Using the AutoCAD Property Line Helper to Automate Steps in AutoCAD


It’s a new year, and it’s time to explore using AutoCAD in new ways and help automate some of the procedures you’re used to doing and save lots of time. We’re going over how the Property Line Helper can make AutoCAD assist in the process of automatically updating your text for the Length and Angle (in Surveyors Units) of the property line.
The text is also parametrically constrained. As you rotate the angle of the text and stretch the endpoints to the proper locations, it will center itself on the line. It can also controlled for its text height by the annotation scale feature on the status bar.

Steps to Updating Your Text

Create the layers and set the proper settings. In order to parametrically constrain the text to the line properly, you will need a layer to place a “Construction Line” on.

Use AutoCAD’s Defpoints layer for that purpose. If you don’t have a Defpoints layer in your list, you can automatically make one by just creating a dimension and then erasing it. Set the layer properties to your own desired names and settings.

text angle

Draw a horizontal line 1 unit long at the angle of zero, (this will be the property line). Then draw one vertically 0.2 units long and move it using osnaps so that the two midpoints line up on top of each other. Place the horizontal line on the PropLine layer and the vertical line on the Defpoints layer.

defpoints layer

Create 2 separate texts using the FIELD command. Follow the same steps below and use the same line for each.

  • Change the Field category to Objects.
  • Pick Object from the list.
  • Pick the “Select object” button next to the Object type: (the dialog box will disappear. If you pick the horizontal line only, it should reappear and the Object type: field should read [Line]).
  • Select the Length for the text above the line and Angle for the text below the line next.
  • In the Preview: column, pick the desired Format: (Architectural or Engineering for the length field. When repeating the process for the Angle, use Surveyor’s or ???)
  • Set the desired default settings in the Precision: area for precision and formatting

If you use the “Current” settings on any of the settings, it will change the value of the annotation to whatever the units settings are set to. If you choose something else from the list, it will force the annotation to keep the desired setting, regardless of if you change the units in the drawing. This can be changed at any time by editing the FIELD.

When finished, click the OK button at the bottom of the dialog. Then place the text anywhere on the screen. Repeat the process to make the other text field.

length and angle field

Change the following properties of the text fields using the Properties Palette (Ctrl+1).

Change both fields to the PropText layer and set the Style to your desired settings. Remember to use an annotative style and the height of the text to the plotted size if you want to control the height of the Text Fields for different scales. If you are not making this annotative, then you will need to set the proper text height by multiplying it by your drawings scale factor.

For the Length Field, change the justification to Bottom center and use the Move command (or Grips) to the relocate that Text Field using the osnaps so the Insertion point is snapped to the upper Endpoint of the vertical line.

For the Angle Field change the justification to Top center and use the Move command (or Grips) to the relocate that Text Field using the osnaps so the Insertion point is snapped to the lower Endpoint of the vertical line.

osnaps

Apply the Constraints to the objects. Go to the Parametric tab on the ribbon and click the Auto Constrain button.

parametric tab

At the Select objects or [Settings]: prompt, make sure you put a window (or crossing) around ALL of the objects in the box and press the enter key to end the selection mode. You will now see the constraint bars appear for all of the applied constraints. There is a Show All button in the Geometric panel in case they are hidden and don’t display on the screen. You can also set the transparency in the Constraint Settings option from the command line (or click the tiny diagonal arrow in the lower-right corner of the Geometric panel on the ribbon.)

constraint settings

If you don’t get the same results, use the Delete Constraints button on the same ribbon tab by selecting all of the objects. Then go into the Constraint Settings dialog and click on the AutoConstrain tab. Click the Reset button and then the OK button. Then repeat step 6 again.

Delete the Horizontal constraint by hovering your cursor over that constraint, right-click the mouse, and click the option Delete at the top of the shortcut menu. You should only see the Horizontal button removed when done.

horizontal constraint

Add an additional Coincident constraint that will keep the text fields aligned. Click the Coincident constraint button in the Geometric panel on the Parametric tab. At the Select first point prompt, hover the cursor over the horizontal line shown in the first image below. When the circle x target appears at the intersection, pick the line and repeat the same steps for the vertical line. The command line should end the command without any error messages if done correctly.

It should create the last image below, but it does not always display correctly, so you will need to test it to see if it works.

command line 1        command line 3command line 2

To test the contstraints with no command active, select the green line to display its grips. Select one of the endpoint grips by picking the ** STRETCH ** grip editing command. Then select another desired location on the screen.

stretch grip editing command

Note how the text is readjusting itself to be in the center of the line as it changes length and rotates itself to be parallel to the same angle as the line. That is what you want. If the text does not update itself automatically, type RE (REGEN) at the command line. The text fields should update to the correct length and angle. Now you can clean up the display by hiding the constraint bars by clicking the Hide All button on the Geometric panel on the Parametric tab on the ribbon.

geometric panel 1           geometric panel 2

You can now copy all of these objects together, and the links to the fields and the geometric constraints will still be connected to the new objects. This means that once you change the line on the copied object and regenerate the drawing, that new set of objects will have all of the same features as the original objects, but they will update independently.

object 1           object 2

Additional Tips

Fix Upside Down Text

Let’s say that you end up connecting the wrong line endpoint and now the text displays upside down. There are several ways you could correct this, but the easiest way is to use the Rotate command and rotate the entire object using the midpoint of the line as the axis.

rotate command

Not All Objects Are the Same

It’s important to remember that, while they act like they are now all grouped (or blocked) together, they are still separate independent objects mostly cotrolled by what the line does. If you were editing the object by using one of the other grips, results will very.

Because of the constraints, things may edit differently than you are used to, especially if you have multiple objects that their grips being displayed when using certain Grip editing commands.

Set Scales Early

Scales set the precedence of how you want all of your property lines to display size and location for the spacing of the text and the property line. At small scales, lines we have been looking at seem fine, but when you make the line 100’ or more, the Text Fields might appear on top of each other

You can change the scale size, but you have to scale the entire set of objects up at the same time by the scale factor you are going to be using. This will also scale the distances between the line and the text objects as well.

This method above only works well when you are NOT planning on using the annotative scaling feature, as it will mess with the starting size of the object and will be virtually impossible to get the text sized correct height you want when plotted.

Use the Annotation Scale

If you plan on taking advantage of the annotation scale, verify that the starting scale is 1:1 on the status bar at the bottom of the AutoCAD screen. Then verify that you have set your text field objects to an annotative text style setting and the proper plotted text height.

Next, drag the property line out to a good working distance. Verify that it scales to annotative objects when the annotation scale changes are set to On in the status bar.

annotative objects

Set the annotation scale of the current view to the proper scale on the status bar for the drawing.

annotation scale

If you do not see the scale you need in the list, see the help file for adding and editing the scale list. Remember to avoid clicking on other scales not being used. If you need to remove a scale, use the Add/Delete Scales button on the annotation scaling panel in the annotate tab on the ribbon.

annotation scaling panel

You should now see the text fields displaying at the proper scale, but you will need to adjust the spacing of the text from the line. This will be a tricky situation because of the constraints applied earlier. The trick will be not to move the text object, but to change the length of the vertical (construction) line we pinned it to. To do this follow the steps below:

  • Zoom in so you can see the vertical line.
  • Select only the vertical line so that the grips are displayed.

grips

Click the top endpoint and start dragging the endpoint up using the grip editing. You will see the object adjusting the spacing equally between both text fields with the line centered between. If you know the set distance you want the text to be plotted away from each other, (e.g. 1/8 x Scale factor), type that distance in the overall field using the tab key.

endpoint

This will set the distance between the text and re-center the line. Always remember to do a RE (regen) or REA (Regenall) make sure you are seeing all updates correctly.

regen

Now just copy around and edit each one by snapping the endpoints to the corners of the lot as desired, and the annotation will update automatically after regenerating.

If most of the Drawings you work on are the same scale when you are done, save a copy of the file to avoid having to recreate all of the scaling tricks again.

Automating steps in AutoCAD are designed to make your life easier. Expect more updates through 2017.