Thursday, March 25, 2010

LT2011 (AutoCAD 25 if you want to count from day one) is here

If you are using LT2010 right now, this version is a good tweak to those things you find slightly unfinished. If you are on LT2009, this is probably the one you want to get on to capture that DWG2010 format. If you are in LT2008 or lower, buckle up my friend, this version is going to take some getting used to... .

So What's new? Many core features have matured, customizations and screen presence are improved, and and a few niceties have been added that will excite the experienced user more than the casual one.


The Display: they changed it! After 20+years of black (or white) backgrounds and contrasting little dots, they finally tweaked it to look like a drafting background. No more dots, instead there is a faint grid that looks like an engineering graph paper: toggle it on and off with GRID command (or F7) as always. The default background is a dark gray in modelspace (yes you can still change it, but give this one a try).

The Ribbon: yep, it's still here. Yes, you can get rid of it too. But before you do, give it's new look a try. There is now an added "cycle" button at the end of the list of tabs that will present the ribbon in two formats or turn it off.
In addition to the traditional Ribbon look (cluttered with buttons), you can cycle to have them display as Panel Buttons (Ribbon-New), or minimized, or totally hidden of course.
Also on the Ribbon you will find some added content to the INSERT Tab (Design Center and Autodesk Seek, their online Library of DWG content), and the View Tab (access to the toolbars and User Interface added).

The CUI: Additional Ribbon Controls have been added that allow the Panel Tabs to re-size with your AutoCAD screen and try to keep as many of them visible as possible. They call them Fold Panels.

The QAT: Workspaces pulldown menu to display your current workspace as well as any additional workspaces are conveniently located out off the way right next to the big red A (they also managed to include Save and SaveAs commands too). Yes, if you select the AutoCAD LT Classic Workspace LT2011 will look just like LT2008 or lower.

The Big Red A: Still there, you can still clutter it with all your favorites that it becomes unwieldy, like that back room closet you've been meaning to clean out but have not yet.

Navigation Bar: there is a floating Navigation Bar (see screenshot link at the top of this page) that has the 2D Steering Wheel, Pan and Zoom commands that may help a user that likes to click even more buttons. You can turn it on or off per Workspace. Does not seem to be customizable though.

UCS icon: In addition to the classic white, you can also set it to a new color option to keep track of your X, Y and Z directions. Green for Y, Red for X and Blue for Z heights.


Bad News first: if you've resisted using the right-click button for pop-ups, and are happy with it doing nothing more than or bring up Osnaps (shudder), stop reading now, click off, cancel your cell phone service and get a land line. There is a sears catalog on it's way to you in the mail that contains some real cool fab stuff Dude.

Isolate Objects: regardless of what layer they are on, if you select a few objects then right-click and select ISOLATE, all other objects are hidden from view.
Hide Objects: Similar to above, except the entities you select are hidden from view.
End Hide and Isolate Objects above by right-clicking and selecting End Object Isolation. How would you know if objects are hidden? A little icon appears at the Status line.

Select Similar: if you are an old AutoCAD user, this is the SSX command in LT just for you. The command is simple: select an object (or more than one object), right-click and pick Select Similar (screenshot), and based on settings you've previously set, all other objects with similar settings are also included in the selection set (color, layer, linetype, linetype scale, lineweight, plot style, object style and/or name). Object Style means entity types, Name applies to blocks an xrefs etc.

PICKADD variable: has a new setting, 2, which is the default and is designed to work with SELECT command to hold entities this command finds for your next command. Think of it as a way to give up on the PREVIOUS selection method.

Overlapping Entities: Turn on the feature at the Status Bar and watch your cursor. As you pass over overlapping objects in your file, a new icon displays and a Selection pop-up appears. On it you will see a list of every overlapping object's property, select it and you will only edit that object.

Add Selected: Select a Line, right-click and pick Add Selected, AutoCAD launches the LINE command and has all the basic objeect properties that match your picked line set and ready for you to draw (color, layer, linetype, linetype scale and so on). A great alternative to Matchprop command, draw it right and matching the first time.

Transparency: no, this is not about draw order. This is about making objects transparent (you can see objects through them). How cool is that: explore the screenshots below, I applied transparency to the two hatches and one line. You can control the Transparency level from 0 (no transparency) to 90 (very faint on my screen). Transparency is an Object Property too, you can assign it per entity or to a layer (or to a layer in a viewport only, and not that same layer anywhere else). Oh yes, Transparency is a feature you can plot too, it's not just a display setting like Xref and locked-layers fading.

Hatch command: big improvements here, for one thing it is now interactive (if you keep the Ribbon on). Simply start HATCH command, the Ribbon changes, and you are in the command ready to select an internal point and get a preview. You can change settings on the fly on the Ribbon. And being able to preview your hatch (or many hatches) before committing is amazingly easy to use. I can see a lot of casual users getting caught off-guard with this one (My Hatches won't stick...). Layer and other properties settings can be set before you hatch.
Speaking of hatches, grips work much better now and with the introduction of the improved center grip you can scale and angle a hatch on the fly. Grip editing of hatches is finally here. Oh, and hatches now have an option for background color: so you can have your pattern and your solid hatch all in one.

Polylines: Add extra grips to an existing Pline by selecting it, right-clicking, and adding. Anywhere you want it on the Pline. Add as many as you want. You can select only one segment of a Pline too, just hold CTRL down when selecting the segment you want.

Splines: easier to draw, you can create them now using Fit Points (click points on screen and the spline truly follows your points) or Control Vertices (seems to behave like Splines do now, but maybe I'm not doing it right).

JOIN command: works on Lines, Arcs, Plines, 3D Plines and Splines (with limitations like sharing endpoints). Coplanar limitation no longer applies to this command.

Missing SHX Files: We all get files with missing fonts, or worse, missing shape files we cannot find to replace that just pop-up continuously every time you open the DWG file. Well, no more. Set FONTALT to None and you have the option to Ignore missing SHX files when you open a drawing. You can even set this as a default behavior forever. Another NOOB disaster waiting to happen, so be careful.
Note that if a Text Style is missing a font, you will see a little yellow alert icon next to the font in STYLE command's pop-up. Nice touch.

Linetypes with Text: you draw this elaborate Pline, assign it a linetype with text, and BAM! all the letters are upside-down. No more in LT2011, this no longer happens with the core linetypes. For your own custom linetypes with text, you need to change the Rotation option from R=0.0 to U=0.0 (U is short for UPRIGHT).

HELP, or F1 keyboard key: Web-based online help is included, as long ass you have a live internet connection, with the theory that this allows Autodesk to update it regularly and add content to it as time goes by (like additional Learning Resources, aka tutorials, and expanding the New Features Workshop perhaps).

XREFs: if you have the Xref Tab open and select an Xref in your drawing it's name will highlight in the Tab.

Windows 7: if you use this new operating system and have TASKBAR variable turned on, you can use Win7's preview feature at the taskbar to sneak a peak at all of your current open drawing files. AutoCAD will also populate it's own 'recent documents' list in the Start button.


SKETCH command: Not only is this not your father's Sketch command, it's now in LT. Improvements include the fact that it now draws true Splines and can be edited to smooth out the rough edges.

QDIM (Quick Dimension) command: Best way to create a quick string of dimensions is finally here, simply use a crossing window then locate your dimension lines. That's three clicks for one long string of dimensions through many points.

LAYERP (Layer Previous) command: Go back to a previous Layer state without using LAYERSTATE. A quick fix for when you need it on the fly.

Gradient Hatch: Improvements in Hatch command, if you need this ability.


OBJECTISOLATIONMODE system variable controls whether isolated/hidden objects persist between drawing sessions. A light-bulb icon on the status bar indicates whether object isolation is active in the drawing.

CETRANSPARENCY system variable sets the transparency property for new objects.

TRANSPARENCYDISPLAY system variable enables you to temporarily turn off transparency display (similar to the behavior of the lineweight display button). This does not affect plotting. Also available as a Status Bar Button.

PLOTTRANSPARENCY system variable allows you to have the option to turn on/off transparency when plotting. The Plot and Page Setup dialogs both include a checkbox for transparency, similar to the behavior for plot styles. NOTE: Transparent plotting is turned off by default, because transparency is rasterized for plotting and can slow down plotting in certain situations (like old plotters and their equally old drivers).

MIRRHATCH system variable enables you to mirror hatches while retaining their orientation. (similar to the MIRRTEXT variable.) Set to 0, mirroring hatches maintains their original angle. When MIRRHATCH is set to 1, the hatch angle mirrors along with the rest of the objects.

The Hatch Object Limit system variable (HPOBJWARNING) has been increased to 10,000 from 1,000 (chokes 32bit systems, so be careful).

Look for future content on my blog as we explore these new features in more detail, and explore what got left out compared to full AutoCAD and how can an LT user survive without them.

Below are screenshots, click to enlarge if you are interested:

The Updated Interface

The Optional scaled down Ribbon

The minimum Ribbon

The Ribbon Options

The View Tab and accessing Toolbars

Isolate and Hide Objects

Select Similar command

Overlapping Objects selection

Add Selected command

Transparency. Finally

The friendlier HATCH ccommand

Plines, the next step

More to come later. Happy Cadding!