Monday, December 24, 2007

The user interface for Autocad

Over the years of using Autocad, I have often found that I have gone for the easy way out. I refer of course to the ability to have toolbars, tool palletes and so on.

These are fine, but tend to gobble up screen real estate, hence my use of a dual monitor setup. Even then, this gets to be a long travel for the mouse, so the view toolbar ends up on the main monitor along with the ucs on etc.
Not smart, which is why I have a 20" monitor.

Other draftees I know have a minimalist approach and have NO toolbars ever and regard me as a slightly mad person.....So maybe this year it is time to change my approach and have a humdinger of a pgp file going.

Which makes me think: how is the best way to do this? I had come across one guy who was left handed. He had a clever plan: every command was assigned a number. This meant he could rest his right hand on the keypad, and hold onto the mouse with his left hand. Seemed pretty clever. Unfortunately I am right handed so nuts to that one. He must have had a good memory!

My coworker uses a keyboard for all commands and has remapped things so that where his left hand rests on the keyboard is where all the common commands are kept--ie something like "a" for "zoom".

Maybe I could use a similar idea--left hand is the one only on the keyboard, and somehow remap the enter key onto the caps lock key. Then all the main keys would be qwert, asdfg, zxcvb. Which gives only 15 commands--obviously not enough. Doubling up could give 15 x 15= 225 enough? ie qw qe qr and so on-- But how to remember all this...ouch.

Would this setup cause RSI-I do not know....

I thought 225 would be fine---that may be ok because some commands are so obscure they are never used---I had a quick check of the standard pgp file- it is about 350 commands.

It would be nice if Autodesk has ever figured out which commands are the most common--ie what are the top 15 and so on.

These would be my most used 15 commands: line, circle, dtext, arc, move, copy, stretch, explode, block, wblock, edit text, dimension, leader dimension, layer, rectangle.

Then I could have the fun of struggling to remember all this for the first 2 weeks back at work. Must be mad.

Standard Parts...will the madness end?

Well, the poor person that seems to be visiting this site has motivated me into another rave. (Thanks Robin!)

Regarding the madness, I predict the employers out there will finally figure out that us draftsmen have been subject to Parkinson's law to increase our working life.

It is like this: somewhere in Poland some draftsman is drawing a footplate for the platform he is going to draw. He will lovingly draw a rectangle, then the circles that represent holes in said footplate, etc etc. At the same time in Germany another draftsman is drawing the identical item....Hmmm.

You have to admit: this is MADNESS. (sorry to shout!)

And don't hand me any crap about local standards and so on....surely a footplate is of a certain rating or it is not?

Why can there not be a WORLD standard of certain items that are of such plain manufacture, there could be a set of drawings that everyone could refer to?

I even have a part number/drawing number system to start it off: In the case of the said footplate, say it is for a 100mm square post and going onto a concrete floor, it could have a part number of:
Which would mean: Footplate for a 100 post, size 200 x 110 x 10 thick, 2 holes which are 14 dia and the A on the end would represent the issue number (in case the standard needs changing).
This way of doing part numbers is not my idea- it is used by companies such as SMC to define part numbers.

I have tried to get my current employer to adopt such a system, but alas, my powers of persuasion are not strong. Seems like a no-brainer to me....

Saturday, October 13, 2007

More on the Zero Text Height Saga..

There is obviously more to this than meets the eye....If you insert a drawing into another drawing that has a STANDARD dimstyle, apparently it changes that drawings settings. This has to be a good reason not to use this style at all. Maybe you need one that is unique to yourself-that way you would always be sure it would not get messed up.

I also neglected to say that my example is METRIC - ie 3 means 3mm which is 1/8 ".

The use of annotation scale adds another layer of complexity to it all.
Maybe I should retire now before it becomes all too hard!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Zero Height Text

Formatting default text in autocad is easy: You go format, then text. Choose your style name and font.

Now comes the funny part: if you leave the height of the text at 0, then when you issue the text command, it asks
you what you want the height to be. If you chose acadiso.dwg as your starting drawing, then this comes up with a
default of 2.5mm. Fine. The you are asked for the rotation. Ok. Then you key in the text.

This is the default (I believe) of Autocad, and as such, 99% of users go down this road.

If you now go and place a dimension, it will default at a dimscale of 1. Then if you type dimscale and set it to say 5,
and update that dimension, it scales both the text and arrowheads and so on to be bigger. Thats OK.

Many years ago, I obviously did not go down this track. I made the mistake(?) of setting my text height to a value-
for instance if my drawing was to be plotted at 1:1, I made it 3. For 1:5 I made it 3x5=15. I used lisp routines to accomplish this and all was well. To get my dimensions to scale nicely at the same time, I used a lisp routine to do this as well.
This worked well, and I drafted on. Then other people had to use my drawings. Oops...big problems....when they dragged a dimension
it would suddenly develop bigger text.

So, after hours of puzzlement, I came to realise that there was something wrong, and I tracked it down to the fact that zero height text should always be used. Then I came upon a system variable called textsize.

Talk about confusing....but all it means is that the default text height is controlled by this variable.

I quite liked my old way, as I could just go text and pick a point and start typing (2 keystrokes avoided!). I will most likely now go out of my way to redo the text commands to get rid of this annoying default behaviour.

I had put dimensions on someone elses drawings recently, and found they had about 5 dimension styles on the go,
and I was not particularly keen on any of them.

So in the end I redeveloped my lisp routine for setting drawing scale, and offer them here.

The idea is you run skn.lsp, which sets the style to STANDARD (every drg has a style called that) and massages the variables
to be correct(?!). After that you purge all the old ones out. Then you use DS.lsp to set the dimscale and text.(It is shorter)
;This routine sets up for dims and text
;By Bill Le Couteur

(defun c:SKN(/ texht skale lnscale)
(setvar "cmdecho" 0)
(command "-dimstyle" "r" "STANDARD")
(setq skale (getreal "Please enter the plotted scale: "))
;(setq skale 0.1)
(setq texht (* skale 3))
(setvar "lunits" 2)
(setvar "luprec" 2)
(setvar "auprec" 2)
(setvar "coords" 2)
(setvar "ltscale" 4)
(setvar "psltscale" 1)
(setvar "mirrtext" 0)
(setvar "pdmode" 0)
(setvar "pdsize" -2.0)
(setvar "sketchinc" 0.5)
(setvar "skpoly" 1)
(setvar "snapunit" (list 10 10))
(setvar "tracewid" 1.0)
(command "viewres" "" 20000)
(command "units" "2" "1" "1" "2" "0" "n")
(setvar "dimaltd" 4)
(setvar "dimaltf" 0.03937)
(setvar "dimassoc" 2)
(setvar "dimasz" 2.0)
(command "dimcen" "2" "dimclrd" "256" "dimclre" "256"
"dimclrt" "2" "dimdle" "0.0" "dimdli" "6.0"
"dimlunit" "2" "dimalt" "0"
"dimexe" "1.0" "dimexo" "1.0" "dimgap" "1.0"
"dimlfac" "1" "dimscale" skale "dimsoxd" "0"
"dimtih" "0" "dimtix" "0"
"dimtofl" "1" "dimtoh" "0" "dimtsz" "0.0"
"dimtvp" "1.0" "dimzin" "8" "dimtxt" "3"
"dimtxsty" "STANDARD" "dimtad" "1"
"dimdec" "0" "dimrnd" "1" "dimdsep" "." "dimpost" "." "dimfit" "3")

(command "-style" "STANDARD" "ROMANS.SHX"
"0" "1" "0" "" "" "")
(setvar "textSIZE" TEXHT)
(command "-dimstyle" "S" "STANDARD" "Y")

(prompt "Drawing scaling successfully reset to: ")

(princ (getvar "dimscale"))

(setvar "cmdecho" 1)

;This routine sets up for dims and text
;By Bill Le Couteur

(defun c:DS()
(setq skale (getreal "Please enter the plotted scale: "))
(setq the_textsize (* skale 3))
(setvar "textsize" the_textsize)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

What the heck is this doing on a CAD blog....well I needed some time off, so took my wife on holiday to the South Island of New Zealand.

We had a great time! Rose’s first time in the South Island, and she was impressed.

Here is where we went, just in case you might go down there sometime.

We landed in Christchurch and stayed in the Millenium Hotel right in the centre of town (expensive, but nice).

Next day we did the big haul from Christchurch to Dunedin. In hindsight this should be a two day trip.

The scenery was nothing particularly spectacular, pretty flat. Hunting about for a motel in Dunedin we came upon “The Esplanade”,
a motel right on the beach front at St Clair. Wonderful---went to sleep to the sound of the waves.

Next day was a fairly easy run to Brian and Joan Brenssell’s farm near Tapanui in West Otago. We only meant to stop for a cup of tea and ended up staying two nights. (Joan is my cousin) Rose really enjoyed herself there, feeding lambs and generally not doing much. Bill tried to fix Brian’s computer...enough said about that. (Sorry Brian!)

Off the Wanaka via Queenstown—felt like a tourist trap. Next morning a wonderful ride to Haast through the Haast Pass and on to Franz Josef Glacier. Again, a tourist place but great views of mountains etc.

Feeling tired, we decided to stop for two days as we were starting to fade.
A good decision, as we found out it is not a 10 minute walk to the Glacier. It said 30 minutes, which was correct, but left you looking over a rope barrier at the glacier about 2 km away.

As everyone else seemed to be going over the rock strewn area in front of the glacier, we decided to climb over the rope as well.
The water falls near to the face were neat, but I never did get right up to the ice face. Next time.

There is a beach nearby at Okarito. Bill decided he thought a swim was in order and as no one seemed to be around took a chance.
He had just got out when a four wheel drive came around the corner. The male driver (no passengers) just smiled.

Then another long drive, from Franz to Christchurch. This is not a good idea – it is too far. Better to have stopped at Hokitika.

That said, it was another drive through what would have to be one of the most scenic bits of NZ.

The last port of call was Akaroa, just out of Christchurch.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

September 9, 2007

Where do I start? Is there a target audience? I would hope my target audience would be interested in things to do with drafting and usage of Autocad. At present I am working for a large by NZ standards company as a contract draftsman, so I guess I should be circumspect about what I do say.

These last two years have seen a quantum leap in Autocad. With R2007 we have been delivered such wonderful goodies as presspull, sweeps and lofting. Not to mention such things as Section Tool and Flatshot.

I have been given the chance to draw a part of large food processing plant upgrade. To this end I have employed Autocad in 3D.

Because it is such a large model, I have split it into several models and then Xreffed these smaller ones into one overall "Big Momma". Luckily, I have bought a "New" computer ---not the hottest and bestest, more a middle of the road one---Core Duo-the top end one and a FX1500 Quaddro card. I am quite happy with this combination....but it always could be faster!

My technique for attacking the sections of the various models has been to
use the section tool and write block out the sections to a file of their own, eg called SectionAABagFiller.dwg. Then I create an "empty" drawing -ie just a title block saved as say 5046-112 Sections.dwg. In this drawing I xref in the section view just created, and then put on my annotation in model space. This one file may have many tabs on it and xref in several sections.

The huge advantage this technique gives, is only apparent when there are changes (The one thing a draftee can ONLY be sure of!).

If there are, you change the model, then regenerate the sections. Voila! All the sections in the sections drawing are updated automatically.

I cannot claim this as my own idea, as Autocad Architecture uses a similar system. (Not quite the same)

No doubt whoever is reading this knows that all draftees have their own funny ways of doing things. Seems I am no different, as there will be those out there that use 3DClip to achieve their automatic updates.

My feeling is now that the sectioning tool produces clearer sections.

I guess it all comes back to the problem: Is is necessary to produce something that can be admired for its graphic style, or is it better to just use the cheapest, easiest fastest method? (As long as the drawing can be understood)

In the past, I have probably steered towards the cheap and easy. Now retirement is on the horizon, I finding myself veering towards the "better looking is better" idea.