Take Advantage of Annotations

June 21st, 2013

AutoCAD® Architecture 2013 contains great annotation abilities.  Annotations are basically notes or other types of explanatory objects (or symbols) that are commonly used to add information to a drawing.  Some examples of annotations are keynotes, notes and labels, dimensions, hatches, tables, blocks, and callouts.  Let’s look at some of these.


Keynoting is a consistent way of annotating the different types of drawings in a set of construction documents to identify building materials or to provide special instructions.  AutoCAD Architecture 2013 provides a flexible, tool-based method of inserting keynotes that are linked to a keynote database and can be modified globally as well as individually.  This method supports both reference keynoting (where the keynote key corresponds to a section in an accompanying specification and may appear on different drawings) and sheet keynoting (where keynote keys are sequentially numbered for each drawing).

AutoCAD Architecture 2013 supplies pre-specified keynotes for its size-specific default detail components and for architectural objects that represent assemblies with multiple components.  For variable-size objects and material definitions, a keynote classification group is pre-specified and you specify a size when the keynote is inserted.  For detail components, these keynotes and groups are based on the widely used MasterFormat 2004 standard maintained by the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI).  For assemblies, the CSI Uniformat standard is used.  However, because the software accommodates multiple keynote databases, it also supports other common or locally developed keynoting systems, so your localized version of AutoCAD Architecture may vary. 

Whatever the source of the keynote, you can also associate it with a particular object style or material definition.  This lets you use the keynote insertion tools on individual components of an object or on linework in two-dimensional (2D) sections or elevations.  In cases where no keynotes are pre-specified, you select a keynote from the available database.  You can also configure a keynote insertion tool to insert a particular keynote, regardless of the insertion point.

In addition to tools for inserting keynotes (derived from the basic annotation tool), the software includes tools for generating keynote legends that list selected keynotes from one or more drawing sheets and help you to quickly locate all instances of a particular keynote.  You can also generate a keynote legend for a drawing prior to inserting keynotes; in this case the legend would include all keynotes that are likely to be used.

Keynotes used in AutoCAD Architecture 2013 are stored in Microsoft Access databases.  There are two default keynote databases:

  • AecKeynotes: This database is used for keynoting individual detail components and materials according to the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) MasterFormat 2004 standard.
  • AecKeynotes-Assemblies: This database is used for keynoting architectural objects that are assemblies of multiple components.  These keynotes are based on the CSI Uniformat standard.

To accommodate proprietary office standards and other project-specific keynoting schemes, you can modify the default databases or you can create your own databases using either Microsoft Access or the editing functionality provided with the software.  You can also configure keynote databases to control which ones are available for assigning to individual projects and to specify the order in which they are searched.

Notes and Labels

Text can be created in various ways.  For short, simple entries, single-line text should be used.  To create single-line text, begin by selecting the Text panel on the Annotation tab of the ribbon.  Next, select the Text drop-down and select Single Line (see Figure 1).  Specify the insertion point for the first character.  If you press Enter, the program locates the new text immediately below the last text object you created, if any.  Now, specify the height of the text.  Please note that this prompt is displayed only if text height is set to 0 in the current text style.  A rubber-band line is attached from the text insertion point to the cursor.  Click to set the height of the text to the length of the rubber-band line.  Next, specify a text rotation angle.  You can enter an angle value or use your pointing device and then enter the text.  At the end of each line, press Enter and then you can enter more text as needed. 

It is important to note that text that would otherwise be difficult to read (if it is very small or very large) is displayed at a legible size and is oriented horizontally so you can easily read and edit it.  If you specify another point during this command, the cursor moves to that point, and you can continue typing.  Every time you press Enter or specify a point, a new text object is created.  When ready to end the command, press Enter on a blank line.

For longer entries with internal formatting, multi-line text (mtext) can be used.  To create multi-line text, begin by selecting the Text panel on the Annotation tab of the ribbon.  Next, select the Text drop-down and select Multi-Line (see Figure 1).  You can also simply use the command MTEXT.  Specify opposite corners of a bounding box to define the width of the multi-line text object.  The MText ribbon contextual tab will be displayed.  If you wish to indent the first line of each paragraph, drag the first-line indent slider on the ruler.  If you wish to indent the other lines of each paragraph, drag the paragraph slider.  To set tabs, click the ruler specifically where you want a tab stop.  Now you can enter text.

Although all entered text uses the current text style, which establishes the default font and format settings, you can use several methods to customize the text appearance.  There are several tools that can change text scale and justification, find and replace text, and check for spelling errors.  You can override the current text style by selecting a few letters, a word, or a paragraph.  To select one or more letters, click and drag the pointing device over the characters.  To select a word, you will need to double-click the word.  To select a paragraph, you will need to triple-click the paragraph.  Now, on the ribbon, you can format the changes (see Figure 2).  If you wish to change the font of the selected text, select a font from the list.  If you wish to change the height of the selected text, enter a new value in the Height box.  It is important to note that the MText height value is reset to 0 if its default height is not modified during creation.  If you wish to format text in a TrueType font with boldface or italics or create underlined or overlined text for any font, click the corresponding button on the ribbon.  It is important to note that SHX fonts do not support boldface or italics.  Now, to apply color to selected text, choose a color from the Color list.  Click Other to display the Select Color dialog box.  To save your changes and exit the editor, click in the drawing outside the editor.

Figure 1: Create text

Figure 2: Text editor


Dimensions can be associative, non-associative, or exploded.  These are quickly defined as follows.

  • Associative dimensions – automatically adjust their locations, orientations, and measurement values when the geometric objects associated with them are modified.  Dimensions in a layout may be associated to objects in model space. The DIMASSOC system variable is set to 2.
  • Non-associative dimensions – selected and modified with the geometry they measure.  Non-associative dimensions do not change when the geometric objects they measure are modified.  The dimension variable DIMASSOC is set to 1.
  • Exploded dimensions – contain a collection of separate objects rather than a single dimension object.  The DIMASSOC system variable is set to 0.

You can determine whether a dimension is associative or non-associative by selecting the dimension and then use the Properties Palette to display the properties of the dimension.  A dimension is considered associative even if only one end of the dimension is associated with a geometric object. The DIMREASSOCIATE command displays the associative and non-associative elements of a dimension.  The Quick Select dialog box can also be used to filter the selection of associative or non-associative dimensions.

The DIMREGEN command may need to be used to update associative dimensions after panning or zooming, after opening a drawing that was modified with an earlier release, or after opening a drawing with external references that have been modified.  Although associative dimensions support most object types that you would expect to dimension, they do not support Hatches, Multi-line objects, 2D solids, Images, DWF, DGN, and PDF underlays.

When selecting objects to dimension, make sure that the objects you select do not include a directly overlapping object that does not support associative dimensioning, such as 2D solid.  It is important to note that associativity is not maintained between a dimension and a block reference if the block is redefined.  Also, associativity is not maintained between a dimension and 3D solid if the shape of the 3D solid is modified.

To create a dimension, begin by selecting the Dimension panel on the Annotation tab of the ribbon.  Next, select the Dimension drop-down and select the type of dimension you wish to create (see Figure 3).  Now, in the drawing, select beginning and ending points for the dimension, select text placement, and hit Enter.

Figure 3: Create dimension


A hatch object displays a standard pattern of lines and dots used to highlight an area or to identify a material, such as stone or concrete.  It can also display a solid fill or a gradient fill.  Hatches and fills can be created by using the HATCH command. 

By default, bounded hatches are associative, which means the hatch object is associated with the hatch boundary objects and changes to the boundary objects are automatically applied to the hatch.  To maintain associativity, the boundary objects must continue to completely enclose the hatch.

The alignment and orientation of a hatch pattern is determined by the current location and orientation of the user coordinate system in addition to controls in the user interface.  Moving or rotating the UCS is an alternate method for controlling hatch patterns.

It is important to note that, by default, a preview of the hatch displays as you move the cursor over enclosed areas.  If you need to improve the response time in large drawings, you can turn off the hatch preview feature with the HPQUICKPREVIEW system variable.

Hatch patterns can be dragged and dropped into your drawing from the Design Center.  To do this, begin by selecting the Home tab, Draw panel of the ribbon.  On the Hatch drop-down, select Hatch.  This will open the Design Center toolbar.  On the toolbar, click Search.  In the Search dialog box, select Hatch Pattern Files from the Look For drop-down list.  Now, from the In drop-down list, select the drive where the program is installed and confirm that Search Subfolders is selected.  On the Hatch Pattern Files tab, in Search for the Name, enter * (asterisk) and then click Search Now. 

The default hatch pattern file is acad.pat or acadiso.pat.  The search results may display the same file in different locations.  You can add the PAT file to Favorites by selecting the file and clicking the Favorites button.  A shortcut to the PAT file is displayed in the Favorites folder in the Design Center folders list.  In the search results, double-click the filename to load the hatch patterns into the content area of Design Center.  From the content area of Design Center, drag a hatch pattern into an enclosed area in your drawing or onto a tool palette.  It is important to note that if the hatch pattern scale is too large or small, an error message is displayed.  You can adjust the scale for any hatch pattern by selecting it to display the Hatch Editor tab.

If you wish to hatch or fill areas, begin by clicking the Home tab, Draw panel of the ribbon.  On the Hatch drop-down, select Hatch.  Now, on the Properties panel, select one of the options from the Hatch Type drop-down list.  On the Pattern panel, click a hatch pattern or fill.  Specify a point inside each area to be hatched.  On the ribbon, make adjustments as needed (see Figure 4).  On the Properties panel, you can change the hatch type and colors or modify the transparency level, angle or scale for the hatch.  This is optional, but if you like, you can expand the Options panel and select one of the draw order options from the bottom drop-down list (see Figure 5).  You can change the draw order of the hatch so the hatch is displayed either behind or in front of the hatch boundary, or behind or in front of all other objects.  Now, press Enter to apply the hatch and exit the command.

If you wish to hatch selected objects, begin by clicking the Home tab, Draw panel of the ribbon.  On the Hatch drop-down, select Hatch.  Now, on the Boundaries panel, click Select.  Select the objects you want to hatch.  Press Enter to apply the hatch and exit the command.

Figure 4: Hatch creation

Figure 5: Hatch editor


AutoCAD Architecture 2013 contains a lot of Annotation abilities.  This article represents just the tip of the iceberg. I encourage you to explore and see what Annotation abilities the software has and then customize everything to your daily needs.

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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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