September 13, 2014

ACA - Creating a New Tool Palettes Set

I came across this somewhat older article in the Autodesk® Knowledge Network recently: Creating a New Tool Palettes Set. Written for AutoCAD® Architecture 2011, I made a mental note to look into this when I had some time, because creating additional Tool Palettes File Locations is something that I do on occasion (more often than most users, no doubt). See the "Note" at the end if you are interested in why.

In the past, I had found that if I added a new folder path to the Tool Palettes File Locations node on the Files tab of the Options dialog and bumped it to the top of the list so that it would receive any newly added palettes, that the folder remained empty, and that added palettes went to the first editable location further down on the list. I did discover that if I copied the AcTpCatalog.atc file and all of the subfolders from a working palette location to my new folder, that new palettes would go into this location. Not wanting to duplicate palettes and images that were in the location from which I copied the AcTpCatalog.atc file and not wanting to have to delete them every time I set up a new tool palette set, I eventually deleted all of the palettes from a copied set (except for one, blank palette) and then set that aside as a "starter" location to be copied when making a new set.
Years later, I discovered that by editing AcTpCatalog.atc with an XML editor, I could strip out the blank palette as well. I find Microsoft's free XML Notepad 2007 to be quite useful for tasks such as this. It is also great if you move content location and need to edit the paths stored in a lot of tools, as you can search for/replace one string with another.

So, I was quite interested in the procedure in this article, but, since I had been doing what the article said to do and had not had success in the past, I wondered what I was doing wrong. The clue to that is in the note in Step 7. Unfortunately, while what the note says is correct (if the location you add already has a tool palette set, a new one will not be created), it does not go far enough. The procedure and this note assume that you only have one path specified under the Tool Palettes File Locations node. If you have more than one path, and any one of the paths have a tool palette set, adding a new, empty folder and moving it to the top of the list will not generate a new tool palette set in that empty folder. You have to remove all folders that have a tool palette set in order to have ACA generate a new tool palette set in the new (top of list) folder. If you would prefer not to mess with the Tool Palettes File Locations paths set in your working Profile (removing them will remove the palettes from any Tool Palette Groups you may have set up), simply create a new Profile for the purpose of generating an empty tool palette set. In the new Profile, remove all paths except the one pointing to your new, empty folder. When you click OK to dismiss the Options dialog, a new tool palette set will be generated, with one, blank tool palette.
You can delete the new Profile afterwards, if you have no further use for it, and then add the new folder to your working Profile's Tool Palettes File Locations. That is much easier than copying an existing tool palette set folder and then deleting the palettes defined therein. And, having done this once, you can make a copy of that folder and reserve that as a seed folder that you can copy for future new palette sets.

I typically have a long list of "local" paths under the Tool Palettes File Locations node in my ACA profiles, as I have found it makes it much easier to bring these into a new release if they are not all jumbled together along with the out-of-the-box palettes in the WorkspaceCatalog (Imperial) [or Workspace Catalog (Metric) or Workspace Catalog (Global), if you typically use one of those] that is present on initial installation. [This is based on installing the United States English language content. You may have one or more differently named locations, and may not have one or more of these, depending upon your location and the content options you have installed.]

While I do have a custom, personal catalog into which I put "finished" palettes, and could transfer the palettes that way, I also have a lot of custom, on-the-fly palettes which I like to bring along, and I find it easier to keep these as editable local palettes, not linked to a catalog. And, as Design Technology Manager, I also need to be able to edit the tool catalog content for all of the disciplines at my firm. The end users typically access these palettes by directly including the path to the network-based Tool Catalog in their Tool Palettes File Locations. But in case some are i-Dropping refreshable palettes into their workspaces, I have a profile in which I do the same, so that I can edit the linked tool and copy it back and have it replace the previous tool. This maintains the order of the tools on the palette better than deleting the old tool and replacing it with a new one. I also like to keep each discipline's palettes in a separate Tool Palettes File Location, so that I can modify my profile to show just that location when doing the edits, to avoid confusion over i-Dropped and directly included versions of the same palette.

One last thought: The image above shows my Tool Palettes File Locations in ACA 2010. The folders that start with "toolpalette - " (actual folder name starts with "ToolPalette - ", but ACA does not keep the capital letters captialized) are custom locations I have added for various groups of tools. For reasons lost to the mists of time, I started the names of my locations that way, rather than with "WorkspaceCatalog". (Perhaps ADT 2004 did not use "WorkspaceCatalog" for the default folder names, or perhaps when working with the new-to-2004 feature back then, I confused that with the Tool Catalogs that also hold the out-of-the-box tool catalogs?) There is an out-of-the-box folder in the Support folder under your user name that is named "ToolPalette". This holds the out-of-the-box vanilla AutoCAD palettes and is not included as a path under Tool Palettes File Locations in the ACA Profiles (but is used in the "AutoCAD" profile, if you chose to create that when you installed the program).

September 06, 2014

AutoCAD - Object Snap Tracking and Command: Line Docking Status

There is an issue in AutoCAD® with Object Snap Tracking when the Command: line is undocked and either Dynamic Input is disabled, or, if enabled, the Pointer Input component of dynamic input is disabled. Under these circumstances, when you acquire a point, and move the cursor to a position where you have a tracking line active, when you start to type the distance you want from the tracking point, the tracking line disappears from the screen, and if you press ENTER after typing the distance, the resulting point will not be where you want it.

Three ways to avoid this:
  1. Dock the Command: line.
  2. If you like your Command: line undocked, turn on Dynamic Input (if off) and verify that Pointer Input is enabled. See NOTE below.
  3. If you really do not like having Pointer Input enabled, you can leave it disabled (leave Enable Dimension Input where possible enabled and keep Dynamic Input turned on), but after you type in the distance value for the offset from the tracked point (and the tracking line has disappeared), BEFORE you press the ENTER key, move the mouse slightly to reactivate the tracking line, and THEN press the ENTER key.
The Screencast below shows several attempts to use Object Snap Tracking to locate the starting point of a Line 10'-0" at 0 degrees from the existing intersection of two lines:
  1. Undocked Command: Line, Dynamic Input turned off. [Fail]
  2. Docked Command: Line, Dynamic Input turned off. [Success]
  3. Undocked Command: Line, Dynamic Input turned on, Pointer Input disabled. [Fail]
  4. Undocked Command: Line, Dynamic Input turned on, Pointer Input enabled. [Success - notice that tracking line does not disappear when typing offset distance]
  5. Undocked Command: Line, Dynamic Input turned on, Pointer Input disabled. [Success - because mouse was nudged after offset distance was typed, restoring tracking line, before ENTER was pressed]

NOTE: If you want to minimize the amount of time that the Pointer Input box appears on screen, you can right click on the Dynamic Input tool on the Application Status Bar and choose Dynamic Input Settings from the context menu. In the Drafting Settings dialog that appears, on the Dynamic Input tag, choose the Settings button in the Pointer Input area and choose the As soon as I type coordinate data radio button in the Visibility area.
You can also set the DYNPIVIS System Variable to 0 .

I would like to see Autodesk address this deficiency, but from Discussion Group posts, it appears to have been around for quite a few releases, so you may want to make note of the workarounds above.

September 04, 2014

ACA 2015 - Highlighting and Selection Preview

Long-time users of Autodesk® AutoCAD® and Autodesk® AutoCAD® Architecture are likely familiar with the HIGHLIGHT system variable, which enables/disables highlighting of selected objects. Back before grips, enabling it was the only way to visually keep track of what objects were currently selected. The 2015 release adds a new effect to both selection highlighting and selection preview - the "glowing line" - along with the traditional dashed line (dashed and thickened for selection preview). Hardware acceleration has to be enabled in order for the glowing line effect to be displayed. The SELECTIONEFFECT System Variable allows you to choose between the two options (see below for details).
Selection Highlight with Glowing Lines

Selection Highlight with Dashed Lines

Selection preview allows you to see what object would be selected if you completed the current selection action. So, the object under the cursor that would be selected if you left clicked will get the selection preview as you move your cursor around the screen. If you start a selection rectangle or lasso (window or crossing) or a selection fence, the selection preview is applied to all objects that would be selected if you ended the selection method at that moment. The PRESELECTIONEFFECT System Variable (see below for details) allows you to choose between glowing lines and dashed/thickened lines. When glowing lines are enabled, you can distinguish already selected items from selection preview items by the color of the glow: a selected item will have a blue glow whereas an item that has selection preview applied have a gray glow.
Selection Preview with Glowing Lines

Selection Preview with Dashed and Thickened Lines

Depending upon your viewing preferences, machine capabilities and drawing size and complexity, you may find selection preview disruptive to your workflow. You do, however, have more control over this feature than just on or off. Selection preview can be globally turned on or off independently for two different conditions: when a command is active and when no command is active. This is controlled by the SELECTIONPREVIEW system variable (see below) or by using two of the toggles in the Options dialog, on the Selection tab, Preview area in the lower right corner, immediately under Selection preview. (The toggle settings reflect the current value of the SELECTIONPREVIEW system variable; checking or unchecking the toggles will modify the system variable accordingly.)
Control Selection Preview in the Options Dialog, Selection Tab

An additional level of control is provided by the PREVIEWFILTER system variable (see below for more details). This allows you to exclude certain types of objects from receiving the selection preview highlighting: objects on locked layers, external references, tables, groups, multiline text and hatches. In addition to assigning a value to the system variable directly, you can control this from the Options dialog, on the Selection tab, in the Preview area, by selecting the Visual Effect Settings button. This opens the Visual Effect Settings dialog; the Selection Preview Filter area on the right side contains toggles for excluding each of the previously listed object types (checked = no selection preview).
Exclude Object Types from Selection Preview in the Visual Effects Settings Dialog

Details on the system variables that affect highlighting and selection preview follow. The variable names are linked to the 2015 Online Help topic for that variable.

HIGHLIGHT (not saved; initial value 1)
0 - Turns off object selection highlighting
1 - Turns on object selection highlighting
(No effect on preselection highlighting, just selection highlighting.)

SELECTIONEFFECT (saved in registry)
0 - Dashed lines and no solid fill for faces.
1 - When hardware acceleration is on, displays glowing line highlighting effect and solid fill for faces.

SELECTIONPREVIEW (saved in registry; bitcoded sum of the following values)
0 - Off
1 - On when no commands are active
2 - On when a command prompts for object selection

PRESELECTIONEFFECT (saved in registry)
0 - Dashed and thickened lines, no solid fill for faces.
1 - When hardware acceleration is on, displays glowing line highlighting effect and solid fill for faces.

PREVIEWFILTER (saved in registry; bitcoded sum of the following values)
0 - Excludes nothing
1 - Excludes objects on locked layers
2 - Excludes objects in xrefs
4 - Excludes tables
8 - Excludes multiline text objects
16 - Excludes hatch objects
32 - Excludes objects in groups

HIGHLIGHTSMOOTHING (saved in registry)
0 - Turns off anti-aliasing effect on object selection highlighting.
1 - Turns on anti-aliasing effect on object selection highlighting.
(Hardware acceleration must be on. Affects both preselection and selection highlighting. On my computer at home, there was little to no effect on AEC objects, as seen in the image below; on my computer at work, the effect was more noticeable on AEC objects, and for all objects the stair-stepping effect had much shorter steps than the image below for lines without hightligh smoothing.)

Lines with HIGHLIGHTSMOOTHING Set to 0 [Left] and 1 [Right]

Walls with HIGHLIGHTSMOOTHING Set to 0 [Left] and 1 [Right]

September 03, 2014

AutoCAD: Resetting a User's Profile

Sometimes things "go south" and the program, or some part of it, stops working the way it is supposed to work. Trying to figure out the precise thing that is wrong can often take more time than it is worth, particularly if the issue is not one that has presented itself to you before. The usual suggestion is to run a repair on the installation, to see if that fixes the issue, and, if not, to do a reinstallation and, failing that, a clean uninstallation and reinstallation. (I usually jump straight from the repair installation to the clean uninstall/reinstall, as I have found few issues that a repair installation would not fix that did not require the clean uninstallation.)

One thing you can do before doing a clean uninstall/reinstall, is to see if the problem persists when a different user logs into the computer. If the problem does not occur for the new user, the issue may lie with user-specific files or settings. After backing up any and all customizations that user may have made, you can "reset" the user's profile (deleting it and letting AutoCAD® recreate it by re-running the secondary installer for that user) by following this procedure.

August 30, 2014

ACA 2015: Restoring AecCameraAdjust to Ribbon

I do not do a lot of rendering or visualization (changing to a non-orthographic view direction and setting the Visual Style to Shaded is about as far as I usually go), but those who do may make frequent use of the Adjust Camera position dialog.

Since the 2010 release, this dialog was accessible from the Render ribbon tab, on the flyout of the Camera panel, by selecting the Adjust tool, as seen below in its 2014 incarnation.

In AutoCAD® Architecture 2015, the Camera panel got a makeover, and the button styles of the Create Camera and Show Cameras tools were changed from Large with Text (Vertical) to Small With Text and stacked one above the other instead of being side-by-side. A blank third row was included, and the flyout eliminated, removing the Adjust tool with it.

Seems to me that the blank row is just crying out to have the Adjust tool placed there. The AECCAMERAADJUST command is still available in 2015; only the ribbon tool was omitted. Adding it back is quite easy, as can be seen in the Screencast below. Here is an outline of what I did - watch the video to see the specifics:
  1. Open the Customize User Interface dialog. [One way - type CUI and press the ENTER key at the Command: prompt; I selected Customize from the Workspace Switching tool pop-up menu on the Application Status Bar.]
  2. In the upper left pane, under the ACA node, expand the Ribbon node.
  3. Expand the Tabs node.
  4. Scroll down and expand the Render - ACA node. Make note that the actual name of the Camera panel is Render Camera - ACA. "Camera" is the display text.
  5. Expand the Panels node.
  6. Scroll down to the Render Camera - ACA node and expand it and the subnodes below it to examine its contents.
  7. Select the Render Camera - ACA node and verify the panel preview shows the correct panel. [There are often several similarly-named panels; checking for the actual panel name and verifying the preview can help prevent editing the incorrect panel.]
  8. In the lower left Command List pane, type adjust in the search box.
  9. Select the Adjust command from the list of search results.
  10. Verify that this is the correct command [AECCAMERAADJUST].
  11. Left-click, hold and drag the Adjust tool from the lower left pane up onto the upper left pane and drop it just below the Ribbon Control - Empty Row Aligner item under Row 3 of the Render Camera - ACA panel. Note that I find if I drag straight up to the upper left pane, the pane scrolls in unpredictable ways as the bottom boundary is crossed. That is why I take a somewhat circuitous route over the right panes, crossing over to the upper left pane from its right side. Also note that as you drag across the upper right pane, you will see blue markers to help indicate when you should drop the command. You want to have a blue line with short vertical lines at either end, right under the Ribbon Control - Empty Row Aligner item when you release the left mouse button.
  12. Select the Ribbon Control - Empty Row Aligner item, right click and choose Remove from the context menu.
  13. Select Yes when the alert dialog asks if you want to delete the element.
  14. In the upper left pane, select the newly added Adjust item.
  15. In the lower right pane, edit the properties of the Adjust tool. I chose to duplicate the properties that the 2014 version had. Refer to the image below the embedded Screencast if you do not have a previous version available.
  16. Select OK to dismiss the Customize User Interface dialog and ratify your edits.
  17. Wait for the program to process your changes, and then select the Render tab. You should see the amended Camera panel, with the added Adjust tool.
  18. Select the tool and verify that the Adjust Camera Position dialog opens.

Here are the properties of the Adjust tool in 2014.
As always, click on any reduced-size image to see the image full size; use the back arrow on your browser to return here, if necessary.

August 21, 2014

AutoCAD & AutoCAD LT Webinars

Autodesk is starting up a series of webinars for users of their products; the first few will be of interest to AutoCAD® and AutoCAD LT® users.

August 21, 2014, 2:00 pm US EDT (today!) Autodesk® AutoCAD® and AutoCAD LT® Webinar: ‘Taking blocks to the next level: Dynamic blocks!’

August 28, 2014, 2:00 pm US EDT Autodesk® AutoCAD® and AutoCAD LT® Webinar: ‘Smarter AutoCAD Drawings Using Attributes!’

September 4, 2104, 2:00 pm US EDT Autodesk® AutoCAD® and AutoCAD LT® Webinar: ‘Adventures in Annotative Scaling’

08/30/2014 UPDATE:
Miss a webcast? Catch a recorded version here.

August 13, 2014

ACA 2015: Tool Palettes Reverting to AutoCAD Palettes

If you have experienced the loss of the out-of-the-box tool palettes in AutoCAD® Architecture 2015, finding them replaced with the AutoCAD out-of-the-box palettes and you use the Drawing Management system (Project Navigator, etc.) and you leave the Project Navigator palette open when you close out of AutoCAD Architecture, you will want to read this post in the Autodesk Discussion Groups, by Bill Glennie (along with the entire thread, for context).

Others have reported a repair installation will fix the problem (back up your customizations first); Bill suggests that by closing the Project Navigator prior to closing the program, you can avoid a recurrence of the issue while waiting for Autodesk to come up with a solution.

July 26, 2014

Revit - Empty 3D View

While there can be many ways in which a 3D View can be "empty" - devoid of any visible elements - here is one that I had not thought about until coming across the issue in the Autodesk Discussion Groups. If you have done the usual checks for object visibility settings, filters, worksets, etc., and come up "empty," you may want to check the properties of the 3D View, to see if the Section Box is enabled. If it is, enable the visibility of the Section Box (category and instance) if necessary, and examine it. It should appear as a rectangular prism, with twelve sides and six faces. If all you see is a rectangle, then the Section Box was edited such that two opposite faces are co-planar, and the reason you do not see any model elements is that there is no volume inside the Section Box in which model elements, if present, could display.

You can use the Control grip on the Section Box to separate the co-incidental faces or, if you want to completely reset the Section Box, you can disable it for that 3D View and then re-enable it, if desired. The Screencast embedded below illustrates this issue and its resolution.

The "full" Screencast, with Commands, Dialog Boxes and Settings tracks, can be viewed on the Screencast website, here.

July 17, 2014

Microsoft Update Causes Crashes in ACA/AMEP

In case you have not seen this yet, a recent (July 2014) Microsoft Update, KB2962872, causes instability/crashes when using Internet Explorer-based features in AutoCAD® Architecture and AutoCAD® MEP, such as the Detail Component Manager, the Structural Member Catalog and the Project Browser. Read more at the following links:

Up and Ready Blog
Autodesk Knowledge Network
Autodesk AutoCAD Architecture General Discussion Group: STRUCTURAL CATALOG
Windows Security Patch Breaks Project Navigator

July 12, 2014

Controlling Did You Know Balloon Notifications Revisited

Here is a quick update on this post from three years back. The InfoCenter area and Balloon Notifications button remain on the System tab of the Options dialog, but in the 2014 and 2015 releases, have moved up to the middle of the right column. I made a brief Screencast to show users at my firm how to avoid having to manually close the "Did You Know" messages in the 2014 release, and have decided to share that here, also: