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AutoCAD has been a very popular CAD application for decades. Many AutoCAD users learn using it by learning it themselves or by reading a book. Or by reading AutoCAD productivity tips like we have here.
Not that it’s wrong. Learning AutoCAD by yourself can have advantages. Mistakes make you remember. Learning from your friends or books can be better. But your friend might teach you by his behavior, by his workflow. It might be not suitable for you. Especially if you work in different industry.
Books? I don’t know if you can find good books in your area. But in here, I don’t think we can find a good book easily. Not in our language. Many writers still writing the same material as our ‘good old version of AutoCAD’. Just change the screenshot, change the book cover, add one or two chapter… and… he’s written a new book! I don’t think using AutoCAD 2010 as AutoCAD R14 is wise. A lot of new features, and using them in a proper workflow can actually boost your productivity.
In this list, I write 10 cool AutoCAD features that many people don’t use. You might already use them, but I know a lot of people don’t.
1. Define and Using AutoCAD Template
Have you define and use your own AutoCAD template? Or every time you start your drawing with an empty template provided… then define your styles, layers, layouts, etc? You should try defining your own template! Using template can increase your productivity significantly.
Using template will save you some time. And helps you to maintain a drawing standard. Templates is very useful, not only in AutoCAD but in every application.
2. CAD Standard
Using standard in drawing is important. It won’t looks good if your company release drawings that looks different, using different dimension styles, fonts, line weight, etc. And having the same standard in your company will be easier for your draftsman. Doesn’t matter who draw it, he always know where he should be looking for, what to edit. And if a new draftsman came, he can easily adapt. You can maintain your standard in AutoCAD drawing using cad standard. Defining company standard drawing is a start to drawing productivity.
Saving your drawing template to a drawing standard can help your draftsman to work within your standard. Any violation? A balloon will pop up immediately to warn him that he is violating standard! Cool isn’t it?
3. Use AutoCAD Sheet set
Sheet set is a feature to manage your projects. It’s like windows explorer, but simpler and better for drawing management.
You can also create a drawing list automatically, pack all your files in a sheet set (or sub set) to a transmittal package only with a few clicks. Oh yes, includes plot many sheets at once! If you want to read about Sheet Set in details, check our Sheet Set e-book here.
If your company use data management like Vault, it’s probably the best choice. But Sheet Set is good start to manage your drawing.
4. Layer Tools
Using layers is very useful managing complex drawing. Drawing all your objects in layer 0 is a no-no. I’m sure a lot of you know that. There are a lot of layer tools that you can use to manage your drawings. Layer walk and layer isolate for example. You can quickly change the drawing representation by changing layer properties using layer states. And more: you can represent your drawing differently in each viewport using layer properties per-viewport!
5. External Reference
If you work your design with multiple users, this is a must use feature. You can work together at once on a project. If not, using reference file (XREF) is still a good practice. It will keep your file simple and well managed. Simple means you can avoid your files to become corrupt. Well managed, you can use typical design several times in your design. One change will reflect on the other.
“So what if I use block? I can edit one block, and all of the blocks will be updated”
Honestly, I don’t think this is what blocks are for. Blocks are used for library, standard symbols, parts, landscape, furniture, etc that you use as library. Not for objects you change many times during the design process. I don’t think using block for that purpose is good. See more about block vs xref here.
6. Text field
Have you use text field? If you have a lot of text that should be modified regularly, text field can be very useful. Let’s say you have to change these value in your title block: drawn by, last modify, file name, or any object properties such as: perimeter, area, etc. Text field can update those value automatically. Just define them once, save it to your template. Field will be automatically updated when you regen, save, or plot your drawing.
7. Dynamic Blocks
Honestly, first time I saw dynamic block, I hate it. I don’t think having different blocks with the same name is a good idea. It’s confusing, mess our standards, and might cause errors in reporting. But then I found that dynamic block can be very useful. It’s very useful for visualization. And some actions can be useful for block placement (align, flip). But I think we should be careful with this feature. Especially if you use blocks with data extraction. You might have a report saying you have 5 instance of the same type of door, but actually you placed 2 different types of door with the same name!
If you are interested to learn about dynamic block, see this dynamic block tutorial.
8. Annotation Scaling
This feature is one of my favorite in AutoCAD 2008. This feature will help you a lot when you work with different scales. It’s very easy to arrange them all in layout later. You don’t have to think how big your annotation should be in your model. Just define the size you want when it’s plotted! Start AutoCAD annotation scaling tutorial here.
9. Tool Palettes
Tool palettes can provide a lot of tools. Not only blocks, but also drawing tools. What’s the different with using toolbar?
If you use line tool from toolbar, then the line will be drawn in active layer. If you define a line with certain layer and properties, you don’t have to worry about changing layers anymore. See this image below. They all lines, but will create lines in different layers.
10. Block Attributes
Block attributes is a feature to give your objects an ID and other attributes. Let’s say doors will have type, manufacturer, accessories such as door closer, locks, etc . By defining block attributes, you can make block annotations standard. And the best of all, you can extract all the attributes to a table as a report! A drawing schedule (or bill of quantity/bill of material) will be automatically generated using data extraction.
There’s always be new features in each release. Take a look at them in new features workshop. Try them. You might find they are actually useful. Also join discussions in forum, mailing list, or any where you can ask and share your experiences. There are a lot of helpful tips and troubleshoot that you can use! In my experience what I do is not always the best practice. You might find that too.