Archive for the ‘Basic Essential CAD’ category

Certification Tips


caddguru Certified

caddguru Certified


Before you embark down the Certification expedition, I suggest you first examine your motivation for becoming certified. While it may get you a job, or at least an interview, it may not necessarily help you hang on to your employment. Taking any class or test just for the sake of graduating or passing it, is only a small fraction of the real benefits. Please focus on the aspects that really matter, learning and mastering the programs.

Begin by reading all the F1 Online Help content that covers the main points required for certification. Start here:

If using the Help along with the roadmaps isn’t enough, then you may consider buying a Certification guide. Most authorized courseware titles are keyed to specific certification requirements. Therefore, look for this feature before you buy a textbook. While it may not improve the quality of a textbook, it certainly will not hurt.

Finally, focus on learning and mastering instead of merely passing. It may be humbling but it’s always also a learning experience.


AutoCAD Civil 3D Tip: Export Civil 3D Drawing


Export Civil 3D DrawingThis tip rules for at least a couple of reasons. First, by using this export method you get rid of the need to use Object Enablers. Secondly, and more excitingly, Civil 3D, unlike its close sibblings AutoCAD Architecture and MEP, provides a dialog box that allows you to pick multiple DWG files at a time, pick a destination folder, pick whether or not to export Model or Paper Space tabs and other options.

In fact, I discovered this tip today because installing object enablers for both AutoCAD MEP 2014 and 2015 didn’t get me what I wanted. I must have missed a step or something. I wanted to be able to read point descriptions in MEP or Arch version. Instead, I keep seeing the unwanted AeccDbCogoPoint (AeccLand100) proxy boxes. Executing this tip gets rid of those. Not exactly how I wanted things to work, but at least it gets the job done of showing the point descriptions so the data makes sense to almost anyone that reads it.

#AutoCAD Civil 3D 2015 Tip of the Day Export Civil 3D Drawing to circumvent Object Enablers and do many at once.

AutoCAD Tip of the Week: VPLAYER


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!

The 10 CAD Commandments Version 2012



Unlike the Biblical Ten Commandments, some of these are likely to need updating as time goes by, though most, hopefully, will remain timeless pearls of productivity wisdom. 😉

I. Without getting into a theological / religious discussion, there is one G_d but there are clearly many CAD offerings, each one with its own strengths and weaknesses, from features, industry support to cost of ownership or use. Therefore, don’t be #CAD or #BIM software dogmatic. Instead, pick the right or best tool for the job. To know a program is to love it. However, beware there may be a much better way that you simply don’t know about, yet. Keep an open mind. Or at least, make sure you’ve reasonably exhausted and mined all the CAD power accessible to you. Try something NEW today.

II. Draw / Model full actual size. Don’t invent dimensions that don’t exist. A 2 x 4 stud is much closer to 1.5" x 3.5". If you have more exact or statistically meaningful dimensions from your lumber supplier, such as 3-5/8" (or whatever material or source), then use that!

III. Whenever possible, work in 3D. It’s better, faster and easier. Learn how to do it, if necessary. What else would you expect for the 3rd dimension commandment?


IV. Don’t use programs like it was 1999. Find a way to add material, labor, time and cost data. This has actually been possible for a long time, arguably since 1989. Increase the value and wisdom of your CAD data and design wisdom by juggling more than mere geometry when making decisions. BIM and PLM are about entire product and building life cycle, so is smart and wise Computer-Aided Design/Drafting (CAD). To remember this commandment think of space-time continuum or 4th dimension.

V. Use Smart, Rules- Family- or Style-based, Parametric Objects whenever possible and practical. Think of this as creating your own custom designer DNA, cookie cutter or money making machine. Graduate beyond generic 2D geometric primitives at the first chance, no matter what industry you work in.

VI. Before creating custom content or details research any applicable industry content already in existence. Don’t unnecessarily re-invent the wheel. Don’t use borrowed content without essential improvements or without permission. Run you business legally.

VII. Before inventing company or individual company standards research any applicable industry standards. Don’t unnecessarily re-invent the wheel. Don’t use borrowed content without essential improvements or permission.

VIII. Make the best of what you have, both in the hardware and software side of your practice. Remember, the grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence. It’s greener wherever you water it. You may feel it was greener in the past. Actually, it never gets any greener than green. It will look great whenever and wherever you take good care of it. Therefore, assume you CAD tool is omnipotent. Make it do whatever you want, the way you want.

79645_hastewaste_smIX. Draw / Model things once and use / clone many times. Being a lazy draftsman or modeler in this fashion is actually being wisely lazy. Make it so! Recycle data, specs and details whenever possible.

X. Want immediate improvement? Don’t rush. Haste makes waste. CAD productivity doesn’t come from rushing. It comes from good planning and organization. Finally, please care and give a damn. Whatever you do, do it with all your heart, because in that case “All You Need Is Love.” Otherwise, please change professions to something where you can invest all your hear and soul, and therefore be happy, because you only get to live once.

Please comment about your own favorite words of CAD and productivity wisdom.

Whatever you do, do it with all your heart, because in that case “All You Need is Love.”

Best wishes for the best be yet to come for you in 2013 and beyond!

Successful BIM Diet: No Spaghetti Please!


20121116 0452 MEP Clashes Capture

Time is ticking and you don’t want the construction schedule to slip. You must decide wisely who must move. Who are you going to call?

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”
― E.F. Schumacher

In construction projects there’s been a customary and historical pecking order among team players fighting for space to place their equipment, connectors, fittings, pipes, conduits and the like, that goes like this:

1. Architectural – They say, “Make room, move out of the way you mere mortals… Here comes the Architect!” Winking smile

2. Structural – They warn, “Do you want the building to collapse?”

3. Plumbing – They threaten, “Do you want the toilets to back up?”

4. HVAC – They whine, “We will run out of space unless you move!”

5. Fire Protection – They’re told, “Hey, you have plenty of pressure left in those pipes, move!”

6. Electrical – They’re commanded, “Sparky, move! For heaven’s sake, you don’t even have to worry about voltage drops!”

7. Everyone else – “Place your equipment in whatever space is left over.”

20121116 0536 Messy Spaghetti images

Please, don’t build a mess!

This might fly in a retrofit project. For new construction, aim for something better and simpler.

Unfortunately, running BIM coordination using that overly simplistic approach leads to building designs that are unnecessarily difficult to construct and later maintain during the life of a building.

To create a building we can all be proud of, designers and builders must think holistically and simultaneously. Give up the “us versus them” attitude. When coordinated properly, building systems are easier to follow and understand, and therefore, easier to fix and maintain. But they are also a lot cheaper to install, erect and construct.

Straight runs should generally rule over multiple turns and twists. Indeed, Model Building Codes limit the number of bends you can have before you’re required to provide cleanouts, access panels, junction boxes and the like.

To avoid trouble it is ideal to start project trades coordination as early in the design process as possible. Unfortunately, I have seen large Architecture / Engineering companies, who employ architects and engineers under the same roof, work as independently as if they worked for totally different owner firms.

Perhaps the main problem in general is the need to design buildings by committee. Things are just too complex for a regular human being to master all the nuances of building design.

I think the design by committee approach is too time consuming and wimpy. Somebody, either an architect or experienced BIM coordinator, needs to take their best shot at placing building system components in the ideal location and then get the approvals and blessings or improvements for each of the individual building trades.

Simplicity, safety, efficiency, constructability and economy should be the guiding principles. As an architect or building designer, learn to provide enough space for the equipment and required installation and maintenance clearances. Straight runs are nice. Short runs are even nicer. Less pressure loss or voltage drops due to friction or resistance. Please avoid placing equipment in ways that will require extra mile long runs.

20121116 0541 Pecking Order images

Starring from left to right: sparky the Electrician, FP or their buddies, HVAC, Plumber, Structural and the Architect, Project Manager or Lead BIM Coordinator at the far right. 🙂

After all, there are only so many miracles we can perform at the job site. There are times when it’s simply better to go back to the proverbial drawing / design boards. To avoid that at all costs requires one or possibly two ambitious individuals to give a design layout their best shot, without regards to playing favorites among trades.

20121116 0548 360_wfavoritism_1003

While it’s generally true that you can’t make everyone happy, don’t minimize your chances by playing favorites!

Indeed, for construction projects to work well, somebody must perform the role of the wise parent that doesn’t play favorites. That also means not letting a whiny, “squeaky wheel” child run the show by throwing tantrums. Impartiality and taking care of each individual trade’s need should be the guiding light. It is balancing seemingly opposing tensions that makes building design such a beautiful challenge. Don’t give up. Find a way to make it work!

Top 13 Navisworks 2013 Shortcuts


20121030 1039 Navisworks Manage 2013 Capture

Navisworks is an amazingly simple yet powerful CAD and BIM program. It sometimes feels like AutoCAD, Revit and 3D Studio Max all rolled into one program but with the friendly simplicity of a video game for kids. It really is a fun program to work with!

To make your Navisworks Learning experience a pleasant and efficient one, I suggest you pay close attention to the Default Keyboard Shortcuts I will mention here. As time permits, I will create short and sweet videos demonstrating the essential steps and ingredients for Navisworks success.

Here’s a table with my current Top 13 Favorite Default Keyboard Shortcuts for Navisworks Manage 2013:

Shortcut Description Comment
PgDn Zooms to selected objects Very handy.
SHIFT, CTRL Used to modify the middle mouse button actions You must learn *all* these in the first 30 minutes!
ALT Turns the keytips on or off I must admit having second thoughts…
Ctrl + 1 Turns on Select Mode To snap out of the most useful shortcut Winking smile
Ctrl + 2 Turns on Walk Mode Most useful shortcut. This is where Navisworks shines!
Ctrl + 7 Turns on Orbit mode If you learn SHIFT and CTRL mouse combos this is less relevant
Ctrl + A Displays the Append dialog box Bring ‘em in!
Ctrl + F Displays he Quick Find dialog box Remember, BIM is about using relational databases. Here’s a good start!
Ctrl + F2 Opens the Clash Detective window Learn this in the first 90 minutes. This is where the real Navisworks begins.
Ctrl + F12 Toggles the Selection Tree window Another window to the database and BIM
F11 Toggles Full Screen mode This and shortcuts will make the world think you’re a wizard!
F12 Opens the Options Editor Know everything here
Shift + F7 Toggles the Properties window More data friendly features here.

As time permits I will post follow-up videos demonstrating why each of these shortcuts is the best invention since slice bread. Enjoy learning these! It will pay off in more ways than one.

The Omnipotent 3D EXTRUDE Command


I love omnipotent, Swiss-Army knife, jack-of-all-trades type commands. ALIGN & EXTRUDE fit this category beautifully, and they’re both very useful in a 3D world. 20121010 1411 Extrude CaptureHere I will focus on the EXTRUDE command.

To whet your appetite for learning this command, let me just say that for many of you this will be about the one and only command that you will need to model over 99% of the objects you will ever want. If not, you will probably need to explore LOFT.

First, EXTRUDE allows you to turn a flat 2D shape such as a rectangle or circle into a 3D BOX or CYLINDER. The workflow is very straightforward: 1. Create a rectangle, circle or similar closed, but not self-intersecting 2D shape using PLINE or 3DPOLY. 2. Execute EXTRUDE command. 3. In response to “Select objects to extrude or [MOde]: ” prompt, select the 2D shape by clicking it, using the L(ast) object created option or your favorite entity selection method, then press space bar or enter to let AutoCAD know you’re done selecting objects. 4. In response to “Specify height of extrusion or [Direction/Path/Taper angle/Expression]: ” prompt, specify the distance for the height of the extrusion. You’re done. You’ve become a beginner 3D modeler. Here’s a video showing you how to do it:

Extrude Command’s Height Option

Theoretically, this is all you may need to model everything you’ll ever need. If you’re skeptical, think in terms of Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and FEAR not!

Secondly, you can use EXTRUDE to create not just a cylinder but also a CONE and even a simple hip and valley roof. What makes this possible is the Taper Angle option. Experimenting with this command earlier today in preparation for writing this message, I noticed some new interactive features that make AutoCAD feel like turbo charged Sketchup. More on this later as time permits.

Extrude Command’s Taper Angle Option

Thirdly, you can use EXTRUDE to create more complex shapes such as a sugar cane candy or stair handrail. You do this by taking advantage of the Path option. For the sugar can candy a 2D polyline will work fine. For a more complex shape that isn’t limited to a 2D plane, you must either use a 3D poly or break the operation into multiple parts that you can later join using the gluey, sticky UNION command.

Finally, as if this wasn’t enough, you can get more creative and use the EXTRUDE command to replace the DONUT, DOUGHNUT, TORUS, SPHERE and REVOLVE commands. Talk about Swiss-Army-knife-like ability!

This is certainly one of the commands I would want to have if I was to be limited to a certain number. I consider this command to be one of the Top 10 most important commands for 3D modeling.

You can certainly learn basic 3D modeling in about 90 minutes. Start learning 3D today. Ask if you get stuck. Remember: Ask and you shall receive an answer. If you have any questions about the EXTRUDE command, I’d like to hear and will love to answer them.