Layout Printing Bottleneck

      Printing multiple layouts can choke a computer and plotter's capacity. Here, CAD users suggest workarounds involving the batch plot utility, lisp programming, and other sly tricks. May 16, 2005

Question
When I have a large job with many layouts, I have always printed them separately. I have used the "plot all layouts" command, but unless they all have the same page settings, it doesn't work. Is there a way I can do a page setup for all layouts at one time to make all of the page settings the same? (I do it manually, but when I have so many layouts to go through, my computer tends to freeze up, which is my reason for wanting to plot them all at the same time.) Also, is there a way, when printing all layouts, I can get them to print in chronological order? I have my tabs in order, but the computer tends to pick the printing order of the layouts randomly.

Forum Responses
(CAD Forum)
From contributor T:
Your multiple layouts may be exceeding the limits of the printer's memory, hence the freeze up. Check with your printer supplier if you can increase the amount of memory.



From contributor D:
Batch plot utility.


From the original questioner:
The reason my computer freezes up is because my virtual memory is low. It has been adjusted, but over time it goes back down. The freeze-ups occur when AutoCAD regens my drawings while I am navigating through the layouts. My computer is fine in model space; only when it's constantly regen-ing does it start to have those senior moments.

I have heard of batch plot, but I don't know what it is or what it does.



From contributor T:
I'm surprised that you don't disable auto regen if it is causing you problems. It is not that hard to train yourself to save frequently. At least it is more convenient. As for your batch plotting, I will defer to the Acad experts.


From contributor D:
Start, programs, acad, batch plot. Look into selecting several files, right clicking and choosing use a file as a template.


From the original questioner:
Hmm… turn off my auto-regen. What a concept! I guess that would definitely help. Thanks for the tip.

My coworker and I tried batch plot, and it is a tremendous help - it really makes the printing process more organized and functional. It still takes a bit of time for our computers to print them in batch plot (she has had the same problem with regen-ing layouts that I have had), but maybe it will work better without auto-regen off. You have been a big help. Thanks for all of your input.

One more thing. We got lost on the tangent of batch plot and auto regen. Is there a way to do a (universal) page setup on all of the selected layouts, other than in batch plot?



From contributor J:
When I make my templates, I include a title block and do a page setup for that title block, so it will be saved with my template. When I do drawings, I pick the template I need and do my thing. I will fill out all of the info on the first title block (job name, client, etc.). When I need to make another layout tab, I copy the first one so the page setup info and all other info copies over as well. This works well if you are printing to the printer in the page setup and you don’t need to change anything. Unfortunately, AutoCAD doesn’t have a universal page setup utility. Batch plot is a useful tool, but I was spending more time trying to get it to work properly. Sometimes it would work like a charm, sometimes it would not. Most likely pilot error. But if you are willing to spend the time to figure it out, it might work fine for you.

You can always make the page setup you need on one layout tab and when you print, you can pick previous plot, but this requires you to select each layout tab individually and then select plot. This can be a pain if you have a lot of tabs.

I believe out of all of the AutoCAD utilities, plotting has to be the most difficult one to master. The more flexibility you require, the harder it is to be consistent. In all fairness, it’s not all AutoCAD’s fault. Sometime plotters just won’t play nice with the other machines. Some helpful tips: make sure your plotter has as much memory as it can hold. Make sure your plotter is configured properly and has updated software. Get as much memory into your computer as possible, have a fast computer if your pocketbook can handle it. When plotting large projects, shut down all unnecessary programs running in the background. These are just a few things that have worked for me.



From the original questioner:
Thanks for the advice. I will have to check out the site. As for the layout setup, I seem to do it the same way you do, but there are times when I change the sheet to plot "scale to fit" on an 11X17 sheet. As for a faster computer, that would be ideal, and so would a large enough pocketbook. I agree batch plot seems to be (for me at least) more trouble than it's worth.


From contributor I:
I suggest looking into printing to Adobe. This way you can string all your layouts together and print with one little button. Batch plot is terrible.


From contributor N:
It wouldn’t be too hard for you to whip up a plot command using lisp. For example, the (layoutlist) function gets a list of all the layout tabs. All you need to do is iterate through the list and plot the layouts. Example:

(defun c:plt ( / e layout)
(foreach e (layoutlist)
(vl-cmdf "_-plot" "n" e "Dans plot" "HP LaserJet 4V/4MV PostScript" "n" "y" "y")))

Here all you would have to do is edit the line at (vl-cmdf…) as if you were to enter the –plot command at the prompt and fill in the blanks. You can even use detailed plot configuration. The next thing you’ll need to do is sort the layout list. I like to name all my layouts a page number, i.e. 1.0 2.0 3.0 4.0. This makes it much easier to sort.

(defun c:plt ( / e l layout)
(setq l nil layout (layoutlist))
(foreach e layout
(setq l (append (list (read e)) l)))
(setq l (vl-sort l '<))
(foreach e l
(setq layout (vl-prin1-to-string e))
(vl-cmdf "_-plot" "n" layout "Dans plot" "HP LaserJet 4V/4MV PostScript" "n" "y" "y")))



From the original questioner:
Wow. I think that is what I am looking for. I have yet to try it, but I have a feeling you have hit the nail on the head.


From contributor D:
I highly suggest you take another look at the batch plot utility. Here is an example of what I have:

I have several drawings that I have set up to print to a printer. They print fine. The printer is an HP DesignJet, so it makes “very importantly” compliant HPGL2 plt files. When I print, I may go directly to a layout tab and print it. When I have a bunch of different drawings to print, I will choose to print them to *.plt files. Printing to plt files can be done right in the drawing when you go to plot or from the batch plot utility.

Open a drawing in ACAD and make sure you set your page setup so it works and prints to your printer.
Now click on file, page setup, click on the add button for page setup name.
Type in a name, such as Extents36x24, then click ok.
Save the drawing and close ACAD.
Now go to Start, programs, ACAD, Batch Plot Utility and let it fire up.
Now click on file, add Drawings.
Find the drawings you want to print and then click open.
You will now see them in your window.
Make a crossing window with your mouse to select them all.
Now right click and choose layouts.
Choose all layouts or last active layout, whatever works for you, then ok.
Now right click again and choose Page Setups.
Browse to the file that you saved earlier that you created the page setup name extents36x24.
Give it time to open the dwg file.
You will see Default and the extents36x24 in the list. Choose the extents36x24, then ok. (Note: Choosing default will get the current layout page setup that you have for each layout.)
Now right click again and choose plot devices. Choose the same plotter name.pc3 file that was in your page setup, then click ok.
Now right click again and choose Plot Settings.
Choose plot area “extents”. Your original drawing should have used this.
Set the plot scale to 1:1.
Click on the location browse button and browse to where you want your files saved and type print in the file name box, then click save.
Now click ok.
Click on print and let it go.

You should have several plt files in a few minutes. To print these, you can use one of several free print utilities. I highly suggest you buy the program called viewcompanion. This utility will let you view the plt files, make them up and convert them to pdf also!

If you cannot view your plt files with this, then you will need to use a different print driver because your existing print driver does not make compliant plt files. I will frequently batch plot to plt files, then open them in viewcompanion and batch print them to 11 x 17 pages for ½ size sheets to review and redline before actually printing my drawings.

Also, you do not need to have ACAD in your computer to print the plt files. Once ACAD creates the plt files, much faster then going to a printer, you can have any computer in the office print the plt files with viewcompanion.

PS. By having different page setups in each tab, you should be able to select the tabs you want to print and have them go to different printers and use different plot styles. I do it all the time.



From the original questioner:
I guess I should give batch plot a second chance. I can definitely see the advantages.

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