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AutoCAD Essentials with Jeff Bartels is a multi-part series that takes a more modular approach to this massive program, used for everything from 2D and 3D CAD design, drafting, and modeling to architectural drawing and engineering projects. This first installment includes a lengthy tour of the interface, from understanding the concept of model space to customizing the AutoCAD preferences and working with dockable palettes. The second half of the course show how to manage your drawings, including getting the most from the mouse and many shortcuts, creating time-saving templates, and plotting from either model space or in a layout.
AutoCAD is a very feature-rich application, meaning it has a lot of tools. Fortunately, the tools are extremely well organized and always within easy reach. Let's take a look. First of all, we'll talk about this area at the top of the screen. This is called the Ribbon, and this is where we'll access the majority of our commands. Now, the Ribbon is divided up into these tabs. To jump from one tab to the other, you can click on the tab name. Notice that the tab names are task-based, which makes it easy to locate commands when you are searching for them.
For instance, if I needed to insert something into this drawing, I will select the Insert tab to access all of my insertion tools. If I needed to add some text or dimensions to this drawing, I would select the Annotate tab to find those tools. Think of the Ribbon as being like a large tool chest and each of these tabs represents a drawer. Now the drawer we're going to use most often is the Home tab. This is where we have our general-purpose collection of tools. Notice the tools on the Home tab were divided up into smaller panels.
Each panel represents a smaller collection of related tools. Using the Draw panel, I can create geometry. Using the Modify panel, I could make changes to my geometry. Using the Annotation panel, I could create text or dimensions, and so on. Notice that some of the panels have a small flyout. If I click this, it will expand the panel, giving me access to additional tools. Once I select my tool, I can move away and the panel will re-collapse. In the event you'd like a panel to stay open, you can always click the push-pin and it will remain open until such time as you come back and remove the pin.
I'm going to jump to the Annotate tab momentarily. Notice that some of these panels have a small arrow on the right side. The arrow is an icon, and it means that there is a dialog box associated with that collection of tools. If I click the arrow on the Text panel, I can access a dialog box, allowing me to create a new text style. Once again, I'm going to return to the Home tab. Now you may notice that my Ribbon looks a little bit different than yours. That's because I am recording at a smaller resolution than what you're probably using on your desktop monitor.
So some of these panels on the right side of my screen are in a collapsed state. This is actually a good thing. This means that we can run AutoCAD on a smaller screen, like a netbook and still have access to all of our tools. To utilize a collapsed panel, I can click on it, access the tools, and when I move away, it will re-collapse. If we look at the top of the screen, we can find the toolbar. This is called the Quick Access Toolbar and it contains the commands that we use most often.
These are the tools that are so important we always want these guys onscreen. Up here we'll find New, Open, Save, Save As. The Plot command is up here, as well as Undo and Redo. One of the nice things about the Quick Access Toolbar is that we can customize it. For example, if there is any command in the Ribbon that you use frequently, you can add it to the Quick Access Toolbar by right-clicking on it and choose Add to Quick Access Toolbar. And in this case, it looked like absolutely nothing happened.
Once again, that's because my screen size is small. What I'm going to do is click this arrow to collapse my search area. That will expand the Quick Access Toolbar, and we can see the command I added right here. Now, if you're like me, once you add a command to the Quick Access Toolbar, you'll ask yourself, You know what, how do I take that back out again? To remove a command, you can right click on it and select Remove from Quick Access Toolbar. I'm going to re-expand my search area to put things back the way they were.
And let's talk about one more place where we can find tools. That is right here. If I click this letter A, this will open up the Application menu. This gives me access to my file maintenance tools: New, Open, Save, Save As, Export. I can print from here. This is where I can access my drawing utilities. This is where I can adjust my units or I can check my drawing for errors, purge unused items from the drawing, or I can recover a corrupt file. Note that several of the icons that we see in this menu are also duplicated up here in the Quick Access Toolbar.
Probably the most helpful feature of the application menu is this search area at the top. In the event you're migrating from an older version of AutoCAD, you can use this search area to find the command you're looking for. As an example, I'm going to type Plot and you can see that AutoCAD is showing me every place on the interface where that command, or any related command, can be found. Plot can be found in the Quick Access Toolbar. It can also be found in the application menu. It's also on the Ribbon.
It's on the Output tab. I could navigate right there if I want to, or I could click this hyperlink and AutoCAD will take me there. We can find the Plot command right over here. Let's go back to the Home tab. As you can see, AutoCAD certainly has no shortage of tools. And, with its great use of organization, AutoCAD keeps every tool within easy reach.
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