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Michael BeallMichael’s Corner #99
March 2011

March Right In!

by Michael Beall

I don't know about you, but I was very glad to see March come in - lamb, lion, or otherwise. That was one curious Winter, and Spring can't come soon enough. It also means we're that much closer to the 100th month of Michael's Corner in April, a fantastic milestone for us.

I have some great ideas for next month's edition of Michael's Corner - one of those "you heard it here first" situations for those who get to read it - and then I'll use 'em in my next Autodesk University seminar if my session is selected.

Meanwhile, this month is comprised of some customizing and some off-the-beaten-path bits, including:

…Drawing in Surveyor's Units
…Adding the Single Viewport button to the Quick Access Toolbar
…Locking layers with a Crossing Window (this is a buried treasure!)
…Insights about Xref layers

It has a been a great treat to provide you with 99 months(!) of AutoCAD tips and insights so far, and I hope to make a real splash next month for our 100th month celebration in April!

If you would like to contact me directly, you can do that also.

Blessings to one and all,

Drawing With Surveyor Units

Surveyor's UnitsI was training some folks at Cummins Engine Plant in Indiana, and one of the guys brought in a surveyor's plan for his property and was wondering if he could take the distance and bearing values from the site plan and ‘key them in’ to AutoCAD.

So if any of you have a site plan of your property - or the site of your future construction - here's how this works.

Drawing Units Dialog BoxIf you turn on the DYN button, you can enter the values directly if you know the syntax used for Surveyor's Units. The Surveyor's Units are found in the Drawing Units dialog box [Format menuUnits], but it's not necessary to set that Angle Type if you use Dynamic Input as I present in this exercise.

How to Draw with Surveyor's Units

  1. Dynamic InputBegin a new drawing, then turn on Dynamic Input (DYN button) on the Status bar.

  2. Launch the Line command, then specify the first point.

  3. Enter the following value: @50.71′<N80d04′30″E

    Dynamic Input Format

Breaking it down…

@ After specifying the start point, @ says the following values are to go from where you're at.
Distance Enter the distance for that section of the property line (or road or culvert center line, etc.)
< This says the angle or bearing value is to follow…
Bearing Enter the bearing values in the proper format for Surveyor's Units shown in the example, above.

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Power Tool

Button to Create a Single Viewport

Before the Ribbon was introduced, when you wanted to create a new viewport, you could click the Single Viewport button on the Viewports toolbar, then just pick two corners for the viewport.

CUII find it curious, however, that there's no ‘Single Viewport’ item on the Ribbon [View tabViewports panel].

So let's put that one on the Quick Access Toolbar.

How to Add Single Viewport to the Quick Access Toolbar

  1. Enter CUI to open the Customize User Interface.

  2. Under Customizations in All Files, expand Quick Access Toolbars, then Quick Access Toolbar 1 to display the contents.

  3. Under the Command List, navigate to Viewports, Single Viewport.

  4. Drag the command up and release it in the list of commands on the QAT.

  5. Click OK to close the CUI and save the changes.

Quick Access ToolbarAnd there you have it!

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The Odd Spot

Lock Layers with a Crossing Window

Lock LayerCuriously, if you click the Lock button - Home tabLayers panel - you can only select the objects on the layers to be locked one at a time; there's no option to use a Window or Crossing window.

But what if we use the command line version of the Layer command? Many versions ago, typing LA would result in the command line version of the Layer command. Nowadays, if you want the options of the Layer command on the command line, put a hyphen first: -LA

How to Lock Layers with a Crossing Window

  1. At the command line, enter -LA to display the options, one of which is […/LOck/…]

  2. Enter LO to launch the lock option and you get the following prompt:

    Enter name list of layer(s) to lock or <select objects>:

  3. Under the Command List, navigate to Viewports, Single Viewport.

  4. Press [Enter] to select objects… and you can now select objects with a regular or a Crossing Window!

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The Basics

Xref Layer Insights

XRef LayersExternal references can, admittedly, be quite difficult to understand, but I wanted to present a few insights regarding layers that may clarify some issues.


  1. The layer name of an Xref is preceded by the Xref drawing name. A vertical ‘pipe’ character separates the name of the Xref from the name of the layer in the Xref, as you see in the image.

  2. If you change the visibility of an Xref layer - On/Off/Freeze/Thaw - to make sure it will show up that way the next time you open the ‘host’ drawing, go to OptionsOpen and Save tab, then be sure the box is checked for Retain Changes to Xref Layers. This is the same as setting the variable VISRETAIN to <1>.

    Retain Changes
  3. When you bind an Xref (right-click on the drawing in the External References Manager, then click Bind), you ‘sever’ the link between the host and the externally referenced drawing. After binding an Xref, that drawing now physically ‘lives’ in the host drawing as a block.

    Quandary… Since the drawing/block is no longer external, the layer prefix of the drawing name - per item A, above - is no longer necessary. However, if you eliminate the drawing name prefix, and if there's a layer in the host called 'Dims' and a layer in the (former) Xref called 'Dims' how does AutoCAD resolve the layer naming conflict?

    BindWhen you Bind the Xref you will see the Bind Xrefs dialog box. The default type named Bind will automatically replace the vertical 'pipe' with the characters $0$, regardless of any potential layer naming conflicts.

    If, however, you opt for the Insert type, AutoCAD will check to see if there would be any layer naming conflicts and if not, it just strips off the prefix. If there are conflicts, it includes the $0$ character set; in other words, it's the smart mode of binding.

Hope that helps!

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Left Field

Michael on horseThe Quarter Horse: Quarter horses come from a combination of mustang, Arab, Spanish Barb and Morgan blood. They were named the Quarter horse because they are blindingly fast at a quarter of a mile. Ranchers bred them because they wanted an intelligent, fast, agile, versatile mount. Quarter horses are also very laid-back and quiet… and a nice departure from all this technology!

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