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By Megan O. Read | Friday, September 25, 2009

Four productive, demystifying AutoCAD tips from instructor Jeff Bartels

JeffBartelsThis week, I asked instructor Jeff Bartels about his most frequently asked AutoCAD questions, and whether he had any tips that would help our subscribers demystify AutoCAD. He sent me four tips that are sure to improve any AutoCAD user’s workflow.

1. Take advantage of AutoCAD’s multiple document environment

Start by opening two AutoCAD drawings. If you press Ctrl+TAB, you can jump back and forth from one drawing to another.

Now select the View Tab of your ribbon, in the Window panel, select Tile Vertically. This will give you a nice side by side comparison of your drawings. By clicking in either window, you can work on that drawing.

But wait, there’s more: AutoCAD allows us to drag and drop geometry between drawings. Click an entity to select it, and then click (and hold) on a higlighted portion of the same entity. This copies the geometry to the cursor. Drag the geometry into the other window (and release) to copy it into the other file. Never draw anything twice! With AutoCAD, you can recycle your geometry over and over again.

2. Take advantage of your Function Keys

By pressing and holding a function key, you can temporarily enable, or disable a mode setting.

Try this: Launch the Line command, and while drawing, press (and hold) the F8 key to temporarily enable Ortho. You’re linework is now constrained to 90-degree angles until you release the F8 key.  Likewise, if you hold F10, you can enable/disable Polar Tracking. My personal favorite is F3. Holding this key will disable running object snaps, which is very helpful when placing text, or tweaking dimension locations.

To see a listing of all possible function keys, “right click” over any mode setting icon in the status bar and select DISPLAY from the menu.

3. Take advantage of the Quick Calculator

Instead of doing calculations on your hand held calculator, use the calculator built into AutoCAD.

Try this: Launch the Line command and draw a line on your screen.  Now Offset this line 5.325 units.  Let’s assume we wanted to Offset the first line again, but we wanted to place the offset “half way” between the two lines. Launch Offset. When AutoCAD asks for a distance, press Ctrl+8 to open the Quick Calculator (Note: When first opened, you may need to click the downward facing arrow button to expand the calculator). Click 5.325/2 and click = to see the answer. Now click the Apply button and notice the value has been entered at the command line. Hit the Enter key to accept, and then finish offseting your line.

Any time AutoCAD needs a numeric value, you can press Ctrl+8 to let AutoCAD do the math for you.

4. Take advantage of the Property Changer Palette

This is by far the most powerful tool in AutoCAD. Press Ctrl+1 to turn it on. With this palette, you can modify the properties of anything. Select linework, images, text, reference files, and so on, and notice you have instant access to all possible modification choices.  As a beginner, this palette should be the first place you look when you need to change something.

For more from Jeff, check out his AutoCAD courses in the Online Training Library®.

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