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16 Button Mouse and Drawing at an Angle
January 25, 2005

The CAD Times

An AutoCAD Newsletter for CAD Users

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Productivity, Back in the Day

I swear that 16 button puck that came with my 12X12 digitizer was the key to productivity in AutoCAD, for me, back in the day. If someone out there knows of a 16 button mouse, please, send me the info on it.

Every now and then when I’m scanning the CAD newsgroups I come across a thread about the good old multi-button digitizer puck.

The thread usually expands with past digitizer owners commenting on how nothing beats the puck and wishing there was a replacement in the form of a mouse, and, mouse users noting how they have customized their pointing devices by combining mouse buttons with the “ctrl”, “alt” and “shift” keys to produce multiple tasks.

I’ve tried this too, but I still prefer the puck over multi-tasking with a mouse any day.

After all, I don’t need to use 2 hands with a puck like I would if multi-tasking with a mouse and keyboard. Less work = more productivity.

It’s not like I used the digitizer for actual digitizing very often; it was that puck! I loved that puck! Zoom window, zoom previous, zoom extents, pan, erase, ortho, snap, coords, properties… and so on, were all available with 1 click. And I didn’t have to look at a screen to pick an icon or “alt”+”shift”+”right-mose click” to use a command. My hand had those 16 button babies memorized.

Unfortunately for digitizer users, for whatever reason, we have been left by the side. I had so many problems with drivers and connectors I just plain gave up on using my old digitizer.

I’m sure if I bought a new one I wouldn’t have a problem with compatibility, but I don’t need the whole digitizing package. Just that glorious 16 button puck!

And if I did need to digitize something I would probably insert a scan into my AutoCAD drawing and perform onscreen digitizing (see article below).

So now I follow more of the norm with my AutoCAD pointing device and use a 3 button mouse. The IntelliMouse Explorer; with 2 side buttons that are great for internet surfing (forward and back buttons).

I’m used to using the mouse now, but if they ever come out with a reasonably priced 16 button mouse, I’ll be the first to order.

So onto this month’s AutoCAD Tips...

Onscreen Digitizing and Scans

Onscreen digitizing and tablet digitizing (see digitizer in above article) are both useful methods of transferring existing data into CAD format. Often time’s clients will send us scans of existing plans that need to be converted to CAD format.

Scans are basically raster images, such as JPEG, GIF and TIFF files, that have been created by using a large format scanner.

These files can inserted into AutoCAD and used as an overlay to show existing plan information. The existing information can then be traced or digitized directly from AutoCAD.

These scans are often received by us via e-mail, uploaded to our FTP site or burned on a CD and couriered or mailed to us.

Now and then clients will occasionally send hard copies (paper drawings) of the existing information and we will scan the paper drawings ourselves.

Once we receive this information we determine the best method to convert the data based on the client’s requirements, the extent of the data to be converted and the condition of the existing scans or original hard copies.

From my article above you can probably guess that our firm prefers onscreen digitizing over tablet digitizing.

We also employ raster to vector conversion methods which utilize specific conversion software – but I will save that type of conversion for another article.

I can hear some of you asking, “How do you specifically utilize the scan within AutoCAD”? Good question :)

Attaching the Scan to Your Drawing:

1. Type Image or IM at the command prompt
2. The Image Manager box will pop-up
3. Pick Attach
4. Another box will pop-up and from there you will be able to search your computer or network for the location of your scanned image. Once you have found the scan, highlight it and pick Open.
5. Another box will appear that enables you to specify the insertion point, the scale and the rotation angle of your scan. If you know these values enter them, otherwise leave the default values in and click OK.

You should now see your scanned image in your drawing. If you don’t, try zooming to the drawing’s extents.

If you inserted your scan at a specific scale, insertion point and rotation angle then you are ready to start your onscreen digitizing. But chances are that when you receive scans from an outside source you will probably have to scale the image to suit.


If your company or another company you know of needs some assistance with CAD Conversion or could you some additional CAD Services, will be more than happy to give you a call.

Please contact us via this form and someone will give you a call.


Scaling your Image

Here’s the way I like to do it:

1. Look for a couple of reliable dimensions on the scan. Use the Distance command to determine the length of the dimension within your drawing.
2. Once you know the true length you can then scale the scan up or down to suit the dimension.

Send the Image to the Back

One thing you might notice when tracing your scan in your AutoCAD drawing is that you may start to loose track of what you have been digitizing.

This happens because the scan needs to be sent to the back of the drawing so everything else will appear on top.

Think of it like using tracing paper. Where the scan is the object you are tracing and the tracing paper is where you will be digitizing. If the tracing paper is underneath the scan then you won’t see it. But if it is above the scan you will.

So use the following procedure to make sure your scan is behind everything else (sent to the back):

1. Choose the Tools pull-down menu
2. Select Display Order
3. Pick Send to Back
4. Pick your scan (near an edge)

That’s it!

Drawing at an Angle

There are different ways you can draw at a certain angle. Specify polar settings, utilize snap settings, set angle by UCS, and so on. Most of these involve knowing the angle at which you want to draw beforehand.

The method I prefer is "picking" an object to specify the angle. Most of the time when I need to draw at a certain angle, there is an entity in the drawing that is already drawn at that angle. So instead of “listing” the object to determine the angle and then specifying it using one of the methods above, I use a quicker method.

Let’s say the existing object, at the desired angle, is drawn at 27 degrees. The quickest way to snap to this object is:

1. First select Tools from pull-down menu
2. New UCS
3. Object
4. Choose the existing entity that is drawn at 27 degrees.

“Clickity click, Barba trick”! Your crosshairs have now been rotated to 27 degrees.

See you next time :)


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