AutoCAD Tip of the Week: VPLAYER

1 04 2013

One of the maxims of good Database design in general, and of Computer-Aided Design in particular, is to avoid and diminish the unnecessary repetition of data. In other words, “Draw Things Only Once.” And I don’t mean, “Draw once and then copy many times.” What I’m talking about is how to avoid copying entire floor plans so you can then create separate version to show only existing conditions, another for a demolition plan, another for new construction, a foundation plan, framing plan, roof plan, electrical, plumbing, interiors, RFC, etc.

That is using CAD as a mere electronic pencil. Modern CAD is more like a smart relational database system, where data isn’t unnecessarily repeated or even copied.

20130401 0919 Begin Capture

In fact, one of the tell tale signs of CAD’s real power going unused is to see model space crowded with rows and columns of mostly the same entities with slight changes to accommodate a long list of different drawing plans and types as listed and illustrated above. Paper Space and its super cool feature: Floating Viewports can help simplify the drawing above.

Maxim: Create entities in only one place, and control their visibility in specific viewports using layers. AutoCAD provides at least two different commands to help you: LAYER and VPLAYER.

Most AutoCAD users begin by learning the LAYER, LA or –LA commands. But then stop. No wonder they never get to love AutoCAD. This command is good for controlling the global visibility of layers. It’s an all or none proposition. With this command, you can either see a layer’s content or not. This is usually the command of choice when you’re working in Model Space while TILEMODE is set to 1. I call this “full model space mode”, or “beginner’s mode.”

The real fun begins when you set TILEMODE = 0. Incidentally, you can also simply select one of the paper space tabs, unless you’ve hidden those to save precious screen Real Estate. The VIEWPORTS command still works, and you’re gaining new functionality. Now viewports can float, overlap and more. They’re freed to take full advantage of modern CAD features. I call this “Expert mode,” where you can do everything you can in beginner’s mode and more!

VPLAYER: How to Survive Without It

VPLAYER, most likely named after ViewPortLayer, allows you to control layers on a per-viewport basis. First you will likely need to begin by thawing and turning on all layers globally. This will do the trick:

-LA T * On * <ENTER>

or if you don’t mind typing the entire option names: –LAYER Thaw * On * <ENTER>

To control specific viewports, double-click inside your target viewport and make sure its model space is active. Then you have two methods. Let’s begin with my favorite one. Please type:

VPLAYER F <ENTER> and then select an entity whose layer you want to hide / turn off / freeze, in that viewport only, then press <ENTER> a couple more times until you’re back to the command prompt, as shown below:

20130401 0954 VPLAYER Capture

Alternatively, type VPLAYER F and then type the name of a layer or layers separated by commas, that you don’t want to appear in that viewport.

Finally, let me show you one very different method using the LAYER command, which will allow you to circumvent and live without using VPLAYER, as shown in the screen capture below:

20130401 0919 LAYER Capture 

Notice how the layer command’s dialog box / palette has two sets of columns for Color. The left ones are for global changes throughout your entire drawing. You’re most likely already familiar with those. The ones to the far right, VP Freeze and VP Color, are the subject of this tip. They allow you to control those settings on an individual viewport basis. There’s more to the far right, but that can be the subject of another weekly tip. Enjoy!

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