AUGI - How to Transform Your 2D CAD Experience with DraftSight
Lynn Allen spent over 20 years with Autodesk promoting its annual releases, producing hundreds of video tips, authoring countless articles for Cadalyst Magazine, and writing three AutoCAD® books. There are not many people out there who know more about AutoCAD than Lynn. As a Technology Evangelist, she is always staying on top of CAD trends and working to help people embrace change. We asked Lynn to share an overview of DraftSight, especially from the perspective of an AutoCAD User.
The way you work has probably changed tremendously in the past few years. You may be facing new challenges, while also adjusting to a more dynamic and flexible workplace. You’re no longer focused on just working harder, but actually working smarter. This means looking at your processes and tools, how you are spending your time, and where you are spending your precious money. For many of us, 2D CAD plays an important role in how design data is shared and communicated between teams, suppliers, contractors, and regulatory authorities. I’m here to tell you that the right CAD solution can make all the difference in reducing your repetitive work and freeing up your time for more important things.
In addition, changes in licensing and increased scrutiny on IT investments make it even more important to do a little homework and compare products. When you compare features and functionality, you’ll have an ah-hah moment when you see that DraftSight provides comparable, if not greater capabilities than alternative 2D CAD products with flexible licensing and options for technical support and cloud-connectivity.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the productivity tools and automations that DraftSight has to offer. These robust tools include the enhanced Sheet Set Manager, Custom Blocks, and PDF Import, as well as many others that can only be found in DraftSight. You might even find that DraftSight’s key features can significantly improve your current workflow.
Sheet Set Manager
The Sheet Set Manager is an organizational tool that helps you manage a large set of drawing sheets across multiple DWG files. I am a huge fan of this functionality because it keeps you from having to tediously open individual sheets or files to apply properties and print settings globally.
One of the best new features in DraftSight 2022 is the ability to insert associative Drawing Sheet List Tables. Inserting these snazzy tables is easy – just right-click on either the top-level Sheet Set, a Subset, a Named Selection Set, or even individual files. And, you not only get the table, but your sheets come in hyperlinked, so you’ve also created a super speedy method for opening your drawings!
I mentioned named selection sets (yes, you can do this too!) but let’s not forget about the new Pack and Go feature, which is available right inside the Sheet Set Manager. Pack and Go lets you package ALL the files that are related to a DWG and are necessary for it to appear and print correctly outside the office.
As you know, blocks help users collect geometry and entities which can be used repetitively in the drawings. DraftSight 2022 added Custom Blocks to allow users to create more intelligent blocks, which can be configured to contain all your necessary design variations. Custom Blocks help you save time, effort, and storage space with the ability to cover multiple design variations in one single block. You’re also going to save time and increase compatibility since DraftSight also lets you edit legacy AutoCAD® Dynamic Blocks®.
Import Multiple PDF Files at Once
The ability to import PDF geometry in CAD was a significant game changer. Perhaps a client has sent you an as-built set of PDF plans for a future project, or maybe you need to recreate a project due to lost or corrupt files. Converting that PDF geometry to usable vector data in DraftSight is a game changer! But who needs to convert only one PDF file at a time? That may happen on occasion, but usually you have many PDF files you need to convert – dozens or even hundreds. While today’s CAD software all do a good job of importing PDF geometry, only DraftSight allows you to import multiple PDF files at once. This can be done from either a multi-sheet PDF, or as a batch process from a folder full of individual PDF files.
Tools Found Only in DraftSight
DraftSight offers some powerful tools that can help you become more efficient and increase your productivity. Let’s look at a few of them.
My personal favorite, PowerTrim, allows you to quickly and accurately trim multiple entities by simply dragging your pointer across them. Since PowerTrim automatically considers everything in your drawing to be a cutting edge, you can save time and lessen your frustration by not having to identify and select those entities individually. You literally just hop in and start trimming!
You can even change the behavior of PowerTrim to PowerExtend entities in the same manner, simply by holding down Shift on your keyboard.
Toolbox Layers (or TB Layers, for short) is a feature that everyone can use to maintain your CAD standards. TB Layers allows you to map the layer of your choice to any type of DraftSight Entity. You can even specify the LineColor, LineStyle, or LineWeight if you want.
Imagine how much time you’ll save by not having to switch your active layer every time you decide to draw a new type of entity. Your dimensions will always be on the right layer. The same with your tables, hatches, text, viewports, centerlines, etc.
I’ve always wanted an “easy button” for dimensioning. Something that lets you just select an area around your drawing, and Bam! The software does the work for you. Guess what? DraftSight lets you do that. It’s appropriately called Auto Dimension
Simply select the entities you want to dimension with a Bounding Box, then set various options in the Auto Dimension palette. For both Horizontal and Vertical Dimensions, you can specify whether they’ll be Baseline, Continuous, or Ordinate dimensions. You’ll also need to decide if you want the Horizontal dims to be placed above or below the bounding box, and whether the Vertical dims are to the right or left. That’s it…the rest is done for you!
Mouse Gestures provide a fast and convenient way to speed up your drafting technique. When it’s enabled, you can access various commands by simply holding down the right mouse button and moving the mouse in the proper direction. Warning: You could become addicted to using Mouse Gestures! I certainly have.
DraftSight allows either four gestures, which correlate to moving the mouse up, down, left, or right, or if you’re really coordinated, you can choose eight gestures which add in the diagonal directions.
Each Gesture has a default command, but the real power comes when you customize them. By mapping your most frequently used commands to a gesture, you can remove the need to navigate through a menu to click on its icon. Naturally I added Powertrim to my Gesture wheel!
And Some Common Commands are Just Built Better!
Just as I mentioned that PDFIMPORT has more functionality than you are probably accustomed to with your existing CAD product – the same is true for many of the DraftSight commands. A perfect example is RichLines (Or you may know them as MLINES). RichLines in DraftSight actually update when you modify their correlating style (imagine that!) so you don’t need to erase the existing ones and start all over! Think of all the time you will save!
And I love the Layer Property Manager in DraftSight. It is so much more visual, easier to read and easier to use (it even has gridlines!)
These are just a few examples but you’ll be able to tell that just a little more time was spent carving out your favorite commands in DraftSight to make sure they were right on point!
Making Your Work Easier and Better
Wow! How’s that a lot of productivity enhancements! If you use another 2D CAD software package, no doubt you’ve seen something that’s piqued your interest. After all, most CAD users are always looking for that little tweak, or just a better way to make their tasks easier or more efficient.
But change is hard for a lot of us. I get it. So, let’s also tackle some of the most common questions about making the transition to DraftSight so you understand why switching to DraftSight can be so beneficial, and just how easy the transition is.
What product options does DraftSight offer?
DraftSight is available in two core product tiers, DraftSight Professional, for 2D design, drafting, and documentation, and DraftSight Premium, which adds full 3D capabilities, 2D constraints, Dynamic Block editing, Custom Block creation, PDF Import, and Sheet Set Manager (single or multi-file PDF import). Both are offered as stand-alone, networked, or named-user configurations. The choice is yours.
Why is DraftSight a better business investment?
Here’s some good news - all levels of DraftSight will leave a lot more money in your IT budget than comparable alternatives. These savings may allow you to add more seats, upgrade hardware or other software, or add peripherals. Whether you decide to re-invest them or save them and add them to your bottom line, the savings are real, and they’re all yours when you use DraftSight.
Will I be able to get my jobs done?
Yes. But don’t take my word for it. I encourage you to check out the free trial. DraftSight provides you with all the core capabilities you would expect in a 2D design, drafting, and documentation solution.
What about legacy files and data?
DraftSight is fully compatible with DWG and DXF-file formats. All your entities, layers, plot styles, Xrefs, and blocks will be just fine, and you can seamlessly go back and forth between DraftSight and your legacy software. In some ways, DraftSight handles your DWG files even better. You can even save a drawing file all the way back to an R12 drawing file.
How much time will the transition take?
If you are looking to transition, DraftSight’s familiar user interface and common commands will help you get acclimated in hours, not days.
If you are one of those “other CAD product” users, I have more good news for you. You can download a free, 30-day trial of DraftSight Premium and try any or all of DraftSight’s productivity features for yourself.
So, what are you waiting for? Don’t leave your money and time on the table when you can have more control in how you invest your resources. DraftSight is a comprehensive alternative for your design and drafting needs and then some.