April 2011


Let me get this out of the way upfront, I LOVE GRIPS! I don’t think I would be able to function in AutoCAD if I lost my grips. Being able to point at a grip and see the length of a line. Grab a bunch of things, grab a grip, hit the spacebar and you’re moving them. THAT’S AWESOME!

So, what is my gripe with grips? Well, in 2011, AutoCAD introduced the “Dynamic Grip Menu”. The concept itself is great, I’m just not a fan of the implementation of it. There are a couple of problems as I see it. First, I don’t need something else that pops up in my drawing every time I stop moving my mouse. I use Civil 3D so it gets even worse. I grab an object, the Quick Properties is displayed. I select a point that has more than one possible object to select, the Selection Cycling pops up. I end up leaving my crosshairs sitting on top of an object, the Rollover Tooltips pop up. I leave my crosshairs nowhere near an object and the Civil 3D Tooltips pop up. It just seem that something is always popping up where I really don’t want or need any information.

Having all that stuff pop up is just kind of an annoyance and not really worthy of a blog post. The thing that I can’t stand about the new grip editing tools is that when your crosshairs are on a grip (don’t select it, just hover over it) a menu pops up. Now, you may be asking yourself, “What’s so horrible about that?” I’m a keyboard junkie. As I like to tell my students, if I could get rid of my mouse, I would. Using the keyboard to run AutoCAD is by far the most efficient way I know of. The problem is, when that menu is displayed, YOU CAN’T TYPE ANY COMMANDS AT THE COMMAND LINE!

I’s a menu just like any other menu. Bring up any menu you want in any program you have and type. Windows will try to find the command on the menu that corresponds to the key you just typed. I use this all the time to access my Object Snap Overrides (perhaps that would be a good blog post at some point).

Here’s a perfect example: I have a group of polylines that I want to erase. I use a crossing window to select them and when I finish selecting them, my crosshairs just happen to be right on top of one of the grips. Now, because I like to type commands, I’m going to type E to erase the polyline and then hit the space bar because, as we all know, the spacebar acts as an enter.

Grip Menu

Because the menu is being displayed, when I press the E key, Windows tries to find the menu entry that has a hotkey “E” assigned to it and, in this case, there isn’t one. Hitting the space bar just does nothing. So, now what use to be a very fast way of erasing objects is no longer a fast way to erase objects. If I had, instead, typed out the entire command ERASE, the E does nothing, but the R will activate the menu for removing a vertex. Trying to erase a polyline ends up only removing one vertex. Definitely not what I wanted to happen.

What to do? Personally I like to turn off the menu for the grips so that when I hover over a grip, I don’t get a menu. “But Brian! How do you add a vertex to a polyline then?” This is where the control key comes into play. When you select a grip that has multiple functions, simply press the control key and it will cycle you through all the options that are available for that grip.

In AutoCAD 2012, and even more so in Civil 3D 2012, there are more and more of these multi-function grips. Because of this, I would recommend that you run the software for a while until you get a good grasp on the grips that have this multi-function property and then turn off the grip menus.

Let me know what you think!

So, Rick over at Simply Civil 3D just posted about calculating volumes between two profiles. Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the method he offered, I’m just going to offer a different solution.

Now, first off, you can’t calculate the volume between two profiles, Rick’s solution was to calculate the volume between two surfaces along an alignment and the two profiles are surface profiles of these two surfaces. You can calculate the area between two profiles but if all you have is profiles, you can’t calculate a volume. That being said, here is an alternative method to the problem.

Here’s the situation. I have an alignment and two surfaces and I want to know the volume between the two surfaces within 25′ of the alignment. Simply offset the alignment left and right 25′. When you offset an alignment, you’ll get a polyline. Draw line segments that close off the polyline and join it all into one closed polyline.

Next, we need to have something to calculate the volume from. Create a volume surface that uses the two surfaces that were used to create the profiles.  If you aren’t sure how to create a volume surface, click HERE. Once you have the volume surface created, you can calculate Bounded Volumes (Analyze Tab, Volumes and Materials Panel). It will ask you to select the volume surface and the bounding polyline and then will report the results at the command line. You can then copy and paste this as text into your drawing. The advantage to this method is it’s quick and easy to do. The advantage to Ricks method is the table that is created will dynamically update if the surfaces change and it will allow for the creation of a Mass Haul diagram.