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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Changing Contact State

AutoCAD Electrical has so many commands available, it is always difficult for me to decide what to talk about when I post to the site.  Today I have chosen to talk about a command that is simple in theory and in use.  The Toggle NO/NC command does simply that, changes a symbol from a Normally Open to a Normally Closed and vice versa.  First we will discuss the steps to use the command, then I will give some behind the scenes insight on what is happening.

The Toggle NO/NC command that is located on the ACE:Main Electrical toolbar. 



  • Click the Toggle NO/NC command from the toolbar
  • Select the Component to Toggle
  • Notice the results

Inside Insight

First off we need to understand the basics of how a symbol is named.  Lets look at this below.



PB=Push Button


1=Normally Open

Yes, this is very basic naming but it works. Lets look at the same symbol, but it would be placed on a vertical wire as opposed to horizontal. (VPB11) easy right. Now lets look at the Horizontal Normally Closed version. (HPB12) With this in mind we can now understand how AutoCAD Electrical knows the difference between symbols.

The thing to remember about the Toggle NO/NC command is that the software is not redrawing the symbol at all.  It is searching the library for the NO or NC version of the symbol with the same criteria. The criteria being HPB1 in the case shown above. I hope this brief explanation makes sense.  If you have any questions please feel free to email me at rstein@incat.com


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Totally off the Topic of Acad E

I know I mentioned in the past that this site is dedicated to AutoCAD Electrical but I feel I need to make this exception this one time.  I bet you are wondering what I am leading into here. Well nothing bad, I just want to give credit where Credit is due.  A company called Techsmith has some great software that I have been using to capture both screen images and videos.  The two product names are SnagIt and Camtasia Studio. 

SnagIt -

I use this product to take still screen captures of software that I am using or a picture on a web site when I am doing documentation for a specific client.  This is really a great tool and it is priced very affordable. You can also edit the captured image right after capturing it without having to open up another software application.

Camtasia Studio -

I use this product to record video from my screen for some of my tutorials. I have also used it in the past to record demonstrations of features that my students can use that aren't typically in a training class. This product allows you to place call outs on the screen in your video.  Basically you can do some video editing with it. I have not used this program to its full capability yet, but I plan to start trying soon.  Just like SnagIt, this package is reasonably priced considering all you can do with it.


I also recommend checking out The Visual Lounge (Techsmith Blog Site) http://www.techsmith.com/community/bloghome.asp

Talk to you soon

AutoCAD Electrical API

I have to admit, as great as AutoCAD Electrical is, I am sure that it doesn't do everything that everyone wants.  If that were the case we would never see new releases right.  Anyway, this post is just to inform you of the AutoCAD Electrical API.

Steps to API help

  • Start AutoCAD Electrical
  • Click on the Help pull down menu and select "Electrical Help Topics"
  • In the upper right hand corner of the help window click on "API"

The API help is broken out into several sections, each section will help you find the programming entry point for what you are trying to accomplish.


  • Section A - Insert electrical component, break wire, and automatic tag generation
  • Section B - Insert Panel, layout footprint and annotate
  • Section C - Insert wires and wire numbers
  • Section D - PLC related functions
  • Section E - Insert and edit ladders, drawing setup, and title block
  • Section F part 1 - General Function
  • Section F part 2 - General Functions
  • Section G - Projects and project database
  • Section H - Report Generation
  • Section J - User table Tools
  • Section K Microsoft Access and Excel - read and write functions.

I hope that this can help you to write some cool custom apps that I can blog about in the future. if you have any ideas for custom apps or have written any of your own that you would like me to share on this site, email me at rstein@incat.com.



Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Panel Alignment

Yesterday I wrote about the align command in the context of ladder schematic drawings. Today I am going to show you how it can help you in the panel layouts.  In the image below notice that all of the lower panel components are misaligned.  Think of this panel layout as a grid with the components on the top setting the standard for that grid from left to right.


Just like yesterdays post you can right  click on any panel component and select Align.  The difference with panel and schematic components is that with panel components you now have the option of Vertical/Horizontal.  Below are the basic steps to use the align command with panel components.


  • Right click on panel component and select align.
  • Determine if you are trying to align vertically or horizontally with other components.
  • Select Vertical or Horizontal based off of your above answer.
  • Select the components that you want aligned with the master component you right clicked on.
  • Press enter to complete.

End Results


I know this is a brief description and I may revisit it with a video in the future.


Monday, February 20, 2006

Aligning Components

I bet that most of my readers have seen this command especially if they have taken one of my AutoCAD Electrical classes considering this is one of my favorite commands and I show it every chance I get.  Below is an image of some components in a schematic drawing.  I have seen AutoCAD drawings like this time and time again. 


Notice the Red box outlining how the components are "offset" from rung to rung.  I have noticed this on a lot of older AutoCAD drawings, and I have also noticed that this habit has carried over into AutoCAD Electrical.  I will show you a way to easily align these components so they are directly in line from rung to run. Here are the steps.


  • Right click on the component that is in the desired location.
  • Click Align from the context menu.
  • select all of the components that you wish to have aligned with the master component.
  • press enter on your keyboard to complete the selection set.

View the end result below.


Wow, something that was so painful in standard AutoCAD people wouldn't even do it is now literally just a couple of clicks away.

Stay tuned, I have another tip with the Align command for next time.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Unknown Attributes Show Up

A client called my cell phone yesterday with a pretty good question regarding attributes showing up on the screen that should be "Invisible".  This is a pretty easy fix and a fairly common thing that I have heard of.  For example lets say you insert in an Electrical Symbol (Normally Closed Push Button) into your schematics, you should typically only see the Device ID text, Description Lines, and a few others.  In the attached video you will see some smaller text height attributes such as PB, 403, 403A, and a few others. These are typically "Invisible" attributes meaning that the user never sees them on the screen.  Occasionally a toggle inside of AutoCAD gets changed to force these to "ON". I am unsure of the reason this happens since it seems to happen at times on its own but here is the fix for it.

  • Type in "ATTDISP" at the command prompt
  • Type in "Normal" at the command prompt
  • It is now Fixed.

There are three options in the ATTDISP command and they are:

  • Normal
    • This forces all attribute definitions to follow their default / specified settings. i.e. if the attribute was created to be visible it will be visible on the screen.
  • ON
    • Forces all attribute definitions to be visible.
  • OFF
    • Forces all attribute definitions to be invisible.

Here is the video.

Download ATTDISPVideo.zip

Hope this helps.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Footprints that Hide DinRail

I am back from my vacation and ready to start posting again.   I was on the plane yesterday on the way back from Orlando wondering what would be a good tip for today and since I have been posting mostly schematic or reporting tips I figured I would throw in a Panel Component Tip today.

Creating Custom Footprints That Hide Components.

Basically we create the geometry for the symbol as always using AutoCAD lines, arc's and circles where needed.  After that we use the "Wipeout" command.  If you are not familiar with the Wipeout Command, it is a tool that places a blank image or a mask over a specified area.

  • Type in Wipeout at the command prompt and follow the prompts to use it.
  • The command asks us to specify first point, then next point and so on. 
  • Draw line segments around the outside profile of your footprint, then press enter to finish the command.
  • Now you will repeat the Wipeout Command and type in F for Frames, then choose the "On" option. This will give you the ability to select the wipeout. 
  • At this point we need to use the "Draw Order" toolbar and use the Send to Back icon to select that "Frame" we just completed drawing. 
  • After we have selected the Frame we can now start the Wipeout command again, select Frames and then the off option.

Now you can use the Black Box Builder to create the "Footprint". Now insert the symbol into your drawing on top of some Din Rail or another component to see what happens.  If completed properly it should hide the Din Rail that is behind the component.

Download wipeout_example.avi


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Everybody go Surfin.....

Well, I have to go with a quick tip today, I am off on vacation to sunny Orlando Florida with the wife and kids to Disney.  Our flight leaves detroit at around 9:00 am I am unsure if I will be able to post later today.

Voted one of the top 5 tools in all of my AutoCAD Electrical classes.  I can't tell whether it has been voted so high because of the commands ability to save time or it's pure coolness.  I just want to touch on one point in this command today and we will touch back again later.  Yeah I know, it is a teaser but this tool has alot of power to it.

Does everyone know what the surer lets us do?  Well the simple description is this. It allows us to move from reference to reference across the project drawing set.  Sounds simple right.  This saves a ton of time when working on a big project.

Surfer Special Codes in the List Box

Notice the arrow pointing to the Type Column.  This column informs the user of what type of item is being displayed on each line of the surfer list dialog box.


  • C - Component Symbol
  • P - Parent or Standalone Schematic Symbol
  • T - Terminal
  • W - Wire Number
  • # - Panel Layout Symbol
  • # np - Panel Layout nameplate reference

By understanding these codes you will be able to easily "surf" to the correct item you are looking for, saving time and effort.

Until Next Time


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Change Attribute Style Project Wide

I was at a customer in the Greater Detroit area when I found a good use for this tip.  I was onsite for a custom class for one student for a couple of days then I spent another couple of days onsite to help with getting things up and running.  Everthing went great until we inserted the first component.  I come to find out that they did work for a company that required the text style to be a little more bold / block than the default AutoCAD Electrical style.  This really isn't a problems since we could easily change the attribute style on the library.  However this client did work for several companies and wanted the default most of the time except when working on designs for one specific client.  Once again AutoCAD Electrical has the tool to solve this problem as well.


  • Start out by activating Project-Wide Utilities from the Projects pull down menu.
  • Under the Change Attribute section select Change Style.
  • Click Setup.
  • Select the Font Name you want to change it too.
  • Click OK and the OK again.
  • Click on Project or Active Drawing
  • Decide if you want to apply this to only specific Location Codes.
  • Click OK
  • Select the Drawing(s) to process.
    • Do All - This will transfer all drawings in the project to the Drawings to Process list.
    • Process - Select individual or multiple drawings to process (Tip: You can use typical windows selection options like holding down Ctrl or Shift for multi-select.)
    • Reset - removes all drawings from the Process list.
    • Un-Select - Allows users to select individual drawings to remove.
    • By Section/Sub-Section - Gives users the ability to "Filter" by section and sub-section code.
  • Presto Chango - How cool is that. Every AutoCAD Electrical component in the project now has the new style applied.

Until Next Time.


Monday, February 06, 2006

FULL BOM Reports

Alright, this might seem like a simple tip/trick but it is one that I get asked in every AutoCAD Electrical class I teach so I figured I would post it here.

Someone always asks me about how to get a FULL BOM report.  AutoCAD Electrical offers two different reports, both a Schematic an a Panel report.  With these options you could potentially miss something by only running one report.  At first glance this typically freaks most students out when the first person in the class asks this question.  They all throw up their hands and say I can't believe have to run two reports to get a FULL BOM.  Then you have to worry about duplicate components.  Well put your hands down, we have a solution for this.


Run a Panel BOM report from the Panel Reports dialog. You can access this from:

  • Select Panel Reports from the Panel Layout Toolbar.


  • Select Bill of Material from the Report Name area of the dialog.
    • Make the following selections according to your needs.
      • Project or Active drawing - (sets whether this will be run on the etnire project or the active drawing only.)
    • Include Options
      • Include Nameplates - (Processes Nameplates)
      • Include Cable/Connectors - (Processes Cable/Connectors)
      • All the above - (Processes both of the above options.)
      • Full: Include Schematic components not referenced on panel layout. (THIS IS THE KEY)
    • Display option
      • Normal Tallied Format - (any identical components or component assemblies are counted and reported as single line items.)
      • Normal Tallied Format (Group by Installation/Location) - (any identical components or component assemblies with the same installation/location code are counted and reported as single line items.)
      • Dislplay in Tallied Purchase List Format - (Each part is its own line item.)
      • Dislplay in "By Tag" Format - (All instances of a given component - ID or terminal tag are reported as a single line item.)
    • Freshen Project Database - (This will refresh the project database before running the report.)
    • Installation Codes to extract - (gives users the ability to "Filter" by Installation codes.)
    • Location Codes to extract - (gives users the ability to "Filter" by Location codes.)
  • Click OK
  • Select the Drawing(s) to process.
    • Do All - This will transfer all drawings in the project to the Drawings to Process list.
    • Process - Select individual or multiple drawings to process (Tip: You can use typical windows selection options like holding down Ctrl or Shift for multi-select.)
    • Reset - removes all drawings from the Process list.
    • Un-Select - Allows users to select individual drawings to remove.
    • By Section/Sub-Section - Gives users the ability to "Filter" by section and sub-section code.
  • Click OK.

Until Next Time