Polar Tracking in AutoCAD

by Jeff Weber

I personally think that one of the best changes that AutoCAD has come out with in recent revisions is POLAR TRACKING.

POLAR TRACKING lets you easily draw at specified angles.

For years, and many versions of AutoCAD, we had the option of drawing perfectly straight lines, whether horizontal or vertical, by turning ORTHO on. The easiest way to do this is to hit the F8 key.

With ORTHO on you could start the line command, click on your starting point, and the click anywhere in the drawing space and AutoCAD would generate a straight line. Now depending on whether you clicked above or below, and to the left or right of your starting point, determined whether you just drew a vertical line or a horizontal line.

The great thing about POLAR TRACKING is that you can do pretty much the same thing as with ORTHO but with more options. I kind of look at ORTHO as the "base model" and POLAR TRACKING and the "base model" with all the options added.

ORTHO will only let you draw in perfectly horizontal or vertical lines where POLAR TRACKING will let you draw at multiple different angles.


- To set up your POLAR TRACKING you need to get into your SNAP OPTIONS. The way I get to my SNAP OPTIONS is by doing a SHIFT+RIGHT CLICK. This brings up an object snap short cut menu.

- At the bottom of the short cut menu is the Osnap Settings option.

- Select this and the Drafting Settings dialogue box appears.

- Select the POLAR TRACKING tab. This is where you can customize how your POLAR TRACKING will be displayed. Like most things in AutoCAD there are a certain number of defaults.

- Click on the down arrow on the Increment Angle box, a drop down will appear with all the available angle options.

As you will see AutoCAD has already supplied us with the standard angle options, 5, 10, 15, 30, etc. AutoCAD even allowed for a 22.5 degree angle. If you select any of these and you have you POLAR TRACKING set to ON then when you draw you will be able to easily draw at this angle when needed.

Let's take a standard angle of 30 degrees. We will follow the previous procedure and set the increment angle to 30 degrees. Make sure the check box for POLAR TRACKING is checked. Click OK.

Now start the line command by entering LINE on the command line.

Pick your start point and before you select your next point move you cursor slowly around in a circular pattern around your starting point. You will notice a dashed line appears ever so often at your specified angle.

In this case you will see the dashed at every 30 degree increment, 30, 60, 90 etc. Now if you want to draw at any angle with a 30 degree multiple just rotate around your starting point until you find the angle you want.

One other option that is nice with POLAR TRACKING is the additional angles. When you are in the Drafting Settings dialogue box, under the POLAR TRACKING tab, check the box for Additional Angles. You can specify any angle increment you like. Now when you start to draw a line you will not only have the standard increment but also the "custom" angle.

POLAR TRACKING is a great tool not only when you are draw standard angles but also when you get that "creative client" that might what their building set on a 37 degree angle.

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