Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The AutoCAD/LT 2016 Beta Test: stats and more

With this AutoCAD 2016 series release, 2000+ Beta Testers tried it first before you received your download link tis week: they tested it, used it, reported their findings in survey after survey, and did their best to make it stable for you to use. Where you part of the 2000+? If not, we hope that after reading this you will throw your hat in for the next one and join in/participate.

What is Beta Testing? It is Second level, external pilot-test of software before commercial quantity production. At the Beta Test stage, the product has already passed through the first-level, internal pilot-test ( called Alpha Test) where glaring defects have been removed. But since the product may still have some minor problems that require user participation, it is released to selected customers for testing under normal, everyday conditions of use to spot the remaining flaws.

Beta Testing is not about adding features not already there, it's not about addressing previous software version shortcomings, and it's not about making the software perfect for every customer Autodesk has out there.

Here are the stats from Autodesk's AutoCAD 2016 beta testing: note that this was not just for plain AutoCAD, but almost all of it's primary variants as well. Yes, that's more than one software package.

Autodesk reports that a little over 2000 trusted worldwide customers and partners participated in this round of Beta testing. They honest feedback, shared ideas, and reported issues to help make this the best release of AutoCAD possible. From their feedback, many improvements were made and issues fixed.

By participating in this Beta program, these top product experts and best spokespeople offered non-biased advice and commentary on this release.  They filed over 400 problem reports, made over 150 feature requests, filled out more surveys that a normal person does in a lifetime, and actively participated in the beta forums.

Let's do the math: 2000+ users (I doubt that plus sign means there were a million users more) beta testing Three/Four/Fiver variants of AutoCAD 2016 is several countries. You probably run into or pass more people on your daily morning commute to work: these 2000+ users will not be able to test and validate every aspect of every variant and almost impossible for them to meet your exact daily workflow needs. Also remember, these folks also have day jobs, just like you, so their testing is done after hours and on their own time. How much time is free in your workday?
With AutoCAD 2016 out, are you testing it? If you find any flaws, the beta testers probably did not get to it to replicate but all is not lost: you can report these to Autodesk HERE. But ask yourself, would you have spotted this flaw if you were on the beta testing user team? If the answer is yes, why not do yourself and fellow end users a huge favor and join up. With annual releases of AutoCAD, Autodesk should be ramping up for the next round of beta testing during the second half of this year. Sign up now at


Friday, March 20, 2015

LT2016: New, Changed and dropped commands

New AutoCAD LT 2016 Commands and System Variables List:
  • CLOSEALLOTHER command: Closes all other open drawings, except the current active drawing.
  • DIGITALSIGN command: Provides a separate command to add a digital signature to a drawing. Removes the Digital Signature tab from the SECURITYOPTIONS command.
  • GOTOSTART command: Switches from the current active drawing to the Start tab.
  • SCRIPTCALL command: Executes a sequence of commands the same as the SCRIPT command, with the additional capability of also executing nested scripts.
  • SYSVARMONITOR command: Displays the System Variable Monitor dialog box.
  • DIMLAYER variable: Specifies a default layer for new dimensions.
  • DIMPICKBOX variable: Sets the object selection target height, in pixels within the DIM command.
  • DIMTXTRULER variable: Controls the display of ruler when editing a dimension text.
  • GALLERYVIEW variable: Controls the type of preview in the ribbon drop-down galleries.
  • LINEFADING variable: Controls whether line displays are faded when hardware acceleration is on and you have exceeded the line density limits.
  • LINEFADINGLEVEL variable: When hardware acceleration is on, controls the intensity of the line fading effect.
  • REVCLOUDCREATEMODE variable: Specifies the default input for creating revision clouds.
  • REVCLOUDGRIPS variable: Controls the number of grips displayed on a revision cloud.
  • SELECTIONEFFECTCOLOR variable: Sets the color of the glowing highlighting effect on object selection.
  • STARTINFOLDER variable: Stores the drive and folder path from where the product was started.
  • SYSMON variable: Specifies whether changes to system variables values are monitored.
  • WORKINGFOLDER variable: Stores the drive and folder path of the operating system's working folder or current directory for the process.
  • XREFOVERRIDE variable: Controls the display of object properties on referenced layers.

Updated AutoCAD LT 2016 Commands and System Variables LIST:
  • DIM command: Creates multiple types of dimensions within a single command session.
  • OPTIONS command's Online Tab: Automatic saving to your A360 Drive has been removed. Instead, save or copy the drawing files that you want to upload to your A360 account directly to your local A360 Drive folder.
  • PAGESETUP and PLOT commands: now display fully expanded and add PDF options button.
  • REVCLOUD command: Creates a revision cloud. New options for modifying an existing revision cloud and creating rectangular and polygonal revision cloud have been added. Rectangular is the new default revision cloud creation method.
  • UCS, VIEW and -VPORTS commands have been updated to include new features outlined above.

Obsolete AutoCAD LT 2016 Commands and System Variables List:
  • DIM1 command: Obsolete but still included in the product to maintain legacy script compatibility
  • NEWTAB command: Replaced by the Start tab. Use STARTMODE to control the display of the Start tab. Use GOTOSTART or Ctrl+Home to switch focus from the current drawing to the Start tab
  • WELCOMESCREEN variable: Removed.

Watch the AutoCAD LT 2016 New Features Overview Video here
Tour the AutoCAD LT 2016 User Interface


LT2016: Zoom to infinity... and Beyond.

Autodesk announced the release of the 2016 versions of their AutoCAD line on Thursday March 19, 2015. If you are on subscription, and in the correct time-zone with stars aligned in your favor, you might, just might, see a download link as soon as today.  Autodesk's official announcement, as well as website update and the availability of the free 30-day trial downloads, will start Monday March 23, 2015.

There many good updates and additions in this version of AutoCAD/LT 2016, and in this blog, we will highlight the many features we found worth exploring and hope you get excited enough to try them soon.
  • No file format change: bucking a trend they set many years ago, LT2016 will be the fourth version of AutoCAD to still default to the 2013DWG format, just like LT2013, LT2014 and LT2015. For one more year at least you can freely exchange files with those AutoCAD users without having to 'save down'.
  • ZOOM is finally fixed: ever zoom in or out with your mouse' scroll wheel and notice that LT2015 and older would simply stop, forcing you to use REGEN command just to be able to continue? Well, no more my friend: starting in LT2016 you can scroll-zoom so far in or out that you will move your drawing into oblivion. Luckily for us, a ZOOM Extents will snap it all back.
  • Revision Clouds are now object types: no longer are they aimless Pline arcs that are impossible to reuse once created. These now behave like real objects, similar to closed Polygons: make larger or smaller just like you would a closed Pline shape, even add and drop nodes. LT2016 even offers predefined shapes (like Rectangular revision clouds) that you can place around objects in two clicks. Click HERE to see a video of this new feature in action.

  • DIM command: all new, this is no longer that old DOS-days command that forced you to type every style of dimension needed. This one command can be used to totally replace all other individual dimensioning commands combined. Simply start DIM, click on any item and AutoCAD LT2016 will start the correct tool, or just click on two points to draw the dimension. It's that flexible: select a line, an arc, a circle, and angled object, it just knows what to do next.
  • Another great enhancement to dimensioning: if you create a dimension and try to overlap it with another dimension at the same location, a pop-up menu appears that allows you to automatically move (that distance is controlled by the DIMDLI variable), break up that existing dimension, replace it entirely, or just overlap it if you insist on doing so. Click HERE to see these new abilities in action.
  • MTEXT enhancements have been added in LT2016: you can now add a frame, or box, around MTEXT objects, plus there is now the ability to Match Text Formatting inside the MTEXT editor (as well as Mleader text, Dimensions and Tables too).
  • Geometric Center object snap has been added to LT2016: yes, its now a thing, you no longer need to use convoluted methods to find the center of a shape.
  • MOVE and COPY commands have been enhanced in LT2016 to allow you to move a large amount of objects without the hesitation and exceptional slowness now experienced in older versions of LT.
  • LT2016 expands on preview abilities first introduced in LT2015 to help you predict an action before you commit to it: Command Previews have been added to ERASE, STRETCH, ROTATE and SCALE commands, and previewing has also been added to Properties as well (for example, you will see object colors change as you hover over colors to select from in Properties).
  • If LT2016 is installed on a fully supported system that allows for hardware acceleration to be on, you get the option to change the Selection Effect/Drag Color (helpful if the default color is just too dark to see on your monitor).
  • XREF Enhancement: You need to change the display color of objects in your xrefed file to better show off the objects in your top file. So you start LAYER command, change all the layer colors to a dark gray, click Apply, OK out, only to discover the last person to touch the XREF set the object colors to be unique and different from their layer colors. In LT2016, simply turn on the XREFOVERRIDE variable, and your top file will override the display of those objects to match your desired BYLAYER setting without actually changing the referenced file itself. XREF layers also no longer appear inside PROPERTIES Palette since they cannot be selected there (they will remain on display in the Ribbon Layers List but greyed out for quick visual distinction). Click HERE to see a video of these and previous enhancements in AutoCAD/LT2016.
  • LT2016 (and Autodesk) are finally embracing PDF file fully: PDF underlays are more nimble inside DWG files. PDF files from LT2016 now are improved as well: you can search text inside these new PDF files regardless of whether you use TTF or SHX fonts, Unicode Characters, and whether you use MTEXT or TEXT to create those words. Plotting to PDF is now faster with built-in optimizations that better handle complex shapes and hatches. You can also include hyperlinks and bookmarks into your PDF files when your PLOT or PUBLISH to that format.
    PDF options (like whether to turn on layers, set LineMerge and more) are readily available from the PLOT or PUBLISH dialog pop-ups, and PLOT command in LT2016 has (4), yes four, preset different output options for PDF files for you to pick from so you don't have to reset when you need higher or lower resolution results.
  • Layouts have improved in LT2016: when Publishing to multi-page PDFs, the Layouts Names appear are Page Names. You can Drag and Move or Copy Layout Tabs even in the hidden overflow menu (an inability added with LT2015). You can now also dock the Layouts Tabs above the adjacent status line instead of keeping it inline.
  • CLOSEALLOTHER command has been added so you can close all the other open files but keep your current one open.
  • With GALLERYVIEW variable turned off, you can finally hide all the Ribbon previews of Blocks, Text Styles, Dim Styles, Mleader Style and others.
  • HELP has been enhanced to assist you to find where buttons and icons in the Ribbon or the Status bar are located even if there are not visible when you seek them.
  • The new Graphics Engine first introduced in LT2015 has been improved in LT2016 to run better, smoother, and hopefully run better on your system than the previous version. We noticed an improvement on many of our systems.
  • SYSVARMONITOR variable has been added: this is a great way to start keeping an eye on those critical variables that seem to create havoc when they change. LT2016 now gives you, the user, a way to store your favorite setting and show you in a pop-up if that variable has changed. You can add or drop variables from this pop-up as you see fit.

If you have not implemented LT2015 in your office yet for whatever reason, you might want to consider skipping it in favor of this AutoCAD LT2016. In testing to date this seems to be a stable version with new features worth using every day. ◦

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

How to Explode Text to outlines in LT

Do you ever wish you could get an outline of your text as closed Polylines, but that hollow TTF Windows TrueType Font (or Autodesk's SHX stick fonts) you found on your PC or the internet is just not doing it for you? AutoCAD/LT can do this with the classic WMFOUT command that creates a WMF file with exploded objects, then you use WMFIN command to reimport those exploded objects back in.

Simple. Well, not quite: somewhere between the two commands a little scaling and resizing takes place, and with fonts you also need to tweak and adjust the width or WMFIN will just bring that text back as TEXT entities.

Here is what appears to be a very long method to do it correctly: once you get a hang of the steps, this is indeed quite a simple task.
  1. Setup the text style to use an width other than exactly 1. It can be
    .9999 or 1.000001 for example.
  2. Create the text or use property painter to 'paint' the new info to
    existing text.
  3. Some where in the drawing, create a line that will be used for
    reference later. THIS IS IMPORTANT.
  4. At the command prompt, type WMFOUT.
  5. Select the text and the reference line (real easy if you have the text
    on a separate layer).
  6. Erase (or freeze) the 'real' text but keep the reference line.
  7. At the command prompt, type WMFIN & select the wmf file you just created
  8. Notice the wmf doesn't come in at the same scale - the reason for the
    reference line.
  9. After selecting the base point, use the default scale & rotation
  10. Now, move the block made by importing the WMF so one endpoint of the
    wmf's ref line matches up with the corresponding endpoint of the original
    ref line.
  11. At the command prompt, type SCALE and select the wmf block
  12. For the base point, select the endpoint you used to match up ref lines
    with - the common endpoint.
  13. At the command prompt, type R for reference.
  14. Pick the 'common' endpoint.
  15. Pick the other endpoint of the wmf's ref line.
  16. Lastly pick the other endpoint of the original ref line.
  17. Now you can explode the block and the text should be lines.
  18. If you're using True Type fonts, you'll get lots of little lines. To clean
    it up easily do the following from 19-26 unless you really want to just sit there erasing and cleaning up manually.
  19. After the explode, use CHPROP or PROPERTIES and select the objects with the PREVIOUS selection option.
  20. Put these objects on a layer by themselves for easy removal.
  21. Draw a rectangle around the text.
  22. Use the BOUNDARY command and pick a point between the rectangle and the
  23. Freeze or lock every layer but the layer the text is on and erase it.
  24. Change the boundary you created to that layer for easy removal later
  25. Use the boundary command again and pick "inside" the outline of the
  26. Freeze or lock every layer but the layer the first boundary is on and
    erase it.
You now have the text in a outline that you can use as you wish. Enjoy. ◦