monitors are getting bigger and their resolution are very high. This will make AutoCAD icons and labels looks very small. If you are familiar with Windows display settings, you probably tried to make the texts look larger using this method: Change text size on AutoCAD interface.

The bad news is AutoCAD doesn’t work well with high resolution monitor. Monitor with resolution higher than 2000 and changing text size will give display issue. This is an example what might happen: AutoCAD text overlapped in some palettes.

This is the solution Autodesk offers in knowledge base: Adjust the font size back to 100% or disable DPI scaling.

In AutoCAD 2016, there is a bug displaying Start tab and Help windows. They might not displayed correctly on Windows 8.1.

autocad 2016 start tab displayed on windows 8

Image from: Up and Ready blog.

Autodesk has released a hotfix that you can download here: Start tab and Help windows don’t display correctly in AutoCAD 2016.

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How to Prevent/Allow Exploding AutoCAD Block Wed, 08 Jul 2015 03:22:22 +0000 Do you use AutoCAD block? I found it annoying when other people work on my drawing and explode my blocks. You probably experienced this too. Sometimes it happens by accident. And sometimes people just don’t know how to work with blocks and explode it. It is very annoying if it was a dynamic block or blocks with attributes.

AutoCAD block has an option to prevent this from happening. You can protect your block from being exploded accidentally!

Prevent Exploding Block

It’s easy to prevent people from exploding block accidentally. When you create a block, just uncheck “Allow Exploding” option.


With the option unchecked, when you try to explode the block you will see this notification on command line.


Allow Exploding Block

To allow the block being exploded, you should know now that we need to check the same option.

The question is, what if the block is already created with “Allow exploding” option unchecked? How can we change this option?

You need to change it in Block Editor.

Select the block you want to explode, click your mouse right button. Choose Block Editor from context menu.


Alternatively you can type BEDIT then enter to select block name from list.

In Block Editor, open Properties Palette. Press Ctrl+1 to open it.

Find Allow Exploding option in this palette. It’s under Block category.


Change it to Yes.

After you changed the property, click Close Block Editor.


Block Editor will ask you to save or discard the changes. Obviously you need to choose save.

Now try to explode the block.

To sum up

This option is great to prevent block from being exploded by accident. Sure, many AutoCAD users know how to enable block exploding.

But in my experience, if we are familiar with block, we will modify block using Block Editor or Edit Block In-Place.

I feel better to disable block exploding. What about you? If you do often exploding blocks, can you share why do you need to do that?

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How to create custom AutoCAD dimension arrow Wed, 01 Jul 2015 08:13:00 +0000 The great thing about AutoCAD is we can customize almost everything in AutoCAD. It is a CAD software for all industry, so we are likely need to customize it. We can create custom linetype, hatch pattern and fonts for your annotations.

In this article, we will learn to create our own dimension arrow.


Creating the block

Creating custom dimension arrow is easy. You only need to create a block. Below are the blocks that I use for example.

Note the arrow direction. You only need to create arrow pointing to the right. The red circles show the insertion point of the blocks.

The size of the block is 1:1 to the dimension arrow.


If you want to use the sample blocks in this article, you can download it here.

Modifying Dimension Style

To use the custom arrow, you need to modify the dimension style. Click the dimension style icon or type DIMSTYLE then enter.


In Dimension Style Manager, click New. Give the new dimension style name then click Continue.


In the next dialog box, go to Symbols and Arrows tab. In Arrowheads category, click the first arrow to change it. Choose User Arrow…


Next you can select the block that you want then click OK.

Notice that the second arrowhead is also changed. If it doesn’t, repeat the steps above. Change the leader arrowhead as well.

Now you are finished. Make dimension style that you want current. Use the dimension command and now you have your fancy dimension!

Share your fancy blocks!

Sometimes we need to make our drawings look good for presentation. There are many ways to do that. Custom dimension arrow can give big impact for your drawing.

We shared 4 blocks for you here. Do you have your custom arrow to share to us here?

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Do you remember your first time using AutoCAD? Fri, 26 Jun 2015 07:57:40 +0000 Remembering the old days is always fun. I asked about your experience first time using AutoCAD on Twitter and Google+ and got nice replies. So I thought I would ask here too.

It turns out that we have many AutoCAD veterans in the community. Far before I even know AutoCAD!

old computer

My Experience

I started using AutoCAD since R14. AutoCAD is relatively new in my country when I started learning it. It was 1997. Most of us were still using drafting board, and not everyone knows how to use computer. The training was expensive, and sadly the instructor didn’t teach me well. Plotting is a nightmare for us. Setting the right scale was confusing. And oh… he didn’t teach me to use command line! Can you imagine that?

I’m fortunate to work in an architecture firm in 2002. That was my first professional experience using AutoCAD. The draftsman there were very good and they taught me very well.

AutoCAD skill was rare in late 90’s here. I’m proud that I’m an early adopter. I didn’t know AutoCAD well, but my friends still think I’m an AutoCAD guru :)

What about your experience using AutoCAD?

I know that many of you have interesting stories.

Shaan Hurley has very interesting story about his AutoCAD history on his blog.

On twitter we have Kimberly shared AutoCAD was futuristic back then.

Melanie shared a picture from newspaper, showing she was in high school drafting competition.

How about you? Do you have interesting stories to share? Are you one of the proud early adopter? Are you the first among your friends? Were you struggling with AutoCAD when you switched from other CAD program?

Share your story in the comment form here.

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6 External Tools that came with AutoCAD installation Thu, 25 Jun 2015 06:42:12 +0000 Most AutoCAD users just start AutoCAD by clicking the icon on Windows desktop. Maybe from pinned shortcut on Windows taskbar. We rarely use Windows start menu anymore.

Do you notice that there are tools come with AutoCAD installation?

If you click the Windows start menu> All Programs> Autodesk> AutoCAD 201x you will see this:


There are other tools that you can use outside of AutoCAD. But certainly related to your work in AutoCAD. Have you tried using them?

Let’s see what are those tools for.

Attach Digital Signature

Are you familiar with Digital Signature? You can sign current drawing digitally with DIGITALSIGN command from within AutoCAD. Like signing a paper, you can sign the drawing that you currently open. Similar to printed drawing, people will know that you have approved the drawing. If the drawing is modified and saved, then it will give warning that the signature is not valid anymore.

Attach Digital Signature tool allows you to digitally sign multiple drawing at once. You can add individual files or add a folder that contains the drawings.


Note: You need to get Digital ID before you can sign a document electronically.

Batch Standard Checker

This tool also for batch process your drawings. This one is for standard checker.

You can compare your drawings with a standard drawing (.dws file) with CAD standard tool. CAD standard is available from within AutoCAD.

Batch Standard Checker can do it to multiple files at once. You don’t have to open each file to check the standards.

Unfortunately, unlike CAD standard tool within AutoCAD it only provides report. You can’t fix the standard violation directly from this tool.


License Transfer Utility

License Transfer Utility (LTU) is a utility to transfer your license from current computer to other computer. This tool is only for standalone license.

You can use this to transfer your license to your new computer. Or move the license temporarily to a laptop and bring it to fields. After you finish, you can transfer it back to your desktop computer.


Note: You need to have Autodesk account to do this. If you don’t have it yet, you can create it for free.

Reference Manager

Reference Manager is a very handy tool to resolve your XREF path. When you need to move your files to other location, you might find many XREF path are broken. Especially if you set it to absolute path.

You don’t have to open each drawing to fix the path. Reference Manager will help you to resolve this issue on multiple files at once!

If you ever need to use it, try find and replace tool. You can change path to new location easily!


Reset Settings to Default

Reset Settings to Default will reset your AutoCAD to default, just like the first time you installed it.

This is very helpful for troubleshooting. If you feel AutoCAD started to act strange, for example you see interface elements missing, you could try this to fix it. I suggest you to try this first before you tried to uninstall and reinstall the software.

It will offer you to create backup of your settings before you continue. If you haven’t created a backup, I suggest you to create it. Better safe than sorry!


Warning: You will lose all customization after using this tool.

Migrate Custom Settings

Migrate Custom Settings is a tool to copy your settings to other computer. When you purchase a new computer, you will want your old settings in your new computer.

This is the tool that can export the settings for you.

You can find more details about using this tool here: Transfer AutoCAD settings to different computer.

Have you used those tools before?

AutoCAD has several tools to batch some process from outside of AutoCAD. You don’t have to open each file, resolve the XREF path then save it. You can use Reference Manager to do that. Simple and quick.

There are also some tools to migrate AutoCAD: move the license and copy the settings.

Have you used any of those tools before? Did it work well?

Any experience that you want to share with us?

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Where can I download Revit Extensions 2016? Mon, 22 Jun 2015 07:38:20 +0000 Do you have Revit license? And are you on subscription?

In first week of June, you probably receive an email from Autodesk. The email says that Revit Extensions for Autodesk Revit 2016 is now available.

But when you try to find it in Autodesk Accounts (formerly known as Subscription Center) and in Autodesk Exchange, you can’t find it.

So where can we download this Revit Extensions for Autodesk Revit 2016?

You can download it from Autodesk Application Manager. Open Application Manager from Windows Start menu.

You can find it in Windows Start Menu> All Programs> Autodesk> Autodesk Application Manager> Autodesk Application Manager.

Check in the UPDATES tab to see available updates. Find the update as you see below.


Does it mean I have to download this extensions in each workstation?

No, you don’t. You only need to download it once. After you download it on 1st workstation, find the installation file and distribute it to your users.

Application Manager will download the installer and extract it on local drive. You can find the folder REX_2016_Win_64bit_dlm in the extraction folder. By default it’s in C:\Autodesk.

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Working with Revit Project Units and Annotation Units Tue, 09 Jun 2015 06:25:11 +0000 Revit comes with 2 different units by default: metric and imperial units. But it doesn’t mean that you have to use mm or Inch for your project.

I know some people don’t want to use millimeter and prefer to use meter. And sometimes we want to use millimeter in our project, but we want to show meter in dimension. A very large building maybe better shown in meters. There will be too many zeros if we show the dimension in millimeters.

Let’s see how you can change these settings for your project.

Changing Project Units

If you want to change the units globally, you need to change it in Project Units. All annotation settings by default are set to “use project settings”.

Unless you changed this before, then all annotations will use the new project units.

You can change project units from Revit ribbon> Manage tab> Settings panel> Project Units.


By default, the setting for length in metric template is mm. Area is m2, volume is m3. Try to change the discipline to see all unit settings available. You can change units for Structural, HVAC and other disciplines as well.


Remember, project units are stored in Revit file. If you want to use it for all your future project, you need to change it in your template as well.

Changing unit in dimension

Revit annotations is set to use project units by default. You can change dimension units without changing project units. This allows you to work with millimeters, but show the dimension in meters.

Each annotation may store this setting in different location. For dimensions, you can change it in dimension type. It may be a good idea to create a duplicate and leave the default type unchanged.

Select a dimension, then click Edit Type in Properties Palette.


Create a dimension type duplicate before you make any changes.

In dimension type properties, below Text category, find Unit Format. Click the Units Format button.

Uncheck “use project settings” then change the unit to your preferred unit. If you show different units in your final drawings, it would be a good idea to show unit symbol.

For example, for floor plans you use meters, but in detailed drawings you use millimeters. Showing unit symbol will avoid confusion.


As you can see, now dimensions that use this type will show measurement in meters. Regardless what you set in the project units.


Changing unit in Schedules

Schedules are views. It means that you can override the appearance for each view. There is no global setting if you want to use different unit in schedule. Except by changing the project settings, obviously.

You can change unit in Revit schedule in Formatting tab. Select the fields that you need to change the unit. Click Field Format.


Alternatively, you can change units in existing schedule using Format Unit button in contextual ribbon. Select the row that you want to change the unit, then click Format Unit.


The option for unit format is similar to the one in dimension unit format. Uncheck “Use project settings” and change it as necessary.

Changing unit in Labels

Many annotations are stored in external families. The example that we will use here is level symbol.


This level symbol use “Level Head Circle” family. You need to open that family to modify it. By default that family location is in: C:\ProgramData\Autodesk\RVT 2016\Libraries\US Metric\Annotations\M_Level Head – Circle.rfa.

If you use other symbol, open that family.

In Family Editor, select the Elevation label.


Click edit label button in Revit ribbon. Or you can do that by clicking Edit… button in Properties Palette, next to Label button.


Click the Elevation label in Label Parameters category.

Then click “Edit Parameter’s unit format” button as shown below.


Like we did for dimension type and schedules, the unit format dialog is the same. Uncheck “Use project settings” and change the units as necessary.

Click OK to close all dialog box. And save this family. It is recommended to save it with other name, so you can still use the original family.

Now you can load the family to your project and override the existing family.

If you set this right, you should see the symbol is now showing the elevation in meters.


To sum up

Revit works with real world measurement. You can change the default units at any time during working at your project.

In fact, you can still use millimeter as default unit and type the distance in meter.



Typing 12000 or 12m in temporary dimension will give the same result.

So set the project units to the unit that you use most in your work. You can easily use other unit by typing the unit in temporary dimension.

For annotations, you have the freedom to use same unit with the project, or use a specific unit for that particular annotation. You can use meter in site plan, mm in detailed drawings or any other settings.

How about you? What is your preferred unit to use when you work? Do you show annotations with the same units?

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