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Dennis Howell
Dennis Howell
Dennis Howell's Blog

I am going to state right up front, this is my personal opinion.  Subjective in all its glory.  With that said, if you want to customize AutoCAD, which language should you learn?  In a past blog post, I showed how you could draw a line several ways using Scripts, AutoLISP, VBA and then C#.NET.  If all I wanted to do was draw a line ‘programmatically’ then I would go the easiest route with AutoLISP.  AutoLISP is easy.  ‘Easy’ though can also be a bit ‘clunky,' particularly using DCLs when a GUI is needed.  The more complex the programming requirement, the more you will find that you just can’t get there from AutoLISP.  Visual Lisp may be the answer which really opened up the ObjectARX COM model.  Visual Lisp can be said to be the VBA enabled version of AutoLISP.  Wait, now I have introduced VBA!  Some would say, VBA is the next logical step beyond AutoLISP/Visual Lisp.  And again, for developing a user interface, it is so much easier.  For the longest time, I used VBA for the GUI, and ...

It has always frustrated me that in AutoCAD, when I wanted to select a group of entities, as soon as I Pan or Zoom to select more, the previous part of the selection window was lost.  Finally, Autodesk has fixed this most egregious situation.  A new System Variable: SelectionOffScreen = 1 will insure flowing selection windows during Pans and Zooms. This is by in large the best new feature introduced to AutoCAD since 2008 and Annotative Scaling, in my humble (or no so humble) opinion.

There are times when I have had to "go the extra mile" to get a drawing cleaned up.  I have a methodical sequence that I will go through when a drawing is being squirrely even after a -PURGE and AUDIT.  My favorite is turn on, thaw, unlock all the layers, then use the standard Windows CTL-C to Copy everything to that nebulous clipboard that experience says is there, but never is seen.  Then open a new drawing, and use the PASTE to ORIGINAL COORDINATES.  Even after doing that, it is best to go through the -PURGE and AUDIT sequence.  And don't forget Layout Tabs, that may be needed to CTL-C and PASTE into the new drawing as well. But then there have been other times where even the CTL-C and PASTE sequence leaves garbage in the drawing...or more accurately, copies the garbage over.  That would then lead me to the next option, which is to run DXFOUT.  This often times will expose multiple hidden blocks that once revealed, can now be PURGED out to the drawing.  Remember then to SaveAs ...

Administrators of Vault can pack Inventor designs into Vault easily and in bulk via the Autoloader.  However, often times an Inventor user, who isn’t on the Admin list, has built an Inventor model or assembly ‘on the side’ and is ready to add it into Vault.  The following outlines the steps that user can take to get an Inventor personal project into Vault. Preliminary Setup: If you haven’t already, access any existing Inventor Design stored in Vault.  This is done to build the folder structure needed to add the un-vaulted design. In my example, I have a design in my “D:\Projects\Inventor Projects” folder, while the Vault workspace is set to “D:\Projects\Vault Workspace 2017”. The Inventor assembly I will be moving over is a skid containing several sub-assemblies.  I will copy the entire folder structure of the skid assembly over to my “Vault Workspace 2017\Designs\DRH Inventor Designs”.  This folder corresponds to the Vault folder where I store my Inventor projects inside of Vault. Notice in the image above, I have already moved the Centrifugal Pump over.  I did not have to do this ahead of ...

Or, is AutoCAD still going to be around for a long while?  My guess, it will be around for quite a while.  While I cannot cite any specific declaration from Autodesk, reading between the lines can be most telling.  “We aren’t at the Star Trek level of computing”.  Could you imagine for the latest crisis that Kirk has discovered, Spock and Scotty pulling out some papers to reconfigure engineering to save the universe?  Nope, me neither.  We aren’t there yet. Inventor and AutoCAD:  Regardless of the 3D modeling package you use, documentation is going to be 2D.  Paper is flat, as long as we are outputting on paper, then there will be the need for AutoCAD.  Over the past few releases, more and more, AutoCAD is becoming the default documentation for Inventor, as evidenced by two specific GUIs within AutoCAD: AutoCAD’s Layout Tab: Now, instead of pushing from the Inventor environment to AutoCAD, natively you can access Inventor models from directly inside of AutoCAD.  Another “between the lines” in Inventor, the default installation setup now defaults to the AutoCAD DWG for documentation. AutoCAD’s Parametric ...

Assuredly and quite by accident, you have turned-off the little green dot that shows snapping in your Inventor sketch environment.  But now, how to get it back on?  The first thing to check is Constraint Settings from within the sketch environment or the Application Options from the Tools Ribbon tab.  But the other day, I had a call that said the settings were correct, but they still were not getting a green dot at the origin point of the sketch plane.  Come to find out, the point had not been projected.  We added it, and corrected the setting for that as well.  See the image below for the whereabouts to check your settings.

I have been seeing a plague hitting the AutoCAD world.  A plague of bad Profiles.  How in the world does a Profile go bad?  I am scratching my head on that one.  The symptoms, obviously things are not working right.  VBA routines are not loading or worse yet, they load but then don't work.  Same with the AcadDoc.LSP not loading at all.  Yes, the paths are there in the Support Search path, but they just don't load.  I can type in at the command line, (findfile "acaddoc.lsp") and it returns right where it should be.  I can load it manually, but it won't work automatically.  The out-of-box <<Unnamed Profile>> can't be used to rebuild either.  Believe me, I tried it.  Everything looks fine, but something is amiss somewhere. Easiest thing to do? The easiest fix is run Reset Settings to Default and don't save any custom settings.  Start over on those.  The Reset replaces the <<Unnamed Profile>>, which I recommend then to use Add to List... and add back in the custom folders to the newly created Profile.  Everything seems happy ...

In training classes I am always saying there are 5 or more ways to access the command for "<enter a command here>".  The AutoCAD GUI has multiple redundancies for every command.  So, I thought, how many ways other than the GUI is there available in AutoCAD to just draw a LINE.  This isn't a comprehensive list by any means: Enter at the Command Line, either "L" or "LINE", uppercase/lowercase doesn't matter.  Then follow the prompts picking points.  But as well, LINE could be selected from the Draw panel on the Ribbon as well as the Draw Tool Palette.  So, would that count as four ways? Script (SCR):  Note the location of the cursor, a <RETURN> initiates the entry.  A script file could be created that would follow the same as the Command Line entry.  The only difference could be introducing some AutoLISP calls...which leads us to the next way.                                                  ...

The above image is an example of a common problem for Inventor users.  Though pictured is related to the Inventor Task Scheduler, it could be the same problem for the Project Editor, Inventor View, and other specific apps in the Autodesk / Inventor group.  It isn’t confined to a particular version nor to a specific operating system. It will most typically show up following the installation of Inventor service packs, updates, and hotfixes.  But it has also occurred following Windows Updates and even installation/updates to seemingly unrelated products (screen casting programs for example).  It can also happen if you bounce between two versions of Inventor, for example going from Inventor 2017 to Inventor 2016. The fixes could be one, two or all of the following.  I have ordered the fixes in the order that have offered the most success.  Please note, the following list may well require Admin privileges. 1.       Re-register: a.       Right-click the Windows Start button and select Command Prompt (Admin).  Don’t you just love DOS! b.      Type in (include quotes): cd “C:\Program Files\Autodesk\Inventor 2017\bin” <Enter> c.       Open the Windows Task Manager, go to ...

“Use the Force, Luke” The following is a few tips and tricks I introduce to AutoCAD users during training sessions.  There is mistaken belief out there that if you use AutoCAD then you know how to use AutoCAD.  Sounds like an obvious sequitur but often users of AutoCAD are too busy working to actually learn how to use AutoCAD effectively. The best place to start is with the Graphical User Interface or GUI pronounce ‘gooey’.  Sometimes just exploring the GUI you will discover commands and features that you didn’t know AutoCAD even had.  So, let’s setup and streamline the AutoCAD GUI for productivity. Where to begin?  For most, the biggest change to the GUI was the introduction of the Ribbon back in AutoCAD 2009.  Immediately, users cried, “Give us back the Classic”.  My response, “Get over it, the Ribbon is here to stay.”  Launch your AutoCAD and follow along. Review the image below and note that I am using AutoCAD 2017 and I have the Workspace: Drafting and Annotation active.  Since we aren’t actually going to be drawing, I have the drawing area ...

Pattern, the term Inventor uses for duplicating geometry in sketches, features of parts, and parts in assemblies.  These Patterns can be rectangular, circular, reflective, and copy is a pattern in assemblies. The Circular Feature Pattern now has an Orientation toggle to add rotation to the feature if desired.  In the picture below, as we could always do, you see the Circular Pattern which rotated the feature as it goes around the base feature.  If we designed radial clock faces all day, then this is all we needed. Now, added in 2017, "It's about time", we have the Fixed toggle button that will maintain the Orientation of the feature as it is revolved. Let's take a closer look as well at the display of the feature being patterned.  Notice the green dot that is the current Base Point for the Orientation of the pattern. The Base Point can be moved to a different vertex, giving different results to the pattern. Picking different base points will give variations to the layout of the Circular Feature Pattern. But wait, that's not all with Patterns.  The Rectangular Pattern has ...

Under the category of Part Creation, a new Feature Relationship tool is available by right-clicking on the part in the Model Tree and then selecting Relationships. A bit of orientation on the model shown. Focus should be primarily on the Fillet1, Emboss1 and the Gold Revel. Also note, the Hole1 and Violet Revel for reference. Right-clicking on Fillet1 gives me the menu option to select Relationships... The Relationships Manager dialog shows that the Fillet1 has as parents (at the top of the dialog) the Trunk and the Cap.  Children are listed at the bottom of the dialog, and the two of importance for our feature highlight are Emboss1 and Gold Revel.  Notice too, that neither the Violet Revel nor the Hole1 are listed.  What we learn is that there is a parental relationship held by the Fillet1 (the actual lower edge) and the placement of the children Emboss1 and Gold Revel. The relationship, as designed, drives the placement of the Gold Revel and Emboss1.  If the Fillet1 radius changes, the two child features will reposition accordingly. In the following example, by changing ...