10 Time Savers for AutoCAD Architecture

May 16th, 2012

There are lots of tips and tricks that allow AutoCAD® Architecture to run smoother than ever.  In this article, I’ll touch on a handful of the many that are available. And, because each of these could be an article in itself, I’ve just hit the highlights. Now, sit back and enjoy!

Select Similar

Select Similar is a tool that allows you to quickly select objects of the same type and properties.  I have found this tool to be much faster than Quick Select.  Select the object that you want to use as the template object to select similar objects. Once the objects are selected, right-click in the drawing area and click Select Similar.

You can also use the command SELECTSIMILAR in the command line.  When you do this, you are asked to select objects or settings.  If you choose settings, the Settings option displays the Select Similar Settings dialog box (see Figure 1).  The following options are displayed:

  • Color – Considers objects with matching colors to be similar.
  • Layer – Considers objects on matching layers to be similar.
  • Linetype – Considers objects with matching linetypes to be similar.
  • Linetype scale – Considers objects with matching linetype scales to be similar.
  • Lineweight – Considers objects with matching lineweights to be similar.
  • Plot style – Considers objects with matching plot styles to be similar.
  • Object style – Considers objects with matching styles (such as text styles, dimension styles and table styles) to be similar.
  • Name – Considers referenced objects (such as blocks, xrefs, and images) with matching names to be similar.

Select the options you wish to use and select OK.  Similar objects based on the criteria chosen are selected.

Figure 1: Select Similar settings dialog box

Add Selected

If you need to draw an object with the same type and properties of an existing object, you can use the Add Selected tool.  The Add Selected tool differs from the COPY command by duplicating only the general properties of an object. For example, creating an object based on a selected circle adopts the general properties of the circle, such as its color and layer, but prompts you for the new circle’s center point and radius.  For another example, you can select a polyline then right-click and click Add Selected.  Now AutoCAD Architecture is ready to create another polyline with the same properties.  How quick is that?


AutoComplete is the ultimate time-saver for those who like to key in commands.  As commands are keyed in, AutoCAD Architecture will automatically complete the entries.  If you pause while entering in the command, a list of all possible commands and system variables will display, allowing for easy selection.  By entering the command AUTOCOMPLETE, you can customize which of the following features are turned on.

  • Append – Controls whether commands and system variables are automatically completed as you type.
  • List – Controls whether a list of valid commands and system variables is displayed as you type.
  • Icon – Controls whether the corresponding icon for a command is displayed in the list. The same icon is used for all system variables.
  • System variables – Controls whether system variables are also included with the Append and List features.
  • Delay – Sets a time delay in seconds before the Append and List features take effect.
  • On – Enables the operation of the AUTOCOMPLETE features that are currently turned on.
  • Off – Suppresses the operation of AUTOCOMPLETE features without changing their settings.

At this point, you will notice that the history is now displayed with a gray background color, which can be modified in Options.  To obtain the above list of options, you can also right-click on the command line and the AutoComplete list is present (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: AutoComplete customization

Multifunctional Grips

In AutoCAD Architecture 2012, multifunctional grips have been added to many objects.  Polylines, for example, have extra grips to make editing much easier.  Secondary grips are located at the midpoint of each segment.  Using the secondary grips to move a segment is much easier than editing each vertex. 

Multifunctional grips can also be found in dimensions, lines, arc 3D faces and many more.  When you use multifunctional grips with dynamic input turned on, you can edit the object via relevant dimensional values.  When you hover the cursor over a quadrant grip with dynamic input enabled, the distances from the center to the quadrants are displayed along the major and minor axes.  If you click on the grip, you can edit the values.


Transparency controls whether background pixels are transparent or opaque.  Transparency can now be assigned to objects and layers in the same way that color, plot style, linetype, and lineweight have been applied.  Transparency can be set to a value between 0 and 90, where 0 indicates no transparency and 90 indicates high transparency. 

Transparency can also be set to ByLayer or ByBlock (see Figure 3).  When Transparency is set per object, the layer transparency settings are overridden.  Transparency can be found on the Properties Palette as well as the Home tab of the ribbon.  The application status bar also contains a toggle button that allows you to toggle transparency on and off. 

You will notice that the Plot and Page Setup dialog boxes contain a checkbox for Plot Transparency.  Note that checking “plot transparency” will increase plotting time.  It is a good idea to leave this unchecked when not using transparency.

Figure 3: Transparency

Associative Array

In AutoCAD Architecture 2012, the ARRAY command has been greatly improved and is now creating a new array object that is associative by default.  An associative array treats the entire array as a single array object.  This makes editing the properties of an array much easier.  Editing can be done using multifunctional grips, which is quick and easy.  You can edit individual items within the array by using the Ctrl key.  If you find that you have made errors in your edit, the Reset tool returns the items to their default size and position and you can begin again.

Associative arrays can be 2D or 3D.  3D associative arrays are very powerful in AutoCAD Architecture.  You can indicate the number of items needed in the Z direction and specify the distance between levels, and presto—you are done!  It is important to note that the distance of 0 between levels would create each row at the same elevation.

Figure 4: Array toolbar


In AutoCAD Architecture 2012, the UCS icon can be directly manipulated using multifunctional grips.  You can now easily move and align the origin with objects, including solids and curved surfaces.  Begin by selecting the UCS icon.  As you hover over the grips, various menus appear.  If you right-click on the UCS icon, additional controls appear.  In the UCS command, the UCS icon displays a dynamic preview.


The Renovation tool is intended to make completion of renovation projects easier for the user.  You can easily identify objects and associate them with different phases if a renovation project.  In one drawing, you can show existing, demolished, and new construction! This allows you to avoid errors that are typically caused by editing multiple drawings. 
When you begin Renovation mode, the existing category is assigned to existing objects.  If objects are deleted, they are assigned to the demo category.  For example, moving a door will create both a new door as well as a demo door along with the corresponding wall openings.

In the display configuration for Renovation, objects are displayed according to their display representation.  Within this display configuration, Existing, New object, and Demolished categories are specified.  They can be viewed in plan, elevation, and section displays.

The first time Renovation mode is activated, a specific Renovation display configuration is created.  To do this, click the Manage tab of the ribbon, Style & Display panel, Renovation Mode.  This brings up a dialog box that allows you to give a name to the new display configuration.  You can select the Options button to change settings using the Display, Layers, and Styles, Blocks and Materials tabs.  Click OK and you are now working in Renovation mode.

Point Cloud

Point clouds created from 3D scanning devices can be attached and displayed.  Point clouds are great for streamlining time-consuming restoration and renovation projects.  They are attached similar to other reference files and support up to two billion points.  You can quickly visualize and snap to the surface of your scanned objects directly within your modeling workspace.  It is a good idea to lock down the point clouds so the points don’t move.  AutoCAD Architecture 2012 has an improved indexing algorithm.  This allows for optimized viewing when changing zoom levels and keeps you from waiting as long for the drawing to refresh.  The point density can be adjusted using the Density slider bar for better performance (see Figure 5).

Figure 5: Point Cloud Density

Custom Grids

Creating Custom Grids allows you to define several aspects that were not previously user-defined.  With this tool, you can define different numbers of grid lines for each side of the grid.  This means that you can create column grids where one or more column lines are not required to be across the entire building as a single object.

While labeling the grid, you may use primary and secondary numbering.  This allows you to add grid lines with a secondary numbering sequence during the grid creation.  You can also add them later, if you desire.  This feature reduces the need for you to convert linework and also avoid having to tag each of your column lines individually.

Several properties can be controlled with the Custom Grid tool.  Some of these properties are:

  • Number of grid lines
  • Inner grid radius
  • Prefixes for grid labels
  • Grid label numbering/lettering scheme
  • Clockwise and counter-clockwise grid direction
  • Orthogonal or radial grid shape

With the Custom Grid tool, there are many more possibilities for time saving.  What a great productivity tool!


This article discusses just a few of the many tips and tricks for AutoCAD Architecture. Begin by practicing with these, then dig deeper to discover what they can do beyond what I have written.  The greatest way to learn is to delve into the software and play around.  (Remember, there is always the Escape button!)  Now, on your mark, get set, explore!

Melinda Heavrin is a CAD Coordinator & Facility Planner for Norton Healthcare in Louisville, Kentucky.  She has been using AutoCAD Architecture since release 2000.  Melinda can be reached for comments and questions at melinda.heavrin@nortonhealthcare.org.

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About the Authors

Melinda Heavrin

Melinda Heavrin

Melinda Heavrin is a CAD Coordinator & Facility Planner for Norton Healthcare in Louisville, Kentucky.  She has been using AutoCAD Architecture since release 2000.  Melinda can be reached for comments and questions at melinda.heavrin@nortonhealthcare.org.


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