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Three AutoCAD Productivity Tips for Success

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As CAD managers, tech managers, designers, and product users, we use AutoCAD software (and AutoCAD-based software) in a variety of waysfrom project design requirements through drawing production standards automation and technical support. AutoCAD includes an extensive number of tools that can positively impact productivity by eliminating inconsistencies, assisting with standards conformance, and troubleshooting challenges, all while attempting to avoid errors, budget loss, and risk. This article features three key AutoCAD productivity tips that can help you achieve your efficiency goals, from the single designer, to an entire product design team, to the company’s drawing production staff. Let’s explore how you can capitalize on and implement some of AutoCAD software’s advanced productivity tools to gain the upper hand.

AutoCAD Productivity Tip One: Sheet Set Manager

What Is Sheet Set Manager?

AutoCAD’s Sheet Set Manager was first introduced in AutoCAD 2005 and provides a wealth of functionality, productivity workflows, and a project drawing management interface to assist drawing production staff with coordinating drawing output.

With Sheet Set Manager, you can manage all the drawings within a project, in an AutoCAD “panel” that provides commands and tools to organize, rename/renumber, publishing options, ability to archive (and eTransmit) and other Sheet Set-related functionality.

How Does Sheet Set Manager Work?

AutoCAD’s Sheet Set Manager works by linking Sheet Border (and Title Block) information, using fields, to a database (called a DST file). All information contained within a fielded attribute is stored and managed within this database file, using the Sheet Set Manager panel in AutoCAD.

Whenever information contained within the attribute area of a Sheet Border (Title Block) is updated (entered, required by modification, etc.), these updates are added by modifying the Sheet Set Manager “Properties” for either the entire Sheet Set, or on a per-sheet basis. CAD/drawing production staff can manage sheet information without having to open an individual drawing (e.g., double click a block to edit attributes), since the information is stored externally, in the DST database file.

Suggested Sheet Set Manager Best Practices

Templates, Templates, Templates

All new drawings in AutoCAD should start from either a default drawing template or a custom drawing template that you have previously created. Drawing templates store a variety of settings such as drawing-specific variables, layers, linetypes, plotter settings, symbols, sheet borders (this is key), and other data.

A drawing template has the file extension .dwt rather than .dwg; however, the difference between the two file types is minimal. Creating a company- or project-specific drawing template will provide your CAD/drawing production staff with a starting point that ensures all new drawings are correctly initiated and are preconfigured with all the necessary requirements.

Preconfigure Everything

As mentioned previously, a drawing template can store just about everything related to a company or project CAD standard. Specific to Sheet Sets, a template can store all your preconfigured Sheet Borders (and Title Blocks) that have been structured for use with Sheet Set Manager.

Placing all standard Sheet Borders into a Sheet Set Template will ensure staff have all the required standards and preconfigured requirements when they start a new Sheet Set project.

Examples of content to include within a Sheet Set Template:

  • All Sheet Borders (Title Blocks) set up for use with Sheet Set Manager

  • All printing requirements (all output needs including paper sizes, full and half size output)

  • Drawing variable adjustments (such as unit variables), all preconfigured

  • CAD standards

Workflow for New Projects

When it comes to Sheet Set Manager, using a preconfigured template that includes all the required sheet borders (that have been set up for Sheet Set Manager) is the easiest method for starting a new project.

CAD/drawing production staff need to simply copy the Sheet Set Template (and any external references if your Sheet Borders are structured in that manner) to the location of the new project.

It is much easier for someone to remove/delete something versus having to manually add information to a drawing template. By providing your staff all options, the project CAD leader can simply delete unnecessary content, rather than having to expend additional effort to manually create or add requirements one at a time.

Once the Sheet Set Template has been adjusted for the requirements of the project, it can be referenced when a new Sheet Set is created.

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Additional References and Resource Links

There are multiple articles on the Autodesk Knowledge Network to assist in getting you started with the AutoCAD Sheet Set Manager. Be sure to visit the site and use the search functionality to find the desired information you are looking to obtain. The search crawls not only Product Documentation but also Forum Posts, Technical Support, YouTube and Screencast videos, as well as blogs and other online depositories.

In addition to the Autodesk Knowledge Network, you can search the Autodesk University website for hundreds of recorded sessions from past Autodesk University conferences.

Last year at Autodesk University 2018, I presented a class titled 6 Sheet Set Manager Strategies for Success. The class highlighted the following Sheet Set Manager strategies and presentation topics:

  • Gain a solid understanding of Sheet Set Manager functionality

  • Learn how to transfer and modify existing sheet borders for use with Sheet Set Manager

  • Learn how to use the Sheet Set Manager to preconfigure project or company CAD standards requirements

  • Learn how to avoid pitfalls and limitations by capitalizing on best practices for developing Sheet Set Manager content

AutoCAD Productivity Tip Two: DesignCenter

What Is the AutoCAD DesignCenter?

The AutoCAD DesignCenter was first introduced in AutoCAD 2000 and provides users with a convenient way to access drawing data such as blocks, layers, layouts, and styles (dimension, linetypes, multi-leaders, tables, and text) from existing drawings. This ability allows a user to quickly re-use content in a convenient panel within AutoCAD (and AutoCAD-based software).

DesignCenter can be opened from several locations within AutoCAD:

  • Typing ADCENTER into the command line

  • Within the AutoCAD ribbon > Insert tab > in the Content panel

  • Quick launch > Control Key + 2

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DesignCenter provides quick access to existing content, utilizing a simple drag-drop approach. Within DesignCenter, simply navigate to the source drawing (including the required drawing data) and insert via drag-drop into your current drawing.

DesignCenter Use Cases

DesignCenter can be used to assist with a variety of drawing production requirements, such as:

  • Locate CAD standards quickly, such as required blocks, annotation styles, etc.

  • Maintain efficiency versus having to WBLOCK or export/import content (multiple steps)

  • Transfer content easily between open drawings (in the current session)

  • Use the search to to conveniently locate drawing data versus navigating to a specific drawing file

  • Add and organize favorites (right-click > add/organize favorites)

panel
The AutoCAD DesignCenter panel.
search
The AutoCAD DesignCenter search functionality.

Additional References and Resource Links

There are multiple articles on the Autodesk Knowledge Network to assist in getting you started with the AutoCAD DesignCenter. Be sure to visit the site and use the search functionality to find the desired information you are looking to obtain. The search crawls not only Product Documentation but also Forum Posts, Technical Support, YouTube and Screencast videos, as well as blogs and other online depositories.

During Autodesk University 2017, Volker Cocco and Nauman Mysorewala presented the class, DesignCenter and Tool Palettes: A Perfect Match. The class highlighted the following Design Center functionality and presentation topics:

  • Learn about the DesignCenter interface

  • Learn how to work with DesignCenter to reuse content

AutoCAD Productivity Tip Three: Layer Translator

What Is Layer Translator?

The AutoCAD Layer Translator was first introduced in AutoCAD 2002 and was originally part of the Express Tools package; however, it was incorporated into the standard AutoCAD toolset as far back as AutoCAD 2006. Layer Translator provides tools to manipulate and convert layers within a drawing, including the ability to save mapping translations for re-use.

Layer Translator can be opened from several locations within AutoCAD:

  • Type LAYTRANS on the Command Line

  • Within the AutoCAD ribbon > Manage tab > in the CAD Standards Panel

Layer Translator works by mapping layers in the current drawing to different layer names and layer properties in a specified drawing, then converts them directlywithout the need to purge, copy/paste, or manually manipulate the layers directly. Layer Translator provides the opportunity to save these “mappings” via a standards file (.dws) for future use.

If you have ever needed to change a vast number of layer names (or properties) in an AutoCAD drawing, you know how time consuming it can be. This process works great when using company standards during the design phase of a project, but the client needs specific layers which align to their standards when the drawings are submitted. Users can work with their internal company standards and then “translate” before they send the drawings.

Layer Translator Use Cases and Functionality

Layer Translator can be used to assist with a variety of drawing production requirements, such as:

  • Convert layers (and properties) quickly within a drawing to a different standard

  • Validate conformance to current CAD standards

  • Save translation mappings for future use – project base map updates which require conversion to project/company standards on each submission

Layer Translator allows a user to quickly batch convert layers in a drawing by selecting Existing Layers to “Translate” to Target Layers. This process can quickly covert layers in a fraction of the time it would take to manually change each layer one by one.

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The AutoCAD Layer Translator interface.

The interface above (which is opened with the LAYTRANS command) lists the layers in the current drawing (in the left pane) under “Translate From” and a list of layers (in the right pane) under “Translate To.” The right pane can be populated with target layers by loading a template, drawing, or standards file that contains the desired target layers.

Once this is loaded, you can:

  • Specify which existing layers are to be translated

  • Limit the translations to only layers you have designated (as not all existing layers may require translation)

  • Select multiple existing layers (by holding down the CTRL key when selecting) and transfer the geometry from several layers to a single target layer

  • Select the existing layer (in the left pane) and double click the target layer (in the right pane) to add it to the Layer Translation Mappings

Even if the layer names are matching (i.e., C-WATR-E) in both the existing layers and the target layers, Layer Translator will ensure any new properties such as color or linetype match that of the target layer.

As you make the selections, you will see the layer translations show up in the bottom of the Layer Translator interface, under “Layer Translation Mappings.”

map
The AutoCAD Layer Translator interface.

One you have selected all the require layers to translate, press the “Translate” button. All entities on the existing layers will be transferred to the target layer. Layer Translator also deletes the existing layer from the drawing, saving you another step.

If you have several drawings with the same mappings, you can save this mapping file (it will create a .dws file) so next time, you can simply load the .dws file and the translations will be instantly preloaded.

Additional References and Resource Links

There are multiple articles on the Autodesk Knowledge Network to assist in getting you started with the AutoCAD Layer Translator. Be sure to visit the site and use the search functionality to find the desired information you are looking to obtain. The search crawls not only Product Documentation but also Forum Posts, Technical Support, YouTube and Screencast videos, as well as blogs and other online depositories.

During Autodesk University 2016, Sam Lucido presented a class titled CSI: CAD Standards Implementation. This class highlights the following CAD Standards tools and presentation topics:

  • Understand how to use and configure CAD Standards Manager tools in AutoCAD

  • Learn how to identify, change, and create standards files (.dws) to define your company CAD standards

  • Learn how to associate a CAD standards file with a drawing, and check the drawing for standards compliance

  • Learn how to use the Layer Translator to automate the process of changing layers to adhere to your company standards

Want three more AutoCAD productivity tips? Download the full class handout.

Chad is the corporate CAD coordinator for Associated Engineering, a multidiscipline engineering firm with 22 offices across Canada. Chad provides development and implementation of drawing production standards, quality management, productivity and efficiency solutions and technical support/training across the company’s 400 Autodesk product users. Having 25 years of experience primarily on civil infrastructure and transportation design, Chad has been utilized for the past 8 years dedicated full-time as AE’s CAD Coordinator. Chad is an Autodesk Expert Elite Member, an Autodesk Certified Professional and a member of several Autodesk Customer Councils. Chad has attended Autodesk University each year since 2013, was a top-rated speaker at AU 2017 and AU 2018, and contributes as an AU Speaker Mentor. Chad operates the AutoCAD and CAD Management blog theCADcafé.

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As CAD managers, tech managers, designers, and product users, we use AutoCAD software (and AutoCAD-based software) in a variety of ways—from project design requirements through drawing production standards automation and technical support. AutoCAD includes an extensive number of tools that can positively impact productivity by eliminating inconsistencies, assisting with standards conformance, and troubleshooting challenges—all while attempting to avoid errors, budget loss, and risk. Please join...

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