Tackling Tables in AutoCAD
What is a Table?
A table in AutoCAD® is a compound object that contains data in rows and columns. A table can be created from an empty table, data derived from the drawing, or data linked to a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. You can create a schedule, legend, notes, bills of material, and many other associated lists compiled in an organized manner. AutoCAD tables contain rows and columns that create a group of individual cells that are designated by row numbers and column letters in which the cell resides (just as in Microsoft Excel). The table command can be launched from the ribbon under the Annotation panel as shown in Figure 1 or by typing Table at the command prompt. Good practice is to save your company standard table styles within a template or on a tool palette, which can be used each time you launch AutoCAD.
Figure 1: Table command on the ribbon
Tables can be defined by a table style, which presets many of the table characteristics. Tables can be formatted by selecting any of the rows and cells and modifying them to meet your company standards or a client-specified request. Let’s explore the tables and some of the different approaches we can use to become more efficient with AutoCAD. Once you start the table command, the Insert Table dialog box will appear as shown in Figure 2. On the left side of the dialog box you will see a preview of how the current table style will look (i.e., Standard style).
Figure 2: Insert Table
Under the Insert Options section we have three options as shown in Figure 3. A demonstration of each of these three techniques can be found on the Autodesk Knowledge Network (AKN) at https://knowledge.autodesk.com/community/screencast/7e9503ae-5af8-47c3-b221-147b3fddd85b
Figure 3: Insert Table options
- Start from an Empty Table: Use this option when you want to manually enter data. If you start from an empty table, you will retain the default values for rows and columns and the table will be inserted at the top right of the drawing.
- From a data link: This option gives you the ability to create a table from an Excel spreadsheet or a comma-delineated (.csv) file.
- From object data in the drawing: This option gives you the ability to create a table from objects in the drawing.
We are going to start by just entering an empty table as in Step 1 and review the properties of the table. After inserting the table and selecting a cell, the contextual ribbon Table Cell will appear as shown in Figure 4. This is where you can make changes to your existing table. When you select a single cell as shown you can perform several functions including modifying the data, locking and unlocking, and insert blocks and fields. You can also access all the options by performing a right-click on the cell to bring up the shortcut menu.
Figure 4: Table Cell contextual ribbon
We can modify the cell size by selecting the grips as shown in Figure 4. The numbers represent the different grips and their functions as shown in Figure 4a.
- Use this grip (on the right as well) to modify the width of the cell.
- Use these grips to modify the height of the cell.
- Use this grip to increment the value of a cell automatically; right-click and the following menu will appear.
Figure 4a: Increment cell value
A demonstration of cell properties and how to autofill cells can be found on the AKN at https://knowledge.autodesk.com/community/screencast/65180e74-118a-48a5-ac21-946e36daad77
Under the Cell Styles panel of the Table Cell contextual ribbon you will find the edit borders section as shown in Figure 5. This properties dialog box will help you define the characteristics of your lines within the table.
Figure 5: Edit Borders
Upon selecting Edit Borders you will have the Cell Border Properties dialog box where you can define the linetypes and their properties of the cells within your table in six steps.
Figure 6: Cell Border Properties
- This defines the lineweight of your table cell. You must have the lineweight set then select the border lines (red arrow) as to where you want the property to take place. Note: Your change will NOT appear in the preview box; you will have to move back out to AutoCAD and turn your lineweight on to see the change.
- Set the Linetype.
- Set the Color.
- Yes, you can have a double line.
- Spacing of the cells and lines.
- Preview button is where you assign the properties of the individual line segments. For example, say you only want the bottom line to be a bold line—this is where you can modify that property.
Watch this screencast to see how to use borders in a table: https://knowledge.autodesk.com/community/screencast/3d702af2-a06b-4db7-8f86-fdb87ce8b4fa
Now that we have covered the basics, these next few sections will focus on adding data to your table.
Creating a Legend Table
We are going to take what we have learned with Cell Styles and Borders and create a legend table which will contain our block symbols and a description. The power of this feature is that all your blocks and text will be aligned at the same location. The following image shows a base map with four typical symbols that are labeled with fields.
Figure 7: Blocks in AutoCAD
You can perform this in paper space or model space. Move to your standard legend area and select a table with two columns (one for the symbol and one for the description) and four rows (identifying the four symbols we have in our drawing). Once your table is in your drawing select the first cell under the main header cell as shown in Figure 8.
Figure 8: Adding a block to a table
Follow the steps below to add your block to the table cell.
- Select and highlight the cell where you want your block to be placed. This will bring up the Table Cell contextual ribbon.
- Select Block from the ribbon.
- Select your block.
- Turn AutoFit off. We want to be able to control the size of our symbol, keeping them all consistent. This is good because most legend items are not the same size.
Our table should look like what is shown in Figure 9. Note: I have added the title legend and the words recovery well location for our description. Use standard text tools and justification to get the text to appear the way you want. For the legend I used a top left justification, bold text, and underline. For the description use the middle left and a standard text. Use the Autofill setting to copy the symbols and text to the remaining three sections. Change the symbols by selecting the cell and changing the block.
Figure 9: The Legend table
After copying all the symbols and editing the text, your final legend table should look like the left portion of Figure 10.
Figure 10: Turn off the borders
Let’s review the three steps to complete our legend table.
- Insert the blocks into the cell and create a proportional size (be consistent).
- Enter the descriptions of the symbol for your legend.
- Important! Turn all the borders off. This way they will not print, and all of your symbols and text will be perfectly aligned in your legend.
A complete demonstration of this technique is illustrated in a screencast found at https://knowledge.autodesk.com/community/screencast/f5684b6a-5141-4bfe-880a-09ab3354dfa9
Creating a Table with Fields
Another great function of tables is the ability to add formulas and field data. In this example we are going to use a table to display the square footage of three separate areas and then total them up all in one table. We have three areas in our drawing that are enclosed with a single object—in this case a polyline.
Figure 11: The areas to be defined
Insert your table into your drawing with the header, four rows, and two columns. Enter the title and the three areas as shown in Figure 12. Next, we are going to follow steps 1 and 2.
Figure 12: Pond Calculations table
- Select your Table Cell for the area.
- Select Field from the Table Cell contextual ribbon.
From the field dialog box, we are going to go through five options as shown in Figure 13.
Figure 13: Field dialog box
- Move the field category to object.
- Select the button and you will be taken back out to AutoCAD to select your object. Select the Area 1 polyline.
- Select Area from the Property window.
- Select your preferred units. Note: there are additional formatting options available here for adding a prefix, suffix, or additional mathematical expressions for control of your output.
- Select OK and your field will be added to the table.
Figure 14: The table
Continue to add the areas 2 and 3. When complete, select the TOTAL cell and perform the sum function. Select formula, then Sum. You will now window select the three cells to total (shown in red) and hit enter. The sum of Areas 1 through 3 are now displayed in the table. Please see the screencast below for a demonstration on this topic. https://knowledge.autodesk.com/community/screencast/a2e18b05-14b2-4a68-88fc-2754f72ca0c0
Figure 15: Using a formula to add up the data
Creating a Sheet Set Index Table
Open an existing sheet set, which contains layouts (sheets) with drawing numbers, sheet description, and a sheet title. We would like a sheet index placed on the cover page and linked to the sheet set. Why do things twice, right? As a prerequisite you can create a table that is your standard for design set title sheets; for this example, I have one named Sheet Index. You don’t have to do this, but when working on future projects for your design you should create your table according to your company standard. The generic table will get you what you need, but some up-front formatting can help you with consistency and efficiency.
Figure 16: Insert Sheet List Table
After selecting Insert Sheet List Table, the following dialog box will appear where you select the properties of your table.
Figure 17: Sheet List Table properties
- Select your table style. This is where you can create the table in the current drawing or have it preloaded as a template.
- Enter the name of the Sheet Index table.
- Enter the Column settings. Depending on your design project you can customize your table to enter the data you need or your company standard. We have the three options as shown.
When you have all the fields you need, hit OK and place the table on your drawing. The table is now linked to the sheet set and you can modify the properties directly on your title sheet. For a demonstration, go to https://knowledge.autodesk.com/community/screencast/bddaee72-698b-4015-b3de-fb557e4414f8
Figure 18: The Drawing Index table
Tables are an extremely powerful way to capture and display data within a drawing. This article is just a snapshot of some of the table functionality in AutoCAD—there is so much more to explore. Use tables for organizing your data and becoming more efficient by displaying the properties of objects and geometry within your designs. Take what I have shown and delve into the properties of tables and how they can help you become more efficient and productive within your daily design activities.
On a final note, registration for Autodesk University 2018 has begun. This is a great conference to learn, connect, and explore all things CAD and Design. I will be there speaking again, and I look forward to seeing everyone in November during the most wonderful time of the year.