Tools & Timesavers

Command Line

The command line has a few new enhancements, including giving the user more control over transparency and color.  If you float the undocked command line above the AutoCAD® Architecture drawing window, you will notice that the semi-transparent prompt history doesn’t affect the drawing area.  If you select the new customize tool on the command line, you can control the number of lines of prompt history (which displays up to 50 lines) as well as AutoComplete, Transparency, and Options (see Figure 1).  If you wish, you can make the command line almost completely transparent so that it will display only when you hover over it.  The color of the command line can be changed from the Colors tool, which is found on the Display tab, Options dialog box.

Figure 1: Command line

Express Tools

In AutoCAD Architecture 2013, Express Tools are now “real” commands.  The NCOPY Express Tools is a core command now.  You can now copy nested objects from Xrefs, DGN underlays, and blocks with no need to explode or bind.  The Delete Duplicates tool (OVERKILL command) can be used to clean up your drawing and remove any duplicate geometry.  OVERKILL settings can be controlled in the dialog box.  You can specify which object properties you wish to ignore as well as whether or not to optimize polyline segments or combine co-linear objects.  The tolerance value in the dialog box controls the precision by which the command will operate.

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.  This 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 timesaver 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

Autodesk Content Explorer

Autodesk Content Explorer allows for quick searches of all types of content.  This includes blocks, layers, attributes, and styles, among others.  The Content Explorer is located on the Plug-ins tab of the ribbon (see Figure 3).  It can search through thousands of files instantly, including the Autodesk Seek web service.  This allows you to easily add online content from a variety of manufacturers.  You can open the source file from Content Explorer or drag content into your current drawing. 

One important note is that the Add Network Content option has now changed.  It is now a drop-down list named Add Content Provider.  In the list, you will see that the option for Autodesk Content Service replaces the previous Add Network Content button.  AutoCAD Architecture 2013 includes basic indexing support for any file that can be opened, attached, and imported using AutoCAD Architecture.

Figure 3: Autodesk Content Explorer

Multifunctional Grips

In AutoCAD Architecture 2013, 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 and multileaders, 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.

Associative Array

The ARRAY command creates a new array object that is associative by default.  An associative array treats the entire array as a single array object, similar to a block.  Unlike a block, however, you can still manipulate the individual objects.  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.  You can use the new Replace Item tool to replace selected instances with other objects.

There are three types of associative arrays:  rectangular, polar, and path option.  Rectangular arrays are automatically displayed in a 3-row by 4-column grid.  Polar arrays are displayed in a full circular pattern of 6.  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.  It is important to note that the distance of 0 between levels would create each row at the same elevation.  The visual preview provided by AutoCAD Architecture makes it easy to get your array right the first time around.

Figure 4: Array toolbar


In AutoCAD Architecture 2013, 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.  UCS icon selectability can be controlled in the UCS dialog box, which is found on the Coordinates panel, View ribbon tab in the 3D Modeling workspace.


The Renovation tool in AutoCAD Architecture 2013 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 Clouds

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 through the External Reference Manager and support up to 2 billion points. 

The Attach Point Cloud dialog box now provides you with a preview and more detailed information than before.  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 2013 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).  A new bounding box will appear when you select a point cloud, which makes it easier to visualize its position in 3D space.  There is now a new Point Cloud ribbon tab that appears with all the necessary Point Cloud tools when one is selected.  If intensity data is included, you can now use the analysis tools to view point intensity with different color schemes.  In addition, you can now clip a point cloud, which can be very useful!

Indexing now provides a noticeably faster and smoother workflow.  The new Create Point Cloud File dialog box allows you to select multiple files that you can batch index and also merge into a single file.  Point Cloud indexing has been significantly improved, especially when working with raw scan files.

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 eliminates 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!


There are many tips and tricks for AutoCAD Architecture and this article provides just a few. Begin by practicing with these and explore to see what all they can do beyond what I have written.  Then explore the many others that are out there!  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!

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