Column 9 – Part 2

So you want to be a CAD Monkey? continued……

Menu bar

Secondly, you can access the Menu bar. Just as with any basic program (word processing comes to mind) that lists “File, Edit, View…” across the top of a window, CAD can also be used in similar fashion.

Say you want to draw that line again, only this time using the Menu Bar method. No sweat. Follow the proper sequence through the contextual menus (I believe it’s Draw>Line) and your cross-hairs again have lost that square appearance. Pull down menus generally provide you with an exhaustive list of options for your chosen command.

No matter how you choose to generate a line, when the line is a rubber-banding line you can specify a line’s length and orientation. For example, typing @3<0 tells CAD that the distance you are specifying is from the last point you selected. The 3 is the distance, and the less-than symbol (<) tells CAD you are designating the angle at which the line is to be drawn.

NOTE: CAD recognizes angles with a coordinate system. It begins at 3 o’clock (0 degrees) and works positively counter-clockwise (12 noon is 90 degrees, 9 is 180, etc.).

Keyboard shortcuts

One can scurry with the mouse to and from drawing to select tools and continue drafting, but all this movement is both wasteful and tiring. As Chip Cullen taught us last time around in his Photoshop column, Keyboard shortcuts save time.

Although this aspect of drafting is more limited than the other three, it can simplify repetitive tasks.

Suppose you want to remove that line you drew earlier. First select the line by moving the cross-hairs over any part of the line and press the left mouse button. Little squares will appear on the line. These are known as “handle bars.” Any time you select items you have drawn, these appear.

The total number of handle bars is dependent upon the item you have selected. Being a line, CAD’s default handle bar count is three–one for each end and one for the middle.

Now that you’ve selected what you want to remove, you have two keyboarding options. Like Photoshop and most other programs, CAD uses combination key tasks to simplify user input. Holding “control” and pressing “x” will cut (i.e. delete) whatever you’ve selected. You can also press “backspace” or “del” (delete).


Now it’s fair to suppose that you’re going to want to draw more than lines in a two-dimensional drawing. No worries–the basic tools necessary for creating two-dimensional drawings are visible in the default setting (see above image). These are the Draw and Modify toolbars and are aligned vertically on the left. Each tool within a toolbar possesses a unique identifying icon.

To find out the name of an unknown tool, do as Chip instructed and let your mouse arrow hover over that particular tool; the tool title will appear in a pop-up box. Once you learn their titles, you can use the Command window which can be faster.

As your CADing ability increases, you’ll find yourself needing more tools. If you move your pointer over one of the two described toolbars (but not on any particular tool) and press your right mouse button, CAD will provide you with a comprehensive list of other toolbars. You’ll find that selectivity is key when using these, however, as the more of these you have open, the smaller your drafting space becomes.

Closing note

There are countless manuals out there that can provide you with know-how in a CAD environment. Two I have found useful in my short four years of experience are AutoCAD Instant Reference and Mastering AutoCAD 2000 both by George Omura.

The former is less expensive and covers the basics well. If you are feeling brave and want the potential of exploring CAD’s more complicated capacity, the latter is more comprehensive and supplies a tutorial how-to CD.


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