Thursday, April 28, 2005

Fast Track Training - A New Idea!

With today’s focus on smaller, healthier portions of food, Americans are being urged to avoid the Super Size Meals available at many fast food restaurants. If we should not order more than we need to eat, then shouldn’t training be the same?

If you have never used AutoCAD and find yourself in need of opening, perhaps a very small amount of editing, and plotting a drawing someone sends you, then why should you have to sit through two or more days of training on the intricacies of using the full features of AutoCAD just as someone who is going to create a fully detailed drawing of a space station? The point is that you shouldn’t.

You probably have purchased, or are considering purchasing, AutoCAD LT. If you’re purchasing the 2006 version, then you don’t need to know (and don’t want to know) about all the options of entering data on the command line with absolute, relative, and polar coordinates. Since the 2006 version of AutoCAD (and the Autodesk line of products) is designed for more “heads up” design, there’s almost no need for the command line at all.

With that in mind, I’m writing materials for a new class. This class will be aimed at new users who only need limited functionality with AutoCAD. It’s not intended for new users who need to cover all the commands and utilize the full product.

This will be taught with AutoCAD LT 2006.

Fast Track to Using AutoCAD 2006
Topics to be covered include:

Your Workspace – Setting your workspace to work comfortably.
o Colors
o Toolbars
o Display Options
Drawing – Very basic draw commands with OSNAPS using direct distance entry and no command line.
o What’s the difference between a line and polyline?
Modify – Very basic modify commands and how to use selection methods
o Move
o Copy
o Erase
Layers, Text & Dimensions – Very basics for understanding existing information and doing limited text or dimensioning.
o What are layers and how do I control them?
o Add or modify text
o Add basic dimensions and leaders
Open, Save & File Types
o What kind of files can I open?
o File organization and where to save your drawings
o Is my drawing in model space or paper space and why does it matter?
o What kind of files can I save?
o Printing to a laser or inkjet printer
o Plotting larger drawings
o How can I send the drawing to someone else?
o Using the DWF Viewer, DWG Viewer, or DWF Composer

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

AutoCAD 2006's New Rectangle Command Options

There's never been as valuable information on a new AutoCAD version in the quantities that are currently available across all the blogs. That shows the power and wealth of blogging for sharing information. Whether you're a casual AutoCAD user, a power user, or a CAD Manager, you no longer have to find out everything about a new release by yourself.

I've been amazed at how much I've learned about the new products just through blogs over the past few weeks. Normally I'm the inquisitive one who tries everything listed as new to see how it handles and performs. I haven't even had time to do that as fellow bloggers have beat me to it!

While reviewing the built-in New Features Workshop, I noticed that the Rectangle command had some great new options added. I couldn't wait to try them.

I expected the rectangle command itself to have changed when I initiated the command. It looked no different. Granted I wasn't using my command line since it's not needed with dynamic interface, I turned it on "just to be sure" I was creating the rectangle correctly. Sure enough, the command line read:
Command: _rectang
Specify first corner point or [Chamfer/Elevation/Fillet/Thickness/Width]:
No difference there.

And while we're on the subject of rectangles, how many of you even use the rectangle command? The advantage is that it creates one polyline all at once with only two picks or one pick and a coordinate entry.

How many of you have tried the existing options available in [ ] on the command line? Why go back to chamfer or fillet your rectangle or change the polyline width with a different command and more time? Do it at the same time you're creating your rectangle.
Ah, but I digress...

After you pick your first point for the start of your rectangle you will be prompted for the NEW rectangle options. One is to give your rectangle a specific area.
Specify other corner point or [Area/Dimensions/Rotation]: a
Enter area of rectangle in current units <20.0000>:
Calculate rectangle dimensions based on [Length/Width] :
Enter rectangle length <5.0000>: 10
End of rectangle command

What I just did was to create a rectangle with an area of 20 units. I knew that I wanted it to be 10 units long. Yes, I realize that I could easily have stopped to calculate that my rectangle needed to be 2 x 10 to equal 20 units in area. The point is, that I didn't have to do so. AutoCAD did this for me.

The Dimensions options allows you to enter the dimensions of your rectangle instead of thinking about "Let's see...second point will be...@2,10...or is it @10,2..." New users have trouble with this so this will be a help.

The Rotation option allows you to specify a specific rotation for your rectangle. You can combine this with any of the other options. So you can specify that you want your rectangle to be at a 45 degree angle and an area of 20 units. You don't have to create the rectangle and then rotate it. It rotates based on the first pick point.

So and old command is now improved. It might seem trivial, but it's all the little trivial improvements that really make 2006 head-turning.

If you'd like to read about some of the other features, here are some links.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


I didn't get to finish posting my reports about the 2006 Autodesk products because I didn't have Internet access during the last two days I was in Orlando. Some system failure at the hotel caused the lack of Internet access.

Many of the other users I was around were coughing and sounding rather ill while I was attending classes. I was sure to wash my hands thoroughly with plenty of soap and hot water to avoid any unpleasant germs and unwelcome illness.

Even with those precautions, I found a slight tickle in my throat on the plane home late Friday night. By Sunday I was full-blown sick and mad about it. I feel downright wimpy to get sick so easily.

As it was explained to me as a prescription for potent cough syrup was handed to me, the change in environment can really be hard on your immune system. Add on top of that less restful sleep when away from home, freezing in the air conditioning the entire week in classes, and the sick people surrounding you, it's only natural to get sick. No bacterial infection, but just a nasty cough and very run down.

So, I'm on the mend. I notice that takes more than the normal 24-48 hours that it used to. Yet another sign of age. Who me?

Take care of yourself. I hope to be back on my normal track of blogging next week.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

New Features in ADT 2006

Well, shucks! I am still in Orlando and just typed my entire blog for this evening and lost Internet connection. So, I'll have to start over again.

I've learned some more of the new features of ADT today. I also had the pleasure of meeting Matt Dillon in person.

First, if you haven't used the Keynote or Detail Component features that were released in 2004, then you're missing out and this new tool in 2006 won't mean as much to you.

I've been trying to spread the word about how useful Keynotes are and encourage users to include them when creating new styles. One of the problems has been that not everyone has MS Access, which is required to read and edit the .mdb database. Most users have one of the more basic versions of MS Office and those that do have a higher end version don't know how to use MS Access anyhow. It's not hard. I've used it for years. But of course if you've never used any program it can be intimidating.

The good news is that you no longer have to have MS Access or know how to use it. ADT 2006 has a built-in Editor. You can edit the Keynote database either from within ADT from the CAD Manager pulldown menu (you may need to turn this menu on from Window>pulldowns) or from outside the product from Start>Programs>Autodesk>Architectural Desktop 2006>Keynote Editor.

It is very intuitive and easy to use. You can Add Group, Add Keynote, or Edit.

To access the Detail Component database, choose Insert pulldown>Detail Component Manager. It was pointed out to me by a far more curious user that there is now a new button in the upper middle of the dialog box. When you hover over it, the tooltip states "Edit Database". Once you click on this button the buttons under it become active (rather than grayed out). The choices are similar to those mentioned above. Add Group, Add Component, or Edit.

So to me, this is a great new feature. No more outside programs to work with but all functionality right within ADT as it should be.

I'll write more of the cool new features once I get home next week.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Live from Orlando

This is the first free time I've had to post while here in Orlando attending a Boot Camp to learn the 2006 Autodesk products. I can't believe how many people have met me at training over the past year and remembered me, how many Autodesk people I know from my service on the AUGI Board, and how many people have come up to me to say they've seen me on stage at AU when I was with the Board. And to think I thought I had successfully blended into the scenery.

I have spent a day on the new Building Systems 2006 and Revit Building 8 so far. Tomorrow I will cover Architectural Desktop followed by AutoCAD on Thursday.

One of the cool new features in Building Systems is that when you move one portion of a system, whether it be a piece of duct or a valve in a piping system, the connecting system pieces move with it. That's how it should be!

Building Systems also has a single-line layout that can be used for quick and dirty planning and then sized and converted to normal ducts later. I still need some practice with this feature, but it seems like it will be a helpful tool.

Finally, there are some third party links that should be available in May or so for sheet metal and/or piping fabrication and cost estimating. The product is expected to ship about 4/18/05.

As for Revit Building 8, there's not much that you can do to make it any better since I'm always so amazed by this product. But they keep managing to do so. Shared families can be scheduled, DWF markups can be utilized, and you can import real Building Systems objects into your Revit drawing as ACIS objects. Of course the open API will be the big story for so many. Shipping should be about 4/22/05.

Thanks to everyone who follows my blog and introduces themselves at any event.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Tips for All Autodesk Users

Some of the popular classes at Autodesk University (AU) are those with tips and tricks. Dan Abbott has taught a Things Every AutoCAD User Should Know while the infamous, Donnia Tabor-Hanson, has her popular AUGI Tips and Tricks class. (You can download past AU class material at the AUGI website.)

Not one to steal ideas (hence my reference above), I have created a combination class that I'll be teaching later this month in Roanoke, VA. It's Tips for All Autodesk Users or What Every Autodesk User Should Know.

It's from noon to 5:00 with lunch provided. We'll cover topics that any manager, IT person, or CAD user would find helpful whether you use the program, have training or are self-taught, or manage others that use the program.

We'll be covering system requirements (minimum recommended vs. real world), virtual memory settings, what all the options really mean in the Options dialog box and my suggestions for settings, tips for speed and production, CAD Standards and file organization, and how to use other resources to learn and be successful. (You know I'm going to mention AUGI in there, right?)

Next week, April 10-16, I'll be in Orlando for a required Autodesk Boot Camp to learn all the new 2006 products.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Beta Testing

If you want to make a difference and have software companies listen to your feedback and ideas, then you should consider beta testing. You get to see and use software, such as AutoCAD, while it's being developed. Granted this is not for everyone. If you're in a high production office with strict deadlines and no room for error, then I wouldn't even consider it. If you have a stable AutoCAD product and have time to use the beta and answer a few questions, then you should give it a try. While it's impossible to find every problem prior to release, Autodesk does try to do so through beta testing. You can sign up for any Autodesk beta testing at

If you still want to make a difference, but can't commit to beta testing; then you can try usability testing. You can sign up for this at This helps you to give feedback on how you use your own product.

Besides Autodesk, other software companies offer beta opportunities as well. I have more recently done beta testing for McAfee. This allowed me to have the most up-to-date virus protection available for free. I have signed up for beta testing with Adobe and others as well.

Don't underestimate your power to be a part of new products or your opportunity to use the latest software available.