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AutoCAD 2016 What’s New Review

Spring always brings new beginnings, including the new releases from Autodesk. This year is no different as the new version of AutoCAD is upon us. Although nothing earth-shattering like last years user interface “refresh”, this years version still proves to be chocked full of enhancements that will make your day-to-day life easier, as well as adding new features and functionality to take your design and collaboration in new directions.

What’s New?

Others might slice-and-dice it differently, but to me the new features and improvements fall into five categories

  1. User Interface
  2. Documentation
  3. Design
  4. BIM
  5. Installation and Configuration

The User Interface (UI) enhancements is a continuation of what they introduced with the darker / sleeker 2015 interface. Take for example the File tab introduced in 2015. It is now known as the Start page and is persistent, but based on user feedback, can be disabled during installation. Layout tabs are drag-and-dropable (finally), the status bar automatically wraps to the next line, and the help makes it easier to find things.

AutoCAD 2016 Wrapping Commandline

The new System Monitor is constantly watching those troublesome system variables that seem to have a mind of themselves. It lets you know that they have changed and allows for a reset directly from the status bar.

AutoCAD 2016 System Variable Monitor Dialog

Documentation Enhancements? Yep, its got them…

Revision Clouds behave more like polylines, making modifications significantly easier and actually achievable now… no more deleting and redrawing.

AutoCAD 2016 Rev Cloud Stretching Grip

The enhanced DIM command will make you seriously reconsider how you dimension from now on. Think of it as Quick Dimensions but on steroids. Its a one-stop, do-all dimension feature which actually previews the dimension before you make your selection.

PDF support? Still there of course, but now it’s much more flexible, with its own publishing dialog and options. It should also be much faster.

Reality Computing (Point Clouds) got its fair share of loving too, including support for sectioning, transparency control, point cloud-specific object snaps, and Dynamic UCS support.

Any visualization changes? Oh yeah! The Render engine has gone, replaced with a new and improved version. It is physically based, making it easier yet creating much better results.

Design & BIM based collaboration gets some love. External Reference support is expanded to include Navisworks Files (NWD or NWC). This allows for the attachment of the “Coordination Model”, for an additional collaboration option.

What’s Next?

Over the next week (or so), we’ll be posting deeper dives into the new features.

Autodesk 2016 Products Download Links – Including Suites

The Autodesk product launch season always offers up a mixture of excitement, disappointment or trepidation. Have they delivered the improvements you had been hoping for? Will the software be stable straight out of the box? Will your team of designers be as excited as you are about the features you got to use during beta? This post gets you one step closer by showing you where you can find direct download links for the latest and greatest releases of your Autodesk CAD tools.

The primary location for downloading your Autodesk products this year can be found in the new Autodesk Accounts site. You can get there via, since that will take you straight to the Products & Services download or activation page:

Autodesk 2016 Product Download

This is the best place to get the latest stable builds of your Autodesk applications; AutoCAD, Revit, Inventor, Vault, 3ds Max, Maya etc and all the extra subscription goodies for you to get your geeky mitts on. And what an absolute joy it is to use compared to the now retired Subscription Center, THANK YOU Autodesk. Oh and with this site… if you fall off Maintenance Subscription, bad idea, but if you do, you will still be able to access this site and download the last version you paid subs for. It was always an absolute mission trying to find download links for previous release installers when you weren’t on subscription.

But occasionally the Autodesk Virtual Agent is a more direct and therefore handy location to get what you need (Download links will likely take longer to appear on here than on the Autodesk Account portal). Of course both of these locations will also have links for all the Autodesk Suites.

Autodesk Virtual Agent direct download links

Either way, the Autodesk launch season is upon us, so which ever method you use to get your software, keep an eye out on Design & Motion for 2016 What’s New & Review posts.

Autodesk 2016 Product What’s New Reviews:

Beyond the Basics: Everything You Need to Know About AutoCAD’s Line Command

There is a point where you become familiar enough with an application that you no longer feel like a beginner, but want to make that transition towards being an intermediate or even advanced user. You feel you need to really start understanding the features, not just know the shortcuts, but know how to and when to use a feature and apply its options.

Take for example AutoCAD’s line feature. It is the most fundamental feature, existing within every drawing in existence. The line command has options, using these options efficiently takes you from beginner to power user.

With the line command you can…

  1. Use the right-click UNDO, commandline U, or keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Z to undo steps WHILE you are drawing lines. Don’t exit the command because if you do UNDO undoes the entire sequence
  2. After creating at least two segments use the right-click Close or commandline C to close the sequence, connecting the last point picked to the first point picked during the active sequence.
  3. Lines can be drawing with 3D Coordinates

Grips add additional features to modify the line. Throw this together with Dynamic Input and it’s easy to make adjustments to the line.

The default action of picking a grip (aka making it hot) is Stretch. With Stretch, you can select a new position for the end of the line by picking a point in the drawing window. Using Dynamic Input enter in the desired length, change of length, angle, and change of angle to make specific geometric adjustments.

If you hover over the grip before immediately picking the grip the menu allows for the selection of stretch or lengthen. Lengthen is used to adjust the length of the line without changing its angle. With the grip hot pressing Ctrl toggles between Stretch and Lengthen.

AutoCAD Deep Dive Series: Blocks & Xrefs

Here we are, the final post of this series deep diving into blocks. Its been a great run and how could we finish off without looking at block’s close cousin, External References (aka XREFS).

Perkins Library Reference Desk, 1970s

Perkins Library Reference Desk, 1970s

Xrefs are drawings that are externally linked to a drawing. As the Xref changes it updates in all the drawings it is attached to. An Xref is really just a block that the definition resides in an external drawing opposed to locally within the host drawing. Many aspects of blocks are identical to an xref.

Block Vs Xref - List View

Block Vs Xref - Properties

Now, this series is about blocks, not xref’s, so the only thing that is important is how do we convert the xref into a block? To convert an Xref to a block you Bind the xref, which copies the definition into the host drawing.

In the Xref Manager, right-click the xfref and select Bind.

Xref Bind

Two options are available: Bind or Insert

Bind Xref - Bind or Insert

What’s difference? It’s All About the Layers, Because you know, I’m all about that layers, no levels. I’m all about that layers, no mixing… ‘Bout that layer, no treble

The externally attached drawing has its own set of layers, in which could already exist in the host drawing. If you want to merge the xref’s layers into the host drawing use insert. If you want to maintain the xref’s layers as their own then use Bind. Remember though that if layers exist in both drawings, the layers will assume the properties of the host drawing. This means objects may appear differently after binding.

Xref Layers Bind vs Insert

In the image above the list on the left has the xref bound with the Insert option, the list on the left is with the Bind option. Notice that with Bind the xref’s layers have the drawing name appended as well as the layer that the xref was placed on when attached to the host drawing. In this example the xref layer A-WALL became 1344465995$0$A-WALL.

So in review, xrefs are just blocks who’s definition exists in an external drawing opposed to the host drawing. Xrefs can easily be converted into a block

AutoCAD Deep Dive Series: Dynamic Blocks Part 3

As we’ve seen in previous posts, Dynamic Blocks open a whole new world of building smart, configurable, and flexible blocks. In a previous life I was involved with a company that reduced their block library from over 10,000 items to just below 500. You might be thinking “Whatever Mike”, but this was a company that designed the electrical portion of commercial buildings. They didn’t really have that many types of blocks, just 100’s of iterations of the same item, slightly adjusted based on size, options, or manufacturer. Pulling all this data into one configurable item is where the savings occurred.

If you haven’t checked out dynamic blocks, read these first… Dynamic Blocks Part 1 and Part 2

In this final mini-deep dive on Dynamic Blocks lets explore visibility, how you can manage what is shown and what isn’t shown in the various versions of the block.

First start with the objects. You really have two options: Create all the objects up front or create the objects as they are required. In this example I’ve created a line and two circles and I’m going to create two versions…. one with the circles on and another with the circles off.

Dynamic Block Visibility - Start

Add a Visibility Parameter.

Dynamic Block Visibility - Add Parameter

The location of the parameter sets the location of the visibility grip. It also enables the Visibility Controls in the ribbon.

Dynamic Block Visibility - Visibility Panel

  1. Launch the Visibility States dialog
  2. Visibility Mode – Toggles between seeing invisible objects and not seeing them
  3. Make Visible / Make Invisible – Select objects to make visible or make invisible
  4. Active Visibility State

From within the Visibility State dialog rename the active state something more meaningful. Remember this is what the user will see when they select the visibility state to use.

Dynamic Block Visibility - Rename Vis State

When creating a new state, three options are presented to deal with the existing geometry: Turn all on, Turn all off, or leave as is. The option to use really depends on the existing geometry and what you need to do with the geometry visibility.

In this case I use “Leave visibility of existing objects unchanged in new state” leaving what is visible on and what is currently invisible toggled off.

Dynamic Block Visibility - Create New Vis State

I use the Make Invisible to turn off the two circles. By using Visibility Mode I toggle the invisible geometry to appear ghosted so that they can still be selected and included in other actions I include in the block. To test the functionality use the Visibility States drop-down to switch back and forth between the states.

Dynamic Block Visibility - Visibility States

See it in action here…

Feature Image Universal Invisible Woman by JD Hancock

The One AutoCAD Feature You Need to Be Using Now!

Dynamic Input has been in AutoCAD for a long time. What I’ve found in my many journeys is that not everyone is using it or not using it efficiently…. why not? You should be. To me its one of the greatest enhancements to 2D drafting within AutoCAD in the past 10-years. If you’re not currently using it, here’s your opportunity to try it, not just kinda try it, but really try it. Make it work for you.

Dynamic Input is a Heads-Up Display (HUD) type mechanism that moves your focus from the command line to your cursor. All the action is happening at the cursor anyways, why not be a part of the dance instead of hanging out along the wall waiting for someone to ask you to dance? It prevents the bad tennis match that occurs… eyes to the drawing area, eyes to the command line, eyes to the drawing area, eyes to the command line, repeat, repeat, and repeat.

In the image below the line on the left is being created with Dynamic Input. Notice the onscreen command prompting (“Specify next point…”) and the visible dimensions. The line on the right is being created without Dynamic Input.

Dynamic Input vs. No Dynamic Input

There are many aspects of Dynamic Input

  1. Command Prompting on the screen (Echoed to the command line)
  2. Coordinate Display at the Cursor
  3. Geometry Dimensions, on screen, adjustable, used to define the size of your objects

With Dynamic Input you don’t need to worry about proceeding your inputs with @, # or any other special character. You do not need to worry about your angles being measured clockwise or counterclockwise… why? You’ll see the values on the screen. Another bonus to using Dynamic Input is that you can set the default to Relative or Absolute. So if you are always working in Relative why be forced to proceed the dimensional inputs with an @

The key to using Dynamic Input is the Tab key. If you want to adjust the length of the line and the angle, enter in the value for the length of the line but press Tab, not Enter. Tab will bounce between the input boxes and you only press enter when satisfied with the inputs.

Like Object Snaps, Object Snap Tracking, Polar, Ortho, and all other Drafting Aids, it can be enabled and disabled. Use it when its needed it, disable it for the rare occasions it becomes annoying or gets in the way.

AutoCAD Toggle for Dynamic Input

If Dynamic Input does not appear in your status bar with the other drafting aids you probably just need to turn it on…

Adding Dynamic Input to the UI

Dynamic Input is configurable. You can adjust what appears on screen and what doesn’t. You can set the default to absolute or relative. You can adjust colours, transparency, and size. To access the config dialog right-click on the icon in the status bar and select Dynamic Input Settings… On the main part of the dialog you can enable or disable Pointer Input (on screen coordinates), Dimension Input (the on screen dimensions that appear when creating geometry), and whether you want the on screen command prompting.

ACAD - DynInput - DraftingSettings

Drafting Tooltip Appearance launches a dialog to manage the size, colour, and transparency of your Dynamic Input.

ACAD - DynInput - Tooltip Appearance

Use Pointer Input Settings to manage the display of coordinates with the Dynamic Input… when do they appear and in what format. My favorite part of this dialog? The option to set the default to Relative Coordinates!ACAD - DynInput - Pointer Input Settings

In Conclusion… if you aren’t using Dynamic Input you are missing out. Here’s a video of Dynamic Input in action.

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