The ACAD screen layout
Let us start by having a look at ACAD. When you load the program you will be presented with a screen layout that looks more or less like this for ACAD 2008 and earlier versions:
The ACAD 2009 interface looks quite different but it keeps the same basic features:
Some versions of ACAD may present you with pop up windows as you start the program. Just click through them until you have a new empty file to work with as shown in the image. Also, your screen may look somewhat different, due to toolbars being set up in a different way, more toolbars or less may be shown, and the command window may be larger or smaller; also in ACAD 2009 the Ribbon may be set up somewhere else. In time you will modify the interface according to your needs and preferences – see ‘Customising the interface’ at the end of this tutorial. Right now, let’s go through the various components that make it up.
What is the Menu Bar / Menu Browser?
As with other Windows based programs, the menu bar / browser is a means of providing the user with various options.
For ACAD 2008 and earlier:
Go to ‘File’ in the menu bar and click it to open a pull down menu full of related options. Here you are given the option to start a new drawing, open an existing drawing or save your current work amongst others. Try going through various other pull down menus available: Edit, View, Insert... etc. and have a brief look at what they offer. Don’t worry about them being exhaustive; every great journey begins with a humble first step.
For ACAD 2009:
Go to the menu browser (the big red ‘A’ at the top left hand side). Left click it and you are presented with a pull down menu with options File, Edit, View… etc. Move the cursor over ‘File’ and you are given cascading options next to it, on the right hand side such as ‘New’ to start a new drawing, ‘Open’ to open and existing file and ‘Save’ to save your work. Move your cursor over the rest of the options to see what they offer. Don’t worry about them being exhaustive; every great journey begins with a humble first step.
What are the Toolbars?
The toolbars are made up of sets of related tools grouped together. Every tool is a command. Have a look at the AutoCAD 2008 screen layout image again and notice the first three commands just under the menu bar. The first one is a tool that will start a new drawing; the second one will open an existing drawing and the third one will save your work. It is another way of accessing the same actions provided in the menu bar. Move your cursor over the various tools on your screen and the name of that tool will appear next to the cursor.
What is the Ribbon (ACAD 2009)
The Ribbon is a different, wiser way of presenting the toolbars of previous versions, now called panels. Having tabs allows the ribbon to present more panels in the same amount of space taken by fewer toolbars in previous versions. Click on the various tabs: Home, Blocks & references, Annotate… etc. and have a look at the various panels offered by each. Now move your cursor over the various tools in any panel and a brief description of that tool will be displayed. If you keep the cursor over the tool long enough, a more detailed description of the tool is displayed. ACAD 2009 just has to be the most intuitive program of its kind, I bet you’re already drawing stuff and we haven’t just even started yet!
What is the Command window?
The command window is just another way to interact with ACAD. In the command window, ACAD informs the user about necessary information through messages, and prompts the user to input more information as needed. Typing ‘new’ in the command line (at the bottom of the command window) is the same as choosing ‘New’ from the ‘File’ pull down menu or clicking the ‘New’ tool we have explored earlier in this tutorial. Try out the same three basic commands we have been looking at here by typing ‘new’, ‘open’ and ‘save’.
What is the Status Bar?
The status bar displays the coordinates of the cursor. It also displays the status of modes (snap, grid, ortho….), thus its name. Try clicking the various modes, steer away from ‘model’ for now, although if you click it, nothing horrible will happen (In ACAD2009 keep to the ones on the left hand side). When you click a mode, you can notice in the command window that you are being updated with the current status of the particular mode. For example, by clicking ‘snap’, in the command window you will get:
This means that ‘Snap’ is now on. If you click it again you will get:
What is the Drawing Area?
The drawing area is where your drawing is displayed.
Customising the interface
It may be too early to customise the interface while you still do not know what the various commands are, and which ones you will be using most and need more handy. Nevertheless it is good to know that it is possible to move toolbars around on your screen, add toolbars and remove them as necessary. You can also move and modify the command window.
For ACAD 2008 and earlier:
Let us move around one of the toolbars. If you notice the left hand side of a toolbar you can see there are two bars (for ACAD 2008, others may differ slightly). This is a space where you can grip the toolbar from. Left click and drag to the middle of the screen. Now the toolbar is said to be ‘floating’. Click the toolbar again and place it back to its place. Now it is said to be ‘docked’. So now try to dock a toolbar vertically on the left or right hand side of the screen.
If you want to hide a particular toolbar, you can make it float and click the x button on the right hand side. If you want to add a toolbar that is not displayed, go to any toolbar, right click it, and a list of toolbars will be displayed. Those toolbars which are already displayed on screen are marked with a tick while those that are not, have no tick. Left click any one that has no tick in order to display it.
For ACAD 2009:
The introduction of the ribbon makes it barely worthwhile to play around with the various panels, and adding and removing any of them. See that little arrow next to the tabs in the ribbon? Move your cursor over it and it should say ‘Minimise to Panel Titles’. Click it and the ribbon is reduced to show only the panel titles. Neat! You can still access all the commands and you have reduced the clutter from the much needed drawing area. As if that was not enough, you can click that little arrow again and poof! The panel titles are gone and you are left with just the tabs. Click a tab and you have the panel for that tab with all the tools for you to select without any clutter at all.
Let us say that nevertheless you wish to remove a particular panel from the ribbon or maybe you want it to ‘float’ around on your screen away from the ribbon. Click the particular panel from its title and drag it onto the drawing area, let go of it and you now have it ‘floating’. Move the cursor over the floating panel and wait until the sidebars are displayed. You can now get rid of the panel by clicking the x on its right hand side, or you can grab it and move it back to its place. If you remove a panel and somehow feel sorry for it and wish to display it again, what do you do? Move the cursor to the ribbon and right click, choose panels and the cascading menu will show various panels which are displayed that have a tick next to them, and the panel which is not displayed without the tick. Select the panel without the tick and it is displayed again. This method is also good to remove panels; you just have to click on a panel that has the tick next to it and it is removed from the ribbon.
For all versions:
The command window can also be floating or docked anywhere else, and although this is uncommon you may find it is best for your needs. You can also make it larger to be able to view more lines at once or remove it completely. If you remove it and need to display it again then press CTRL+9. If you need to view the complete history of commands for a drawing session, you can press F2 which will display a text window that is more comfortable to scroll through.