Editor’s Note: Welcome to Cadalyst's blog series by Patrick Hughes, A CAD Dinosaur's Journey into Modern Times.” In this three-month series, Hughes chronicles his transition from AutoCAD R14 to v2015 and from an outdated PC to a state-of-the-art professional workstation. Follow along and enjoy!
It has become clear that digging deeper into AutoCAD 2015 is going to take me away from how I worked in R14. Oh, I’ll be using much of the same approaches I’ve always used, but I will incorporate many of the best current tools 2015 offers.
I don’t know when AutoCAD originally introduced associative dimensions, but when I started with AutoCAD 10 they were already in place and I've used them from the start. Some colleagues refused to use them and their dimensions were un-associated and they ended up with simple text and geometry entities. When grip editing came along, finally I could demonstrate to my colleagues how easy it was to perform updates and edits, and they finally adopted associative dimensions.
Now in 2015, imagine my surprise (note, flailing wee arms) when examining the properties of existing drawing dimensions that they were reported as non-associative. Upon further investigation I discovered that way back in R2002 DIMASSOC came onto the scene. This new variable truly associated the dimension to the geometry. This means that any change to the geometry affects the dimension as well adding new intelligence to the dimension. (It blows my walnut-sized brain!)
Original placement of each dimension type: Awesome, new way: Intelligent associated dimension after moving the geometry. Old school way: Non-intelligent associated dimension after moving the geometry. You might not be able to tell that there is an inserted block made up of a circle and two centerlines. I performed a Move operation by grip editing the insert. I was pleased to note that when I performed a Scale operation on the insert, the dimension maintained the intelligent association.
I know I'll get a lot of benefit from this. I don't have to select the insert and the dimension nodes with a poly crossing window. Now, I can just pick-and-go. There may be occasions when the intelligent association breaks, but not to worry — they can easily be re-associated. Even this Dinosaur can figure it out.
Take me to your Leader, QLeader, or MLeader
Back in the day, we had leaders that would vaguely associate text (sorry, annotation) to an arrowed line and landing. I haven't explored what they have to offer such as adding geometric tolerances or blocks, I've only used them in their basic form. That’s changing — starting now. (Insert dino foot stomp here.)
Although QLeaders were included as a bonus tool in R14, I didn't use them. Now, as I take a look at the options available, I can see the advantages of the MLeader object which was introduced in AutoCAD 2008. In the past, when ballooning an assembly drawing or an exploded assembly illustration, it was a pain to position the labeled balloon. Back in the dark ages, I used a little AutoLISP routine the let me pick the leader start, the text location, and then finally place the balloon. It worked just fine as long as I didn’t need to reposition it. It got even more complicated if I had to re-align the balloon and text to an opposite quadrant from the pick point. On top of it all, the annotation wasn't associated to the leader.
Now with MLeader at my command I can see that substantial time savings and improved appearance are in the cards for me. I’m able to reposition my annotation at will and the leader follows it around, properly realigning when I move across the leader start point.
I find it helpful to keep the Properties palette available. Just a quick double-click, I can easily modify all the settings that affect the display of my annotation. It’s also very convenient to immediately see the effect of modifying via the property palette as you scroll through the options.
Something else new to me (well, most things are) is the Selection Preview (new since R2006). When I first encountered it, I found it distracting. But, I’ve come around and now find that it allows me to make quick and accurate selections. A related item that is new to AutoCAD 2015 is the Command Preview that provides visual feedback to certain editing operations. When chamfering, filleting, trimming, and extending, you can see the results before committing to the edit. It’s like having your very own time machine to look into the future. How cool is that?
In closing, there's an old saying that I know you'll relate to: The only thing that is constant, is change. I think one of my old fossil cousins coined that phrase. I’ve found it to be true and confirmed on an almost daily basis. Whenever I "finish" a model or a drawing, there seems to be a never-ending march to "improve" upon it. The newer functionality of associated dimensions, easy maneuvering of MLeaders, quick and easy changes to properties, and automatically seeing my edits are an awesome way to cope with this constant change.
About the author: Patrick Hughes, machine designer and owner of Engineered Design Solutions in Rockford, Illinois, has worked with AutoCAD since 1991. He has developed a number of AutoLISP and other software solutions to automate his workflow and increase productivity, including the commercially available time tracking program, CadTempo.