Monday, 26 January 2015

Staying on Track

Most regular AutoCAD users will know that the F8 key toggles the ORTHO mode, which constrains cursor movement horizontal and vertical to the current UCS. There are also 2 types of tracking we can use to allow us to draw quickly and accurately, object snap tracking and polar tracking.  POLAR, ORTHO, OSNAP, and OTRACK are all selectable toggles in the status bar, normally found at the bottom of the AutoCAD environment.

OTRACK allows tracking along alignment paths based on other OSNAP points.  F11 switches it on and off. When active, OSNAP tracking allows you to project from an acquired OSNAP, the cursor follows along a dotted line that represents the ortho extension. By default, the tracking is orthogonal only; it can be modified on the Polar Tracking tab of drafting settings, DSETTINGS. Note: for OTRACK to work, there need to be running OSNAPS on (AUTOSNAP).

POLAR tracking allows tracking along any defined polar angle tracking path from any point, no OSNAP is required. F10 switches it on and off. The angles evaluated for the POLAR is defined in the Drafting Settings, Polar Tracking Dialog box, too.  Both settings' state is visible on the status bar at the bottom of the AutoCAD main window.


As an example, let’s draw a line at an angle of 30 degrees from a selected start point at a length of 200 units.

First, turn POLAR on (F10), and set the increment angle to 30 or to a divisor of 30 (5, 10, 15) in the Polar Tracking tab. Now, start the LINE command, and select your start point. As you drag your cursor alone paths that are along the angular increments, the POLAR tracking vector will appear. Once that is highlighted, you can simply type in the distance value (200) and AutoCAD will draw the line at the specified length along the POLAR tracking angle selected.

Here is a second example, drawing a line from a known point to a point orthogonal  to two existing corner points.  First start the LINE command, and OSNAP the upper right intersection of the lower object.

With ORTHO and OTRACK on, drag your mouse vertically, you should see a faint green dashed line representing the ortho extension from your selected point stretching upwards.  This symbol means the otrack has established the vertical lORTHO from the corner as a potential OTRACK.  Next, hover your crosshairs on the second object corner, but do not left-click! We are simply using the corner to establish the OTRACK line.  Instead, drag your crosshairs horizontally; you should see the faint green dashed line extend horizontally as you move.  

When you get to the point where the vertical and horizontal extensions meet, both green dashed lines appear, as shown in the image to the right.  Click when both green dashed lines appear, now, and the line endpoint will be at the projected extensions intersection.

That's a simple example of how OTRACK can help you acquire locations or situations with no geometry in the desired location.  Of course, there are lots of other possibilities, too.

Feel free to share your POLAR and OTRACK usage experiences!

Monday, 19 January 2015

AutoCAD Tip: Increase XLIST dialog box width

I'm a huge fan of XREFS, and probably my two favourite XREF-related commands are NCOPY and XLIST: NCOPY makes a copy of any entity in an XREF and places it in the host drawing, and XLIST returns the properties of an object in an XREF.

One issue with XLIST is sometimes the layer name is truncated and not displayed fully in the dialog box. Can we modify the dialog box to see the full layer name?

In the image to the left, we see a LINE object selected, but we cannot see the full layer name, since the combined length of the drawing and layer name exceeds 31 characters, which is the default XLIST dialog box width.   How do we fix this problem?

The solution is to edit the XLIST.DCL file (which stores the dialog box settings), and increase the column width.  This may sound daunting, but I assure you, it's easy, and safe.  (if you are worried, feel free to make a backup of xlist.dcl before editing)

First thing is to locate the XLIST.DCL file, it will be in an EXPRESS folder, most likely in a path like so:  

C:\Program Files\Autodesk\Autodesk AutoCAD 2015\Express\xlist.dcl 

Open the file in Notepad, or text editor, and  scroll down till you see Column section, and look below that for, key = "slayer"; width = 31.  This is the value that controls the dialog box width assigned for the layer name.  To increase the width, input a larger number, I set mine at 64.

After changing the values, and saving the DCL file, XLIST will now show a larger, longer space for the layer name!


You will need to do this for each of the three sections in the DCL file:  
xlistblock : dialog , xlisttext : dialog, and  xlist : dialog, since a different dialog will appear for text or blocks.

That's all there is to it!

Has XLIST given you headaches? Share your experience in the comments area!