Posts Tagged ‘autocad’

“Necessity is the mother of invention”. This phrase rang true for me, or in this case the mother of investigation, when I finally got frustrated enough with time being wasted dealing with an all too common problem of late.  It is AutoCad related so if you have no interest in, or use for AutoCad I won’t be offended if you just skip over this post.

First off, what are AEC Objects and why are they such a problem?  AEC objects are custom objects used in some flavours of AutoCAD to represent items like doors, windows, walls, etc.  When these drawing files are opened in other versions of AutoCAD that don’t use AEC objects these objects are called proxy objects.  Usually a warning box is displayed letting you know of this when you open the dwg file.  The problem is sometimes these proxy objects need to be edited or changed, and the only way to do that is to explode them, which creates its own set of problems.  Typically parts of the proxy disappear.  For instance a wall may have windows and doors embedded in it until you explode it and they disappear and the wall fills in the area the window or door was.  Not good when you don’t notice, or have to redraw them by hand.

This is the problem we were having.  Entities disappearing when we exploded the proxy objects.  We used to be able to save to an earlier version of AutoCad and the objects would be automatically converted to entities but that process no longer worked in the current versions of AutoCad.  As I said, necessity, and frustration caused me to spend a little time investigating since I figured there must be a better way.  Low and behold, enter the EXPORTTOAUTOCAD and AECTOACAD commands. (yeah i know, “enter” – bad pun)

The EXPORTTOAUTOCAD and AECTOACAD commands create a new drawing file and explode all the proxy AEC objects into editable AutoCAD objects.  The information stored within the AEC objects is lost in the new file, but the former AEC objects can now be easily modified and manipulated.

The commands have a number of options you will need to pay attention to:

1.  Filename: This is the name of the new file you are creating.  It’s best to use the Prefix or Suffix options to create a unique filename and avoid overwriting your original file.
2.  Prefix:  Added to the beginning of the filename, the default is “ACAD-” which helps differentiate from the original file.
3.  Suffix:  Appended to the end of the filename, the default is “no suffix” which is what i use.
4.  Format:  File format for the new file. Options are r14, 2000, 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013. – typically just select whatever version of Acad you are running.
5.  Bind:  If the Bind setting is set to Yes, Xrefs are bound to the drawing. Blocks, layers,styles etc. are merged into the new file. If set to No, the links to the Xref are retained.
6.  bind Type:  There are two options when the Bind option is set to Yes: Bind and Insert. When Bind Type is set to Bind the Xref name is added to the beginning of block, layer and style names, when Insert is used, the names of blocks, layers and styles are merged into the new drawing.

Hit enter and wait for a few moments (depending upon size of file, number of AEC objects and speed of computer) and presto, all done and ready to be edited and cleaned up as you see fit.

Hopefully this will help some of you who struggle with this issue as we do, or more precisely – did.  It is a definite time-saver, especially with some architects we deal with, and in a business where time is money, saving any time at all is a good thing.  Especially in this world were deadlines have gone from weeks to complete a project, to mere days.  I think it’s a conspiracy by the coffee makers to keep us so busy we have to drink more in order to do our jobs, but that may just be the caffeine talking.


The timing may not be great since Apple is doing its own event today and the news, twitter, digg and other social media will be all abuzz about that, but for those in the architectural design business ( by that I mean, architectural, civil, structural, mechanical and electrical ) the announcement that AutoCad was coming to Mac (click here for more info) was pretty big, but IMHO topping that was the announcement that it was also coming to iPhones, iPads and iPod Touchs (see here).

A little back story.  When I heard about it in early 2009 during a customer survey from Autodesk I was pretty excited, but AutoCad on a Mac rumours have been around for years, so I didn’t hold my breath.  So when over the past couple of days I saw tweets and stories about it actually coming soon, it seemed more real and was pretty exciting.  Having been an AutoCad user now for over 20 years and having to jump thru hoops at times to get it working on my Macs, it is extremely cool to know it will again soon be native to the Mac platform.  Don’t get me wrong, Parallels does a great job at letting me use my windows only programs, and BootCamp has allowed me to run them on my Mac in a true windows environment, but i don’t like rebooting to do it, and also, as fast as Parallels is, it’s still a program running an OS running a program and no where near as fast as running the program natively.  And as many have said over the years “speed is king”.  Especially when project deadlines are getting more and more ridiculous.

Which bring me back to the announcements.  For me and our business this could change everything.

Instead of replacing aging Windows PCs and dealing with all the virus/malware/adware etc issues that come along with them, we could just place an iMac on a desk and run AutoCad at full speed, which is what we spend 80% of our days doing.  The change in the user interface from an Acad perspective would probably not be that great, but getting some of the guys in the office to embrace the Mac lifestyle and usage may be too much.  I hesitate to use the term “dinosaurs”, so lets go with “seasoned windows users” instead.  Being set in your ways is not really something that you can afford to do when you work with software and computers all day long.  You have to change or get left behind, and sometimes if you don’t keep up you become incompatible.  Of course i’m talking about the software and equipment, not the people, … although…

Since autodesk is constantly changing their software and releasing a new version every year anyway, we may be able to justify changing to a Mac-based environment, or at least partially.  That’s the beauty of most of the current Mac programs, they are a lot more cross-platform compatible (Microsoft Office is a great example of that) so having half our office on Windows and the other half on Macs is not an issue.  In fact it’s really not that much different from the way it is now, since we have WinXP, Vista & Win7 computers in the office currently running AutoCad and a few Macs for admin purposes etc.

The other part of the big announcement from Autodesk was the App versions of the software.  Being able to carry around drawing files (dwgs) and have minor manipulation and editing features available on an iPhone/iPod Touch or better yet, an iPad, has the potential to completely change the way we work in the field.

Instead of carrying around a roll of over-sized paper drawings and marking them up, thumbing through them for the one you are looking for, or trying to find a place to unroll the drawings on a job-site (anyone using full sized 36″x48″ prints on site knows exactly what I mean), we could be just opening up the electronic copy of the most current dwg file and zooming and panning around within them.  Taking that and adding the ability to print directly to certain printers means we can markup dwg files and print them out on site for instant use by the contractors without having to wait until we are back in front of our desktop computers.

The size of the idevice may be a bit limiting which is why I for one am more excited about the fact it will be able to work on an iPad than the iPhone (even though I don’t currently have an iPad – keyword: currently).  An iPad would be large enough to show half of a standard 8.5″x11″ sheet which is normally plenty big enough to read, and approximates the size of the half size prints we normally carry around on site with us. Even so, i’ve already signed up to be notified as soon as the iPhone app is available.

My head has been reeling all day long at the potential this latest change brings, and I’ve only just touched on the ways it can make our business move easily along with the ever changing world of architecture and engineering. Every once in a while something comes along that really gets you jazzed up and gets your geek on and this for me is one of those things.

Another thing that is not specifically AutoCad for Mac related, but does enable great cross platform colaboration is Autodesk’s Project butterfly.  If you are at all curious about using acad on the web, check it out. From my brief use of it, I am impressed.  Being able to share a dwg file with someone who doesn’t have autocad was always something we were forced to deal with by creating more common non-proprietary filse such as PDFs or JPG or TIFFs, and as good as those formats are, once you create them you really can’t interact with them in any way other than marking up on top or red-lining as its often referred to.

Project Butterfly is changing all that, and i’m keen to see if it gets adopted in the workplace as a tool to collaborate and review designs with those who do not have access to autocad to open the files in.  Unfortunately it requires Flash Player and we all know how Steve-o feels about that on his precious idevices so it will not work on my iPhone. As such i’ll be waiting anxiously for the release of the AutoCad WS App to help make my out-of-the-office work that much easier.


(images taken from the Autodesk website)

I decided i wanted a logo, something to help identify myself and separate myself from all the other ‘puter guys out there, so i waited for inspiration and eventually it came to me. I’m not exactly sure where the idea came from, i hope i didn’t see it somewhere and rip it off for my own uses, but i had the idea that since what i do is computer, and computer related and the most common use of computers is email, that i would use the @ symbol, after all its in every email address. That was the basic idea for the logo, now came time to make it into something that said thatcomputerguy as well.

I wanted to quickly get the idea down on paper – well,virtual paper anyway – so i used my trusty app called Scribbles to draw a crude representation of what was in my mind as seen above. Unfortunately Scribbles does not have the ability to create shapes or objects or I may have just used it entirely to make the finished product. Its fine for the rough idea, but i knew i wanted perfect smooth curved lines and I just wasn’t going to get that sketching by hand. So I fired up Parallels and opened up AutoCad. I use acad all day long at work in my real job, so i’m an old pro at drawing with it, if you are not familiar with the way it works it can be a bit daunting, but after a while you can draw almost anything, 2d or 3d with it. I started out with a piece of text – the @ symbol actually and scaled it up, way up (whoa – friendly giant flashback there – weird) and used that as a template for the curves and lines and stylized text of the logo. I had already decided to make it just TCG, and not thatcomputerguy, so laying the letters made out of curves and arcs and cutting up circles was the easiest way to get it to look like what i had envisioned, its not a linear thing, but you can see the progression in the images below, the middle being the working image with construction lines and guides, and the two different images i was playing with flanking it on either side.

Capturing what is in your mind and creating it, that is the tough part and i have the utmost respect for people who do that everyday, its not one of my fortes, but i think i was pretty close with the end result as to what i was hoping for when the process began. Yeah, i could have hired someone to do this for me, but as with almost anything computer or technology related, i treat it as a learning experience and prefer to try to do it on my own, if nothing else, its a good topic for a blog 🙂

As it is now, i have the “bones” of the logo designed, it will probably get tweaked and massaged over time, but its a good start to my brand imagining i wanted to do, and helps to give me a common image for use in all aspects of my little business and even in my web persona. In the end i’m sure it’ll pop up everywhere thatcomputerguy is, be on my website, my blogs, twitter, or wherever. It may never be as recognizable as the swoosh of a certain athletic clothing company, or like the red stylized letters of my favorite soft drink, but life isn’t all about being famous, just being noticed and recognized is good enough for some.