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Two-Handed CAD
Tip# 3189 By Steve Rodgers On 26-Apr-2009
Rated By 8 users Downloaded : 824
Categories : PGP File
Software type : AutoCAD 2009
Rename File To : UCS-Shortcuts.LSP
Steve Rodgers sent us his method of input when using AutoCAD, both hands.

"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.


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User comments
Comment by lottis,brian
Posted on 2009-04-27 16:23:01
I took a different approach. I taught myself to use the mouse left handed. Now, not only do I do all my command typing with my right hand, but it's a lot easier to enter numbers, since the number pad is on the right side of the keybaord.
Comment by Ford,David
Posted on 2009-04-27 17:04:14
This is absolutely the most efficient way to execute commands, no matter which version of AutoCad you're using. It's the way I was taught back on R12 for DOS. I know people who have their screen filled with toolbars and hardly ever type, but their elbows are nearly blown out from all that mouse movement.
Comment by Tomkinson,Richard
Posted on 2009-04-28 06:53:17
I think this is natural for people who learned AutoCAD prior to the windows versions. When you had to go 3-4 layers deep in the menu system looking for a command, it was much easier to type it in and gave you a reason to create aliases. Not as much reason now, except that they change the icons with every new release so you can't recognize them.
Comment by Bass,Jim
Posted on 2009-04-28 07:44:51
I thought I was the only one doing that. I have used left keyboard short cut keys for years and they are a fantastic time saver. I use them for zoom object, for my rapid layer control...well, all sorts of things. There is no way I could draw as fast in 3-D without using them. Great tip! I strongly recommend this tip.
Comment by Johnson,Teresa
Posted on 2009-04-28 09:01:00
I also taught myself how to use the mouse left handed, although I didn't change the buttons to be left handed. I've been doing this since R14. I still do a lot of typing of the commands. I try to keep the toolbars/ribbons at a minimum to get the most drafting area I can. I even keep the command line turned off. Using the opposite hand for the mouse helps in a lot of other programs too.