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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.
In a production environment your CAD drawings may utilize content from several other applications. You may use a program to do image editing. You may use another to create general notes. You may use still another application to produce spreadsheets and charts. Typically switching from one application to another involves minimizing and maximizing program windows and hunting for shortcut icons on the desktop. In this lesson, we'll learn how to access virtually any application from within AutoCAD itself. On my screen I have a mechanical drawing. You do not have to open this file.
I am merely using this drawing as a background so we're not working in an empty interface. Let's start by looking at some of the application shortcuts that are already incorporated into AutoCAD. For instance, if I type Notepad and press Enter twice I go directly into the Notepad program. Let's close this. If I type PBRUSH and press Enter, AutoCAD launches Windows Paint. If I type Explorer and press Enter, I can access Windows Explorer. The best part about these application shortcuts is that you can create your own.
All you need to know is the executable file used by the program you'd like to access. That file will typically be located in the same folder where the application was installed. Just look for the file with the .exe extension. As a sidetone, each application and operating system can deal with these files differently. So if you have trouble locating the executable file for a specific program, check with your IT department or your program documentation. Now I know for a fact that the executable file that launches Microsoft Word is called winword.exe.
Let's create a shortcut to launch Word from within AutoCAD. To do that I'm going to select the Express Tools tab, then I'll come down to the Tools panel, and I'll launch the Alias Edit command. From here I'll select the Shell Commands tab. This is where we create program shortcuts. Notice that PBRUSH is here, as is EXPLORER and NOTEPAD. To create a new shortcut I'll click Add. I will then enter my Alias. This is what I'll type to launch the program. I'm going to type Word and I'll press Tab, then I'll enter the name of the executable associated with this program.
In this case I'll type START WINWORD. I will then set my Flag bit code to 1. This code allows me to continue to use AutoCAD while I wait for my program to launch. If you're interested in exploring the other flag settings or the prompts I'll show you where you can get that information in a little bit. Now that I'm finished I'll click OK and AutoCAD has lost the focus of this window. Let me move down at the taskbar and I'll reselect this, and you can see my new alias is right here. As long as we're looking at this, note that I also have the ability to remove or edit an alias.
Let's click OK and then I'll click Yes to overwrite my existing PGP configuration file. And then AutoCAD tells me that my PGP has been updated and reloaded. Let's click OK. So from now on each time I type Word as a command, AutoCAD will instantly take me to Microsoft Word. Just for a second imagine assigning this new command to an icon in the Ribbon. This would give you one click access to any of your favorite programs. Now, if you'd like more information about the nuts and bolts settings of the Alias Edit options, press F1 to launch AutoCAD's Help feature and in the search box type Define Custom Commands and press Enter. There it is, right at the top of the list.
I will then select this hyperlink and then I'll select Define External Commands. And if I scroll down you can find the information about the flag codes and the prompts right here. In a production environment, you may need to create or access data from several other applications for your drawings. Using command shortcuts you can give yourself instant access to those programs without ever leaving AutoCAD.
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