If you are creating AutoCAD drawings which contain a lot of geometry, I highly recommend that you concentrate on keeping your geometry organised as you go along.
In this post I want to concentrate on Layers. In particular, I want to highlight a number of AutoCAD’s tools that will help you to speed up creating objects on the right Layer, without having to constantly reach up to the Layers pull down to change which Layer is current.
Layer control in QAT
If you haven’t tried the AutoCAD ribbon yet, I highly recommend it – Give it a whirl. One of the few problems I have with the Ribbon UI is that you need to switch to the ‘Home’ tab every time you want to change Layer.
My quick tip here is to add the Layer control to the QAT (Quick Access Toolbar). To do this, simply click over the Layer control and chose ‘Add to Quick Access Toolbar’. Your Layer control is now accessible no matter which Ribbon Tab you have current.
But this article is about the tools you can use Instead of using the Layer control – so let’s move on…
If you work in an Architect’s office, I am sure that you already have standard Layers as part of your CAD standards. If you don’t have Layering standards set up at your company, then I suggest that you get to work on it!
In terms of increasing your productivity, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the AIA or ISO Layering standards. It doesn’t matter if you follow Bob’s preferred Layering standard or Bill’s. What matters is that you agree on a standard between you and that you stick with it. Once you have a standard you can begin to automate your processes.
Here is a good article on Wikipedia that will help you get started http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CAD_standards#CAD_Layer_standards
Set by Layer
I recommend that you set up your plotting standards by Layer. If you want some of your geometry to plot differently, change the Layer it is on – don’t change its properties!
Changing the individual properties of an object ‘Hard codes’ the property to that object, which means you can no longer change the plotting properties of geometry in your drawing globally.
If you receive a drawing that has a lot of property overrides, you can clean them up using the ‘SETBYLAYER’ command. The SetbyLayer command strips out property overrides. You can clean up the whole drawing at once, or pick out individual items.
Tip: Start the ‘SetbyLayer’ command, and choose ‘Settings’ at the command prompt to pick individual properties to change.
Remembering to use the company Layering standard can be a chore. But you can easily automate this task, to make sure that your Blocks, Annotations and Geometry end up on the right Layer, even if that Layer doesn’t exist in your drawing.
Tool palettes are often used as a Block management and insertion tool, but did you know that you can also create custom tools for Annotations or Geometry?
To create a custom tool, first set up your standard Layers and Annotation styles. Create your Geometry or Annotation on the correct Layer and save the drawing file (you could do this in your template file, before you save it as a DWT).
Now simply drag and drop the object from the drawing onto the palette. A custom tool will be created that not only creates the Geometry or Annotation, but creates it on the right Layer. Even if that Layer isn’t current. Even if that Layer does not exist in the current drawing.
For extra control, right click over the tool in the tool palette, and choose ‘Properties’. You will find that there are different properties available for each object type that you can also pre-set, depending on the kind of object that your custom tool is going to insert.
Finding the Layer productivity tools
Most of the tools I will be talking about in the rest of this post can be found in the ‘Home’ tab > Layers panel. You may need to click on the pull down to find them.
If you are using the ‘Classic’ AutoCAD interface, you will find them under the ‘Format’ menu > Layer Tools.
Of course, you can always type the command in at the prompt! Many of these commands don’t have an Alias, but you can easily add your own to the AutoCAD PGP file.
Make Layer current with LAYMCUR
If you need to change Layers while you are working, but you just can’t be bothered to move your mouse all the way up there to the Layer pull down, you can use the ‘LAYMCUR’ command instead.
- Run the Laymcur command.
- Select an object that is on the Layer that you want to be current.
- The current Layer is changed to match the Layer that the object is on.
This is a really simple way of setting a different Layer current just by ‘grabbing’ the Layer you need from some nearby existing geometry.
Move object to Layer with LAYCUR
The reciprocal of Laymcur is ‘LAYCUR’. This command moves an object from the Layer it is on, to the current Layer.
- First make sure that the correct Layer is current.
- Run the Laycur command.
- Select the objects that you want to change.
The objects will be moved from the Layer that they are on to the Layer that you have current.
Match properties & Layer match
The match properties command allows you to copy the properties of one object to another object. The properties that you can copy vary, depending on what kind of object you pick. For example Layer properties are common to all objects, but Annotation styles will only be applied to other Annotations.
You can select which properties you want to copy by choosing the ‘Settings’ option.
- Start the ‘MATCHPROP’ command.
- Select the object that has the properties you want to copy.
- Type ‘s’ at the command line to bring up the Settings Dialogue (optional)
- Select the objects that you want to copy properties too.
If you only want to copy the Layer properties from one object to another, you can use ‘LAYMCH’.
Tip: Laymch works in the opposite order to Matchprop. First you select the objects that you want to change, then you select an object on the Layer that you wish the objects to move to.
Add a new version of a selected Object
Add selected is a relatively new command that has been added to AutoCAD 2011 (it was introduced in AutoCAD 2010 as a Subscription bonus tool). Add Selected Adds another object, the same as the one you currently have selected.
If you have a line selected, Add Selected will add a line. If you have an Annotation selected Add Selected will add an Annotation, and so on. The new object will have the same Layer and Style properties as the old one, no matter what Layer or Style settings you currently have set.
Add Selected is really handy if you want to create a dimension annotation with the same properties as a previous dimension, and you don’t have to go anywhere near the Layers control or the styles controls to do it!
To use Add Selected, select an object, right click and chose ‘Add Selected’.
Copy objects to new Layer
You can quickly and easily copy objects to an existing Layer with the ‘COPYTOLAYER’ command.
- Run the CopytoLayer
- Select an object you wish to copy.
- Select an object on the destination Layer you wish to copy to.
- Select a base point that you wish to copy from.
- Select point you wish to copy to.
The final point can be the same point if you wish to copy the object ‘in place’. Type @ at the command point to repeat the last coordinates without having to click with your Mouse.
If you don’t have any geometry nearby on the destination Layer, you can pick the Layer you wish to copy to from a dialogue. To get the dialogue follow steps one and two, but instead of picking a destination Layer enter ‘N’ at the command line for ‘Name’.
Tip: You can create a new Layer on the fly by typing your new Layer’s name into the dialogue (just make sure it meets your Layer naming standard!).
If you want to clean up your Layers – but you don’t want to lose any geometry, you can merge all the objects on separate Layers into one Layer with the ‘LAYMRG’ command.
Note: This powerful command will delete the merged Layers from your drawing file – use it wisely!
- Run the Laymrg command
- Select objects on the Layers to be merged
- Select an object on the target Layer
Objects on the merged Layers will be moved to the target Layer, and the original Layers will be purged from the drawing file.
Tip: instead of picking objects type ‘N’ at the command line to bring up a dialogue box. Note that, like the ‘COPYTOLAYER’ command, you can create a new destination Layer on the fly from the dialogue box.
Isolate & Un-isolate Layers
This tool is very handy when you are working in a drawing with a lot of Layers.
- Run the ‘LAYISO’ command
- Pick objects on the Layers you want to remain visible
- All the other Layers will be turned off.
- To get your previous Layer settings back, run the ‘LAYUNISO’ command.
Note: Any changes to the Visible/Invisible properties of Layers that you make between running the Layiso and the Layuniso commands will be completely ignored by the Layuniso command.
There are a couple of cool tips for this command that you may not be aware of.
Instead of turning all the other Layers off – you can lock them instead, just follow the options at the command prompt. You can couple this with the ‘LAYLOCKFADECTL’ command variable to ‘fade’ the locked Layers, allowing you to concentrate on the area you want to work on, whilst still referencing other Layers.
Isolate & Un-isolate objects
This tool was also new in AutoCAD 2011 (or 2010 with the subscription bonus pack). The ‘ISOLATEOBJECTS’ command is similar to the Layiso command, but with one important difference.
Instead of isolating the Layer of the selected objects, it isolates the selected objects themselves. Every other object in the drawing is made invisible, even if they are on the same Layer as the object you selected.
This is really a group of commands, the easiest way to use them is to select the objects you work with and right click:
- To isolate your objects, right click and choose ‘Isolate Objects > Isolate Objects’.
- To hide your objects, right click and chose ‘Isolate Objects > Hide Objects’.
- To get your objects back, right click and chose ‘Isolate Objects > End object Isolation’.
Note: Object isolation does not remain between drawing sessions, so if someone else opens your drawing, all objects will be visible by default.
The current object Isolation state is highlighted by the little light bulb icon in the task bar. Yellow means that all objects are visible, red means that some objects are hidden. You can also click on the Isolate objects light bulb icon to change the visibility state of objects.
Lock & Unlock Layers
You can easily lock and unlock Layers right in the Layers pull down, but if you don’t know the name of the Layer that the object is on, how will you know which Layer to lock?
The easy way is to use the ‘LAYLCK’ command. You just need to run the command and pick on the Layers you want to lock… simple! To unlock Layers, use the ‘LAYULK’ command.
Tip: Set the ‘LAYLOCKFADECTL’ command variable to ‘fade’ the locked Layers, for quick visible feedback.
Freeze and Thaw, On and Off
By the same token, although you can set Layers to be frozen or thawed and on or off in the Layers pull down, it can be more intuitive just to point and click. The ‘LAYFRZ’ command allows you to freeze a Layer just by clicking on an object which is on that Layer, and the ‘LAYOFF’ command will turn the Layer off.
Use the ‘LAYTHW’ command to thaw all Layers in the drawing file globally, and use ‘LAYON’ to turn all the Layers in your drawing on at once.
You made it!
Phew, that was a long post. If you made it all the way to the end, I congratulate you! Thanks for sticking around. You can now consider yourself a Layer productivity expert. Go forth and create geometry, and never use the Layer pull down again!
Looking for more on AutoCAD Layers? Read this post to find out how to create and edit AutoCAD layers.