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What is your favorite AutoCad Block Naming Convention?

AutoCad block naming conventions can help you quickly identify block types, especially in drawings with many blocks or within the block libraries.

There is no one way fits all approach, however, from our experience, three major criteria for a good naming standard are:

  1. Descriptive/Meaningful
  2. Concise
  3. Consistent

So what is a Descriptive/meaningful, intuitive, simple and consistent naming standard actually means?

The name should be a description of the actual block, which tells about the block without seeing it. The name should also be meaningful and obvious to your company’s current user and therefore more intuitive to any future users.

Although there maybe no limit on characters in block names, it is also important to keep it simple and concise.

Last but certainly not least important is that whichever block naming system you decides to go with, it is critical to be consistent.

If your new block naming convention follows the above criteria, it will avoid unnecessary confusion and/or time wasting and it will be easier for new people to learn and get on board with the system.

Below is an example of a descriptive naming structure for door or window blocks for an architectural plan.

Company_Type/Operation of Door/window & No of Panels_ Width_Height

So for a 4 panel sliding door, 4000mm wide 2400 high, you can name it as descriptively as possible such as AACAD_SLIDEDR4P_40W24H

Note: The company initial is only useful if you are sharing & working on the same files with other company.

So if you prefer a simpler and more concise option, you can simply name this block as SD4P_40.24

If you go with this simplified naming convention, it may be useful to also have a print out or an attachment file with legends that clearly shows how the generic abbreviation works.

Comment and share with us below, the block naming convention/system/structure that you use and find most useful.

 

Breaking a line into two in AutoCad

You can break a line or other object into two objects without any space between them using the BREAK command in AutoCad.

Here are 5 easy steps to achieve it:

  1. Type in BREAK at the command line or select break tool
  2. Select the object you wish to break
  3. Select First Point Option (F) then
  4. Pick the point where you wish divide the object
  5. When prompted to specify second break point, type @ and Enter

Note: You probably know that @ means last point picked, so AutoCAD breaks the object at the first point you picked and it becomes two objects. You can’t see the different until you try to select one of them.

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How about if you want to break the line with a specified distance/gap in between? (For this example, we want 100 unit line, 500 unit gap to the second line). We can easily do this by using the “from” command inside of the Break command.

Follow these simple steps below:

  1. Type in BREAK at the command line or select break tool
  2. Select the object you wish to break
  3. Select First Point Option (F) then Enter.
  4. From and Enter. Then for offset prompt, Type @100,0 and Enter
  5. When prompted to specify second break point, type @500,0 and Enter
  6. You now have a gap of 500 unit in between the now separate two lines

Note: if you have reference points to pinpoint exact position of the gap, you can also use the mouse & drag to align to the reference lines instead of typing in the exact unit.

Eric Fransen emailed in a nice macro for this that you can put on a toolbar button:

^C^CBREAK;\F;\@;

Alan Praysman sent me a nice AutoLISP routine that he wrote that uses a single click to specify the object and the break point. Because it allows object snaps, you can pick the right point easily. Download the file (zipped).

 

Use Quick Select to select objects in your AutoCAD drawing

The Quick Select dialog box is a simple filtering device that helps you select the objects you want. For more advanced filters and for when you want to save filters, use the FILTER command.

There are 4 ways to open Quick Select in AutoCAD:qs

  • Home tab> Utilities panel>Quick Select
  • With no command active, right-click in the drawing area and choose Quick Select
  • Click the Quick Select button in the Properties palette
  • Type qselect on the command line.

There are many ways to simplify your selection with Quick Select function. Using the sample drawing below, I will demonstrate how to use this function to easily select a certain type of object with particular perimeter, in this case, to select all the circles with radius of 750

So open the Quick Select tool using one of the 4 methods described above then follow this steps

  1. Under object type, select circle
  2. For properties, select Radius. Note: you can see here all the perimeters that you can use to define your selection.
  3. Under value, key in 750 then click OK

And there you go, with these simple steps, you now have successfully selected all the cicle with radius of 750 in this drawing.

Tom has posted a question below that I feel may help our readers:

Q: Hi Ellen, I’m trying to erase a bunch of tiny circles and don’t want to pick them 1 by 1. I thought of selection sets, but I’m not too familiar with using them. Right then, I got your email newsletter, hence, this post.
I get how to create a selection set with qselect, but how do I do something with the selection set? Do I need to name and recall it? Thanks for your help.

A: You can use the P (Previous) option in the next command’s Select object: prompt. This picks up the previous selection set. Or, if the objects are still selected, just start the ERASE command to apply it to the selected objects.

How do you use the Quick Select feature? Or do you have other methods of creating filters for selecting objects? Leave a comment!

I also have a tip on how to find out how many insertions of a specific block are in your drawing. Read the comments, too, because readers came up with a couple of additional methods.

Clean your screen with AutoCAD’s Clean Screen feature

A viewer asked:

I have lost my menus such as draw, render, etc. Everything that would allow me to copy, move, trim etc. I don’t have anything that will allow me to enter commands. Also my menu bar ie. file, window, help. The command line at the bottom of the drawing is also gone.

Since I didn’t see the viewer’s screen, I can’t be sure what happened. Maybe his menu was unloaded. (In that case, try the MENULOAD command.) But it could also describe the Clean Screen feature–although Clean Screen keeps the command line.

The Clean Screen feature in AutoCAD hides as much as possible of your screen, giving you maximum room for drawing. It doesn’t turn everything off on your screen, but almost everything. Here’s what’s left:

  • Status bar
  • Menu bar (if you have it displayed)
  • Command line

Here’s what my screen looks like with Clean Screen on.

autocad-tips-clean-the-screen-1

Clean Screen is great for keyboard jockeys who like to type in commands and aliases. (“We don’t need no stinkin’ ribbon!” to paraphrase “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”)

To turn on Clean Screen, click the Clean Screen button at the right end of the status bar (it looks like a box) or press Ctrl + 0. Repeat the process to turn Clean Screen off. The actual command names are CLEANSCREENON and CLEANSCREENOFF.

Do you use Clean Screen? Why or why not?

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Draw a circle centered in a rectangle

It’s common to need to place a circle in the middle of a rectangle, especially in mechanical drawings. It’s easy to do using object snap tracking.

Object snap tracking tracks the coordinates on object snaps and for this task, you need to track the midpoint of the rectangle’s sides. Here are the steps:

  1. Make sure that the Object Snap Tracking button on the status bar is on, or press F11.
  2. Make sure the midpoint object snap is on or press F3.
  3. Right-click the Object Snap button on the status bar and choose Midpoint, if it isn’t already highlighted.  This sets a running object snap for midpoints.
  4. Draw a rectangle (RECTANG command).
  5. Start the CIRCLE command.
  6. At the Specify center point for circle or [3P/2P/Ttr (tan tan radius)]: prompt, pass the cursor over one midpoint of a rectangle side until you see it marked. This is called acquiring the object snap.
  7. Move the cursor toward the center of the rectangle and then pass the cursor over a rectangle side that is perpendicular to the first side, to acquire that sides midpoint.
  8. Move the cursor toward the center of the rectangle until you see the tracking lines from both midpoints cross each other at the rectangle’s center.
  9. Click to specify the circle’s center.
  10. At the Specify radius of circle or [Diameter]:  prompt, specify the circle’s radius.

Watch the video to see how it’s done!

One of our  readers, Andrew, mentions another good method, using Mid between 2 points Osnap, to achieve the same thing:
  1. Draw your rectangle.
  2. Start the circle command.
  3. + right click.
  4. Choose Mid between 2 Points.
  5. Turn on osnap if it is not already on. (need either mid point snap or end point)
  6. Choose the mid point on two opposite sides or two of the opposite corners.

How do you use object snap tracking?

Automate the creation of details and sections on a layout

The VIEWBASE command, new for AutoCAD 2012, automates the process of creating 2D views of 3D models. This command creates 2D view objects, which are a little like viewports, but actually a completely separate type of object. In fact, when you display a layout, the first thing you do is delete the default viewport and start from scratch.

2D view objects have been updated in 2013 to let you create details and sections. The new commands are VIEWDETAIL and VIEWSECTION.

See my earlier AutoCAD tip on the VIEWBASE command–before it was updated in AutoCAD 2013.

At the end of this tip, you can watch a video of the process of creating 4 views, plus a section and a detail.

You start by placing at least one 2D view object, because the details and sections are taken from an existing 2D view object.

Create a section view

A section view cuts through the middle of a model. To create a section view, you should be in the 3D Modeling workspace and be on a layout that has an existing 2D view object. Then follow these steps:

  1. Choose Layout tab> Create View panel> Section drop-down menu and choose the style of section line you want. Your choices are Full, Half, Offset, and Aligned. This starts the VIEWSECTION command.
  2. At the Select parent view: prompt, click the 2D base object that you want to use for the section.
  3. At the Specify start point: prompt, pick the point for the start of the section.
  4. At the Specify end point: prompt, pick the point for the end of the section. The command adds section lines and an identifer letter.
  5. At the Specify location of section view: prompt, place the section.

autocad_tips_viewsection-viewdetail-1

You can edit the label and change its font, size, etc.

Create a detail

A detail focuses on a small part of your model. To create a detail, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Layout tab> Create View panel> Detail drop-down menu and choose either Circular or Rectangular. This starts the VIEWDETAIL command.
  2. At the Select parent view: prompt, pick the view you want to use for the detail.
  3. At the Specify center point: prompt, pick a center for the detail.
  4. At the Specify size of boundary or [Rectangular/Undo]: prompt, pick a point on the border of the detail to specify its size.
  5. At the Specify location of detail view: prompt, place the detail.

Use the command options

Both commands have options. Here are some of them:

  • Hidden lines lets you specify a shading type
  • Scale lets you specify a scale
  • Visibility lets you turn on and off inteference edges, tangent edges, sheet metal bend extent lines, thread lines, and presentation trails. Some of these options are inherited from Inventor files, which you can use to create 2D view objects. They might not be available for your model.
  • Annotation lets you specifier the identifier (the letter) and turn off the label.
  • Hatch lets you turn hatching on or off

Here’s a video showing the process of creating 2D views, a detail, and a section.

Do you use these features? Or do you use another method of creating 2D views from 3D models? If so, why? Leave a comment!

Tutorial-How to display the area of an enclosed figure

Suppose that you would like to insert a label that displays the area of an enclosed figure. While the AREA command can show you the area, it doesn’t create a label in your drawing. If you insert the area at the end of a leader, that area doesn’t change if your object changes in size.

You can use fields (introduced in AutoCAD 2006) to display information about objects. In this tutorial, you create a leader that displays the area of a tub. You can do this in model space or paper space.


  1. Set up a text style for your leader text and a dimension style for the leader.
  2. Start the MLEADER or QLEADER command.
  3. Specify the first leader points and subsequent points until you see a text cursor.
  4. If you’re using the QLEADER command, At the Specify text width <0″>: prompt, specify the endpoint of the text, leaving enough room for the expected text. At the Enter first line of annotation text <Mtext>: prompt, press Enter to open the Multiline Text Editor, as shown here.

Tips from our reader: To get rid of the text box gray hatch,  use Tools -> Options -> User Preferences and uncheck “Display background of fields” under “Fields”

  1. For either command, when you see the text cursor, type Area: and a space.
  2. Right-click in the text area and choose Insert Field.
  3. In the Field dialog box, choose Objects from the Field Category drop-down list. This makes the field you want easier to find.
  4. Choose Object in the Field Names box.
  5. In the Object Type area, click the Select Objects button.
  6. You return to your drawing, where you should select the object. The Field dialog box comes back and it should look like the one you see here.

Note: If your enclosed area isn’t one object, you may be able to use the BOUNDARY command to create a polyline. That’s what I did with the tub.

  1. Choose the property you want to display. I chose Area.
  2. Choose a format; I chose Architectural.
  3. Click OK.
  4. If necessary, adjust the width of the text by dragging on the edge of the Multiline Text Editor’s ruler.
  5. Click outside the editor to close it. Here you see the result.

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3D Model in AutoCad – Using Revolve 3D Tool

3D model AutoCad - 3D screw

The revolve command or tool is a 3D modeling method that enables the user to create a solid following a certain path with a central axis, think of the ARRAY tool, only in three-dimension.

Let’s start by preparing the drawing by specifying crucial dimensions such as the inner and outer diameter of the threaded screw. Prepare the cross-section as well.

1. Open a new drawing. Insert the plan into the top view and cross-section. Make sure they are closed polylines and note the centerline or reference point for the object.
2. Switch to Elevation (Front) then adapt the UCS to snap the section into the inner diameter.
3. From there switch to 3d Isometric. Use the REVOLVE command. Click the Polyline (Elevation). Then trace the direction of the parallel axis line (vertical or horizontal) in the center. Enter 360 as the value of rotation. You now have a complete screw
4. Note that, the parts where there are hexagonal washers, we can trim it by switching to the UCS parallel to the head of the screw and subtract excess from the circle.

You can also do the hexagonal solids separately then assemble and combine it. That’s it! Your 3d screw is now complete.

For more drawings that you can use to practice your skills, be sure to check out our previous AutoCad 3D modelling step by step tutorial to draw a 3D piston and this e-book with 101 CAD Exercises – Learn & Improve Your Skills.

Any questions about this tutorial? Do you have any tips to help make this tutorial easier? Did you find this tutorial helpful? Leave a comment! And please share the knowledge using the Share buttons below!


Tutorials: How to Copy Objects Between Drawings

Updated with AutoCAD 2017

Copying objects from one drawing to another is a common task. You can use the Windows Clipboard and the drag-and-drop methods.

When working with 2 drawings open, choose View tab> Windows panel> Tile Vertically (or Horizontally) to view both drawings at the same time.

Note 1 : You can use these techniques within a drawing as well, but the COPY command provides more options and accuracy.

Note 2: You may need to clear your clipboard if having problem pasting latest copied object. (Right click on Desktop – Display setting – Clipboard)



Use the Windows Clipboard to copy objects between drawings

Most people know that they can copy objects in a drawing to the Windows Clipboard and then paste those objects in another drawing. But there are a couple of tricks to this process that can make your work go more quickly and provide more accurate results.

Of course, you can use the common Windows keyboard shortcuts:

  • Ctrl+C to copy
  • Ctrl+V to paste

When you use the simple copy-and-paste procedure, you don’t have much control over the placement of your object in the second drawing. That’s because this process uses the lower-left corner of the extents of the object as the base point, which may not be useful. For example, here you see this process with a circle.

As you can see, the base point isn’t on the circle, making it difficult to place the circle accurately.

Therefore, AutoCAD provides you with 2 special tools for copying and pasting.

The first is Copy with Basepoint. Follow these steps:

  • Hover the cursor over the object and right-click to display the shortcut menu. For multiple objects, select them first, and then right-click.

  • Choose (Clipboard,) Copy with Base Point. This is the COPYBASE command. As you can see in the figure, you can also press Ctrl+Shift+C.
  • At the Specify base point: prompt, use an object snap to specify the base point.
  • Click in the other drawing.
  • Paste, using Ctrl+V, or by clicking Paste on the Standard toolbar. You can also right-click and choose (Clipboard,) Paste from the shortcut menu.
  • Your cursor is now at the base point you specified, so you can accurately place the object. Specify the insertion point you want.

Here, the base point was set to the center of the circle.

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The 2nd useful tool is Paste to Original Coordinates. If you have two drawings that are very similar, you can use this feature to place the object at the same coordinates as in the original drawing.

Just copy the object(s) to the Clipboard, and activate the 2nd drawing. Then right-click and choose (Clipboard,) Paste to Original Coordinates.

If those coordinates are not in the current display, do a Zoom Extents to see the pasted object.

Note: We receive few comments that “Paste to Original Coordinates” may not work on Mac computer. One of our followers (Thanks @Chilli ) provided the following work around. 

If you do not have the Clipboard menu option of ‘pasting to original coordinates’, simply follow these steps.

1. Select elements in the proposed property drawing.
2. Right click – clipboard>Copy with base point
3. Type in 0,0
4. Switch to destination drawing
5. Right-click on open area>clipboard>paste with base point
6. Type in 0,0

And if the coordinate system is the same in both drawings, your elements should be located correctly.

Use drag-and-drop to copy objects between drawings

Drag-and-drop doesn’t give you the same control over placement, but it’s a quick way to copy objects. Note that AutoCAD automatically copies objects from drawing to drawing, so that you don’t need to press Ctrl as you drag.

To copy, select the object or objects. Then click the object and hold down the mouse button until you see the drag-and-drop cursor. The only gotcha is that you need to make sure that you don’t click on a grip, because that will just make the grip hot.

Then drag the cursor to the other drawing and release the mouse button to place the object. You’ll probably need to adjust the placement, using the MOVE command, or by using grip-editing.

Want more productivity tips like this? You can draw and edit faster and easier with this easy to follow top 25 productivity tips every AutoCAD user should know.

Top Six solutions to common XREF problems

Xrefs (external references) let you view another drawing within your current drawing without actually inserting that other drawing thus keeping the original drawing size manageable.

Another benefit of using Xref is that changes made to the referenced drawings are automatically reflected in the current drawing when it’s opened or if the xref is reloaded. This will significantly reduce drafting time as well as minimize mistakes.

When working with external references in AutoCad, you may experience some difficulties and problems. Since XREF is one of the most common functions in AutoCad drafting, let’s look into each of these problems and more importantly the easy solutions to these six common Xref problems:

1. Deleting an XREF

To delete an existing XREF, first make sure that there are no objects in the layer. It is also not possible to delete the current layer, Layer 0, Defpoints and XREF dependent layers. Input the LAYDEL command to delete specific layers within the drawing. Type in LAYDEL, then press, Enter. You will be prompted to either SELECT the object or delete by choosing the NAME layer.

2. Exploding an XREF

To successfully export a cad file without the XREF, you will need to BIND the XREF to the drawing. By typing BIND and selecting the XREF, you will be able to convert the XREF to block. The only downside here is that any changes you wish to make in the main XREF file won’t affect the current XREF block. BIND lets the existing XREF to inherit characteristics of a typical BLOCK enabling you to explode it.

3. Change XREF color, set layers to 0

If you are looking to change the layer, line weight, and color of a referenced file without turning it into a block or editing the whole file, you can use VISRETAIN. Access the main XREF file and type in VISRETAIN. Enter values as desired (VISRETAIN=0 means that you can configure the properties of the drawing while setting it to VISRETAIN=1 means it retains its settings same as the mother file no matter what).

Another option is changing the xref’s layers color in Layer Properties Manager. This allow customization of each layer of the main xref file – not limited to colors but also linetypes etc. For additional productivity tips to work more effectively with layers, check out our blog – Tips for working with layers.

4. Detach and XREF File (and all at once)

To detach a specific file from the current drawing file, access External References from the VIEW tab or type XREF on the command line, hit Enter. From the XREF panel, select a drawing reference, right-click. A list of options will appear from the cursor, select Detach from the menu.
In the cases of having a lot of XREF to detach, such in the cases of big projects, you may opt to detach the files altogether with one click. To be able to do so, you need to UNLOAD THE file and hold the shift key down while selecting the XREFs to be deleted. See here:

5. Setting the same measurement units for the XREF File and current drawing

Enter INSUNITS in the command bar and turn it to zero, this makes your XREF unitless (by default, 1- imperial ; 4- metric). Set values for your INSUNITSDEFSOURCE and INSUNITSDEFTARGET to 0 as to make both the source file and destination file both unitless.

6. Toggle XREF Snapping

Turning the snap on a referenced drawing is possible though not usually recommended. By moving the XREF to defpoints and freeze layer 0, you will turn the XREF to an overlay on the background and render it unusable for snap and selection. To regain its previous functions, just thaw the layer and it will be usable again.

What are your top Xref problems? Do you have other Xref related issues  and solutions you want to share?

Want more productivity tips like this? You can draw and edit faster and easier with this easy to follow top 25 productivity tips every AutoCAD user should know.