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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.
When it comes to the calculator, AutoCAD gives us a choice as to how we'd like to use it. We can access it through the command line, or we can use the dedicated Calculator palette. The palette version gives us a nice intuitive interface that can make our calculations a little more visual. In this lesson, we're going to learn how to use the Calculator palette, otherwise known as the QuickCalc Tool. First of all, the Calculator palette can be used as a standalone feature. Anytime you need to solve an equation, you can simply press Ctrl+8 to access the palette.
Now my calculator is coming up in a collapsed state. If you click the More Than button, you can expand the tool to see the rest of the functions. I can enter an equation up here in the Expression area by clicking on these buttons. I can also use the numeric keys on my keyboard. If I press the Equals button, I can see the result of my calculation. If I move down here and maximize the Scientific group, you can see that we have some scientific functionality as well. I'm going to move up and click the X to close this.
Now the nicest thing about the Calculator palette is that we can use it within an active command. For instance, on my screen I have a polygon. Let's re-create this geometry. I'll open the Draw panel and I'll launch the Polygon command. Since I'm drawing an octagon, I will use 8 for the number of sides and press Enter. I will click to define my center point. Since I know the distance from edge-to-edge, this must be a circumscribed polygon. Now what's my radius? Well, I know the diameter is 25.553.
The radius must be half of that. So I'm going to press Ctrl+8 to bring up the calculator. As you can see, whatever value I come up with, AutoCAD is going to apply it to the active command. I'll type 25.553/2=, there is my value. I'll click Apply. AutoCAD dumps that value at the command line. I will then press Enter to accept it. Now let's say I'd like to create a hexagon at the center of this shape,and I would like the hexagon to be half the size of the original polygon.
I'm going to press the Spacebar to re-launch the Polygon command. My number of sides will be 6. The center point is going to be Shift+Right-Click. I'll select Mid Between 2 Points. I'll select the endpoint here and the endpoint here to find the center of that polygon. It's going to be circumscribed. Now what's my radius going to be? I'll press Ctrl+8 to bring back the calculator. Take a look at this area up here. This is the history.
I can steal values from the history. If I double-click on a solution, I can move that value into the expression area. I can do the same thing with the equations. Since my new polygon is going to be half the size of the last one, I'm going to double-click to steal this equation, and I'll change this to divided by 4. I'll press Equals, I'll click Apply, and then I'll press Enter to accept the value. Now just like with the Command Prompt Calculator, we also have some predefined functions.
For instance, I'm going to pan this over. On my screen, I have a circle that's been offset. Let's say I'd like to offset this arc the same distance as these circles. I'll launch the Offset command and for my distance I'll press Ctrl+8. I will then move up and click this icon. This will find the Distance Between Two Points. Note that I didn't say endpoints. This will find the distance between any two object snaps in the drawing.
I'm going to Shift+Right-Click and select Quadrant here, and I'll select the quadrant here to define my distance. I will then click Apply and Enter to accept that value. I will then click my arc and I'll choose a side. Now maybe I'd like to create a center line between these two arcs. I'll press my Spacebar to re-launch Offset. For my distance, I'll press Ctrl+8. I'm going to double-click to steal the previous solution.
I'll type divided by 2. I'll click Apply. Enter to accept the value. I'll click my arc and I'll offset it to this side. Let's pan this over and we'll try something else. On my screen, I have a Polyline that represents a portion of the back of curb for proposed parking lot. Typically, you'll see curb shown as three parallel lines. You'll have the back of curb. Let's launch the Offset command and I'll set this to .5.
I'll offset this out to create a flow line of the curb. I'm going to re-launch Offset and I'll change my distance to 1.5 and I'll offset the back of curb out to define the edge of pavement. All right, let's round a couple of these corners. I'll launch the Fillet command. I'll right-click to access the Radius option and I'm going to use a back of curb radius of 5 feet. I will then select this edge and this one around the corner.
I'll press the Spacebar to re-launch Fillet and I'll grab these two edges. Now that we've constructed some geometry, I'm going to press Ctrl+8 to access the calculator in a standalone state. I'm going to grab the bottom of the palette and I'll drag this down. Then I'm going to click to minimize some of these areas and I'll expand the Variables group. Notice that we have some of the same variables that we can use with the Command Prompt Calculator. We can even make our own. Now there is no magic to these.
Essentially, these are just shortcuts that type values in the Expression area. I'm going to click the New icon. This is going to be a function. A function is just a saved equation, whereas a constant would be a saved numeric value. I'll call this variable cg_flowline. AutoCAD does not allow spaces in the variable names. Now where would I like to save this variable? Right now, it's going to go into the same Sample Variables group that we see here.
If I click the flyout, I can create my own group to save my custom variables. But right now I'll accept the default and we'll save this in the Sample group. My expression is going to be rad+.5, because the flowline radius will always be equal to the back of curb radius+.5. I'll click OK. As you can see, I have a new variable. Let's create one more. I'll click the New icon. I'm going to call this one cg_eop for edge of pavement.
My expression is going to be rad+1.5, because the edge of pavement is always going to be equal to the back of curb radius+1.5. I'll click OK. All right, let's close the Calculator, and we'll try these two variables. Let's start by filleting these edges that represent the flowline of the curb. I'll launch the Fillet command. I'll right-click and select Radius. For my radius, I'll press Ctrl+ 8 to bring up the Calculator.
I'll click to put the focus in the Variables area and then I'll double-click on the flowline variable. As you can see, no magic. AutoCAD simply enters that equation in the Expression area. Once again, no magic, AutoCAD is simply entering the equation up here in the Expression area. I'll click Apply. I will then select my back of curb radius and I'll press Enter to accept the calculated radius and I'll select my two edges. I'll press the Spacebar to go back into the Fillet command.
AutoCAD remembers the previous value. So I'll select these two edges. Let's do the last two. I'll press the Spacebar to go back into Fillet. I'll right-click. Select Radius. What's my fillet radius? I'll press Ctrl+8. I'll click to put the focus in the Variables area. I'll double-click on the edge of pavement variable. I'll click Apply. I will then select my back of curb radius. Press Enter to accept the calculated value and I'll grab my two edges.
I will then reenter Fillet and grab the remaining two edges. I'd like to show you one more thing. If you're an architect, the Calculator palette is a great tool for performing calculations using fractional measurements. If you'll indulge me for one second, I'm going to open the application menu. I'll come down to Drawing Utilities and I'm going to change my Units to Architectural. I'll change my Insertion scale to Inches and I'll click OK. Now that this is set to Architectural, I'll press Ctrl+8 to open the calculator.
I'll grab the slider and drag up. It'll expand the number pad,and I'll enter my first measurement. I'm going to do this at the keyboard. It might be a little easier. 4'5-3/8". Notice that I'm entering the value the same way I would enter it if I was creating some geometry. I will then press my Spacebar twice. I'll click Plus, and then I'll press the Spacebar two more times, and I'll enter my next measurement, 7'2-9/16".
Having the extra spaces before and after your operator helps AutoCAD understand which symbols are part of a measurement and which ones are to be used for calculations. I'm going to click the Equals button to see the sum of the two measurements. I'm sure you'll agree that AutoCAD's calculator is a very powerful tool. If you would like to find out more about the calculator functions, simply press Ctrl+8 to access the calculator and click this Help icon. If you can master this tool, you can save a significant amount of time off your workday.
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