Thursday, February 24, 2005

Profiles To The Rescue!

One of the most popular tips I give users is regarding profiles. I show this to every student I teach no matter what the subject, tell everyone installing Autodesk products, and often pass the information on when a support call comes in where this tip could have saved the day.

AutoCAD saves your user interface (menus, palettes and toolbars) and most options in a profile. You have Windows profiles as well. Your Windows profile is what defines (and remembers) your background wallpaper of your dog and your screensaver, whether it be bikini-clad women or grandchildren.

With vertical Autodesk products such as Architectural Desktop and Building Systems, you can use profiles to change which product you want to emulate. For example, I often set up three desktop shortcuts for Building Systems. Each shortcut loads a different profile. One shortcut is for plain, vanilla AutoCAD. One is for Architectural Desktop. And of course one is for Building Systems. Three icons, three profiles, one software product.

To get back on the subject, if you never created or named a profile, you are using the default one that loaded. Which one varies by product. I generally recommend that when you first install the product, you create a new profile. Call it your name if you like. Then, after you've created the profile, set up your workspace in AutoCAD however you'd like. Add and subtract pulldown menus, open the toolbars you want, set your pickbox size, colors, or other options the way you want to work. Once you have everything set, then Export your profile to a safe place. By safe place, I don't mean in the My Documents folder on your workstation. I mean to a safe network location, floppy disk, jump drive, or even save it locally and then email it home.

To Export all you need to do is choose Options and then the Profiles tab. From there you will see a button on the right for Export. This will create an .arg file.

The reason that I pass this tip out so much is that it can save a lot of time and headaches in so many situations.

  1. Your hard drive goes bad. A new hard drive is installed, but AutoCAD (along with everything else) has to be reloaded. Oh, drat! Do you want to spend the next hour trying to set up your workspace like you had it? Do you even remember everything you had set? ---Profile to the rescue!--- Options>Profiles>Import Profile.
  2. Your company is doing well and they have purchased you a brand new computer. Fantastic! But wait, AutoCAD has to be installed. You find yourself staring at a brand new installation with none of your comfortable settings. ---Profile to the rescue!--- Options>Profiles>Import Profile.
  3. Your co-worker breaks his leg in a freak sunbathing accident. Your supervisor wants you to move into his cubicle and take over. No problem. He was always a slacker anyhow. You should be able to do the job in half the time. Doh! How does he work with his workspace set like this? ---Profile to the rescue!--- Options>Profiles>Import Profile.

You get the idea, right? I don't need to make up anymore scenarios do I?

So stop what you're doing and export your profile now.

Warning! If you were not aware of this previously, DO NOT create a new profile now. Your settings are stored in whatever profile is active. Export that profile.

The biggest mistake I see people make is that they get confused and get all their settings and workspace the way they want them and then choose Add to List and Set Current. That makes a new profile, but when you set it current it becomes current rather than the profile you just customized.

Profiles - less calories, more filling.

Friday, February 18, 2005

User Tip on License Borrowing

One of my users just discovered this on his own. Thanks for sharing!

License borrowing does not show up with either the Building Systems (ABS.mnc or ABS.mns) or Architectural Desktop(ADT.mnc or ADT.mns) menus. To use license borrowing, change to the AutoCAD (ACAD.mnc or ACAD.mns) menu.
To do this, type menu at the command line and choose the different menu file.
You may also want to set a Profile for license borrowing.

ADT Standards & Project Navigator

This week marks two important dates. Valentine's Day was February 14th and February 16th was the anniversary of the the Studebaker Corporation as it was founded as a wagon maker in 1852. I hope you had a wonderful Valentine's Day. I had to mention Studebaker as I am a lifetime member of the Studebaker Drivers Club International. Now on to business!

In a previous post I mentioned a new blog by one of the best ADT minds in the country, Matt Dillon. Matt has some recent posts to his blog that are very timely with work I have been performing of late.

First, he talks about how much thought has gone into the out-of-the-box standards in ADT and suggests using these as much as possible. You can read his review here. I do agree, and generally tell my clients, that it is much easier to use the AIA layering and to at least start with all the various styles ADT provides you with and then expand. It is still a very deep program and can be a monumental task to set up absolutely everything.

I am currently helping two clients do just that. At first it seemed as if we were just going to update their wall, door, and window styles with better information and assign materials. Part of this was comparing styles in ADT to see if there was duplication. At the same time, since these items will end up being scheduled, property set definitions needed to be created. That opened another can of worms with the display configurations and how these styles would display. Finally (or maybe not yet?), the project setup and sheet sets all tied in with this. Matt comes to the rescue again with an outstanding step-by-step how-to article on how to set up a Project. Read it here.

It would surely seem that there would be a better way to accomplish this. They are using the basic layering and setup information from ADT. They are using Pella windows and doors, one of the manufacturers who unfortunately doesn't have ADT styles of their products available for customers like some of the other vendors.

Don't be scared off from using the many great features that ADT provides you. Just take small steps and change a little bit at a time. You'll get there and be ahead of the pack for doing so.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Successful Installations

I frequently receive calls from or read forum posts from users who are having problems installing software. A big complaint is that it shouldn't be so hard to install a program. I agree. Fact of the matter is that today's programs, combined with outside forces such as service packs and patches required for security and anti-virus software, are a far more complex mix than in our old DOS or early Windows days.

Here are some tips to help make an installation smooth.

Before installing any new software, take this as a good time to backup and update your system as well as clean house.

  1. Perform a backup.
  2. Perform updates to any operating system, internet browser, MS Office, and virus software.
  3. Perform a complete virus scan of your system including a scan for spyware or adware.
  4. Disable anti-virus software temporarily during installation.
  5. Read the Read-Me files before proceeding. Does your system meet minimum requirements? Are there any tips about the order of installation or special steps recommended?
  6. If you are not clear on the Read-Me files or have reservations at all, research discussion groups and forums on-line for problems other users may have had. You may avoid a small mistake someone else did by reading about it prior to your installation.
  7. If you still do not feel comfortable, consider having a professional install it.

To update your Windows based operating system, you can

Go To Control Panel

Choose Windows Update in the left hand panel.

Or Simply Visit the Microsoft website.

To update your MS Office Program

Visit the Microsoft website and choose Office.

Any virus or firewall software should have an update utility.

This should make your system in better shape and help for a smoother installation. Once your product is installed, be sure you keep it up-to-date with the latest service packs available. Many support calls are really already solved with software service packs that users haven't downloaded or installed. Don't fall into this group!

Be sure that you also always choose to send your error reports should you have any error. These are crucial in helping software companies find problems not discovered during beta testing and to offer the service packs that we need.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Tip on Placing CAD Drawings in Word or PowerPoint

I read Lynn Allen's Blog recently and caught a tip and procedures for embedding dwf in PowerPoint. It brought to mind a command I generally show students as more of a tips and tricks command.

Copy Link

This command is found from the Edit pulldown menu from any Autodesk program (as far as I know). I don't know how long it's been there, but I suspect a while. I confess that I only found it by accident as I don't tend to do copy and paste within AutoCAD much. I was writing some training content and covering each of the commands from the pulldown menu. When I got to Copy Link, I had to look it up in the Help menu.

For years AutoCAD users have been asked by other office personnel for an image to place in a PowerPoint presentation or a Word document. We've had ways to do this, but in my opinion none of them were any good. If you've ever attempted WMFOUT or similar commands you were probably less than satisfied with the quality. Well, those days are over!

With Copy Link, you zoom to the appropriate level you want to see. Maybe you want to zoom in to the master bath. You then use Copy Link from the Edit pulldown. It might appear that nothing happens. Actually, this exact portion of the drawing was just copied to the clipboard.

If you have either Word or PowerPoint open and right click to select Paste, not only will that image be pasted with great resolution, but it will be linked to AutoCAD. In other words you can double click on the drawing and open it in AutoCAD.

In most cases, if you have a need for an image of a drawing the link is not necessary. To use just a static image, choose Paste Special from the Edit pulldown menu of the program where you are inserting it. You will have a choice of formats besides AutoCAD entity. I generally recommend selecting Picture. This pastes it just like you would a .jpg image.

I've had lots of people amazed by this little trick. If you are sending a document to someone with pricing or describing a change order, what better way to describe what you're talking about than with a picture of the drawing?

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

A Business Tip On Faxing

In many cases, email seems to have replaced faxing. It's faster, cheaper, and more efficient to email a file to someone today. What do you still fax? I still receive faxed sketches from clients for my home-based business, CAD Fuel Design.

In trying to perform tasks in the most efficient manner, I took advantage of technology probably 5-6 years ago and signed up for an efax account. I'm amazed that no one I talk to has ever heard of this. It came to mind recently when I saw a technical tip with an Autodesk support problem in conjunction with efax.

Unfortunately this convenient service is no longer free, but if you travel and need to receive faxes then you should investigate one of these services. There may be more available today. I haven't checked.

The two main services that I have tried and used over the years are Callwave and Efax. The general idea is about the same. With the very basic service, you are assigned a random fax number. You do have the option to subscribe to a number within your area code. I use the random number. You tell someone to fax you something to this fax number. The fax then appears in your email inbox as an attachment. You can open it and view it and print it if you so desire.

This service has worked well for me over the years. I have never owned a fax machine. I receive all my faxes this way. Often, I only need to view them and never print them. I print only what I need. I can save the files on my computer for archival purposes if I choose to do so. I save paper and ink. I can view my faxes anywhere I may be where I have internet access to my web-based email.

I can't imagine someone who travels and has to wait until they return to their office to see a fax that arrived on a fax machine.

What do I do if I need to fax? That's simple. I fax directly from my computer with my fax modem. I've done that for probably the past 8 years or more.

If you're a small business owner or need a fax number for home, look at these two options and do a search on the web for other possible services. I hate it that these are no longer free after all these years, but I still love the technology.

And Happy Groundhog Day!