Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Which is faster? Autocad LT or Revit for drawing a house? The results are in!

You would hope this result is a reflection of the prices of Autocad LT and Revit, which is that at the time of writing, Autocad LT is Australian $530/year, and it seems they do not sell Revit by itself, but comes in a Revit Collaboration Suite, which is Australian $3,515/year, which presumably includes full Autocad.

The results are:

Autocad LT : 2.5 hours

Revit: 1.5 hours

Proof can be viewed at.


I came across as a bit of a novice user occasionally, so in the hands of an experienced user, you would expect an even quicker time.

Still, drafting is not all about creation of geometry, as I am finding in my job that the focus is not so much on the drawing as on the annotations.  I would prefer Autocad to do 2D annotations, but this could be my lack of familiarity with the Revit detailing options, which do have all sorts of nick nacks, for example to draw insulation, you just pick two points and there it is.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

So.....which is faster, Autocad or Revit?

I have just spent most of the weekend producing 10 videos, uploaded to Youtube, for the Autocad section of this test.  Just a bog standard NZ house, single level, part brick and weatherboard.

Plan, elevations, and 2 sections: 2 and 1/2 hours, which is not too bad I thought.  So why have I just spent 6 hours at work, just altering a house that was already drawn?  Not sure really- could be that I am still feeling my way with how things are done.  For example: with a roof plan layout, you do not normally show the internal walls, unless they are load bearing.   Plus if you have land that is on a slope and you have to do a sectional view, all bets are off, as you have to massage a site plan to be acceptable.

Here is the link to the first of the 10:


I am hoping to do the identical plan in Revit, which may cause skewed results because I am not a long time Revit user, but I will get a bit of practice in beforehand, next weekend.

It could be argued I do things the slow way, but I have tried my reasonable best to think of quicker ways of doing things.

About half my time was spent organizing blocks and a pull down menu.  I tried to do a few screen shots, but you cannot hold a pull down menu down and then use the snipping tool. If you watch the videos, you will see this in action - albeit with some blocks not coming in because their name was not quite right!

Pull down menus are really easy to make, and if someone else on the network wants it, it takes 2 minutes to install it for them.

This is the format to use:

[Details 2D]
[->Decks-Joining to House]
[Weather boards]-insert;"C:/CAD/GB/Details-2D/Decks-joining to house/DTH-150X50 Joists-to Weatherboards.dwg";\1;1;0;
[Bricks]-insert;"C:/CAD/GB/Details-2D/Decks-joining to house/DTH-150X50 Joists-to Weatherboards-to Existing Lower Brick Wall.dwg";\1;1;0;
[<-butynol ecks-joining="" etails-2d="" font="" house.dwg="" house="" insert="" joists-deck="" sloping="" to="" towards="">
[->Decks-outer edge]

You just make this using Notepad, then in Autocad use customise user interface, to insert it.

There are no doubt really good explanations on how to do this on the internet.

One of my ones I was was quite proud of was an inserted window block in plan, which brought in it's elevation at the same time.  Another time saver was the one to insert whole rooms at once, eg bathroom, toilet and so on.  The block for doors was not wonderful, and a bit clunky to use.  Could have been a dynamic block.

Here is the final result:

Monday, February 15, 2016

New ways of using Autocad

My new job has offered up some different ways of doing things.

1. You work "in the viewport", from paperspace.  You can do this because the viewport's property is "locked".  Very disconcerting for an aged draftee used to doing most things in model space.

2. Using "layer filters". I have not totally mastered the use of these yet but am making some progress.
The idea is you set up a filter, say "GF*" and it will ignore all else and show only layers that begin with GF, eg GF interior wall.

3. They use lots of layers. This takes a bit of getting used to.  No rigid "color by layer" rules.  Same with linetypes- some by layer, some not.  Only the first 8 colours are used, so it is hard to know which layer you are on unless you keep an eye on the layer box display.

4. My worst trick is to be on say the foundation layer, nip into the ground floor viewport and start drawing, only to find nothing appears.  Because it is frozen in the viewport, dumbo!

5, Using a Sheet Set to control the title block.  The title is not a block actually, just some lines and a few text fields.  These are controlled by the Sheet Set.  Each new job has to have a dst file copied across to the directory.

6. Everything is drawn on top of each other.  Seems a good idea for sections with elevations, but plan views get very messy looking in model space.

I set up buttons to show for example, only the ground floor stuff.  This worked fine, until I opened up a different drawing only to find the layer names were not consistent.  So the button approach was a waste of time, until I realised a "negative" system would work: just get a button to do the following:
-layer;f;GF*;;  This means freeze all the layers that start with GF.  The ; is autocad macro language for the enter key.

The catch with this is you have to just keep pruning away until you have what you want, without coming across the famous "cannot freeze the current layer" dialog.  Got around by setting the layer you want before pressing the button.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Drawing a house in Autocad 3D Solids

I have become the magpie of CAD software, dabbling in, but never quite mastering Inventor, Solidworks, Vectorworks,Chief Architect, and so on.

The thing that strikes me with most of the architectural ones is that they provide a solution to a set problem, for instance, how to draw a roof.  Then you have a major struggle to make things like the fascia board to be in the correct position, which usually causes it to be buried in the roof.  I have just realised most users of this software just live with the approximations the software creates.  After all, does it really matter if the gutter is out of place by say 30mm?

You can draw a house using solids Autocad, but things like doors and windows can be a problem because you have to draw them each time, or have a library of pre drawn ones to stretch into place.
Or have a set of lisp routines to Africa to insert these.  Not impossible.

A unioned window frame is not that stretchable, but if you could live with a window made up of slabs, you could alter these using the properties of the slab. Then once things are fixed, union it all.

I have just got a job drawing houses in 2D, using Autocad LT.  The boss says he is not totally against 3D though, so this possibility is suddenly interesting.  In the meantime, I hope to learn the ropes using 2D.

Over the years I have made a few lisps to lighten the load:

1. Wind.lsp  This just draws a simple window, putting things on layers like "window" and "glass".
You can have only vertical mullions, so it is pretty limited.  On the other hand, is is fast.

2. Truss.lsp. 

The truss routine uses a dialog box called truss.dcl to draw a cross-sectional view of a roof truss. It inserts components such as GutterCopper in the process of drawing the truss.

It could be argued that the bracing is a bit unrealistic.

This is usually not a problem in New Zealand because the draftsman is only expected to
produce an approximation as the actual truss is redrawn anyway by the truss maker.

3. A set of routines to draw wooden windows.

Modelling The House in 3D
The technique used is to model the house carefully in 3D, then xref this into a blank drawing and then use the section command, and the flatshot command.

Bringing my recent try at this into Showcase turned out a bit strange: all the bricks decided not to lie the correct way! I tried drawing a brick as a block and laying them, but this was too long and involved, plus the mortar seems to be a problem. A cunning plan might be to draw a wall all as mortar and then stick 10mm thick bricks on top of this.  Which still does not solve the problem of trimming the bricks around a window. Maybe a super lisp routine might be needed.

The nice thing about Autocad is you know EXACTLY what you are modelling, and Autocad has a nice set of solids editing tools.

In this screenshot, you can see the model on the left, with the sections and flatshots on the right.

I brought this one into Showcase, from Autocad, all weatherboards are drawn, which came out with a bit of realism.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Autocad Dimension Crazy!

Well, maybe not crazy, but a little irritating.

I have just gone back to by old work for a short time to earn a few dollars to pay for a tooth that fell out.

The man who took over from me is an engineer, and while fairly familiar with Autocad, it was not his main thing for most of his career.  He tells me that he finds drafting is a nicer job than being an engineer.  Let's hope this remains the case!

The task he has partially completed is enormous in size, covering several levels of plant and several buildings.

They also had  a friend of mine filling in for a time, so I have been opening up some of their drawings and working on them.  Their drawings are fine, except for one thing: dimensions.

In the past, I would open my template drawing, draw the model in modelspace, jump out to paperspace and start dimensioning with my 1:1 dimension style.   It did not matter what zoom factor the viewport had, it would always give the correct dimension.

Now I find that I have to set dimlfac to whatever the viewport zoom factor is.  This is a nuisance, especially as I had no firm idea what the problem was.

A little bit of research on the net and things became clear:

If you set DIMASSOC to 2, Autocad will take the zoom factor of the viewport into account when filling out the dimension.

I have raved on about zero height text in a previous blog, here:  http://wlecouteur.blogspot.co.nz/search?q=dimstyle

Nowadays, If my dimensions and text are not to my liking I just blast the drawing with 2 lisp routines:

1. DS.lsp which is in the link above, a simple routine, which I have extended below  a bit to cope with the various text styles I did come across. All the things after a ; are comments to explain things

(defun c:DS()
(setq skale (getreal "Please enter the plotted scale: "));get a scale from the user and assign it to skale
(command "-style" "STANDARD" "ARIAL"
                        "0" "1" "0" "" "" );issue the style command and make it Arial font

(if (tblsearch "style" "ROMANS")(command "-style" "ROMANS" "ARIAL" "0" "1" "0" "" "" ""))
(if (tblsearch "style" "R1")(command "-style" "R1" "ARIAL" "0" "1" "0" "" "" ""))
(if (tblsearch "style" "R1-25")(command "-style" "R1-25" "ARIAL" "0" "1" "0" "" "" ""))
(if (tblsearch "style" "R2")(command "-style" "R2" "ARIAL" "0" "1" "0" "" "" ""))
(if (tblsearch "style" "R5")(command "-style" "R5" "ARIAL" "0" "1" "0" "" "" ""))
;;;the above just checks out the other styles in the drawing and sets them all up to zero height text

(setvar "MIRRTEXT" 0) ; hard to believe - some people set their mirror command to be a bit silly
(setvar "DIMSCALE" SKALE); so if you typed 1 as the plotted scale, dimscale gets set to 1
(setq the_textsize (* skale 2)) ;setting a variable up to be used next line ie if dimscale= 2
;the textsize will be set to 2 * 2 = 4
(setvar "textsize" the_textsize) ;the system variable set to that value
(setvar "dimassoc" 2); will take the zoom factor of the viewport into account
;funny, I had forgotten I had put this line in a zillion years ago!
(princ);exits quietly
);end of the defined function

2. The other lisp is called Dimlo.lsp
;imports a dummy block containing a set of dimension styles
(defun c:Dimlo()
(command "-dimstyle" "r" "STANDARD")
;sets the current style to STANDARD
(command "-insert" "dimstyles"  "0,0" "1"     "1"       "0"); inserts a block called dimstyles
(command "-dimstyle" "R" "1-1");issues the dimstyle command and restores it to 1-1
(command "erase" "l" "");then erases the block from the drawing

The block called dimstyles is just a rectangle (just something to fill in the drawing-,may not even be necessary), but in the drawing all the dimension styles normally used are set up, eg 1-1, 1-2, 1-5 and so on.  Normally in paper space you would use 1:1, so very little setting up is needed.  Sometimes you have to put dimensions in paper space, so you can choose 1:2 if you need to from the dimension styles pull down.

There is no reason why you could not make up such a block and get all your dimension styles all set up in that one block.

This is close to the idea of a virus used in Autocad, but in a good way!

The only problem is that it illustrates how easy it is to get away from how Autocad works using automation, ie lisp routines, to accomplish a simple task, and how strangely rooted in the past some people are. this command came out in 2004.

Other not recommended things are clicking on a dimension and changing it's value; This should never be done! The reason is anyone coming into your drawing will find this (if they are lucky!), then will not trust any of the other dimensions.

As for exploding dimensions-very naughty!

I have been thinking about putting all my lisp routines on a new web page, probably around Christmas time.  If you are keen for that, post a comment. If nobody posts I may get lazy and not do it.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Much Posting on Youtube

Today is my last day on Autocad Subscription.  If I had found some drafting to do at home for money, then most likely I would have paid up to keep the suite going.  I had thought that by now I would be happily (?) drawing houses in Revit, but it appears I am not suitable for this as I have not got 2 years architectural drafting experience(I have 9 months experience drawing houses).
Mechanical drafting jobs seem elusive as well.  It could be an age thing as well.

So, turning my thoughts to making a little money to help the retirement along, I thought a series of Autocad tutorials would be the way to go.  If they proved popular, I could clutter up the beginning like everyone else does with an advert.

I came across a free video recorder called "Screen Cast O Matic" , found at


This is very good, the only catch is that you are limited to 15 minutes- not a big deal anyway because most people can only stand watching something like a tutorial for that long anyway.

Lesson 1 is to be found on Youtube at:


I thought 5 tutorials would be enough, but I seemed to rave on to produce 15 in total.

Towards the end I did a short piece on rendering, here is a sample:

Not to imply that this is the cutting edge of rendering, but to show part of the platform I drew as part of the lessons.  I did a short bit using Autocad 2016 rendering, and was a little disappointed in my results, but that would be me not exploring every setting.  The last video, No 15 shows the Autocad model being brought into Revit, and Showcase, both of which were easier to get a render out of.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

End of an Autocad Website

My site bilrocad.com has just expired.  My original idea was to make a small income from posting blocks, lisp routines and so on.  I did make $2.89 or so.  After a few years, I did away with the advertising.

My apologies to all who requested info regarding lisp routines and had no reply from me.  I guess I just had other fish to fry.

I am in the process of learning Revit, but have a feeling that I might be too old to catch on to this fish.

It is an amazing program in some ways, any fool can put together walls, doors, windows and roofs.
The fun begins when you want a roof that is not just a slab of butter (easy), but a composite made up of tin, purlins, and wooden trusses.  Can be done, as shown below:

This is the same building I had a go at 4 years ago, see


I have made slightly more progress this time, but things are still taking way too long, which will definitely be my unfamiliarity with the software.  It took 7 and a 1/4 hours to get the basic shell up and going with a start on the floor joist layout made, which compares favourably with the 4 weeks it took to do the whole job in 2D Autocad,  I made the decision way back then to keep everyone happy and use 2D.  Bad decision. It takes forever!

Things I like about Revit are:

1. Make a change in one thing and everywhere it appears gets updated automatically.   If you have ever made changes (what? a draftee who never made any changes?), then this alone is worth all the pain of getting your thinking in line with the designers of Revit.

2. Any sectioned items are hatched automatically with the appropriate hatch pattern.

3. You can make up the equivalent of an Autocad block, but it is in 3D. You then change its parameters when inserting it in a drawing.  For instance, I made the trusses above, then just adjusted the span and slope to fit this location. Laying them out is a bit more frustrating.

Things I am having trouble with (abeit in a very low state of proficiency):

1. Sometimes you cannot just change the size of a family, say a window width, Revit will let you do it then spit the dummy after it fails to work.

2. The famous "You are not putting this in at the correct level for this view".
It is not good that at this stage of it's development, you have people still wondering how to fix this.
Would it not be nice to have a thing that told you what level you were putting things in at?
(Yes, the panel on the side, silly.)

3. Yup, you sure can dimension whole walls at a time.  Just try deleting one of the dimensions though. According to the experts on the net, just hover over it and hit tab, then delete.  Does not work for me.

4. How do you get an endpoint of a  line that is vertical to snap to a nearby point?

5. Why do you have control over material hatching only in coarse mode....what about fine????

6. Ok, you can have visibility of certain items, so for instance if you were doing floor structure, this is great:  Just turn off all walls and floors and draw in timber framing.  The problem arises when you have a mixed timber and concrete floor and you put in a concrete block wall....

7. Sometimes it does not regenerate other views after a change.

Anyway, I now have a book on Revit (thanks, Robin!), so magical things might happen....