AutoCAD tips from CADalyst’s Hot Tip Harry

R.K.McSwainThe internet is a great source of AutoCAD tips, tricks and tutorials – if you know where to find them!

I want to make sure that you know about this great AutoCAD resource curated by one of the CAD industry’s most stalwart professionals – Hot Tip Harry.

Shhh – In real life, ‘Hot Tip Harry’ is played by CADpanacea’s R.K McSwain. We got an exclusive interview with RK right here…

Q: What is Hot Tip Harry?

A: Hot Tip Harry is a persona, a mysterious code spy, always on the lookout for helpful routines to assist Cadalyst readers.

Q: How did Hot tip Harry come about?

A: Hot Tip Harry started in the early days of Cadalyst under founder Lionel Johnson. I’m not sure of the exact date or who was working behind the scenes in those days however.
Bill Fane talks some about these early days in this article:

Q: How did you come to take over Hot Tip Harry?

A: About 10 years ago, I started providing feedback to Cadalyst regarding tips, tricks, etc. published online by the magazine.

Cadalyst Web Editor at the time, Nancy Johnson was usually the person that responded to my emails and she and I eventually met in person at AU a few years later. I suspect she grew tired of my all too frequent critiquing of the material and in late 2009 asked me to consider taking over the position.

CADalyst tips page

Q: How can we submit our tips?

A: Go to and read the brief CAD tip submission guidelines and email your code to the link at the bottom of the page.

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Q: What happens next – how do you chose which tips to publish?

A: The Cadalyst editors forward all submissions to Harry, who first makes sure it’s not a duplicate of an existing published tip.

Next Harry reads the description in detail to understand the intent of the code. Lastly, using the latest version of AutoCAD, Harry tests the code to make sure it works as advertised.
That is generally all that is required in order to get published. Harry might praise well written code and/or offer suggestions where needed.

Unless there is an obvious small typo, Harry does not edit your submission in order to fix mistakes.

Q: Is Hot tip Harry Just for AutoCAD?

A: Harry tips are mostly for AutoCAD, but there are some routines that have been published AutoCAD verticals such as Civil 3D.

Q: How often do YOU learn something new from the tips submitted?

A: I learn something new all the time. There are many talented autolisp writers out there who solve problems in creative ways. I love to see some of the problems being solved each month with these routines. Sometimes you don’t even realize there was a need for certain solutions.

Hot Tip Harry is a persona, a mysterious code spy, always on the lookout for helpful routines to assist Cadalyst readers.

Q: What is the worst tip you’ve received? How did you deal with that?

A: I cannot think of one particular ‘worst’ submitted tip, but a common problem Harry sees is code that does not work in a test environment because of local references to files, drives, or assumptions made regarding system variables. Harry always tries to ensure is that submitted code will work for most anyone who downloads it.

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We’ve had a few people submit code written by others too. I don’t believe deception was the goal, sometimes an innocent user does not know the origin of the code and just wants to share. One of Harry’s rules however is that the code must be your original work.

Q: What is the most popular tip?

A: According to , Mike Stachulak’s “AIA Standard Layers” routine has had the most downloads at almost 10,500. It’s a routine that can create layers based on AIA standards.

If you want to take a look yourself, the direct link is

Q: Who is the most prolific tipper?

A: That is a dangerous question to answer, since Harry was around long before 2009…. But over the last 5 years or so, I suspect that Kent Cooper is right up at the top, if not the leader.

Q: What is your personal favourite Hot Tip? (or tips)

A: Another dangerous question to answer since there are so many good entries.

A couple I can think of off-hand a series of Civil 3D related routines from Mat Kirkland back in 2012 that was very useful for other programmers, and Juan Villarreal submitted a very well written, fairly complex routine to export lines and text (that are in the form of a table) out to Excel. But as I mentioned, there have been many good entries over the past five years.

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Q: How can we help you to make Hot Tip Harry even more successful?

A: You can make HTH more successful by passing the word around about Harry to get more people involved.

Half of HTH is submitting code, but the other half is downloading that code and using it. If you’re not a autolisp writer, you probably can find something from HTH that solves a problem you have. Go check it out!

R.K.McSwain Expert EliteR.K has worked in the Civil Engineering/Survey field for more than 20 years from hand drafting to Autodesk Civil 3D. He has over 18 years experience developing applications for AutoCAD using autolisp and VBA. His specialty is in the administration of AutoCAD systems and the development of CAD standards. R.K. also has 15 years experience in presenting professional training seminars on AutoCAD and Civil 3D.

As a contributing editor for Cadalyst magazine, R.K. performs software and hardware reviews, serves as “Hot Tip Harry” reviewing user submitted applications, and reviews user submitted tips for the Cadalyst weekly newsletter “Tips and Tools Weekly”. R.K. created CAD Panacea ( almost 10 years ago as a resource for CAD users all over the world. He is a member of the Autodesk Expert Elite and the Autodesk Bloggers Council.

One Response to “AutoCAD tips from CADalyst’s Hot Tip Harry

  • Great interview! Thanks for the link to the AIA Layer Standards. I feel like layer standards are an often over looked key to efficiency.

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