Find out what’s new in AutoCAD LT 2011 with Useful Screen Shots and Commentary
A special thanks to our AutoCAD expert affiliate Jeffrey for writing this guest article for us. Jeffrey walks us through improvements and enhancements in AutoCAD LT 2011, including hatch transparency, drawing, editing, the ribbon menu, previewing, viewport configuration, dimensioning small objects, dimension labels, the poly-line function, arc conversion tool, supported files, spell checker and much more!
Let me start with the basics. Autodesk continually upgrades their products as they develop more and more easy-to-use features. Autodesk has released AutoCAD LT 2011 and it comes with some snappy additions and add-ons. Besides including a complete arsenal of design and drafting tools, Autodesk has started to streamline commands and productivity tools to make the layout easier to understand and much easier to navigate.
Recently, Autodesk has started to cumulate some of its best products and comingle them into one. Each software program has their own pros and cons depending on your particular design and drafting needs, but anyone who has used programs such as 3DS Max, Autodesk Architectural Desktop and Autodesk Inventor, will start so see some of the best attributes from each of those programs starting to be brought into each other.
AutoCAD 2011 LT has brought in an easier to use format than even AutoCAD 2010. Personally having used AutoCAD2010, it was a nightmare figuring out how to get my toolbars accessible. AutoCAD 2011 LT has brought the ability to use your tool bars to the front of the ribbons so you don’t have to dig for them. AutoCAD 2011 LT has brought in the 4-window, 2-window, 3 window (and more) configurations from Autodesk 3DS Max. Now you can zoom in on one window and see how your change has affected the rest of your drawing in another window. The external reference properties have been greatly simplified. If you run Windows 7, AutoCAD 2011 LT almost seems tailored to Windows 7. You can get little previews instead of having to keep track of minimized windows.
I remember the versions where you needed to know exactly what command to type and that AutoCAD was so manually commanded that you literally needed a paper list of commands to type in because there was no quick button to help with drawing. Those days are long gone as AutoCAD 2011 LT brings to the table a massive amount of buttons and tabs to assist the designer or drafter with their projects.
When you first open AutoCAD 2011 LT you will see the new features display. Though this is nothing new, you MUST go through this preview to know what features AutoCAD 2011 LT has added or upgraded. Most upgrades are based off of older commands, but the updates are actually pretty neat. Most of them are of the type, “now why didn’t I think of that” or “wow, that makes things much more fluid”. It just makes me giddy about what they are going to come out with in 2012.
AutoCAD 2011 LT opening page “Getting Started Videos”
Now, when you click the new features workshop, you can see how AutoCAD 2011 LT can increase productivity and fluidity in your particular project. The page you will see has the upgrades to Drawing Tools and Productivity Enhancements.
Click on either one and you will see a few more drop-down menus to check out. Now, let’s see what Autodesk has been working on. Upgrades and improvements to hatch and transparencies (I will get to those later, they really are neat) and improvements to drawing and editing. In the productivity enhancement category you have a list of additional enhancements that you will want to look at and get to know.
Anyone who has the AutoCAD 2011 LT version will notice a few major changes. Now, in 2010, the Ribbon Menu was available, but with 2011 the main tabs are becoming more and more like other familiar layouts. Look at the pictures as reading these mentions. Autodesk is obviously cooperating with Microsoft and Internet Explorer as if you own Microsoft Word 2007, or newer versions, you will notice the similarities between Word, Excel and other Microsoft products and the main panel layout. Notice any similarities?
Hatches have finally come into their time! Boundary hatches have a neat little tool in this version that allows hatches to become transparent. You can set hatch transparency. Hatches have included solid color gradients; especially if you design or draft mechanically or residentially or architecturally. You can set hatch transparencies and, as shown in the picture below, when you select a certain hatch, the selected hatch comes to the front and the remaining hatches fall to the back.
If you use older versions of AutoCAD and you work with layers, can you imagine being able to simply set transparencies so you can look at how each piece of your project interacts with the other? Imagine it as using those clear transparent sheets on a projector. You can see every layer of a house with a couple of clicks, first floor, second floor, etc. Oh, did we mention that you can PREVIEW the hatch in real time?
It is SO nice to not have to go through the boundary hatch display box. When you type “BH”, you will see at the top of both pictures below that the ribbon changes and the hatch ribbon becomes much more in-depth where you can change the hatch, the hatch scale, hatch properties and change the properties of the hatch. You can finally hatch a boundary that is off screen! You may not have had a problem with hatching, but if something extended off the screen for me, as recent as AutoCAD 2010, I could not get the boundary to hatch.
Anyone who uses AutoCAD knows what I am talking about when I say, remember the “m” or “move” command? Not that Autodesk got rid of the command, you just don’t have to use it anymore! In AutoCAD LT2011, you can click on an object and when it is highlighted, click and drag the object where you may need to go! Look in the command line below, see a “m” or the word “move” in it? No? How about copy? No? Well that is because the picture shows how you can move the object by click-dragging. No command necessary!
AutoCAD 2011 LT has upgraded it Viewport Configuration so the user can quickly and easily swap between different views at the same time on the same drawing without affecting the drawing as a whole. You can use your viewports to zoom in on a section of a drawing and make any changes and see in real time how those changes have affected your drawing as a whole. Under the view ribbon in the top, center tab, you will see “viewport configuration”. Click the drop-down button to select which configuration suits your needs. Or create your own!
This layout is straight out of 3DS Max, where the user can configure two or more different viewports at one time.
Here is a cool little addition. If you run the Microsoft Office 2007 operating system, you can get little previews of which projects you are working on in the lower left corner of the screen and switch between them quickly. As far as I have seen, this feature is only available on Office 2007 as I also run a computer with Vista and I still have to minimize windows and click which project I want on the minimized windows.
Want to upgrade, but you like your toolbars? Not a problem. Autodesk has made configuring toolbars and access to toolbars easier than before. Simply go into the “view” ribbon, click toolbars at the far right and, boom, there are all of your standard toolbars ready to go!
I know, you are asking yourself when is he going to go over dimensions. Have they made any improvements to dimensions? Well, I am happy to report they have! Have you ever had the pleasure of needing to dimension too many small objects and even then, label the wrong one? Well Autodesk has finally come up with one step dimensioning, just pick a line! That’s right, I’ll say it again, JUST PICK A LINE! How COOL is that?!
Enhancements have been made to the poly-line function as well. To add a segment or convert a segment you have a few choices by hitting the ctrl key once a segment is highlighted. If you hit the control key, it will lock any segments directly attached to that segment.
If you tap ctrl again you will notice a little blue plus sign beside your cursor. This will allow you to insert a new vertex. Remember how you used to have to type in. Pedit, insert and keep hitting “next” to navigate your way through a poly-line? Well those days are done! Say hello to the little blue plus sign! Now if you are comfortable navigating through your poly-lines that way, don’t worry, you can still edit poly-lines through the command line.
Or how about your boss wants to convert that sharp edge from a line to an arc? No problem! Click ctrl again and Ta-dah! The little blue icon turns into an arc and you can adjust the arc as you need to.
To cycle through the commands keep pressing ctrl. It’s a neat little feature not available in any previous version.
Now, anyone who has used blocks knows that older blocks need to be redefined and you cannot change or format blocks without saving the block as a new block or redefining the old block. With dynamic blocks, a designer can get around totally out of control block definitions and will help reduce block libraries. With dynamic blocks, you can modify block geometry without editing the base block definition or redefining it with a different block.
In my line of work, I work with external reference all the time. I have to take external references from customers, from other architects and engineers. The enhanced external reference tools pallet lets you use PDF, DGN (Micro Station) and (of course) DWF as under-lays in DWG files. Just look at the picture below to see how many types of files are now supported. You can even directly reference and open an external reference to edit them through AutoCAD 2011 LT. I do not even see inserting a raster image reference. They have all been combined! IMAGE RIGHT
OK, one more cool little item that I notice the most is spelling checker. Now spell checker automatically checks for spelling errors. With AutoCAD 2010, I had to re-read every step-by-step instruction manual that I personally created and, being honest, I still did not find all of the spelling errors. Now, if there is an error, I am shown it immediately and I know about it.
Now, do not get me wrong, these are not the only enhancements that are available in AutoCAD 2011 LT. These are some of the new features that I find the most convenient and (in my opinion as a regular user of AutoCAD) some upgrades that are just plain neat. Autodesk continues to upgrade and enhance their product with little add-ons that are simply not available through knock-off products. Autodesk has produced a product that continues to operate more smoothly and more efficiently. When you take these and combine them with a better layer management and better on-line management tools, you have a powerful design tool that can help stream-line design and drafting on any project.