Tips from the Dork Side

Working in Facilities Engineering means that I am consuming much more information with AutoCAD® than I am creating. So, I would like to walk you through some selection and navigation methods I am fond of, and there is even a little homework assignment for you at the end of the article.

Just for Reference

Do you need to re-path x-refs for a large number of drawings? A quick and easy way to accomplish this is by using the Reference Manager application. Go to your Windows Start menu, click Programs, then Autodesk, then AutoCAD, and you’ll find the Reference Manager application. Click the Add Drawings button, and the program will show you the data for each selected drawing. Once you select the necessary attachments, you’ll be able to edit a path or perform a Find and Replace on them.

Come on, Baby, Let’s DVIEW Twist

Buildings are never built perfectly in line with magnetic north, or with each other. My campus’s plan is accurate in direction, but that means when I want to print out a floor plan for just one of the buildings, they will not appear straight on the plot. I set up layouts for each of the buildings, so that I can print them ‘straight.’

Pull up a layout tab and click into the viewport, zooming into your preferred area. Type DVIEW and select an object. You will be prompted to select from different available options. Type TW for the twist option, then rotate the view for best fit, without having moved the modelspace entities at all.

Lay It All Out

After I set up these layouts for each building on that floor, I want to import the layouts into the drawing for another level. Open up your next drawing and just right-click on a layout tab and select From Template…, change the Files of Type selection to .dwg and select the drawing in which you just set up your layouts. You will be able to select one or more of the layouts available in the drawing you are using as your template.

You can also import layouts into other drawings by using Design Center, although this will not bring along their Page Setups. Go to the Output tab of the ribbon and click the Page Setup Manager to import from there, if needed.

Selection Selection

There are a few different ways to go about selecting entities to examine or modify, depending on your specific needs at the time. If you were to select every single entity in a drawing, when you bring up the Properties palette you would notice that some properties are not available for editing. That is because different entity types do not all have the same properties. You have to filter out dissimilar entities so you can access the controls you need. The following paragraphs contain four different ways to create selection sets. Select your favorite!

One of the easier ways to get a group of objects together for mass editing is through the Isolate command, available on the Layers panel of the Home tab. You select an object or objects on the layers you want to see, and this command will hide the remainder of the layers for you. You can also start and reverse the command by typing in LAYISO and LAYUNISO.

A more precise method for selecting objects is Quick Select. You can find this command on your right-click menu, on the top of the Properties palette, or by typing QSELECT. In the command’s dialog box, you see that you’ve got a couple more options to get more specific in your object selection. You can control what portion of your drawing the selection will draw from, which types of entities are included in your selection set, which properties the desired objects have, and what values you want to include or exclude. Say I want to grab all Polyline entities whose layer color is <> not equal to BYLAYER. I might not want to grab all entities in the drawing and set them all to bylayer because I might have some annotation in the drawing that needs to remain a distinct color for some temporary reason. Or, perhaps I want to grab all Text on layer A-Rm-Num that is less than 9” tall. I can quickly and easily do that here.

If you use the Filter command, bringing up the Object Selection Filters dialog, you see how precise you can be in selecting objects, and you can even save the filter criteria for future use.

Another, more recent addition is the Select Similar command. It has been available in vertical products for many years, and I was thrilled when it was finally added to vanilla AutoCAD. If you’re using release 2010 or earlier, you can find LISP routines which will provide this functionality. There is code available in the AUGI Forums and on my Mistress of the Dorkness blog, along with instructions on adding it to your right-click menu. I like the way it works—as part of your shortcut menu—because you don’t have to interrupt your workflow by using a dialog box or moving out of the drawing area to click a button. Type SELECTSIMILAR then SE to access the Select Similar Settings dialog box and dictate by which criteria you prefer to gather your selection.

Speel Chocker

We all need spell checking at times, let’s face it. Pull up the SPELL command by clicking Check Spelling on the Text panel of the Annotate tab. The default dictionary might be fine for most uses, but you can also make your clients happy by clicking the Dictionaries… button and adding custom words. I’m serious here, take a couple of seconds to input a company (or building or occupant) name correctly in your dictionary (e.g., Shoenberg) so you can check consistency and ensure that your client does not get irritated by seeing your drawing set with numerous incorrect variations. While spelling has little to do with the quality and value of the design that gets built in the field, it does display professionalism and attention to detail.

Snip Snip

Working in a large hospital, our projects are a pretty small part of each massive floor plate, so we use the XCLIP command quite a bit to omit irrelevant extents of a plan. Did you know that since release 2008, you can invert the clip selection, cutting a hole in your existing plan that you can fill in with new data?

Selecting the xref will bring up the contextual External Reference ribbon tab. Select Create Clipping Boundary, select Invert clip (or type I), then select a polyline boundary or drag a rectangle around the needed area.

Prevent Docking

To move a tool palette out of your way without having it dock on the edge of your screen, simply hold down the Control key while you’re moving it and it will remain floating.

Flight of the Keyboard Navigator

If you are old-school like me, you might always keep one hand on the keyboard. I habitually keep a few programs and many drawings open and like to navigate using typed commands:

Use Alt + Tab to toggle between open files and programs
Use Ctrl + Tab to toggle between different open AutoCAD files
Use Ctrl + PgUp & PgDn to toggle between layouts / modelspace – Page Down to move right, Page Up to move left
Use Ctrl + R to cycle through viewports

Very Valuable Variables

I wish it were a fictional account, but true story, I once saw someone asking a question on a (non-CAD) website about how to bring back their missing File Open/Select File dialog. The reply was “That stupid thing happens all the time, you have to reinstall AutoCAD.” Imagine my look of horror. I couldn’t post “Just type FILEDIA!” fast enough.

AutoCAD allows so many things to be controlled by System Variables, and it is hard to learn or recall more than a handful of them. I encourage you to poke around the help files and see what some of them do. And, if you’re experiencing weird behavior, just post your question in the AUGI Forums, where you’ll get much better advice from experienced peers about the cause and solution than the poor guy mentioned above.

Have You Tried…?

Now for your homework assignment. Here are some system variables you can look up and experiment with:


And if you have not used any of the commands in the below list, give them a try:


I hope I have shown you something you hadn’t seen yet. If you have some favorite commands and methods of your own, please stop by the AutoCAD Tips and Tricks forum to share.

Melanie Stone is a CAFM/ IWMS Specialist & System Administrator supporting and writing about ARCHIBUS, FMInteract, Tririga, Revit, AutoCAD, BricsCAD or similar. She served as an AUGI Director/Officer for over 6 years and is currently involved with the STLRUG. Melanie can be reached at or found on Twitter as @MistresDorkness on YouTube or on her Mistress Of the Dorkness blog.