Sketchbook Designer is a great value added to some of the new Suites. You will find it in the three tiers of Autodesk Design Suite, Product Design Suite and Building Design Suite.
Sketchbook Designer installs a standalone version and also a plug in for AutoCAD. It is a phenomenal application for sketching and illustration, and I hope to do some justice to it in a series of examples around its use.
If you have ever used the previous version, called Alias Sketch, you will notice some changes. Most of the editing was moved into the standalone version, leaving very few features inside AutoCAD. They replaced this with a very powerful one click workflow.
The first example I want to show is around the use of 2d data from AutoCAD. We’ll do some edits inside Sketchbook Designer. In later posts I’ll get a little more creative with a bigger example, but this is simply for explaining some key concepts.
We’ll start with a simple detail: a balcony with a lighting fixture, where we’ll try to change the curve appeal. Let’s say that we want to use a solution that allows for freehand sketching, but we also want to reuse this information as efficiently as possible. If you are in Suites, you then have the best of both worlds. Let’s draft in AutoCAD and sketch in Sketchbook Designer, and reuse the data from one application into the other. The solution is a simple one click workflow.
Once you isolate the detail you want to sketch on top of, we’ll create a canvas. This is a simple operation that is done from the Sketchbook Designer tab in the Ribbon.
Select New Canvas and you’ll get a window with some grips in order to create your canvas. The Canvas will define the area where the plug in will operate. There are options for Fixed and Free, and the first one constrains the aspect ratio. If you want to have more freedom, you probably want to change into Free. Now, let me share a tip. Sometimes, you will see that Free is displayed by default, but the canvas behaves like Fixed. Simply go back to Fixed and change again to Free, and all will be good.
With your canvas done, you now want to let Sketchbook Designer know what to do with the AutoCAD layers. By selecting Create Vector Underlay On, the layers will be transferred, and will then be able to be converted into raster or vector layers inside Sketchbook Designer. Preserve layers ensures that you will see all layers, and they won’t be merged into a single vector layer. If you only want to operate with the lines inside a couple of specific layers, Preserve Layers is the right thing to do.
Once you finished, you can Apply the changes and then click on the Sketchbook Designer button in the Ribbon, which will start the one click workflow. The standalone application will start, and you will see the same canvas you had in AutoCAD. Note that the limits of the canvas in AutoCAD are the limits to any work you can do in Sketchbook, so keep this in mind when creating the limits of your canvas.
Also note that when Sketchbook Designer is linked to AutoCAD, you won’t be able to work in AutoCAD. If you don’t know this, you may think that AutoCAD has frozen.
You can see how your AutoCAD layers are now Sketchbook Designer layers. Simply select one of them, and you will see the option to convert it into a raster or a vector layer. Right now we want vectors, so as to use the cool and really sophisticated features from Sketchbook Designer.
Select the line, and see how you can create a curve by simply adding knots to the spline. There are other very useful commands, but I’ll only mention one more. Restroke Curve allows you to simply stroke next to the spline, and the curve will readjust to those strokes. If you have a tablet, this is a great way of getting closer to what you really want, as opposed to simply adding or removing knots. This is much closer to the kind of design intent that you can apply when hand sketching.
With the curves already with the shape you wanted, you can now export them as a dwg into AutoCAD. You can export a selection, if you simply want a couple of splines and not the whole set of curves. Once you do this, it’s time to go back to AutoCAD.
As soon as you close Sketchbook Designer, AutoCAD will be back to life, and you will see your edits. But wait a minute. Those edits are on the canvas and not real dwg vectors. Open the dwg file created in Sketchbook Designer and you will see your curves in Paper Space. Cut them and paste them into the drawing. You will probably have a different scale, but that’s easy to fix.
As you can see, in a couple of clicks, you could go from AutoCAD into Sketchbook Designer, and edit a detail, adding some design intent with tools more appropriate for this. As I said before, this particular example is really simple, and some may argue that they could have done this in AutoCAD alone. Sure. But the point was to show the concept around the one click workflow.
In following postings, after presenting some other features, we’ll move into more complex examples.
There have always been great stories of interoperability around AutoCAD and 3ds Max. I remember starting to work on 3D in AutoCAD in order to get renders in Max back in the AutoCAD 12 – 3D Studio R2 for DOS. After exporting 3ds from AutoCAD, trying to figure out how many normals were flipped and then applying materials and lights, you got pretty good results. Of course, any change in AutoCAD would mean redoing the whole process again, at least for the edited pieces.
We’ve gone a long way since then. In the future I’ll talk a bit about the File Link Manager in 3ds Max Design, which for some reason does not get that much attention from some users.
But today I wanted to talk about a somehow minor feature in AutoCAD that will help a lot in creating more consistency across applications. Especially in the new context of the Suites, when we ship AutoCAD and 3ds Max together in Autodesk Design Suites Premium and Ultimate, we want users to feel in a familiar environment. You always have an application where you spend most of the time. If this application is AutoCAD and you use 3ds Max Design every once in a while, then any help to make the interfaces more familiar is a good thing.
The viewport controls for AutoCAD are new in AutoCAD 2012, and are a great time saver if you work in 3D and change visual styles and views very frequently. Having been using these controls from the early prototypes, every time I had to go back to AutoCAD 2011, it felt really bad not to have these guys on the top left of your viewport. This is how I normally realize how useful a feature is. Just go back one release, and feel how the number of clicks to do something grows.
So what can you do with these controls? Basically they allow you to change the configuration of viewports, the views within them and the visual styles.
Check out how easy it is now. No need to go to the View tab in the Ribbon. Or you don’t use Ribbon? Then you can turn off your View toolbar, and get some more real estate.
Now in 3ds Max Design, you got the same control. Slightly different options, but we’re talking about two apps with different targets anyway. The good thing is that there is no doubt that in both cases, you are going to the same place in order to look for visual styles. And yes, it’s been like this in Max for a long time, so now, for all of you people using both AutoCAD and 3ds Max Design, you get to exercise some muscle memory and definitely work a little faster.
As you can see, same is happening with the Views. AutoCAD displays the available views, same as 3ds Max Design. Max does offer more options like Lights and Cameras. Now, if you add a camera in AutoCAD, you’ll see an extra option for displaying cameras in this same control.
The first option lets you switch from a single viewport into a multiple viewport configuration. This was quite difficult in AutoCAD before, and now it’s just a double click away. You can also access ViewCube, NavBar and Steering Wheel options from this same place. Guess what. Same in Max.
If you go back and forth from single to multiple viewports, you'll see that your visual styles are maintained.
By the way, I want to share a small tip. When you click on this control, stay on top of it until you get the drop down menu. If you click and move the mouse, you won’t get anything. Is this a bug? Well… not really. This is a way to avoid people clicking close to the control by accident and displaying the drop down when they don’t need it. In these occasions, the user will be probably moving the mouse around, so there are no chances of getting the menu by accident.
In a nutshell, a small improvement that saves big time, and provides more consistency when working between AutoCAD and 3ds Max Design. Now that they are shipped together in many of the new Suites in the Premium and Ultimate flavors, it is even more critical to decrease learning curve and share as many components as possible.
In the future we’ll also talk about the Autodesk Materials and File Link Manager.
You may remember that I did some posts around splines for AutoCAD 2011. If you believed that a lot of progress was made, you are right. However, there were a couple of aspects we wanted to enhance. The most important one was to get periodic splines in AutoCAD.
So what does this mean to you? Let’s say you created a spline in AutoCAD 2011 (or previous), and came up with something symmetric. I just created one in AutoCAD 2012 using the corners of this square. Note that I can close with right click menu, and not have to define end tangency.
If I select the spline and show its properties, I can see 4 control vertices.
In the past, you would have seen 5 control vertices. Nothing shocking until you wanted to rebuild the spline. At that point, the shape would become asymmetrical, with a concentration of CVs (control vertices) around the place where you closed the spline.
As you can see, in AutoCAD 2012, even after rebuilding the spline, we get the right shape and the right amount of control vertices (in the right place).
This will also directly impact (in a good way) any shape you create based on these periodic splines. I just copied the spline along the Z axis, and scaled one of them, so as to get a nice loft. By the way, have you noticed that the loft is giving a real time preview as you select cross sections? This is just another enhancement in AutoCAD 2012.
After getting the loft, I just made another exercise. By converting the loft into a NURBS surface, and showing the CVs, you can see the same symmetry from the splines.
What a Mesh! is back into action. A year has gone by, with a big change for me, moving from Product Management in AutoCAD into Product Management within Suites. The teams I work with are developing common components and standards to be used across all applications, in order to ensure more consistency, a smaller learning curve, and better interoperability. It’s definitely a buy life.
As you may have heard, Autodesk has just released new Suites, trying to target solutions for specific workflows instead of just being a collection of applications put together in a bundle.
In the upcoming posts we’re going to see improvements in interoperability from design applications into visualization applications. We’re also going to focus in particular in some applications that may not be too well known, but are present in pretty much all tiers and flavors of the Suites. Sketchbook Designer and Showcase deserve a lot of attention, since them alone can bring unprecedented value to your work in AutoCAD, Revit or Inventor.
What a Mesh! used to be very focused around AutoCAD. I’ll keep posting some interesting tips around AutoCAD, even though the focus will now be more around the use of several applications together.
Stay tuned for the following posts. Whenever I include videos, they will be hosted in my YouTube channel, and everything will be posted both in English and Spanish.