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Mastering AutoCAD 2004 and AutoCAD LT 2004
By George Omura
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-7821-4188-9
Chapter OneThis Is AutoCAD
AutoCAD has been around since 1983 when version 1.4 was introduced. Its longevity is the result of a solid product and a steadily expanding set of capabilities. The latest iteration, AutoCAD 2004, is faster, has an improved interface, and includes new features based on the more popular end-user wish-list items. AutoCAD 2004 also offers something that won't be visible at first glance. Autodesk wanted to make sure that their latest version of AutoCAD would be one of the most reliable ever, so AutoCAD 2004 has been through one of the most extensive beta-testing programs in the history of AutoCAD. Users have always cited reliability as one of AutoCAD's most important features, and AutoCAD 2004 should prove to be a solid performer.
Before you can start to make use of AutoCAD 2004's new capabilities, you'll need to become familiar with the basics. If you are completely new to AutoCAD, you'll want to read this first chapter carefully. It introduces you to many of AutoCAD's basic operations, such as opening and closing files, getting a close-up look at part of a drawing, and changing a drawing. If you are familiar with earlier versions of AutoCAD, you might want to read through this chapter anyway to get acquainted with new AutoCAD 2004 features. So let's get started!
Topics in this chapter include the following:
* The AutoCAD Window
* Opening an Existing File
* Getting a Closer Look with the Zoom Command
* Saving a File As You Work
* Making Changes and Opening Multiple Files
* If You Want to Experiment ...
TIP In this chapter, and throughout the rest of the book, when we say "AutoCAD," we mean both AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT. Some topics will only apply to AutoCAD. In those situations, you'll see an icon indicating that the topic does not apply to AutoCAD LT. If you are using AutoCAD 2004 LT, these icons can help you focus on the topics that are more relevant to your work.
Taking a Guided Tour
First, you will get a chance to familiarize yourself with the AutoCAD screen and how you communicate with AutoCAD. As you do the exercises in this chapter, you will also get a feel for how to work with this book. Don't worry about understanding or remembering everything that you see in this chapter. You will get plenty of opportunities to probe the finer details of the program as you work through the later chapters. To help you remember the material, you will find a brief exercise at the end of each chapter. For now, just enjoy your first excursion into AutoCAD.
Warning AutoCAD 2004 is designed to run on Windows NT4 with service pack 6, Windows 2000 and Windows XP. It is not designed to run on Windows 98 or Windows Me though some users have reported running it successfully on Windows 98. If you are using a network license version of AutoCAD, you may also use Windows 2000 server edition or Windows NT4 server edition with service pack 5. This book was written using AutoCAD 2004 on Windows XP Professional with a Windows Classic desktop theme.
If you already installed AutoCAD and are ready to jump in and take a look, proceed with the following steps to launch the program:
1. Choose Start > All Programs > Autodesk > AutoCAD 2004 > AutoCAD 2004. You can also double-click the AutoCAD 2004 icon on your Windows Desktop. LT users will use AutoCAD LT 2004 in place of AutoCAD 2004.
2. The opening greeting, called a splash screen, tells you which version of AutoCAD you are using, to whom the program is registered, and the AutoCAD dealer's name and phone number, should you need help.
3. After the splash screen closes, you see the AutoCAD Window with a blank default document named Drawing1.dwg as shown in Figure 1.1.
Note If you see the Startup dialog box after step 3, click Cancel. AutoCAD displays a default document as shown in Figure 1.1. You'll learn more about the Startup dialog box in Chapter 2.
Let's take a look at the AutoCAD window in detail. Don't worry if it seems like a lot of information. You don't have to memorize it all, but by looking at all the parts, you'll be aware of what is available in a general way.
AutoCAD LT users will see the Active Assistance window. This window is an aid to new users, and it provides immediate help with AutoCAD commands. For now, you can close it by clicking the Close button in the upper-right corner. To prevent the Active Assistance window from appearing automatically, right-click the Active Assistance icon in the Windows tool tray (it is a question mark icon in the lower-right corner of the computer screen), and choose Settings from the shortcut menu to open the Active Assistance Settings dialog box. Click the On Demand radio button, and then click OK. You can open the Active Assistance window at any time by choosing Help > Active Assistance from the AutoCAD menu bar.
Message to Veteran AutoCAD Users
AutoCAD, like many popular programs, is continually evolving. Quite often, that evolution forces us to change some old and cherished habits.
If you've been using AutoCAD for a while, and you've grown accustomed to certain behaviors, you can take certain steps to make AutoCAD 2004 a more familiar environment.
You can, for example, restore the Enter (??) function to the mouse right-click instead of using the newer shortcut menu. Follow these steps:
1. Choose Tools > Options to open the Options dialog box.
2. Click the User Preference tab.
3. In the Windows Standard Behavior group, click the Right-Click Customization button to open the Right- Click Customization dialog box.
4. Click the ENTER radio button in the Command Mode group, and then click the Apply & Close button.
Another option is to turn on the time-sensitive right-click option at the top of the Right-Click Customization dialog box. With this option, a quick right-click is the same as pressing the Enter ?? key but you can still access the right-click shortcut menus by holding down the right mouse button a bit longer. You can even set the duration required to open the right-click shortcut menus.
If you prefer to enter commands and command options through the keyboard instead of using dialog boxes, you can do so for a number of commands. Here is a list of commands that normally produce a dialog box.
Array Attdef Attedit
Bhatch Boundary Group
HatcheditImage Insert Image
Layer Layout Linetype
MtextBlock Osnap Pan
Partialopen Purge Rename
Style Units View
Wblock Xbind Xref
To use these commands from the command prompt, add a minus sign (-) to the beginning of the command name. For example, to use the old Layer command, enter - layer at the command prompt. To use the old Pan command, enter -pan at the command prompt. (By the way, when you enter -pan from the command prompt, the command reverts to the "classic" method of panning in AutoCAD, in which you click two points to indicate the direction and displacement, instead of the "real time" pan. This "classic" method is useful when you want to pan your view a specific distance because it allows you to enter the pan distance and direction.)
Even if you don't care to enter commands from the keyboard, knowing about the use of the minus sign can help you create custom macros. See Chapter 20 for more on AutoCAD customization.
The AutoCAD Window
The AutoCAD program window is divided into six parts:
* Menu bar
* Docked and floating toolbars
* Drawing area
* Command window
* Status bar
* Tool Palettes
Tip A seventh hidden component, the Properties palette, gives you detailed information about the objects in your drawing. You can also use it to modify some of those properties. You'll learn more about the Properties palette in Chapter 4.
Figure 1.1 shows a typical layout of the AutoCAD program window. Along the top is the menu bar, and at the bottom are the Command window and the status bar. Just below the menu bar and to either side of the window are the toolbars. The drawing area occupies the rest of the screen. (By the way, your screen may show the drawing area in black. You can set the drawing area background color using the Options dialog box. Appendix B describes how to do this. (The figures in this book show the drawing area background in white for clarity.)
You can easily move and reshape many of the elements in the AutoCAD window. Figure 1.2 demonstrates how different AutoCAD can look after some simple rearranging of window components. You can move toolbars from their default locations to any location on the screen. When they are in their default location, they are in their docked position. When they are moved to a location where they are free-floating, they are floating.
The menu bar at the top of the drawing area (as shown in Figure 1.3) offers pull-down menus from which you select commands in a typical Windows fashion. The toolbars offer a variety of commands through tool buttons and drop-down lists. For example, the name or number of the layer that you are currently working on is displayed in a drop-down list in the Properties toolbar. To the right of the layer name are icons for tools you can use to work with the layer. The tools and lists on the toolbar are plentiful, and you'll learn more about all of them later in this chapter and as you work through this book.
Tip A layer is like an overlay that allows you to separate different types of information. AutoCAD allows an unlimited number of layers. On new drawings, the default layer is 0. You'll get a detailed look at layers and the meaning of the Layer tools in Chapter 4.
The Draw and Modify toolbars, which are normally docked on either side of the drawing area, offer commands that create new objects and edit existing ones. These are just two of many toolbars available to you. Figure 1.4 shows these two toolbars in their floating state.
The Tool palettes offer a quick way to gain access to frequently used symbols, known as blocks in AutoCAD. You can create your own symbols and add them to the palettes. You'll get a closer look at the Tool palettes in Chapter 2.
The drawing area-your workspace-occupies most of the screen. Everything you draw appears in this area. As you move your mouse around, crosshairs appear to move within the drawing area. This is the drawing cursor that lets you point to locations in the drawing area.
At the bottom of the drawing area, you'll see a set of tabs. These tabs give you access to the Layout views of your drawing. These views let you lay out your drawing as in a desktop publishing program. You'll learn about the Layout tabs in Chapter 7. The arrows to the left of the tabs let you navigate the tabs when there are more tabs than can fit in the AutoCAD window.
The Command window, located just below the drawing area, gives you feedback about AutoCAD's commands as you use them. You can move and resize this window just as you move and resize toolbars. By default, the Command window is in its docked position, as shown in Figure 1.6.
Below the Command window is the status bar (see Figure 1.6) The status bar gives you information at a glance about the state of the drawing. For example, the coordinate readout toward the far left of the status line tells you the location of your cursor.
Tip In a new installation of AutoCAD, you will see a message balloon in the bottom right corner of AutoCAD. This message balloon alerts you to the latest news and information regarding AutoCAD through a feature called the Communication Center. You'll learn more about the Communication Center in Chapter 2.
Picking Points in the Drawing Area
Let's practice using the coordinate readout and the drawing cursor.
1. Move the cursor around in the drawing area. As you move, notice how the coordinate readout changes to tell you the cursor's location. It shows the coordinates in an X, Y, Z format.
2. Now place the cursor in the middle of the drawing area and click the left mouse button. You have just picked a point. Move the cursor, and a rectangle follows. This is a selection window; you'll learn more about this window in Chapter 2.
3. Move the cursor a bit in any direction; then click the left mouse button again. Notice that the selection window disappears.
4. Try picking several more points in the drawing area. Notice that as you click the mouse, you alternately start and end a selection window.
If you accidentally click the right mouse button, the shortcut menu appears. A right mouse click frequently opens a menu that contains options that are context sensitive. This means that the contents of the shortcut menu depend on where you right-click as well as the command that is active at the time of your right-click. If there are no appropriate options at the time of the right-click, AutoCAD treats the right-click as a ??. You'll learn more about these options as you progress through the book. For now, if you happen to open this menu by accident, press the Esc key to close it.
Tip The ?? symbol is used in this book to denote the Enter key. Whenever you see it, press the Enter key, also known as the Return key.
The UCS Icon
In the lower-left corner of the drawing area, you see an L-shaped arrow. This is the User Coordinate System (UCS) icon, which tells you your orientation in the drawing. This icon becomes helpful as you start to work with complex 2D drawings and 3D models. The X and Y arrows indicate the x- and y-axes of your drawing. The little square at the base of the arrows tells you that you are in what is called the World Coordinate System. Chapter 17 discusses this icon in detail. For now, you can use it as a reference to tell you the direction of the axes.
If You Can't Find The UCS Icon ...
The UCS icon can be turned on and off, so if you are on someone else's system and you don't see the icon, don't panic. It also changes shape depending on whether you are in Paper Space mode in a Layout tab or in Model Space! If you don't see the icon or it doesn't look as it does in this chapter, see Chapter 13 for more information on Paper Space and Model Space. Chapter 17 gives you more information on the UCS icon.
The Command Window
At the bottom of the screen, just above the status bar, is a small horizontal window called the Command window. Here AutoCAD displays responses to your input. By default, it shows three lines of text. The bottom line shows the current messages, and the top two lines show messages that have scrolled by or, in some cases, components of the current message that do not fit in a single line. Right now, the bottom line displays the message Command (see Figure 1.6 earlier in this chapter). This prompt tells you that AutoCAD is waiting for your instructions. As you click a point in the drawing area, you'll see the message Specify Opposite Corner. At the same time, the cursor starts to draw a selection window that disappears when you click another point.
As a new user, pay special attention to messages displayed in the Command window because this is how AutoCAD communicates with you. Besides giving you messages, the Command window records your activity in AutoCAD. You can use the scroll bar to the right of the Command window to review previous messages. You can also enlarge the window for a better view. (Chapter 2 discusses these components in more detail.)
Tip You can think of the Command window as similar to the Address or Location input box found in web browsers. It allows you to manually input data through the keyboard. It also tells you what's going on in the program. As you become more familiar with AutoCAD, you may find you don't need to rely on the Command window as much. For new users, however, the Command window can be quite helpful in understanding what steps to take as you work.
Now let's look at AutoCAD's window components in detail.
The Pull-Down Menus
As in most Windows programs, the pull-down menus on the menu bar offer an easy-to-understand way to access the general controls and settings for AutoCAD. Within these menus you'll find the commands and functions that are the heart of AutoCAD. By clicking menu items, you can cut and paste items to and from AutoCAD, change the settings that make AutoCAD work the way you want it to, set up the measurement system you want to use, access the help system, and much more.
Excerpted from Mastering AutoCAD 2004 and AutoCAD LT 2004 by George Omura Excerpted by permission.
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