CADnotes CAD Tutorials and Best Practices for professionals and students Thu, 18 Sep 2014 00:45:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Work Better with AutoCAD | Challenge 5 – Learn the new features Mon, 15 Sep 2014 03:44:13 +0000 I started to use AutoCAD in circa 1997. I learned with AutoCAD R14 that time. 17 years later, certainly we see many new features has been added to AutoCAD.

Autodesk releases new version on annual basis now. The latest version is AutoCAD 2015. There’s always new features and enhancements in each release. Many of those new features can help you to be more productive. Unfortunately, many AutoCAD users don’t want to learn the new features. Many of us feel too busy to try implementing the new features. It can interrupt our current work and sometimes it requires us to change our workflow. Sometimes we just hate the new features.

It’s common to see how veteran AutoCAD users try to change AutoCAD to looks and feels like older version.

It’s true that not everyone find the new features are useful. But you need to know it before you decided not to use it. Or even hate it. I gave one day “what’s new in AutoCAD” workshop several times. Many AutoCAD users in my country don’t even know about the new features. They always find some new features can help in such classes.

Knowing new features is not only will help you when you use the feature. But it will help you to avoid confusion. I often see AutoCAD users think it’s an error or a bug, but it’s actually a new feature or changes in system variables.


Let’s try to spend some time to explore new features in AutoCAD. And not just in the latest version. Try to check them in the last several releases if you skip them.

AutoCAD what’s new resources

You can find new features listed in AutoCAD help file. But I recommend you to use these resources to learn about the new features.

Lynn Allen’s tips and tricks booklet

Lynn Allen published AutoCAD tips and tricks booklet for each AutoCAD release for years. It’s the most popular resource to learn the new features for years. If you want to find the booklet for older release, R K McSwain listed them from AutoCAD 2005 to current in CAD Panacea here.

Lynn Allen Booklet Cover

Our AutoCAD what’s new for veteran users

We also listed new key features added to AutoCAD here. I listed new features that frequently asked by AutoCAD users from several last releases.

Discuss the topic

Now let’s discuss about the topic.

What is your first AutoCAD version? And what version are you using now?

Do you find new features that you find useful, since the first time you use AutoCAD? How do you find that the new features help you? And do you find new features that you don’t like?

How do you learn about the new features? Do you always learn new features in new releases?

Do you have a regular in-house training in your company? Does your reseller provide it for you?

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Congratulations to the 3rd challenge winners Wed, 03 Sep 2014 04:21:48 +0000 As promised, in 3rd challenge we give 3 copies of AutoCAD Block Best Practices e-book for the participants.

winter gift


Congratulations to:

  1. Nancy
  2. Rocky Sinyard
  3. Chris Pike

Congratulations to Nancy, Rocky and Chris! We have sent the download link for you. Please check your email inbox.

If you didn’t win in this challenge, you can still win more prizes if you complete all the “Work Better with AutoCAD” challenges. We have 4 copies of training video for most active participants. You can still win them until we publish the final challenge.

If you haven’t participated yet, complete these challenges:

  1. Challenge 1: Preparation
  2. Challenge 2: Template
  3. Challenge 3: Reusable content
  4. Challenge 4: Customization

To complete the challenges, read and follow the challenges. Share your experience related to the challenges at the comment section of the web page. You can also ask questions if you have difficulties with it.

The idea of Work Better with AutoCAD challenges is to guide you to optimize your workflow. By sharing your experience, you will help the others who might have similar experience. We all can learn from you too!

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Work Better with AutoCAD | Challenge 4 – Customization Tue, 02 Sep 2014 03:59:43 +0000 In the last two challenges, you have tried to minimize repetitive tasks. If you missed our Work Better with AutoCAD challenges, you can read and join the discussions here:

  1. Preparation
  2. Creating your AutoCAD template
  3. Creating your reusable content

This is the last challenge to minimize your repetitive tasks. You will do some customization.

create custom program

Don’t runaway just yet. Customization doesn’t have to be a complex programming task. You will explore simple customization that you can do. It’s quite easy to do, even for novice user.

AutoCAD is very easy to customize. You can customize shortcuts to reduce key strokes. You can create macro or script to run sequence of commands automatically. And certainly, you can create custom program to automate your tasks.

Let’s see what you can customize to work faster and extend your AutoCAD capabilities.

Command Alias

Command alias is the shorter version to activate AutoCAD commands. To activate LINE, you only need to type L then enter. You can modify command aliases for your needs. The command you frequently use may not have a command alias yet. Or you probably use some command more than others.

My colleague changed command alias for COPY. He changed it from CO to CC. Because it will be faster to press C twice than pressing C then O!

If you are not familiar with modifying command alias, you can read Brian’s tutorial here. You can also use express tools as explained by Ellen Finkelstein here.

Please share with us, what is your custom alias. We might be able to learn from you.

Creating Command Macro and Scripts

Setup computer

If you perform a drawing process frequently, then you can try to automate it. You can write several lines of instructions to run. When you need to use it, you only need to run it once.

If you want to learn more in details, Paul Munford has awesome tutorials here:

  1. Learn AutoCAD script to automate plotting.
  2. How to automate AutoCAD with command macros.
  3. Paul also shares how to put macro in tool palettes: 11 killer macros for working with AutoCAD viewport.

You can find more samples here. Hai Le shows that even simple macro can be very helpful:

  1. Adjust dimension spacing automatically.
  2. Restore standard layers and styles after PURGE.
  3. Change UCS and change text layer.

I want to emphasize that customization doesn’t need to be complicated. Simple macro or scripts can be very very helpful! Do you have some cool macro/script to share with us?

Customizing CUI

Another customization that you can touch is CUI, Customize User Interface. Not everyone like command alias. You probably prefer to use toolbar or ribbon. To add custom commands in AutoCAD UI, you need to work with CUI. But CUI is not limited to toolbar and ribbon.

You can also:

  1. Customize tooltips and quick properties.
  2. Customize keyboard shortcut combination (it’s not the same with command alias).
  3. Double click action.
  4. Mouse click combination.
  5. Load LISP with CUI.

You need to know macro if you want to create custom AutoCAD command in CUI. If you don’t know about macro yet, it’s a good time to learn.

If you want to learn about customizing AutoCAD CUI, read our complete CUI tutorial here.

Custom Programming

Macro and script are basically a series of AutoCAD native commands. If you want to do more complex programming, you need to go further.



AutoLISP is a very popular programming language among AutoCAD users. It’s more advanced than script and macro. While macro and script only execute a series of command, you can make more complex programming with AutoLISP. You can ask for user input, create a formula, using conditional statement and more. A program can be very complex, but also even a simple LISP program can be very helpful.

For example, this simple LISP program will create text on annotation layer, regardless what layer is current. You don’t have to create layer, change layer properties, and switch it to current. Just activate the command then enter your text.

AutoLISP takes some time to learn. Especially if you don’t have experience in programming. However, it can give great benefits to you.

If you want to learn about AutoLISP, you can check these resources:

  1. AfraLISP, the most popular resource to learn LISP.
  2. AutoLISP tutorial on Jeffery P Sanders website.
  3. Basic LISP tutorial on CADnotes.


AutoLISP is a programming language built into AutoCAD. The other option that you can have is using .NET. They are two different programming language. While AutoLISP is native AutoCAD programming, .NET is using Microsoft Framework. I’m not really familiar with .NET. Many other software also use Microsoft .NET framework, so if you need AutoCAD to “talk” with other software like Excel, .NET is probably the better way to go.

If you want to learn about .NET, there are not many resources available yet. Not as many as AutoLISP. One resource that I can recommend is this my first AutoCAD plug-in training from Autodesk.

Find available plug-ins and program on internet

Do you think creating your own custom program is overwhelming? If you don’t want to learn programming, you can still extend AutoCAD functionality. There are many available plugins or LISP you can get on internet.

Download files

The first place that I can recommend is Autodesk Exchange Apps. You can find plugins for many Autodesk products there. Many of them are free, but the rest of the plugins need to be purchased. Make sure you try the plugins before you purchase it!

There are many other resources that provide free LISP. Lee Mac provides many useful LISP on his website for free.

As usual, feel free to share if you know other resources to download/purchase plugins or LISP program.

Now let’s discuss this challenge

Many people don’t want to touch customization because they think it’s difficult. Customization is not limited to complex programming. There are many simple things that you can do to optimize your workflow.

Now let’s discuss about customization.

Junge Reporterin

Do you use AutoCAD out of the box, or do you customize it?

If you use it out of the box, do you think you need to customize it? What interest you the most?

If you customize your AutoCAD, what customization you have? Any learning resource you can recommend. Any download resource that you recommend?

How much time do you think you can save by customizing AutoCAD?

You can still win the prizes

You can still win the prizes by completing all the challenges. The winners will be chosen after all the challenges are given.

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Create your own AutoCAD pattern easily Wed, 27 Aug 2014 07:51:57 +0000 AutoCAD come with default hatch patterns. But you always need to use custom hatch. There are many resources to download custom hatch pattern. But if you can’t find it anyway, it’s time to create your own custom hatch.

Creating simple hatch is quite easy. You can check this tutorial if you want to know how it’s done. However, there is an easier way if you need to create custom complex hatch pattern. We can use AutoLISP program to do that.

Engineer drawing

Hatch Maker

This free AutoLISP program is available on Cadalyst. It is a very convenient way to create a pattern graphically. Once you load the LISP program there will be two new commands available.


This command will create 1×1 rectangle at coordinate 0,0. You need to draw what you want as pattern here. Only lines and points are accepted. I tried to copy object to this location and try to convert it. Apparently this method doesn’t work well. You need to draw new entity.

hatch draw area


After you finish creating the objects, you can run this command. Select objects within the rectangle then save the pattern file.

This is a pattern I created in few seconds.

Hatch result

Sometimes it doesn’t work well when you have a very complex pattern. You may try to simplify it and try to create it again. If it still doesn’t work, it looks like you need to try other alternatives.

To download Hatch Maker

This AutoLISP command is available on Cadalyst website. Download hatch maker here.

Get pattern from an AutoCAD drawing

Now what if you receive a drawing with custom hatch pattern inside it? You want to use the hatch pattern, but you don’t have the pat file. How do you create the pattern?

You can just grab the hatch definition and save the pattern to your local drive, thanks to Tee Square Graphics. They wrote a LISP program that can generate the .pat file.

You can get the GETPAT LISP code here. It’s a raw code, you need to save it to lisp file before you can use it.

Saving and using AutoLISP program

If you don’t know how to save and load LISP program read how you can do it here.

So what do you think? Are they useful?

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Using Constraints & Work Features in Inventor® Tube & Pipe Thu, 21 Aug 2014 03:08:34 +0000 Autodesk® Inventor® Tube & Pipe has a time saving feature built in to the routing tool: Auto Routes.  Auto Routes are generated when a user selects the start and end point of a pipe route.  Inventor calculates possible solutions to the route given the points selected and any rules in place with the current tube & pipe style (eg. min or max segments, allowed fittings etc).  It appears on the surface to be a slick, neat and clean time saving feature…. Until you try to make a change.

Designs are like living beings, they change constantly.  Equipment is changed, moved, deleted.  Pipe styles change, line sizes are modified… etc.  Your piping designs need to be able to adapt to these shifting tides, and in my opinion Auto Routes just can’t do that very well.  In the images below I show, first a route created using Auto Route.  Next is the route populated, and finally… what happens if I move the pump back 16”.

move pump in auto route

In this view we see the route I selected from 4 possible solutions using Auto Route.  Right away I notice that the short legs appear to be too short, but for this demonstration I will let that go.  I have 5 segments which appear to be perpendicular to one another, and as laid out, this route does get the job done… more or less.  Now let’s populate it with pipe and fittings.

populate after pump is moved

As shown above, the route populates ok, although we can now see for sure that the connection segments at the pump and heat exchanger are way too short.  Again, I’ll let that go for now.  So, let’s make a design change, and see what happens.  Let’s move the pump back 16” and see what Auto Route does with this selected solution.

route changed after pump is moved

As you can see, Auto Route has changed the number of segments, as well as the angles of this route.  I am going to show you an alternative way to do this, which will leave you with a route that is fully constrained, yet flexible enough to keep up with design changes you may make to the equipment or routes surrounding it.

Let’s look at the original route sketch again, and how to change from an Auto Route to a conventional sketch.

convert to sketch

To convert the Auto Route, locate it in you model browser, as shown, and select Convert to Sketch.  The route will now have dimensions and constraints on it.  I want to show you how to fully constrain this route with only 2 dimensions, and leave it in a state where it will easily adjust to the same change in the pump location that we used in the earlier example.

add dimension constraint

First we will need to modify the two shortest dimensions so that the elbows will actually fit when the route is populated.  For this demonstration, these will actually be the two segments whose length I would like to control with dimensions.  I will set these two dimensions to 36”, and delete all other dimensions.

deleting dimensions

You can see that by changing these dimensions, the route has gotten a little out of control, don’t worry… we’ll fix it.  Next I will delete all parallel and perpendicular constraints that were placed by the system, (except for those at the two end points, we want those to remain perpendicular to the connection point) and replace them with my own, using projected work planes to lock down the direction of the other segments.

Select the Include Geometry tool from the Route panel on the ribbon above.  I like to use work planes, since they give me a lot of freedom and control.  I will select the top of the tank lid, and the front and side panels of the heat exchanger… creating work planes on those surfaces to allow me to place perpendicular constraints in three directions to lock down this sketch.

including geometry

I place a perpendicular constraint on each of the remaining legs, to whatever work plane makes the most sense to the direction I want it to go.  Now the route has nice clean 90° angles, and only 2 dimensions.

add geometric constraints

Let’s look at the result populated now.

populate after modification

This is more of the route I had in mind for this pipe line.  Very similar to the result given to me by Auto Route, but now I have full control over its behavior if other design parameters should change.  (And we all know they will.) To demonstrate this, let’s move the pump back 16” like we did earlier and view the results to this route.

flexing the model

The route stayed essentially the same, with the segment that I left intentionally un-dimensioned growing to meet the new location of the pump.  If the heat exchanger were to move back as well, the top segment of this route would also grow to accommodate that change.

So there you have it.  Don’t trust Auto Route to behave when you make design changes such as these.  Tank control of your route sketches with work planes, and strategically placed dimensions and constraints.  The results speak for themselves, I think.



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Work Better with AutoCAD | Challenge 3: Reusable content Wed, 20 Aug 2014 02:13:10 +0000 This is the third challenge in the Work Better with AutoCAD program. The first challenge was to examine your drawings. The second challenge was to create an AutoCAD template.

This challenge is still related to the second challenge; you will try to reduce repetitive tasks. This time you will create reusable content: AutoCAD block libraries.


Why reusable content is important

Most objects in AutoCAD drawings are common. If you work with architectural drawings, you will create building components like column grids, columns, doors and walls. Then you will annotate them with symbols like elevation views, section lines and tags.

Industry specific software packages come with built-in libraries. That is one reason why they are so convenient. The user can just apply the blocks without recreating them in each drawing.

On the other hand, AutoCAD is broadly based so that it can be used by almost every engineering discipline.  Turning it into the time-saving device that it can become requires you to create your own reusable content to match your specific needs. When you have reusable content, you significantly reduce the time needed to create your drawings.

See more reasons why you should use AutoCAD blocks here.

Adding information to blocks

You can add information to block as attributes. For example, let’s say you want to create a door. You can add information such as the manufacturer, door type, fire rating, and so on.

You can also use attributes as labels or tags. The popular example of this is to use it for visible annotation tags. A more complex example is to use the attributes in title blocks.

Annotation block sample

Creating annotation tags as blocks not only allows you to work faster. Using blocks keeps your annotation consistent and is a good way to maintain CAD standards.

Once your AutoCAD blocks have information about those particular objects, you can easily extract the data allowing you to quickly create schedules.

Creating blocks

In the first challenge, you examined your drawings. From that you should already know which blocks you need. If you are not familiar with creating blocks, check this tutorial for Dummies website. There are many resources where you can download free block libraries too. If you know of and want to recommend a website, please share in comment section below.

Dynamic blocks

Dynamic blocks is a feature that extends block capabilities. It allows you to have multiple block appearances in a single definition. Let’s say you need to place a number of column. Instead of creating one block for each size, you can create one dynamic block. You can place it and change the size dynamically. Learn about dynamic blocks in this tutorial series.

Annotative blocks

Annotative blocks is another block feature that you should consider to adding to your library. Annotative blocks recognize the active scale and adjust the block scale accordingly. It will also make any included annotation readable with your standard text size.

Creating annotative blocks is easy. You only need to activate the annotative option when creating the block.

If you are already familiar with annotation scale, manipulating annotative blocks is similar. If you are not familiar with it yet, you can check the annotation scaling tutorial here.

Sharing and Managing blocks

After you create the blocks you need, you need to manage them.  For blocks, “managing” means being able to find them quickly and reliably.  And unless you are working alone it means others need to find them too. Consider where you would store them for easy access. You might have hundreds of blocks to deal with so creating folders and sub-folders can be a big help in staying organized. You can easily create tool pallets from the folders with a few mouse clicks. You can also find them easily by using Design Center.

File management

If you are working on your own, saving the blocks in a local drive might be sufficient. If others need access too, pick a network location. In either case, don’t forget to back them up!

Create backup for your blocks

You need to consider creating backups for those shiny new blocks. You don’t want to lose all that hard work, do you?

My favorite way to backup blocks is to save them on OneDrive or in the Autodesk 360 folder. Your blocks will be automatically uploaded to your storage account, and you can access them anytime, anywhere.

If you are working in a corporate environment, you likely already have a backup system. Ask your IT support how they can help to create backups for your files.


You can do so many things with blocks. But let’s start with the basics: consider how they can reduce repetitive tasks.


Do you already have a block library? If you don’t have one, now is a good time to start creating it. You can either organize and save the blocks you already have, or you can start to make new ones.

If you already have blocks, how do you manage and share them?

How do you make use of block attributes? Do you find them useful?

Are you taking advantage of newer features like dynamic and annotative blocks?

To help you with creating blocks

There are so many things to cover about blocks. It’s one of the most important features AutoCAD has to improve your productivity. So I’m going to provide you some resources to help you working with blocks.

Grand prize

I would like to remind you that participation in all of the challenges will allow two of you to win AutoCAD blocks and dynamic blocks training video from Infinite Skills. It’s a great learning resource to learn more about AutoCAD blocks. You can win this if you are actively involved in all of the challenges.

This week’s prize

I also have a prize for this week’s challenge. Three of you will win a copy of the AutoCAD Block Best Practices e-book. Unlike the training video, you don’t have to be active in all of the challenges–you only need to participate in this challenge. You have until August 31, 2014 to join the conversation to win the e-book in this article.

block best practices cover

I hope the prizes will really help you get started with blocks. And remember, your participation will also help others to complete their challenges!


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Have you been involved in Work Better with AutoCAD challenges? Mon, 18 Aug 2014 08:12:43 +0000 We already have two challenges published in Work Better with AutoCAD series. I know the challenges can be overwhelming. If you are new to AutoCAD, all the information could be overwhelming. Then you decided not to participate.

Junge Reporterin

The truth is many of you may not be able to complete the challenges in such a short time. Just do it in your own pace. If you can’t complete the challenges, just do what you can right now. You can make a plan how you are going to do it. Ask what you don’t understand, things that you feel can help you in the future. Don’t feel like you are left behind. Be active. If you can’t share your experience, ask. Asking questions will also help the others.

There are so much to learn, so many things to do. Start with something simple. At least you can make some improvements in each challenge. If you can’t do it now, make note and try to do it next time.

The Work Better with AutoCAD series is meant to help you improve your workflow, your system to create AutoCAD drawings. We know that we will need to update our standards regularly. So bookmark the pages. If you need to update your standard, you can visit the pages again. If you can do it now, maybe next time you can do more. Maybe all.

Remember, we have some prizes to help you completing this series!

If you have read the challenges, what do you think about them?


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Work Better with AutoCAD | Challenge 2: Template Thu, 14 Aug 2014 07:42:57 +0000 In the first challenge, you have examined your drawings. This should give you enough insight what you can improve in our challenges. We will start to work with AutoCAD template in this challenge.

engineering drawing

Why AutoCAD template is important

When we create a drawing, you will use same settings, objects and object properties. We use and create them repeatedly.

If you don’t have your own template, you probably use default templates that are provided by Autodesk. The default template is empty. You will need to create layers, create and modify annotation styles, setup layout and other tasks.

You can put all common information to a template. Therefore, when you start a new drawing, all settings are ready. You can immediately focus on what you are going to draw.

What Can a Template File Do?

Snipped from Brian Benton’s article, Why You Should Use Template:

Template files provide users a place to start.  Not only do they give a starting point, but they also force your team to be a team.  A properly executed template file, or series of template files, will instill standardization increase efficiency.  Standards are created and enforced because the template file comes preset with plot styles, layers, blocks, styles, and more.  Since these drawing attributes are preinstalled, it also creates efficiency.  And since these features are preset, CAD Standards are automatically implemented and enforced.

Create a new template

I found that common mistakes in creating a drawing is to start from a wrong template. You can create a new file from default template. Make sure you choose the right one.

AutoCAD has two types of measurement, imperial and metric. Choose the one that you use. Metric template has ISO in the file name. If it doesn’t have it, then it’s an imperial template.

The other consideration is to choose it by the plot style. AutoCAD has two types of plot style: color based (CTB) and named plot style based (STB). Mark Kiker has excellent article comparing CTB and STB here.

And never create a template by copy or save as your existing drawing!

Change settings

AutoCAD save system variable in two locations: registry and drawing. If there are settings that you want to keep in all drawing, set it in your template.

A popular example of this type of setting is GRIDMODE.

Add layers to a template

AutoCAD layers

Adding layers to a template is easy, but it is a very tedious task. But remember, this time you will only do it once.

If that is still not compelling for you, you can copy layers from your existing drawings by using Design Center. There are also LISP program that can help you to create layers. Like this LISP to create AIA layers from AUGI.

You probably can find a template that you can download. But you need to make sure it will work well for you.

Managing layers

The downside of using default layers is you can have so many layers in your drawings. You and your team will need help to manage them.

AutoCAD has two features to avoid overwhelming number of layers: layer filter and layer states.

Layer filter will help users to see only what they need in layer manager and layer dropdown. You can define several filters. Define them based on your tasks in your template. Design and Motion has excellent article about AutoCAD layer filter here.

Layer states allows you to change layer properties quickly. You can turn on and off many layers at once if you use layer states. You can also change the layer properties like colors and line weight with layer states. This is useful if you need to plot with different line weight in different scales.

Check this article on Design and Motion to learn more about AutoCAD layer states.

Add Annotation Styles to your template

AutoCAD has many annotation styles. There are text styles, dimension styles, table styles and so on. Styles save settings for our annotations. Not only efficient, it will make annotations look consistent.

The number of annotation styles you need depends on how you add annotations. If you add annotations in layout, you may need less. If you add annotations in model space, you may need to have more styles. Some AutoCAD has different styles for different plot scales.

Another method that you can use is to use annotation scaling. You only need one style for different plot scales, even if you work in model space. If you are not familiar with annotation scaling yet, you can learn more about annotation scaling here.

Define page setups

You can save layout settings in page setups. Not everyone uses layout. But if you do, you can define your page setups in templates.

If you have many layout settings, you can save it in separate templates. You don’t have to put everything in a single template. You can create layout by importing it from other template. This will make your file more efficient and small.

If you don’t use layout, you may want to check 10 reasons why you should use it here.

Save and use the template

After you are finished, now save this file as a template. You may want to save it in custom location or server.

If you save it in custom location, don’t forget to change the drawing template location in AutoCAD option. It will make you easier to access it. This option only allow you to add one location. If you have several locations, you can add more file location in open/save dialog box.

You may also need to change the default template for QNEW.

Discuss with us

Junge Reporterin

In this challenge, you created AutoCAD templates. You may need more than one template. The templates should be able to help you to reduce repetitive tasks. But having too many settings and objects in one file will be counterproductive. It will be confusing and your files will be prone to corrupt.

Now share with us, what do you have in your template? Is there anything else you can suggest us to put in a template?

Do you have any problems completing this challenge? If you already have templates, do you think you can make some improvements?

Do you know any resources that we can use to create templates or to download AutoCAD templates?

How many templates do you have? Why do you need more than one template? Is it because you use more than one standard? Or to keep it simple?

Let’s discuss it here. Any discussion about template is welcome.

Remember, we have prizes for active participant at the end of this program. So make sure you join the discussion!

If you are finished, try to complete the 3rd challenge: Create reusable content.

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