High Speed Drafting!

      Over the past fifteen years, the same question has come up many times. How can Quick Draw Drafting produce accurate and higher detailed drawings faster than my in-house guys? I have tried to answer this in many different ways, but its hard to explain the big picture in an easy to comprehend way, but here goes again. First examine the type of person required to run the software and second I'll explain the basics for speeding up drawings with AutoCAD. Along the way learn some key points on how to evaluate a person's knowledge and ability.

      The most important aspect for success is the right person. Professional and highly organized are key qualities. Professional means having the desire and ability to continually learn and analyze. Then apply new ideas and methods. Stay out of a rut by continuing to grow.  Today I accomplish many times more with less effort than five, ten or fifteen years ago. Highly organized means standardize to the highest extent possible, this promotes habit patterns. Once a particular task becomes habit, the task is now subconscious and the conscious is free to focus on other tasks, this increases speed. Note this is a major pitfall for AutoCAD operators. A professional will continue to learn and modify habit patterns over time, a lazy drafter will stay within their comfort zone. Learn it once early and cling to it for life. Some people just refuse to accept change, this type will never be able to maximize the software capibilities. One flag of this kind of person is the same mistakes are repeated over and over, even after brought to their attention multiple times. A professional figures ways to limit mistakes and eliminate where possible. Sloppy drafter equals sloppy drawings and longer turn arounds.

      Now for the AutoCAD part of the answer, yes AutoCAD is the answer for drawing applications. Yahoo states, “AutoCAD is the most popular drafting software with a total of 4 million active users”. For those fighting time lines and drawing with Microvellum, the first thought that comes to my mind is “bottleneck”. Microvellum crashes regularly, libraries are weak other than for cabinets, but worst of all it puts LISP on its knees and “LISP” is AutoCAD gold. There is a faster, easier way. Regardless of how it is marketed, submittals to engineering will never be a one step process. Let's not even get into machining custom parts, read the forums!

      AutoCAD is a highly complex and versatile program. Learning to optimize it for a specific need is a continuous learning process. Remember speed comes from habit patterns. Habit patterns come from standardization. Standardization comes from mastering four qualities, balance, organization, simplify & accessibility.

Balance! I call it balance, but maybe a better term would be “baseline”. Start out creating templates, annotations, everything at the desired printed size with a “one to one” scale. The first impulse after installing is to start a drawing and add borders, text, keys, dimensions, last, scaling to odd sizes to print to the desired size. BIG MISTAKE!


Create templates, dimensions, text, keys, etc. to the desired printed size at a “one to one” scale. Example: create text height at 0.125” to print 1/8” tall with a 12” = 12” scale. Now just scale up by x32 to print 1/8” tall with a 3/8” = 12” scale. 12 divided by 3/8” equals 32. This applies to anything needing to print same size regardless of scale. By starting at this “one to one” baseline, all annotative items can use logical scale ratios to print to a consistent size at any sheet scale. Not very professional to have different text or dimension sizes from one scale to the next or from sheet to sheet. This is a basic principle confusing to many people so AutoCAD recommends drawing annotations, text, dimensions, etc. in paper space. This method creates other issues slowing us down. We use lisp to create a global variable and automatically scale annotations to the correct size. All drawings & annotations are drawn in model space. Objects can be picked all at one time, one command, without switching in and out of paper space. BALANCE! BASELINE?

Organize to the max! Templates, block libraries, commands, everything must be in a logical, easy to use order. A simple, straight forward approach promotes speed through habit patterns with a lot less stress.

Simplify! People get side tracked with all the bells and whistles. Reduce clutter and distractions and focus. Example: Use only enough layers as necessary, too many is probably worst than not enough. Turn off toolbars rarely used is another helpful hint.

Accessibility is major! Easy access to commands is essential. Turn off the toolbars and palettes. A real guru can play the keyboard like a musical instrument and the mouse stays in the drawing area. Not moving all over the screen for buttons. Creating aliases with the PGP file is a good start. Then get into LISP. All our frequently used commands are on the left side of the keyboard based off of the “F” key. The left hand moves little, but is always in easy reach of commands. The right hand stays on the mouse unless using the number pad on the keyboard.


Use dual monitors, open plans or redlines on one screen while working in AutoCAD on the other. Big time saver!

Reduce screen clutter: Don't be a “button boy”, free up precious screen real estate, access commands via the keyboard, turn off those toolbars. Drawing environment and blocks should have the correct properties set, properties window should be off majority of time.

Maximize the PGP file! Create aliases for frequently used commands “bread & butter commands” on left side of keyboard. Reduce left hand movement!

Nomenclature! Reduce key strokes! Three digit cabinet commands, first digit is number of drawers vertically, last two is cabinet height. Thirty inch tall three drawer base cabinet is a “330”. Example: Inserting a base cabinet block. “136” is the command for a 1 drawer, 1 door, 36” tall base cabinet. Next the command prompts for width, less than 24” inserts a single cabinet, greater than inserts a double cabinet. Three key strokes, space bar, type in width and pick insertion point, done. The routine even decides double or single unit based on the width. SWEET!

LISP is AutoCAD's built in programing language, and is the real power of AutoCAD. Your imagination is the only limit. Any repetitive tasks need to be automated by building lisp routines. The command mentioned above “136” is a lisp routine. Another example of a lisp routine would be to draw an eight foot vertical line, then change its layer. Using my alias for line, it takes 11 keystrokes and mouse clicks to accomplish this simple task. My lisp routine takes four, 64% percent productivity increase. If time is money, imagine if the entire drafting process is tricked out with lisp. It is all about accurate submittals out and back approved as expeditiously as possible. No “button boys” please.


The right person:

      Professional, organized

      Able to modify habit patterns

      Does not repeat mistakes

AutoCAD: the right drafting software

      LISP create new commands / streamline the process

      PGP. file / alias commands

      Free up real estate / turn off the clutter

      Nomenclature / less keystrokes


     Habit patterns from standardization

Standardization: four qualities

      Balance / Starting off right

      Organization / logical order, easy to use

      Simplify / less key strokes

      Accessibility / access command using key board

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