Chapter OneGetting Started
As you begin this book on AutoCAD®, I'm reminded of a quote by Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." In much the same way, learning AutoCAD is something anyone can do by taking it one step at a time. And I promise that AutoCAD is much easier than walking a thousand miles!
By buying this book, you have already taken the first step in this journey. When you finish, you will have a solid understanding of AutoCAD.
* Exploring the AutoCAD 2013 for Windows User interface
* Setting drawing units
Exploring the AutoCaD 2013 for Windows User Interface
Autodesk has recently released new versions of AutoCAD, including AutoCAD® 2013 and AutoCAD LT® 2013. The two Windows versions look nearly identical and function in almost the same way. The main difference between them is that AutoCAD LT doesn't support automation and some of the advanced 3D functions. The Mac version looks a bit different than its Windows cousins, but it functions nearly identically to AutoCAD for Windows, albeit with a slightly reduced set of features. Although this book was written using AutoCAD 2013 running on Windows XP Professional, you can use it to learn any of the current versions of AutoCAD.
Exploring the Graphical User Interface
Before you can use AutoCAD, you'll need to familiarize yourself thoroughly with its graphical user interface (GUI). The AutoCAD 2013 (for Windows) user interface is shown in Figure 1.1.
Let's now step through the basic user interface for AutoCAD:
1. Click the Application menu. Type polygon, and observe that the text appears in the search box at the top of the Application menu. The search results (see Figure 1.2) list many related AutoCAD commands. Search is useful when you're not sure how to access a command in the interface or what its exact name is.
2. Click the red X at the extreme right edge of the search box to make the initial Application menu interface reappear. Here you can create new or open existing drawings, export or print drawings, and more. Hover the cursor over Open, and then click Drawing (Figure 1.3).
3. Select the following sample file, and click Open in the Select File dialog box:
C:\Program Files\Autodesk\AutoCAD 2013\Sample\ Sheet Sets\Manufacturing\VW252-02-0142.dwg
If you are using AutoCAD LT, open any of the sample files located under C:\Program Files\Autodesk\AutoCAD LT 2013\Sample. The Sheet Set Manager palette appears when the sample file is opened (see Figure 1.4). This palette automatically appears when you open any drawing that's a part of a sheet set. AutoCAD has many palettes to organize tools and reusable drawing content.
4. Click the Sheet Views tab along the right edge of the Sheet Set Manager, and observe that tabs provide a means of accessing additional interface content. In its present state, the Sheet Set Manager is a floating palette. Drag its palette bar, and relocate it on screen.
5. Click the Auto-hide toggle, and watch the palette collapse to its vertical palette bar; this saves space on screen. Hover the cursor over the palette bar, and watch the whole palette reappear so that you can access its content. Now toggle Auto-hide off.
6. Click the palette properties menu and select Anchor Left. The Sheet Set Manager palette is docked along the left edge of the user interface (see Figure 1.5). There are many options you can use to organize the user interface to match the way you work.
7. Double-click Detail-B under 04 – Brush Roller Sub Assy in the Manufacturing sheet set. A new drawing appears in the drawing window.
8. Click the Open button in the Quick Access toolbar. Select any drawing in the Manufacturing folder and click Open. If you are using AutoCAD LT, open any other sample file.
9. Click the Quick View Drawings button in the application status bar (see Figure 1.6). Move the cursor over the first drawing, and observe that two smaller views appear above it. These are the highlighted drawing's spaces. Move the cursor over Model, and its view will enlarge. Click the model view icon to go there immediately. Use Quick View to navigate through open drawings and their spaces.
AutoCAD workspaces (not to be confused with drawing spaces) are stored sets of user interface controls, which include menus, toolbars, palettes, and the ribbon. People use workspaces to configure the interface quickly for the task at hand. Let's take a brief look at the workspaces in AutoCAD:
1. Select the AutoCAD Classic workspace from the drop-down menu on the Quick Access toolbar. The user interface changes dramatically (see Figure 1.7). The AutoCAD Classic workspace makes AutoCAD look similar to how it did in 2008 and earlier.
2. Drag a docked toolbar out from the edge of the screen and convert it into a floating toolbar. Select Tools > Toolbars > AutoCAD > Dimension from the Classic menu bar. Drag the Dimension floating toolbar to any edge of the screen and dock it.
3. Position the cursor over a docked toolbar button and right-click; a toolbar context menu appears. Select Object Snap from this menu (Figure 1.8).
4. Right-click in the drawing window, and you'll see a different context menu. Right-clicking over most items, from the tool palettes to the status bar buttons, brings up other unique context menus. In the Classic workspace, right-clicking is the means for accessing numerous context-sensitive menus throughout the user interface.
The AutoCaD Ribbon
AutoCAD has so many toolbars, palettes, and menus that finding the right tool for the job can seem like a job in itself. The ribbon is therefore an important feature that was introduced to AutoCAD 2010. Autodesk adopted Microsoft's ribbon standard to organize the ever-increasing number of toolbars in a single palette, making tools much easier to find. Now let's explore the various ribbon modes and identify the user interface elements of each mode.
1. Choose the 3D Basics workspace from the drop-down menu in the Quick Access toolbar. The ribbon replaces all the Classic menus and toolbars (see Figure 1.9). Close the Tool Palettes and the Online floating toolbar.
2. Click the Minimize Ribbon button, and observe that the full ribbon changes to display tabs and panel buttons (see Figure 1.10). Hover the cursor over the panel buttons. The buttons expand to reveal all the tools shown on the full ribbon.
3. Click the Minimize Ribbon button again. The panel buttons change into panel titles. Hover the cursor again over the titles to reveal each panel's tools.
4. Click the Minimize Ribbon button once again. Hovering the cursor over the tabs doesn't have any effect. Click the Home tab to reveal the full panel temporarily. It disappears after you move the cursor away.
5. Click the Minimize Ribbon button one last time. The full ribbon interface is restored.
6. Click the Create button at the bottom of the Create panel to reveal additional tools. Hover the mouse over one of the tools to display a tooltip that identifies the tool and describes its function. Holding the cursor still a while longer reveals either a drawing or a video (without audio) that visually demonstrates what the tool does (see Figure 1.11).
7. Observe that the bottom of the tooltip shown in Figure 1.11 reveals the command name (SURFSCULPT in this case). The ribbon, menus, toolbars, and palettes are all graphical alternatives to typing commands.
8. Press and release the Alt key. Keytips appear on the ribbon (see Figure 1.12). Pressing any of the letter combinations activates that part of the GUI. Type IN, and observe that the Insert tab is selected without moving the cursor.
9. Press the F2 key to open the AutoCAD Text window. The bottom line, Command:, is called the command line. It is the active line where commands appear, regardless of whether they are typed or triggered from the GUI. The complete history of commands scrolls upward as new commands are entered. Close the AutoCAD Text window. Three lines of this command history appear at the bottom of the user interface, just above the application status bar.
10. The application status bar contains a coordinate readout on the left, a number of status toggle buttons, and various items, as shown in Figure 1.13. Toggle off all the status bar toggles so that none of their icons are highlighted in blue. Click the application status bar menu, and deselect Clean Screen; its button disappears. You can control which buttons appear using this menu.
11. Type POL, and observe how the command line's AutoComplete feature highlights commands in alphabetical order as you type (see Figure 1.14). Use the arrow keys to move up or down through the list, and press Enter when you find the command for which you are looking instead of typing the entire word. (Note: Some commands and system variables can be quite lengthy.)
12. Take a look at the InfoCenter at the top right of the screen (see Figure 1.15). This is where you connect to Autodesk and the larger community. Click in the search field and type solid.
13. Click the binoculars icon on the right of the search field, and the AutoCAD Exchange dialog box appears. Multiple online books are searched and relevant results appear in the left panel. The description of the SOLID command appears in the right panel.
14. Click the Help button on the right edge of the InfoCenter. The Help Table of Contents page opens in your browser. All AutoCAD documentation is accessible through this interface.
Setting Drawing Units
Before you start drawing, it's important to decide what one drawing unit represents in the real world. Architects in the United States typically equate one drawing unit with one inch in AutoCAD. You need to choose a unit type that matches your country's industry standard.
Architectural As the name suggests, most American architects will choose this type, which displays units in feet and inches. For example, 12 feet, 6½ inches is typed as 12'6-1/2". The hyphen is used to separate inches from fractions of an inch rather than feet from inches.
Decimal Metric users should select this type. One decimal unit can be equal to one millimeter, one centimeter, or any metric unit.
Engineering Like the architectural type, engineering units feature feet and inches, but the inches are represented in decimal form—for example, 126.500.
Fractional American woodworkers often prefer to set AutoCAD drawings in fractional units of inches because that is how their work is normally reckoned. For example, 12 feet, 6½ inches reads 150-1/2" in fractional units.
Scientific For example, 12 million parsecs reads 12.000E+06 in scientific units, where 12.000 indicates 12 accurate to a precision of three decimal places and E+06 indicates the exponential function to the sixth power, or one million.
Let's set the AutoCAD drawing units:
1. Click the New button on the Quick Access toolbar. Click the arrow button next to the Open button in the Select Template dialog box, and choose Open With No Template – Imperial (see Figure 1.16).
2. Type UN, and press Enter to bring up the Drawing Units dialog box (see Figure 1.17). UN is the command alias (abbreviation) of the UNITS command. Most commands have aliases that minimize typing.
3. Select Architectural from the Type drop-down menu. We're using Architectural in this book, but you should select the unit type that fits your industry when working professionally. Metric users should select Decimal length units.
4. Click the Length Precision drop-down menu, and select 1/8" (or 0 for metric). Set Angle Type to Decimal Degrees and Angle Precision to 0.00 (two decimal places).
5. Click the Insertion Scale drop-down menu, and select Inches (or Centimeters for metric). Click OK to close the Drawing Units dialog box.