Blank drawing revisted

In my previous post, I mentioned that you could go back to the more traditional start up in AutoCAD by changing the STARTUP variable to 0. This does not however remove the New Tab if you close all drawings, in order to go to a blank AutoCAD when all drawings are closed, change NEWTABMODE to 0.


So you want a blank drawing at startup?

In AutoCAD 2015 (and LT), AutoDesk have introduced a welcome screen that is more difficult to turn off rather than just unchecking “Display at Startup”.



Now you get the New Tab “feature”. I quite like the integration of it, rather than it looking like an afterthought. AutoDesk are definitely working towards a better design for AutoCAD, over the last couple of versions there have been many visual improvements.


So if you look around the internet there are two methods to turn off this feature, one just turns off the tab and leaves you with a blank AutoCAD, as if you have closed all the drawings but not closed AutoCAD. I don’t particularly like this solution but if you want to go with this just type NEWTABMODE and set it to 0.

The other option which appears in the help and therefore seems to be the preferred method by AutoDesk is to change the STARTUP variable.

0- Starts a drawing without defined settings.
1 – Displays the Startup or the Create New Drawing dialog box.
2 – A New Tab is displayed. If available in the application, a custom dialog box is displayed.
3- A New Tab is displayed and the ribbon is pre-loaded when you open or create a new drawing.

3 is the default for 2015. 1 gives you a really old school dialog box that I haven’t seen since version 2002!


0 is the option you will want to default to 2014 and previous style behaviour.

Closing the last open drawing in modes 1, 2 or 3 will bring up the New Tab welcome screen.

Annoying Auto Zooming Viewports

Today I noticed that one of drawing I opened automatically zoomed the viewport to extents when double clicking in the viewport. This is extremely annoying, particularly if I wanted to pan after setting the scale.

The solution is that a variable was set wrong.

In order to fix this it is fairly simple (though if you have many viewports time consuming – see here for a LISP that might help with many viewports).

  • First lock the viewport using properties
  • Then double click in viewport
  • Then type UCSFOLLOW
  • Set UCSFOLLOW to 0
  • Click back to paperspace
  • Unlock viewport


Pickfirst is on and objects just don’t select

Today I encountered a strange AutoCAD issue. At first it seemed to be the old pickfirst issue where if the variable is off you have to run the command then select, rather than the default behavior where you select and go.

The issue encountered today was similar but only seemed to happen on CTRL+C and mtext (MTEDIT). Otherwise all commands worked with select then run command.

After a bit of searching this error appears to be an issue with QAFLAGS. QAFLAGS is an undocumented system variable that appears to have no obvious use. It is problem an internal AutoDesk variable for testing. Though its strange behaviors can be used to assist in writing LISP and scripts!

QAFLAGS can be set to 1 or 2 apparently but the default should be 0. If it is not on 0 the strange semi-PICKFIRST=0 behavior will occur!


No layers information

One of my colleagues noted that they no longer could see the layers information in the Layers Drop down box when selecting objects.


The image above shows this issue, the object is on a differing layer to that shown, the Layers Drop down only shows the current layer.

In order to fix this the system variable PICKFIRST needs to be set to 1, which should be the default for this variable. Sometimes if AutoCAD crashes this seems to be reset to 0. Now when the object is selected it should display the layer information in the Layers Drop down.


Fields of Polylines

I regularly need to obtain areas for floor plans in the projects I work on. I have always drawn a polyline and then looked at the properties palette and knocked off 6 decimal places to get the result. Then this is written down on a non-printing layer.

I was thinking, there has to be an easier way, especially one that updates the area when the design changes.

Well there is! Fields. To access this click on the insert tab and click on field. Or type FIELD.


Once you click this button you will be presented with a large box with a list of fields that can be used within it.


Scroll down to object, in the second column there is a small button to select the object in question. Select your polyline. The box will now update to the properties of that object, here you can select “area” and the result will display in the last column.


Now you can click OK to place the field object wherever you would like it! Or you can alter the precision, or in my case I wanted the result in square metres and not square mm which is the default.

In order to change format or add suffices etc. click on Additional Format. Now you get another box wher you can alter the way the field is displayed.


I used a conversion factor to produce the square metre information required.

And that is it! You now have a value that alters when you change the polyline size. If it doesn’t update, try REGEN or click on update fields in the Data section of the Insert tab.

Delete Key

One of my colleagues mysteriously could not use the delete key in AutoCAD. It worked fine in other programmes.

Generally this is seems to be due to a crash that resets certain variables (for some strange reason).

In this case the PICKFIRST variable was reset to 0. When PICKFIRST is at 0 it only allows objects to be selected after the command is initiated. The delete key does not initiate the ERASE command so the nothing happens when the delete key is pressed and PICKFIRST is set to 0, appearing to be broken.

If you set PICKFIRST to 1 then objects can be selected and an command initiated after this selection. The delete key then works as you expect it to do.

Hatching, select or pick?

In the ribbon hatch system, the default method is to have pick objects, however there is a way to change this, or even to get the old hatch dialogue back if you like that (I have got used to the new hatch ribbon but some still like the old hatch dialogue!)

The system variable HPDLGMODE is the one to change this.

This is the default behaviour of post 2010 AutoCAD. It uses the ribbon interface and pick point is default selection method.

This brings back the old hatch dialogue box if you want it.

This also uses the ribbon interface, however it uses the select objects as the default hatch selection method.

The setting out HPDLGMODE to 0 seems like a good option if you still use boundaries to create your hatch objects and whilst AutoCAD’s hatching system has definitely been refined it still can crash your session so this might be the best way forward until further refinements are made to the hatching system.

Block Scaling too Large

One of my colleagues reminded me of an age old problem I have encountered several times and never got to the bottom of, when inserting a block it scales to a strange size and doesn’t fit to the page.

This turns out to be yet another setting between the “American Imperial” measurement system and the “International ISO Metric” measurement that exists in AutoCAD.

It turns out that changing MEASUREMENT setting to 1 (metric), from the default of 0 (imperial) only changes the way hatches and linetypes scale and not the inherent way the drawing works. The underlying unit scale of the drawing is governed by other setting. So old drawings created when out-of-the-box AutoCAD defaulted to imperial might still have all the old settings.

DWGUNITS command line options
DWGUNITS command line options

The option in question is DWGUNITS. It appears that the default is 1, which is inches. This is why a block drawn in a drawing using DWGUNITS of inches is inserted into a drawing set to mm scales to a differing scale!

As an aside DWGUNITS also sets linear display precision, which is also set by LUPREC.

The options after DWGUNITS is typed appear in a pop-up command line box for easier reading, they are as follows:

Unit for length:
This is the overriding base setting between metric an imperial, here we note that the original setting was 1 for the block template and we changed it to 3, which is the system we use in the office.

Linear display format:
This changes the output reading for items like DISTANCE from 2000.000(decimal) say to 2.000E+03 (scientific). I find the decimal easier to read so we will select 2 here.

Linear display precision:
This governs the number of decimal points in the output reading for items like DISTANCE. 0 gives a measurement of 2000, 1 results in 2000.0 etc. I tend to leave this at 3, but this is personal preference. (LUPREC system variable also changes this setting, and is also found in the dialogue box after typing UNITS, found under menu –> FORMAT –> UNITS).

Scale objects from other drawings upon insert:
This is the one that makes the drawings scale from one unit set to another. I have left this as YES as it will highlight any other blocks and drawings that might not have been set to mm in the first option. Otherwise the block will be inserted without scaling and the error persists.

Match INSUNITS to drawing units?
INSUNITS is another option to scale BLOCKS on insert. It is best to say yes here so they do match, otherwise errors could occur!

Scale objects in current drawing to reflect change in units?
This one you need to say no to. The reason being is that you have drawn a line that is 2000 units long, and in this case before changing the DWGUNITS this would have been interpreted as 2000 inches. AutoCAD can scale the drawing (which is sometimes useful when say changing from a drawing that was actually drawn in inches to metric) however in this case you want to preserve the “2000 units” as 2000 and just change the unit type from inches to mm.

Then the drawing and block drawn in the drawing will be compatible with other drawings drawn in mm.

Please note that DWGUNITS and UNITS are completely different commands.

Please also note the DWGUNITS command is undocumented in AutoCAD both 2013 and 2014 help, it might be present in previous versions but probably need to go back many years to obtain anything!

Secure Load

If you, like me, use LISPS you will find that a new very useful feature has been added to AutoCAD 2014. They have introduced Secure Loading of executables, which in principle is a good thing.

However if you like me are struggling to get the Trusted Locations to work, you can go back to the “legacy” behaviour (load everything anyway) by going to settings –> system –> executable file settings and turning off this feature.

Secure Load
Secure Load