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AutoCAD Essentials 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. In this installment, author Jeff Bartels concentrates on the particulars of creating basic geometry in AutoCAD, including assigning imperial or metric units of measurement, using object snaps to control accuracy, and drawing and transforming basic lines and shapes. The last chapter in the course tests your newfound skills in a short project.
One of the negatives of the command line is that it requires us to keep looking at the bottom of the screen to find out what AutoCAD wants us to do next. Fortunately, there's a way to get AutoCAD to speak to us from the cursor. In this lesson, we'll learn how to use the heads-up display. We can activate the heads-up display by coming down to the status bar. It's the sixth one from the right side. Officially, it's called Dynamic Input. Now, we can also toggle this control by using the F12 key. I'm going to turn it on, and we don't notice anything immediately on the screen. Let's launch the Line command. Notice that AutoCAD is now speaking to us from the cursor.
In fact, if I click to start my line, notice that we have some additional dimensional values that we didn't have before. Here's how they work. You can press your Tab key to jump back and forth between the Length and the Angle settings. Let's say I'd like to draw a square that measures 10 x 10. I'll make sure that my Length setting is active and I'll type 10 and I'll hit the Tab key to jump to the directional value. And it's pretty obvious that I need to draw this in the 0-degree direction. I have also included this small compass to give you an idea of how the directions work. I'm going to type 0 and hit Enter.
I will then enter another value of 10 and hit Tab. I'm going to be drawing this in the 90-degree direction, so I'll type 90 and hit Enter. I will then enter my next length and hit Tab. Make sure you don't hit Enter. If you do hit Enter, you'll finish that line segment, and that's not the end of the world. Don't forget, you can always come down and undo if you make a mistake. I'm going to be drawing this segment in the 180-degree direction. And to finish my shape, I'm going to use a suboption. In this case, I'll type C for Close and hit Enter. Note that the Heads-Up Display tool allowed me to create accurate geometry without the need for Polar or Ortho.
It's just another tool that I have at my disposal. Now that we understand how the Heads-Up Display tool works, let's try and use it in a practical example. I'm going to pan the drawing over, and let's see if we can use the tool to recreate this geometry. I'll start by launching the Line command and I'm going to start in the upper-right corner here. So, I'll move my cursor over and give myself some room, and I'll click to set my start point. My first measurement is five units. I'll hit Tab. I'm drawing that in the 90-degree direction. My next measurement is 3. I'll hit Tab. I'm drawing this in the 180-degree direction. We'll go another distance of 3 in the 90-degree direction. My next measurement is 4. Remember to hit Tab to jump between the values. This line is being drawn in the 180-degree direction. My next segment is 4.24, Tab, in the 135-degree direction, Enter, and we are off to the races. Can I get mine finished before you finish yours? This guy is drawn in the 90-degree direction, two more, 6.07, Tab, 22.5, Enter, and I'm going to press C for Close.
Running the heads-up display also gives us an additional feature we didn't have before. For instance, if I select one of these lines and hover over the end point, provided by heads-up display is turned on, AutoCAD will give me the length of that line and the angle at which it was drawn. When I'm finished reviewing my geometry, I can hit Escape to deselect the object. As you can see, activating the heads-up display not only allows AutoCAD to speak to us from the cursor, it also provides yet another tool we can use to construct and verify our geometry. Before leaving this tutorial, see if you can construct the same shape using one of the other methods you've learned.
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