"The single greatest tip that I ever received over the 21 years that I have been using AutoCAD is this; Know your commands, and then create left-hand keyboard shortcuts (two or three letters) for those commands using either the PGP file (Alias editor) or simple lisp routines. For example: everybody know about the AutoCAD shortcut "E" for Erase, but what about the other commonly used E-commands, such as Explode, Extend, etc?
"I actually use ER for Erase, EXT for Extend, EX for Explode, ET for EditText (DDedit), ES for Ellipse, and so forth. I have found that using more than one letter makes it easier to remember and not get mixed up with other commands.
"If you, as a user, watch the bottom of your screen when you hover over a toolbar button or an item on your pull down menus (my office still uses ’06 and ’07 AutoCAD) you can see what the actual command name is and then you can create a shortcut for it. I always look at the command name and figure out how to abbreviate it with left-hand keys only (if it is a commonly used command).
"For those of you that don’t know the basics of typing, the HOME ROW (on a standard QWERTY keyboard) is the row of keys that starts on the left with the ASDF keys, and the left-hand home position is actually on the keys ASDF. That's why the F key has a little bump of some kind on it, so it can be found without looking at it (the right hand home position is the JKL; keys, but CAD users usually have the right hand on the mouse). I am a left-handed person and the second greatest tip I ever received was this: Even if you are left handed, train yourself to use the mouse right handed because there is so much more you can do (and hence be more productive) when your left hand stays on the keyboard and your right hand stays on your mouse.
"All of this is, of course, based on the premise of keeping your eyes on the screen.
"Let me give you my final examples. I frequently use the UCS commands for various tasks, so I have created the following shortcuts (using LISP):
CSR – UCS Reset (to World)
CSX – UCS Origin (pick a point)
CSD – UCS (align to Object)
CSZ – UCS previous
CSV – UCS match View (for Viewports)
CS – UCS command
CSDD – UCS dialog
"As you can see, by keeping my left hand in the home position, I can execute all these commands without ever taking my hand off the mouse or looking at the keyboard to hit the letter U."
NOTES FROM CADALYST TIP PATROL: I couldn’t agree more. When using CAD, use both hands and don’t look at the keyboard, or menu items, unless of course you have to. The peak of efficiency will mean that a user can act without thinking about how to access a command. Steve’s tip tells us to keep one hand on the mouse and the other on the keyboard. Don’t waste time moving the mouse around the screen going toolbar to toolbar. You will be quicker if there is as little time spent moving, just draw.
And never take your hand off of the mouse! This method can be difficult to learn, especially if you have been using toolbars your entire career. Changing to this method will be very slow at first, until you learn where the commands are on the keyboard. Did everyone enjoy changing to the Ribbon in AutoCAD 2009? I would bet that those who hated it the most use the keyboard very little and rely on toolbars and menus. Those who enter most of their commands via the keyboard hardly notice the Ribbon’s interface change. This is not a change that can be done easily, so be patient if you try. To help, turn off the menubar and close all of your toolbars. Don’t panic; just turn them back on if you want to. The great thing about AutoCAD is that there are hundreds of ways to get any one thing done. Oh, and you can easily set keyboard shortcuts in the PGP file.