I frequently get asked by architects, designers and engineers how to increase their speed using AutoCAD on a day to day basis. Typically , they are looking for that magic speed tip to make their day move faster. I normally respond with something to the effect “the magic speed tip does not exist.” But I follow that up by saying “you can pickup as much as 30 minutes a day in lost productivity IF you spend some time setting up AutoCAD to work faster”.
Sorry. It means you have to work at it to save the 30 minutes a day. So what does that mean? Well, it means you spend time organizing and standardizing AutoCAD to work more efficiently for you. Here is the short list of the “To Do’s” to get you there.
1. Drawing Templates
2. Blocks and Dynamic Blocks
3. Tool Palettes
4. Using the keyboard and right click menus
5. Using Design Center
There are other parts of the AutoCAD program you can modify to increase your speed. The above list does the most for greater productivity and speed. Other things, such as creating a tool bar, or developing a program to run a specific routine sometimes only provide a incremental speed increase. So, let’s go over the list. In this post we will cover Drawing Templates first.
Drawing Templates: you may be using the ones AutoCAD supplies or maybe you have created your own. If you have already created a template, maybe its time to open it up and see if its up to date. A good template has the following characteristics:
1. Establish Drawing limits and units. Set he limits to show your whole model. Setting larger limits, works best especially if you are doing architecture or site survey work. It’s not possible to draw a large building if limits are set at 25’ x 25’. You know you have a problem if the 100’ line you drew just zings right off the screen.
Set units up typically on what you normally use all the time. Don’t bother changing them in your template if you need to work in another set of units. You can always create a new dimension style to show alternate units. But if you find your projects are in other units a lot, then copy your template, change the units to the correct type, and save under a new name. Viola, you have template number 2.
2. Add text styles and dimension styles to your template. Sometimes this gets sticky because there are so many scales to use. Eliminate the work of creating too many styles to just a few by using Annotative Scale. Make sure to set model scale to the scale you use most often when printing. I know, you probably scrunched up your face, thinking you don’t like annotative scale. Well, learn how to master it, its your friend and it will save you a lot time, instead of fooling around with all those styles set for various scales.
3. Create a limited number of layers. Just enough to get you going. Don’t bother putting every layer you need on earth into your template. You can add layers to your project as you need them, or better yet, let your blocks insert layers into your project. That way you don’t have to re-create them all the time, and it builds your layer listing too. Basic layers would be a object layer, text layer, dimension layer etc. Again the important ones you use 100% of the time in starting a project.
Additionally, pay careful attention to how you name your layers. Layers should be organized with a prefix and a category, so certain layer types can be grouped together. For example, take walls. You have new walls, existing walls, and demolished walls. You could have a prefix A (for architectural, followed by Walls (the category) and then the type (new, existing and demolished). When you use the layer manager, it speeds up time when you can look at a set of layers in a short list, rather than a long list. Case in point, architects are famous for having hundreds of layers. It tough to manage all of that.
4. Create separate Title sheets and save them as drawing files. Then insert the ones you most commonly use into your template. Keep the other sheets you do not use that often in a folder where you can pick one up and add it to your project as needed. Adding sheets saves time by avoiding looking and inserting them all of the time.