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In AutoCAD 2011: Tips, Tricks, and Industry Secrets, Jeff Bartels shows AutoCAD users how to become more efficient power users, reducing the amount of time it takes to accomplish a task, increasing profit margins, and strengthening marketplace competitiveness. The course covers everything from shortcuts used in geometry creation, to program customization, to real world solutions to common problems. Interface customization, block and reference management skills, and express tool usage are also covered. Exercise files are included with the course.
AutoCAD isn't just used for creating and editing linework. AutoCAD is also capable of helping you calculate the quantities associated with construction. For instance, calculating the linear feet of a specific improvement is a pay item that's used frequently in production work. In this lesson, we'll learn a quick way to find the total linear feet of any geometry in our drawing. On my screen I have a civil engineering example. This drawing represents a site plan for a proposed restaurant and parking lot. To help calculate the construction costs, I need to provide the total linear feet of the curb and gutter used in this project.
If I zoom in over here, we can see that this geometry represents the curb and gutter. I have a line that represents the back of curb. one that represents the flow line of curb, and I have a line that represents the edge of pavement. I'm going to be using the geometry on the back of curb layer to do my calculation. So we'll start by isolating this geometry on screen. To do that, I'll open the Layer Properties Manager. I will select the back of curb layer. I will then right-click and I'll come down and choose Invert Selection.
This selects every layer except for the back of curb layer. I will then click the lightbulb to turn all of those layers off. I'll move my cursor back into model space and I'll let that palette collapse. Now some of the geometry that we see on screen are polylines, some of these are line segments, and some of these are arcs. Imagine for a second if I could extract the Length property of each of these entities into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Then I could simply find the sum of all the lengths to find the total length of curb and gutter in this project.
That's exactly what we're going to do. I'll start by selecting the Insert tab and then I'll come down to the Linking & Extraction panel and I'll choose Extract Data. This brings up the Data Extraction tool. This is a wizard that allows us to extract data from the entities in a drawing. I would like to create a new data extraction. So I'll make sure that option is selected and I'll click Next. Then I can give my data extraction a name. I'm saving mine to the desktop. I'm going to call this CGlinear, and I'll be saving this to my desktop.
Now before I click Save, notice I'm saving this as a DXE file. This is a data extraction file. The only reason I save this, let me drag this down, that's because the Data Extraction Wizard is an eight page dialog box and what I'm actually saving are the selections that I make on each of the pages of this wizard. This way if I run the same extraction again in the future, I can simply reuse my previous extraction file or edit an existing extraction file. Let's click Save.
Now AutoCAD is saying, where do you want me to look to find the object data? I'm going to choose Select objects in the current drawing and then I'll click the Select objects icon. I would like AutoCAD to look at these objects, and I'll press Enter and then I'll click Next. Now AutoCAD is saying based on what you told me to look at, this is what I found. I would like to extract the data from each of these object types. So I will leave all of these selected and I'll click Next.
Now AutoCAD wants to know the data I'd like to extract from those objects. I am going to grab this slider and I'll drag this down and just for a second, look at all the properties that I could extract if I wanted to. But right now, I'm going to right-click in the column area and select Uncheck All. And then I'll scroll up and select the Length property, because that's the only data that I'm interested in right now. Let's click Next. AutoCAD is now showing me a preview of how my data will look in Excel.
If I drag this slider down, you can see that AutoCAD has grouped some of these similar entities together. You can see that it found four line segments with a length of two units. Now this grouping is nice, but it would be much easier to add the lengths together if each object was represented as a single entity in this list. So I'm going to come over and remove the check from Combine identical rows. Now each object shows up as a single entry. Let's click Next.
I will select Output data to external file and I'll click the ellipsis button. I'm going to save this file to my Desktop. I'll keep the default name and notice that AutoCAD is going to save this as a Microsoft Excel file. Let me mention that if you do not have Microsoft Excel installed on your machine, you will not be able to save to the Excel file format. If I open up files of type, you can see that there are other file types available. For this example we'll be using the Excel file format. Let's click Save.
I'll click Next and then I'll click Finish to complete my extraction. All right, let's take a look at the Excel file that we just created. Notice the entries in the Length column. Each has a green icon in the corner. If I click in one of these cells, we can see that AutoCAD added an apostrophe when it exported the value. To strip all of these apostrophes, I'm going to click and hold in this top cell. I'll drag down to select all of the cells and I'll click this exclamation point icon and choose Convert to Number.
I will then click in the cell beneath the column. I'll select AutoSum and I'll press Enter and as you can see this project contains nearly 1434 linear feet of proposed curb and gutter. Let's return to AutoCAD. I'm going to click the Home tab and then I'll select Layer Previous to put our layers back the way they were when we started. So the next time you need to calculate construction quantities for your project, don't do the calculations by hand. Instead, use the Data Extraction tool and let AutoCAD do all the work for you.
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