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AutoCAD Deep Dive Series: WBLOCK & Sharing Blocks to Other Drawings

Everything is Awesome,
Everything is cool when you’re part of a team
Everything is Awesome when you’re living out a dreams
Everything is better when we stick together,
Side by side you and I gonna win forever?
Let’s party forever

- from The Lego Movie

1960s lego adphoto credit – ricoslounge

So you’ve created the perfect block, one that generations will be talking about, one that takes your drawing from ok to a work of art…. now what? How do you take that and start using it in all of your drawings? How do you share this with others on your team or within your organization?

Love it or hate it but AutoCAD always has more than one way of doing things. Many times this is because of how long its been around, or how it had to do things 25-years ago due to technological limitations. Other times its just comes from the growth and maturity or from acquisitions of other technology. Blocks are a prime example of how there are multiple ways to do something. Different methods to create blocks, various features to insert blocks, and many options to share the blocks with other drawings and other people. With blocks we can build a symbol library of individual files, we can copy & paste between drawings, we can build tool palettes and we can use the Design Center to “steal” content from one drawing to another.

Copy & Paste

AutoCAD is fully integrated with the Windows Clipboard, in fact there are AutoCAD specific features wrapped around the clipboard.

Select the block (or objects) you want to copy, right-click, and from the Clipboard flyout select the desired option: Note: the standard Windows Ctrl + x, Ctrl + c, and Ctrl + p also work

  • Copy adds the selected object(s) to the Windows Clipboard which you can Paste into the same drawing or into a different drawing.
  • Cut removes the selected object(s) from the active drawing, adding them to the Windows Clipboard. You can Paste these objects into the same drawing or into a different drawing
  • Copy with Base Point is the same as Copy except that it prompts you to select the base point of the objects. When Pasted opposed to using the lower left corner of the extents of the copied objects as the insertion point it will use the point you select as the base point.
  • Paste to Original Coordinates does exactly as advertised, pastes the copied objects to the exact geometric location as the original copied objects, even into a different drawing.
  • Paste as Block takes the copied objects from the Clipboard and creates a block definition and inserts a block instance as the geometry is pasted. A random name, well as least what seems random, is set as the name. The RENAME feature works well to quickly adjust the name to something more appropriate. Careful with this feature as if you Paste as Block a block you will end up with a block within a block.

Block Library & WBLOCK (Kicking it Old School!)

Blocks within AutoCAD go waaayyyy back, we’re talking DOS, tablets, digitizers, and pen plotters. The first implemented method of sharing blocks was to create a folder of files, each file representing one block. These files can be inserted using the Block insert command. Your Blocks are organized based on folders and sub-folders of files. This also makes it extremely easy to build menu features, slide libraries or toolbar buttons to insert the specific blocks.

This is still a supported and valid method, in fact during my reseller days I visited many organizations that maintain their symbol library in this fashion.

Using the INSERT command you can Browse and select any drawing to insert as a block.

Use the WBLOCK to export (write) the drawing, a portion of the drawing, or a specific block to its own file.

Here’s a video on the process, with a bonus tip on using INSERT to add standard layers to a drawing!

AutoCAD Deep Dive Series: Creating Blocks

Before you can run you must learn to walk. Before you can master blocks you must be able to create them. Carving Chinese Block

Image “Carving a Chinese Printing Block” by Jonathan Kos-Read - Flickr

To create a block you start with creating the geometry. There isn’t really much of a limitation in that you can create any type of objects you want, except remember that the key is consistency. Blocks within AutoCAD serve many purposes but mostly to provide a convenient method to reuse content while maintaining consistency from drawing to drawing. Try to remember consistency as you build your blocks so that you get a familiar look and feel to everything you create. What about the layers the objects are on? Good question, and conveniently enough I’ve covered this before in our Deep Dive Series on Blocks, which you can read here. The key to working with blocks and layers is understanding the importance of Layer 0. If the geometry contained within the block resides on layer 0 this geometry will take on the properties of the layer the block is placed on. Therefore if the block is on a red layer with a hidden line type all objects within the block on layer 0 will appear red with a hidden line type.

Creating Blocks

To create a new block definition you use the Make Block feature. Make Block can be initiated by typing B (and pressing Enter) with the keyboard or by selecting Create Block from the Insert Tab > Block Definition Panel. Make New Block

  1. Specify the Name of the Block. The block name must be unique within the drawing. The drop-down lists all block definitions that exist in the current drawing. Use this to double-check your block name is unique or select an existing block name to overwrite (redefine) an existing block.
  2. Set the Base Point. The base point becomes the insertion point, as in the point on the block your cursor will be at when you insert the block into your drawing. The base point can be defined by keying in the coordinates, using the pick button to select a point in the drawing, or by enabling the Specifying on Screen option. Specifying on Screen means that you will pick the point after you click OK.
  3. Select the Objects. No point in having a block if it doesn’t contain any geometry. Click the pick button to select the objects in the drawing window or enable Specifying on Screen to select the objects after you click OK.
  4. Decide what to do with the original objects. The objects you select to create the block can become a block (Convert to block), can be deleted (Delete) or do not need to become a block themselves. and remain as is (Retain)
  5. Should the block be Annotative? An annotative block is one that will adjust in size as the drawings annotation scale is adjusted
  6. Should the block scale uniformly? When enabled the block must scale in the Y-direction the same amount as being scaled in the X
  7. Should we allow the block to be exploded? when enabled you will NOT be able to explode the block instance in the drawing.
  8. Select the Block Unit Type. Blocks can scale according to the drawing unit. For example if the block was set to inches and the drawing to millimeters when inserted it would be 25.4 times larger than originally defined Why? There are 25.4 mm in an inch.
  9. Add a Hyperlink (optional). A hyperlink is a link to something, whether it be a web page, an email, another document, or to a view in the drawing.
  10. Be Descriptive (optional). Not everyone will understand what your block is for from the name alone, by adding a description you make it easier for others to know what the block is for before they insert it.
  11. Open it in the Block Editor (optional). If you intention is to make a Dynamic Block (discussed later in this series) then you’ll want to open the new block in the Block Editor to add dynamic features.

When satisfied with the inputs click OK to build your block.

Inserting Blocks

So you’ve created your block…  now what? Insert your block into your drawing to test it out. The insert block feature can be accessed from the Insert tab of the ribbon or by typing I with the keyboard. AutoCAD Block Insert Dialog

  1. Select the Block you want to Insert
  2. Optionally Browse for a drawing and insert the entire drawing in as a block
  3. Set the insert point either by keying in the coordinates or enabling Specify on-screen to pick the point after clicking OK
  4. Specify the Scale either by keying in the scale factors or by enabling Specify on-screen to set the scale after clicking OK. With the example above the Y & Z fields are disabled as this block was created with the Uniformly Scale option enabled. With this option disabled the X, Y, and Z scale factors can all be set independently.
  5. Specify the Rotation either by entering the rotation angle or by enabling Specify on-screen to pick the rotation after clicking OK
  6. Block Unit reference lists the Unit of the block and the factor that will be applied with the block is inserted. The factor is based on the Block Unit compared to the units of the drawing
  7. Optionally Explode the block during insertion. By exploding a block the objects are returned to original form, ungroup, and not contained within a block

Block Manipulation

After the block is inserted you can make adjustments to it very similarly to other 2D objects. Blocks can be moved, copied, scaled, rotated, mirrored, and adjusted with grips. Blocks can be exploded to remove the block and leave the blocks geometry. Copying a block can be faster and more efficient than inserting another instance. http://youtu.be/tBbamPpJJcI

AutoCAD Deep Dive Series: Blocks

The AutoCAD Deep Dive series is back! With its popularity and how much fun I had with our series on AutoCAD Layers, I’m back with another multi-part series on key AutoCAD functionality, this time BLOCKS.

Blocks Mixed setImage Credit: A. Drauglis – Flickr

Since its October and Halloween is close, I quote everyone’s favorite Halloween doll, Chucky…

“Let me put it this way. If this were a movie, it would take three or four sequels to do it justice.”

and that’s exactly what it is going to take with Blocks, a series of posts, as there is so much built in and I don’t want to overwhelm anyone in any particular post.

What are blocks?

A block is a way of collecting and grouping objects into a single entity. As a single entity it becomes easier to select, to manipulate (move, copy, rotate, etc), and easier to share across multiple drawings. Using blocks leads to consistency and standardization as you and your company use the same symbol in all drawings.

When you create a block, the block definition is added to the drawing database. Each time you insert the block an instance of the block definition is added to the drawing. As each instance is referencing the definition it means a lighter-footprint in the drawing, making AutoCAD work less. If you change the definition, all instances update automatically

Series Table of Contents

  1. Creating Blocks
  2. WBLOCK & Reusing Blocks
  3. Reusing Blocks Part 2 (Toolpalettes, Design Center)
  4. Blocks & Attributes
  5. Modifying Blocks
  6. Annotative Blocks
  7. Extracting Block / Attribute Information
  8. Dynamic Blocks Part 1: Parameters & Actions
  9. Dynamic Blocks Part 2: Parameters & Constraints
  10. Dynamic Blocks Part 3: Visibility & Lists
  11. Converting Xrefs to Blocks
  12. Obtaining Blocks

It’ll be important to check back often so you don’t miss a post, also your comments are greatly appreciated as you can use them to ask questions or to point out areas I should expand on or that I missed.

Will AutoCAD install on Windows 10?

Installing Autodesk’s AutoCAD CAD product on Windows 8 or 8.1 really wasn’t all that fun in some cases. We wanted to make sure ahead of time if there were any issues or not. As a follow on from my initial review of Windows 10 Tech Preview, I’m going to perform a trial install within my test environment. I decided to record the affair rather than write it all out.

The good news is, it looks like installing on Windows 10 is smoother than it was installing on Windows 8 or 8.1. There may have even been some improvements. Now I haven’t put AutoCAD to work in any arduous kind of ways, but from what I can tell from a quick poke about, all seems well. I cut all the really boring waiting time out, but all up, installing from my USB 3.0 external hard drive, vanilla AutoCAD took around 15 minutes to install.

AutoCAD Deep Dive Series: Layers with Blocks & Xrefs

Here we are at the end of our Deep Dive” look at AutoCAD Layers. Have I left the best for last? No, I think each post holds its own when it comes to managing layers and using them to their fullest potential within AutoCAD. In this final post lets look at using Layers within Blocks and Xrefs as each has it own special place in the Layer world

colorful blocks with floral vector swirls and shafts of light

Image courteous of Flickr, Posted by Second Life Resident Torley Linden

Blocks

Blocks within AutoCAD serve many purposes but mostly to provide a convenient method to reuse content while maintaining consistency from drawing to drawing.

Layer 0

The property option BYLAYER means that the object will honor the properties of the layer it resides on. Therefor if the color property of the object is set to BYLAYER it will appear as the same color as the layer the object resides on. Blocks are no different.When you insert a block it is placed onto a layer and the block will take on the properties of the layer it is placed on…. except it doesn’t in all cases. Sometimes the block maintains its own colors and linetypes regardless of the layer it is placed on.

Why is Layer 0 in every drawing? Why can Layer 0 not be deleted or purged? It all has to do with blocks. If the geometry contained within the block resides on layer 0 this geometry will take on the properties of the layer the block is placed on. Therefore if the block is on a red layer with a hidden line type all objects within the block on layer 0 will appear red with a hidden line type.

If the geometry contained within the block resides on any layer other than layer 0 it will maintain those layer properties opposed to assuming the properties of the layer the block resides

AutoCAD Block Layer Definition

Take for example a block depicting the side view of a hex head bolt. We want the bolt to take on the properties of the layer it is placed on EXCEPT for the centerline. The centerline we’ll place on the centerline layer so that it appears and behaves as all other geometry on the centerline layer

AutoCAD Blocks Three Different Layers

Byblock

If the object in the block is on Layer 0 it will use the properties of the layer the block resides.If the object is on any layer other than Layer 0 it will use the properties of the layer it resides on. If the object properties are set to ByBlock it will take on the layer properties but will be effected by changes to the base layer (i.e. being frozen or turned off)

Making sense? For a different take on the differences between Layer 0, ByLayer, and ByBlock take a look at the post Edwin Prakoso did on CAD Notes a couple years back

Exploding, Purging, and Merging

When you explode a block the objects will remain on the layers they were created on, they do not take on the layer of the block.

A common reason why layers cannot be purged is that an object resides on the layer within a block definition. Meaning that even though the block is not inserted into the drawing it is still defined as a block definition, consuming the layer. This is a good place to use Layer Delete or Layer Merge when you cannot locate the object using the layer.

Xrefs

How are Xref Layers treated?

When a drawing is attached as an XREF its layers appear in the Layer Manager prefixed by the drawing name and a pipe (|). This maintains the XREF’s layers as separate entities even if the same name exists in the host drawing.

Binding an Xref

When you bind an XREF, converting it into a block definition opposed to an external reference, you are presented with two options: Bind and Insert.

When you bind the XREF using the Insert option the layers are merged into the host drawing. This means that objects may change in appearance as if the layer already exists the layers (and their objects) will take on the properties of the existing layers.

When you bind the XREF using the Bind option the layers are maintained with AutoCAD prefixing the layers with the number and the drawing name.

 

An Electrifying Threesome – AutoCAD Electrical 2015, Office & Access 2010

Office 2010 32 bit AutoCAD Electrical 64 bit not supported

Microsoft Office 2010 is supported they say, 64 or 32 bit they say… hmm I say. What am I banging on about you say? Well, if you have a 64 bit Operating System installed, which is highly likely if you are running Windows 7 or 8.1. Then when you install the Autodesk Product Design Suite, AutoCAD Electrical or any other Autodesk product that installs the Microsoft Access 2010 Runtime, it will install the 64 bit version of both the CAD applications and the Access Runtime. HOWEVER, if you already have the 32 bit version of Office 2010 installed, then the install will fail. OR if you try to install Office 2010 32 bit AFTER you have install the Autodesk software, then the Office installation will fail.

Office 2013 32 bit 64 bit installation error

Here’s the thing, Microsoft are very clear about wanting people to install the 32 bit version of Office. The 64 bit version is only intended for developers to use. There are far too many conflicts between Office 64 bit and other applications which rely on Office components. SO, the only way you can use Office 2010 with 2015 Autodesk products which have an Access 2010 Runtime prerequisite, is to install the 64 bit version of Office and risk all the issues that come with it. I’m not a database guy, so I can only assume the AutoCAD electrical development team have been forced into using the 64 bit version with 64 bit AutoCAD and the 32 bit version with 32 bit AutoCAD.

OK, so what about Office 2013? That is fine for now, you can happily install 32 & 64 bit versions of Office as long as they are different releases. I’m running Office 2013 32 bit, and AutoCAD Electrical installed Access 2010 Runtime 64 bit on my laptop. So I have two requests of Autodesk:

  1. Please don’t produce 2016 products requiring Access 2013!
  2. Please update your System Requirements for any CAD products requiring Access 2010 Runtime, that also includes the Suites System Requirements.

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