Managing Your Plans and Sections in AutoCAD

Thoughts on how to organize CAD drawings for simple workflow, clear visualization, and avoiding confusion and errors. June 17, 2010

I am curious for your thoughts and opinions regarding managing your work flow when drawing in AutoCAD. This question really applies to those drafting in 2D without the help of a plug in like microvellum and those drafting cabinetry, although this style of work flow can be applied to any drafting. I've seen draftsman for cabinet shops draw two ways in AutoCAD:

1. They draw all floor plans, elevations and sections separately and off to the side from one another, maybe aligning elevations to sections to make it easier to read and line things up.

2. They draw elevations sep. but combine the sections/plans on top of each other and manage model space with layer control either individually or with filters and paper space with viewport freeze.

I think we all can agree that the best way to manage your drawings is to stack sections that are in the same room - cabinetry where you're taking cuts at different heights like upper cabs and lower cabs. Similar to how you would draft plans for a home or commercial building, stacking the floors on top of another. Separating them can lead to errors down the road because you may update one and forget to make changes to another and unless they are stacked itís not particularly easy to see those conflicts.

So down to the real question, how do you find yourself accomplishing this work flow - is it through layer management or are you using xref's to stack on top but still manage all of those sections/plan parts that are on top of each other? In either case would you mind explaining how you do it in brief detail? I'm always curious to find better and more efficient ways to draft the shop drawings.

Forum Responses
(CAD Forum)
From contributor V:
That is a very good question and there are several possible answers. Let me first say I have worked extensively with both systems and the outcome is largely dependent on several factors. First, how many people are making drawings here and what are their skill levels. A large group of people where a number are less skilled in layer control, viewport layer visibility, etc, the harder it is to pull off stacking of sections/plans.

The other factor is the complexity of what you are drawing. If itís mostly standard boxes I would say don't bother. But a large number of people out there don't bother with a plan section for simple casework anyway, the thought being that if the guys on the floor cannot figure out how to put a basic box together, inclusion of a plan section for them is the least of your worries. For complex items, with a skilled group of drafters and someone good to pull the system together, it becomes a good idea. You need good layer control for your annotation though, and in my opinion you should not annotate/dimension in paperspace if you are taking this approach as you will lose what gains you make if you do. I also would take the time to create methods that will save time. For instance, take a view port of an upper plan section with the layer visibilities set for that view and make it a block. It is easy to insert it, explode it, and then turn it on in a macro (it will come in turned off).

Then a few set of buttons for basics like dims and labels that set the appropriate layer (like upper detail linear dimension or plan view qleader, etc). Set up this way makes revisions faster, and coupled with dynamic blocks and a good detail library with included dims, labels, etc. already on the correct layers and you have yourself a system.

We recently have branched into cad utilization consulting and this is the sort of project we find to be very rewarding as when complete it is a very efficient and profitable way to create your drawings. The clients are usually astonished at how much faster it is to create and revise very involved drawings for custom work this way.

From the original questioner:
Contributor V you made some great points. I think for simple euro box casework it isn't needed to get so fancy. The type of work I'm typically drafting is very detailed custom cabinetry with some typical details although every job is different. Also as you stated and asked I do annotate in model space but some things go in paperspace - objects that will never change size on any drawing or need to be scaled. I was hoping to generate more of a response from WOODWEB members/readers and get a general idea of how others are managing their drawings.

It also came to me after I wrote the first post that I forgot to include something that is applicable also - how others are managing their face frame and panel breakouts. I prefer to show them off to the side dimensioned in a simple line drawing and keep any details/dimensions for each of those on those breakouts and not on the elevations as it becomes to cluttered if done that way. I still haven't managed to find a better way to draft the breakouts other than on top of the elevations and shifting it off to the side so that I can show them in a sep. viewport. I thought it would be nice also to stack those faceframe breakouts on top of the existing elevations so you could see conflicts when changes are made. I haven't been able to find a solution to how to show them separate when face frames are adjacent to each other and the view port window will cut out some if not all of the lineweight where it is snapped to. Any insight on that also would be interesting to get.

From contributor B:
I confess to using Microvellum, but I also use straight AutoCAD a lot. I'm not sure what you mean exactly by face frame breakout. I use a layer scheme to draw. All faceframes are on a layer, drawer fronts and doors on another, etc. With this, I can simply isolate the ff layer in a viewport, then dimension it alone if need be (I agree it gets messy if you detail your elevations fully). In this manner, you have one drawing showing two things. I prefer this because it ensures consistent drawings. I have a feeling though that this might not be what you mean. If so, let me know. In my experience, when drawing a kitchen usually there is only one, maybe two people working on it. So, layer control really shouldn't be a problem. In essence for this, my vote is for paper space annotation. I don't fully understand contributor V's comment about not dimensioning in paperspace. When I have an instance where I choose to pile layers on top of each other, I'd rather dimension them separately on the sheet tabs then have five different dim layers that I had to toggle on and off. But maybe there's a better way I don't know of yet?

Contributor V - I use palettes to achieve consistent notes, dimensions, etc. on my drawings. The question I always ask myself is what I should make a detail block of. It seems every job I'm doing something different. In the last year I have not drawn the same detail twice. So, is it worth it to create a library of details? I'm interested in not reinventing the wheel, but the wheel that I didn't reinvent still has to fit the car I'm working on.

From contributor V:
To contributor B: as far as a detail library, one tactic a lot of people miss out on is the use of dynamic blocks for partial details and customizing them per job. For instance, a section cut through a S&R door may be different for each job, but if you make the subcomponent (moldings, panels, etc) either blocks themselves, or just edit them inside the block, then you now have a block you can use in your job that is stretchable and such for each instance it occurs. This saves you having to recreate the functionality of the dynamic block on each job, but allows you to still have a tool that will allow you to work through the job much faster than you could otherwise. You also can have your dimensions built into the block.

One thing you may want to consider is annotative dimensions. They are a bit strange to get used to at first, but may be exactly the tool you need for this sort of drawing style while allowing you to not need many dimstyles and dimlayers.

We have one client in particular that is extremely high end custom residential work that is revised endlessly and we switched to doing this. It proved to be much easier and more accurate in the long run. It took a while to get his CAD standards worked out and a fair bit of time to make the macros to automate things, but the time saved made it well worth the time spent.

From contributor B:
To contributor V: I like the idea of customizing dynamic blocks. I have created a few, but never for that. Microvellum pretty much handles this for me. The use of Macros with Annotative dimensions peaks my curiosity. What exactly are the macros automating? We do constant revisions. On the house I'm currently working on, there have been 54 design changes to date. It is a huge time loss for me.

From contributor V:
Without giving away too much, since we sell it as a service. You can do this yourself without having to be a super guru at programming. We have macros that do things like the following.

Set annoscale.
Apply current annoscale to selected dimensions.
Turn off annoscale for selected dimensions.
Create dimension with current annoscale only.
Create dimension with all annoscales applied.

There is nothing magical in these macros and anyone can write them if they are willing to do a little research, but it takes the multistep process of adding and taking away applied annoscales for each object and makes it a click, select, done process. When you can do that, it makes it pretty darn quick compared to the default way of doing it.

From contributor B:
The more I read this, the more I think this command exists in Microvellum. It's called "SCL" and if I set it to say 1/2" = 1' it will size the dimensions, leaders, text, etc. to be sized so it looks right when your elevations scaled at 1/2" = 1'. Is this the same thing?

From contributor V:
Youíre right about SCL. It is another way of doing it, but annotative objects are much more powerful and flexible in use. I would not be surprised to see MV dropping the SCL thing and just interfacing with annotative objects.