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Making the Right Selection with AutoCAD 2015

Ropes On The Fritha - Marc ConnollyImage Credit: Marc Connolly – Flickr

Next to the colour change of the User Interface, one of my favorite enhancements to AutoCAD 2015 is the new lasso selection method. Haven’t used lasso yet? You are missing out.

With the lasso selection you click and hold the left mouse button then move around the screen creating an irregular shape around your objects. As this creates a lasso like shape, you can imagine where the name comes from. It works great for those areas where a rectangular selection is just too rectangular to get just the objects you want, when you have a bunch of objects to select and a lot that you don’t want to select.

If you’ve used many of the Adobe products, like Photoshop, this will be very familiar to you. It also reminds me a lot of the sketch command that was used to digitize maps.

AutoCAD 2015 Lasso SelectionIt also works like the standard rectangular selection in that you can do both crossing and window selection (window only selects what’s completely inside the selection, crossing is anything inside the selection AND is crossed by the selection). You can also use the new spacebar toggle to switch between crossing, window, and fence. Fence changes the selection method to only select objects crossed by the shape, works well when you have a series of objects to select but don’t want any of the overlapping or objects that are near.

Lasso got me thinking, how many different ways are there to select a line? Challenge accepted

  1. I can just straight out pick the line
  2. I can window select the line (both window and crossing)
  3. I can window-polygon or crossing-polygon select it. These two are a couple hidden “gems”. If you start a command, for example erase, type either WP or CP and you can make polygonal selections
  4. Fence… another, sort-of “gem” in that any time AutoCAD wants to make a selection you can type F to initiate the fence selection. Fence is not just for Trim and Lasso
  5. Select All would select everything in the drawing including the line
  6. Using Select Similar I could select a line with the same properties, right-click, and use Select Similar to select all lines in the drawing with the same properties
  7. Building a Quick Select set I could select all lines in the drawing, or all lines in the drawing that are on the layer of the line I’m after
  8. I could use FILTER to select all lines in the drawing or all the lines on a particular layer.

I’ve got that feeling that I’m missing a selection method or two…. any ideas?


GrabCAD Workbench just got a lot smarter…

Today was an exciting day. I’ve been following the development of over the past year or two and they keep impressing me.

I’ve always been excited by companies that diversify in unpredictable, but sensible directions. GrabCAD is one of these. Starting out as an online CAD file sharing platform, they broke the mold in the way they delivered their product, not only by using community sourced content, but also by creating a fun user experience with innovative features like point ranking systems for popular files and users. As their geometry-viewing technology improved, the site morphed into more of a web app with a lot more useful functionality and social media integration.

GrabCAD's content sharing portal, with social media integration


When GrabCAD first announced Workbench as a cloud based collaboration tool, I was keen to dive in and give it a go. It was fairly basic at that stage and I looked at it as “a good start.”

The real diversification started however, when they decided to become more than a content sharing tool, and add content creation/editing tools. In a somewhat timely fashion, Autodesk’s new 360 products, namely AutoCAD 360 and Fusion 360 arrived on the scene, and a partnership was set up which meant that GrabCAD users could now create and edit 2D and 3D geometry inside the GrabCAD environment. It should also be noted that Luxion added a GrabCAD integration for their very popular Keyshot, to allow rendered images to be sent directly from their application to GrabCAD. A GrabCAD app for mobile devices rounded out the sharing/viewing workflows to make an all-round pretty useful toolset.

There was something missing though……

Collaboration quite often means multiple users actively working on the same dataset, and when this happens, version control obviously becomes hugely important.

So coming back to why today was exciting. There was an announcement that GrabCAD had added a desktop sync client (think Dropbox for engineers), version control, and partner workspaces. I’ll go through these in a bit more detail below.

Desktop Client / Version Control:

The desktop client is the link between your GrabCAD workbench (in the cloud) and your computer (in your office). To set it up, you just download and install it, and then map a Workbench project to a local folder on your hard drive. It monitors differences between the local copy of the file and the cloud copy using Git (Wiki reference) technology which was developed for Software version control. This technology looks at file at a bit level and creates snapshots of the data which can be compared to see where differences have occurred. What this means, is that if someone that you are collaborating with, edits your files, the GrabCAD desktop client will detect that your local copy is no longer the latest, and it will give you the option of keeping your version, or getting the latest one from Workbench. The conflict resolution dialog is slick and the feedback is clear and concise. The application also provides quick links to your local folder.


GrabCAD Workbench desktop sync screen showing 408 changes that need to be uploaded to Workbench.

Figure 1 – Sync Screen showing 408 file differences that need to be uploaded

GrabCAD Workbench desktop sync details screen shows specific differences and status icons.

Figure 2 – Details Screen shows specific differences and status icons

The version control extends through to the Workbench cloud app, where a version history is kept, and features exist that allow you to compare differences between versions. Of particular note, is the cool little version compare slider, which lets you visualise the changes using a clever colorization key based on whether material has been added or removed.

GrabCAD Workbench version compare shows material removed (in purple) in web app.

Figure 3 – Version compare shows material removed (in purple)

Partner Workspaces

This is probably the feature I’m most excited about. A very common hassle for designers/engineers is getting their manufacturing data ready to be sent off, and then the actual process of sending it off, to the suppliers. While many tools exist for rapid creation of data such as profile cutting data, there aren’t many tight workflows for actually delivering this data. Most companies I have seen resort to sending it via email. Everybody knows the frustrations of following conversations by email. Let’s face it, it’s an old technology, and while it has its place, I think the delivery of manufacturing data can be done much better.

Enter Workbench Partner Spaces….

Right-click file in GrabCAD Workbench to add to a Partner Space.

Figure 4 – Right-click a file to add to a partner space

Partner spaces can be created and assigned to external teams / contractors / suppliers. Any files that you send to Partner Spaces will be accessible to the collaborators that you nominate for each one. The file doesn’t get moved from your original location, but what ends up in the Partner Space is effectively a link. This means that you can easily control who gets access to which data. The nice thing about this, is that your partners can review / comment on data in the workbench environment, and also visualise version changes and updates. Sure beats a long email trail.

Files shared in GrabCAD Workbench Partner Space.

Figure 5 – Files shared in a Partner Space

Here you can see files that have been assigned to Roy’s Router Room Partner Space. A short list of the files can be expanded in the browser, or full details viewed in the main window. On the right you can see the access control list. What I’d really like to see GrabCAD do now, is to make available some more property information, as well as filters, so that model files in the main Workbench project folder can be sorted and grouped by material, thickness. When this is possible, categorising your files to send to partner spaces will be a very very nice way to work.

Well done GrabCAD, keep up the good work and I look forward to hearing more exciting developments.


What’s up with AutoCAD Mechanical? – Part 1

While at college I was introduced to not only AutoCAD (r13) but also to the still fairly new Mechanical Desktop (1.2), so yes I’ve been around for a while. When I started at the Autodesk reseller that I worked at for over 10-years the first “new” product I got learn inside and out, from top to bottom, was AutoCAD Mechanical. So AutoCAD Mechanical has a special place in my heart. Continue Reading

Inventor | Get your view labels back in whack

Any Autodesk Inventor user who has spent time creating drawings will be familiar with the frustrations of non-sequential identifiers for view labels. You know what I’m talking about; you create a few views, delete one or two, create a few more and so on and so on. Then you have to go back through all of them and change the label letters back to A,B,C,D,E etc. Not just irritating, but a huge time-waster.

When a view is created, the Index that keeps track of the view letter is incremented by one. Unfortunately, when you delete a view, the index is not decremented. This means that the index will continue to increase for every view that has EVER been placed in a drawing.

CPS View Relabeller 2
Figure 1: Before

To deal with this frustrating behaviour, I built an app called ‘CPS View Relabeller’ for Inventor that iterates through all the views in your drawing and labels them sequentially. This app has been published in the Inventor App Exchange Store, which you can find a link to on the “Welcome Screen” in Inventor. You can also follow this link: CPS View Relabeller

CPS View Relabeller 1
Figure 2: Run CPS View Relabeller
CPS View Relabeller 3
Figure 3: After

One of the users who bought it asked for a modification to exclude certain letters to get it to comply with the ISO drawing standard. It has been rebuilt to include this change and is available for Inventor 2013 and 2014.

The app costs $4.99 USD. Hopefully the time it saves you will make this a worthwhile buy.


So you’ve got Windows 8 – What now?

Earlier this week Shaan Hurley announced on Twitter that he had a new toy. Design and Motion are pretty chuffed that it happens to be a Lenovo Yoga running Windows 8. John blogged about Lenovo’s new convertible touch screen devices a few weeks ago. Anyhow, since I’ve been using Windows 8 Pro at home since late January, I figured it was time I wrote about my experiences and provide some of our CAD readers some tips on getting up to speed. Continue Reading

Collaboration | AutoCAD WS vs Design Review Part 2 – Conclusion

Continuing on from the the previous post, I’m going to highlight Autodesk Design Review’s raison d’être, including the obligatory Pros & Cons, then write a brief conclusion with some of my observations and closing opinions. Design Review Mobile and Autodesk 360 Design Review both use the *.dwf & *.dwfx file types supported by all of Autodesk’s CAD applications and Autodesk Vault is dependant on the DWF format for generating visualisation views and are integral within the ECO review process. So most Vaults will generally contain literally thousands upon thousands of DWF files. Continue Reading

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