For Architects

Frank Edward Heitzman, AIA, ASID


The idea for this book resulted from the struggle that the author has gone through to become "technology-literate," and the desire that others would not have to learn "the hard way." Architects have to learn so many things about building design, construction, structures, mechanical and electrical engineering, history, business, and people, that they do not have time to devote to understanding computers and sophisticated software programs. This book is an attempt to get the necessary information quickly and painlessly into the hands of architects and students of architecture, by focusing on those issues which will be used in everyday practice.


AutoCAD is one of the first micro-computer based Computer-Aided Design and Drafting programs to become successful. It is used in a wide variety of drafting applications throughout industry. The program was written by John Walker in 1984 and is now, by far, the most widely used Computer-Aided Design and Drafting program in the architectural and interior design professions. The latest release of the program is called "AutoCAD 2009," which was "shipped" in the spring of 2008. It is only runs under Microsoft Windows XT or Vista operating systems on Intel-based microcomputers, which are the standards of the industry at present. You can get it to run on the new Intel-chip equipped Apple MACs by using Parallels software which allows for use of the XP or Vista operating system on the MAC.

Each new release of AutoCAD retains all of the functionality and interface methodology of previous releases, but adds more. If you are going to use the drawings produced on AutoCAD 2009 on another computer which has an earlier release of AutoCAD or AutoCAD LT, you must "Export to AutoCAD 2007, 2004, 2000 or R14" format. You can also export to R12 DXF format to share your drawing with that earlier version.

Along with most of the other drawing programs available on the market today, AutoCAD has the following basic functions:

DRAW allows you to create lines, arcs, and circles

VIEW allows you to look at small portion of drawing in detail

EDIT allows you to change or erase any drawing entity

TEXT allows you to draw text-like shapes for written information on drawing

SAVE allows you to record the drawing onto an electronic medium

PRINT allows you to produce a printed or plotted drawing on either an 8 1/2" x 11" printer or a large format plotter in any scale, which will be able to be viewed and used outside of the CADD studio

In addition to those common CADD drawing tools listed above, there are several enhancement features of AutoCAD which makes it a professional tool: OSNAP attaches or snaps a new line to an existing object at several pre-defined location points

LAYERING places drawn objects (such as walls, doors, windows, dimensions, and notes) on different drawing "layers" each of which may be turned off or on for varying drawing appearance by the user

BLOCK makes a group of objects into a single object which can be independently inserted into the drawing, moved, copied, and even reused in another drawing

XREFS links a copy of another drawing (Drawing B) to the current drawing (Drawing A), so that whenever Drawing B is revised, Drawing A will also be automatically revised at the same time.

POLYLINE creates lines of varying widths in which more than one line segment are joined into a single entity

  MODEL SPACE/PAPER SPACE Simultaneously allows for creation of a 3-dimensional drawn "model" of the building, and composition of several views of that model (plan, elevation, section, isometric, perspective) and at different "scales" on a 2-dimensional flat drawing sheet for viewing or plotting.

Model Space is used for doing the actual drawing (the so-called "Model.")

Paper Space is used to plot it out on paper to scale.

DIMENSIONING automatically creates drawing of dimension lines, calculates and assigns the actual distance to the dimension

MIRROR makes a copy of a group of objects mirrored about a centerline

ARRAY copies an object a number of times in a row in the horizontal and/or vertical directions, or in a circular arrangement, with a specified spacing between the copies

HATCH creates crosshatch patterns or poche within an object

FILLET rounds or "squares off," i.e. cleans-up, the intersections between two lines or arcs

TRIM cuts a line, arc, or circle off at another designated line, arc or circle

EXTEND lengthens a line or arc to extend to a designated line, arc or circle

OFFSET makes a copy of a line, arc, or circle at a specified distance from the original, and parallel with it

ATTRIBUTE attaches written and changeable textual information to a block which may be visible or invisible

SLIDE makes a snapshot visual picture, or so-called "slide", from any drawing which can quickly be displayed on the screen

GRIPS allows you to pick one or more objects and manipulate the end points and midpoints of lines, arcs, centers of arcs and circles, quadrants of circles, and insertion points of text and blocks by making a grip "hot" by picking it and then moving it.

Levels of Training in Autocad

You will not learn to use this unique and complex drawing tool overnight. It will take you anywhere from one to six months to master the basic commands so that you will feel comfortable with them. But as you will soon discover, there is always something new to learn and the developers of the program are adding new and more powerful features about once a year with each new release.

There are four plateaus of learning and experience in AutoCAD education, which all users seem to have to go through.

1. General understanding of AutoCAD commands.

This level is where you are now. By the end of this course you should have accomplished this. You do not need to know all the commands, but only those which you will need to produce drawings for architectural and interior design purposes.

2. Understanding of how to apply AutoCAD commands specifically to architectural drawings in three dimensions.

3. Customization of the menu system, and writing of "macros" to speed up the drawing process and make your work easier.

This is what makes working with a CADD system so much fun. There has never been a drawing medium or tool of any kind in history which so successfully combined art with science in such an elegant way. A macro is a shortcut to doing some kind of operation which is frequently done, and can save you quite a bit of time if it is automated. This stage of learning is very exciting and interesting, since it involves a creative spirit and travels on uncharted territory. One can establish a reputation in the industry by writing shortcuts which can be used by others to bring speed and accuracy and a sense of accomplishment to the construction trades. The purpose of writing macros "on the fly" is that when faced with an unusual or particularly difficult situation on some building project, you can solve the problem readily through a system which you have established through practice and experience. You will be armed with an enviable weapon in the customization stage of learning.

4. The pinnacle (for now) is learning how to actually re-write portions of the AutoCAD program itself, using a programming language called AutoLISP, or the embedded "Diesel" language.

To the LISP-users, menu-macros are only a beginning. While a macro can speed the progress of a project, a new LISP routine can make it elegant, and almost a work of art. New AutoCAD commands can be created. Powerful interface of 3-D and 2-D drawings can take place through this means. The new research in CADD is being done through this means of user-shaped programming.

How to Get Started Using Autocad

To get started in Autocad, double-click on its icon on the Windows "desktop."

When the AutoCAD drawing screen appears, you can immediately begin drawing. You will be prompted to name the drawing when you first save it.

Your drawing name may have any combination of letters and numbers. The AutoCAD program will automatically add the DWG filename extension to the name. I recommend you name your drawings according to the date you created them and a short name to describe the file, such as "2009 03 01 exercise 1.dwg."