Wednesday, March 29, 2006

New Options in 2007

One of the topics I always make a point of covering in any training I do is the Options dialog box in any Autodesk product. It's my belief that the more users know about the how's and why's of what is controlled by Options, the more prepared they are to help themselves when they have a problem.

In preparing some new 2007 training material, I thought I'd point out two Options. As a shortcut to get to the Options dialog box (since if varies by pulldown menu depending on the product), I like to right click in the command line and choose Options.

The Display tab controls...well...Display options. This is where you can change your crosshair size (100 if you want full screen), turn off the scroll bars to save space (we do have wheel mice now), and change the background color to your preference (black is mine).

In 2007, the colors dialog has change dramatically. Part of this may be because of all the new light and camera interface elements included with 2007.

You'll notice that when you enter the Drawing Window Colors dialog box by pressing the Colors button in Options>Display, that the box is divided into two main portions. On the left, you have Context. You can choose 2D model space, Sheet/layout, and more. You can control your background as well as your crosshairs and autosnap colors by space. You can also set the Block editor or the Plot Preview to be different colors as well.

On the right side, the choice based on your Context, is Interface element. There are quite a few elements for which you can set the color.

The second change is much smaller, but it gives me an opportunity to talk again about one of the most important user options we have. Right-click Customization is, or should be, very important as a method of speed and efficiency.

To access this from Options, choose the User Preferences tab.

We've had the checkbox for shortcut menus in drawing area for some time now with a button below for Right-Click Customization. When you press the button to do right-click customization, this is where you will want to set the Default Mode to Repeat Last Command. We've done this for years by pressing Enter on the keyboard. Why bother to move to the keyboard when you can simply right click your mouse to do the same thing?

For Edit Mode, Shortcut Menu is what you want. Depending on what object you select, you will have a different right click menu. For example, when you choose a line in AutoCAD, you will not see Mtext Edit. When you select a Wall in ADT, you will have a chance to do cleanups.

Command Mode is one that I confess another user (and a student at that), pointed out to me. When this is set on Enter, you no longer have to put up with choosing Enter from a shortcut menu when you complete a command. I'm done copying objects, so I right click and the command ends just the same as when I press Enter on the keyboard.

You will notice that I skipped the first choice in this dialog box. Turning on time sensitive right-click is a feature in Windows XP as well. It simply allows you to do both if you're quick enough to click fast and slow. I'm not a video game player so this one doesn't do a thing for me.

The new option you will see is right above the Right-Click Customization button. It's Double click editing. This can be checked to enable the DBLCKEDIT System Variable. You can even customize double click actions in the CUI.

The best example I can think of is that if you double click Mtext the Mtext Editor opens. If you look at the existing list in the CUI Editor, you'll see several that you probably take for granted such as hatch and attribute editing. I can't immediately think of a something that I would like to be able to do with a double click, but maybe you can come up with some suggestions. It's a new 2007 feature.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Autodesk Installations

Some years ago it became an acceptable practice to reinstall software when there was a problem. I don't remember when this happened or why, but in most cases the answer to a problem is not reinstallation.

If you are experiencing computer problems, you should follow a methodical investigation to attempt to determine the problem. Some tips I've offered before in troubleshooting or installation may help. More times than I care to admit, problems I've uncovered have been related to Internet access or email. I would consider this to be the number one problem in business productivity today.

The biggest problem with reinstalling Autodesk software today is that since 2005 the activation of the software has changed. For quite some time our European fellow users have used software that contained hardware locks to prevent piracy. Starting with the 2005 version, those of us in the U.S. have had some security built into our Autodesk software.

Previously in the U.S. (and perhaps other areas), users were given an authorization code that worked across the board. If you installed it when you first received AutoCAD 2000 for example and reinstalled it six times and just installed it again in 2006, you could use this authorization code and type it in. The problem here was that anyone could install this copy on any computer or as many as wanted and simply type in the number.

Today, when you install the software you initially register over the Internet. A long request code (that will become longer with 2007 products) containing letters and numbers is created and saved on your hard drive. This code is sent "to the mother ship" as I've heard some say, and an equally long and complicated activation code is sent back and saved on your hard drive. This applies to stand-alone installations I might add.

There's no point in writing the number down or printing it out as you cannot use it again. If you uninstall the Autodesk software, the uninstall process through Remove Programs in Control Panel does NOT remove everything. I repeat that this does not do a clean uninstall.

Before you reinstall the software you must delete any remaining folders under documents and settings as well as clean the registry. If you do not do this, which most people don't, then you will have problems with a reinstall.

In addition, the program has already been activated and when you attempt to install the software again on the same computer or a different computer it will not activate electronically because you have used up your one life in the game. You'll need to call the number provided on your screen and explain to the representative why you are installing it. Beginning tomorrow, March 23rd, the only way to get your activation code if you do call is to have it faxed or emailed to you.

The real message is that it would be a rare occasion that you would need to do a reinstall. Do your homework or get a competent professional to install it for you. Most people do a typical install which gives you extra content (perhaps metric if you only use imperial) that you don't need and you miss features such as express tools and 3D DWF. Read the readme as well. Read discussion groups to find any tips or glitches before you install.

Happy Spring and Happy 2007!

AutoCAD 2007 Release

For the past few years now, Autodesk has released the new version of AutoCAD on or immediately following my birthday. It's easy for me to remember the date AutoCAD 2007 will be available. As in recent history, tomorrow the world changes in respect to AutoCAD. The 2007 version of AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT will be released in conjunction with price changes for 2007 products and subscription. The other Autodesk products will be following over the next month.

The annual release cycle that began with AutoCAD 2005 and Autodesk 2005 products, may make your head spin. After all, before the 2004 products we waited breathlessly for a new version every 18 -24 months. Do you remember the excitement to see what new features were included?

The idea of an annual release is intended to help businesses that were losing valuable productivity with so many changes in these big releases. It took time out of the office for users to be trained (something that should happen with every release anyhow); and time while users slowly worked back up to their normal productive speed as they worked on a new version to complete projects. So, the idea now is that with subscription business can better budget annually and with an annual release there is less to learn each year. For some of us, it just becomes hard to write the date on a check when we can't remember if this year is 2005, 2006, or 2007!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Some more glimpses of ADT 2007

I'm on the road this afternoon and for the next couple of days to help a client with some CAD Standards and working through the maze of property set data and schedules as well as general tips and tricks with ADT. Since some of you have asked for a little more about 2007, here we go...

I've found that a lot of users don't take advantage of the ADT AEC Dimension Styles because they are confusing. Well, here's a help. You don't have to start with the bare basics of a standard style and try to wade through it to come up with your way of dimensioning. Now you have several, more useful, styles available. Even if you don't think they are perfect, at least you have a better chance of getting your own styles set.

You may not even notice this, but in the bottom of the General tab for any styles that create an opening of some sort through a wall, you will see a tiny checkbox. This is because one of the new features for 2007 are Zones.

From the ADT Help Menu:
Zones allow you to group your spaces together for use in area calculation schemas, as and presentations (showing spaces color-coded by department, for example). Additionally, engineers who are using Autodesk Building Systems can use zones to perform complex analysis calculations and reporting.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Autodesk's 2007 Product Line Up

Today most of the blogs are talking about the new AutoCAD 2007 set to be released in the next few weeks. There is a whole lineup besides AutoCAD. The big news in AutoCAD is all about 3D. The notable news is that the file format, typically changed every two years, is changing for 2007. The cool news is that some of the Express Tools have finally been integrated into the actual product.

I seem to think that Architectural Desktop has much more exciting features this release, so I'll be focusing my blog reports on that. Just a couple of tidbits are that you can now redirect the directories for Project Navigator. The previous method of automatically putting the folders where ADT wanted them with no flexibility kept a lot of users from utilizing this tool.

There are new features with regard to classifications, scheduling, space objects, and a much better way to dimension walls. I'll highlight each of those and more each week.

Here are the system requirements.