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Downloading and starting DraftSight
The DWG file format is the most used Computer Aided Design (CAD) format. It is used in all areas of technical drawings. Another drawing file format is DXF, mainly used for communication between CAD programs. There are several programs that work with DWG and DXF files, with similar commands and work processes, with DraftSight being among them.
Dassault Systèmes (www.3ds.com), one of the two major CAD companies in the world, licenses the ARES Commander software from Graebert GmbH (www.graebert.com) and uses it as the CAD engine. The first version was released in February 2011. Currently there are versions for Windows 32-bit, Windows 64-bit (XP, Vista, and 7), Mac OS X, and several Linux operating systems (Fedora, Suze, Mandriva, or Ubuntu).
Actually, there are 15 languages available, including English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese (traditional and simplified), and Russian. DraftSight is free for any personal or commercial application.
DraftSight can be downloaded from www.draftsight.com, selecting the proper operating system. The executable file is around 100 MB and installs very fast. It does not prompt for the language selection, thus installing the local language, but this can be changed after starting DraftSight.
After installation, DraftSight can be initiated by double-clicking the DraftSight desktop icon or by accessing the Windows Start menu and navigating to All Programs | DassaultSystemes | DraftSight.
Understanding the user interface
When starting DraftSight, its graphical user interface is displayed with a blank new drawing called NONAME_0.DWG. The interface can be customized; it contains the following elements by default, which are displayed in the screenshot in the following section:
- Drawing area: This area contains the drawing, where graphical entities are inserted, viewed, modified, inquired, or deleted. All colors can be configured.
- Cursor: The cursor is controlled by the mouse or other pointing device, which will allow specifying points to create, modify, or select entities, also to access menus or toolbars. The cursor coordinates are displayed at the status line.
- Coordinate system icon: This icon displays the positive directions for the X and Y axis. DraftSight, as with other CAD programs, uses a Cartesian coordinate system, where each point is perfectly identified by a pair of coordinates.
- Main menu: This top pull-down menu includes most DraftSight commands, divided by categories.
- Standard toolbar: This toolbar includes the main commands for starting, opening, saving or printing drawings, for cutting, copying, or pasting entities, for painting properties between entities, undoing and redoing, for visualization operations, and controlling the properties palette.
- Layers toolbar: This toolbar includes the LAYER command and the layers list.
- Properties toolbar: This toolbar includes the default color, default line type, and default lineweight for new entities or for selected entities. It is advisable to maintain these ByLayer (controlled by layer, thus not explicitly).
- Draw toolbar: This toolbar includes the main drafting commands, such as creating lines, circles, arcs, and text.
- Modify toolbar: This toolbar includes the main modifying commands, such as deleting, moving, copying, and rotating.
- Properties palette: Some DraftSight commands display a palette, which can always be visible. This palette can be turned off, as it will not be required now.
- Model/Sheets tabs: Drawings are made on the model space. Sheets spaces are specific to prepare sheets for printing.
- Command window: This is one of the most important interface areas. It includes all requests from the program, displaying available options, and where users can write command names, their aliases, or options. The last line indicates that DraftSight is prompting the colon (:), which means it is waiting for a command. The command window can be resized or moved.
- Status bar: This bar, beneath the command window, includes the cursor coordinates and the access to drafting auxiliary tools. When hovering over a toolbar icon or a menu item, a small help and the command name are displayed on the left.
First, we may choose a different language for using DraftSight. When installing, a language based on user's location is automatically applied, which may not be the desired one. To choose a different language, the _LANGUAGE command must be applied (without forgetting underscore before command name) along with the language corresponding number (a question mark displays all available). Then, reinitiating DraftSight will set up the chosen language.
It is very simple to configure DraftSight. The OPTIONS command includes almost all settings and system options. We can access the command by digitizing its name, OP as its alias, choosing Options on the menu displayed by pressing the mouse right button, or Options on the Tools main menu.
The command displays a dialog box with several sections on the left column. Choosing one of these sections, the corresponding options are displayed on the right area with a tree structure:
- File Locations: This section allows defining the location of important files and specific file names, including the Support Files Search Path, default Drawing Files Location, or External References Files Location.
- System Options: This includes general options related to the system, such as Element Colors to configure interface colors (displayed in the following screenshot), DWG version for saving, Printing options, or Auto-save & Backup options.
- User Preferences: Here we can define several Drafting and Mouse user options, as well as aliases for commands.
- Drawing Settings: This includes settings specific to the current drawing. The most important settings are presented in the following screenshot.
- Drafting Styles: This section includes Active Drafting Styles and the possibility to create or modify text styles, dimension styles, rich line (multiline) styles, and table styles.
- Profiles: Here it is possible to manage user profiles in order to easily change multiple options at once.
The default drawing area is black. A white drawing area was adopted throughout this article to improve images visualization.
Starting and setting up a drawing
After configuring DraftSight, let's start a new drawing and configure it.
Starting a drawing
The NEW command (shortcut Ctrl + N, on the Standard toolbar, or File main menu) allows us to start a drawing. The command displays a standard file dialog box in order to choose the template.
When starting a new drawing, we may start from a blank drawing (any one coming with DraftSight) or from a template with some configurations already done. Templates are drawing files with the DWT extension by default, placed at C:\Users\user\AppData\Roaming\DraftSight\1.2.265\Template or similar, depending on the operating system and DraftSight version. With the OPTIONS command, going to the File Locations | Drawing Support | Drawing Template File Location, we may change this location.
To create a template, we prepare the drawing to be used and then apply the SAVEAS command by selecting Drawing Template (*.dwt) on Save as type list.
The SMARTNEW command (no alias or icon) allows us to start a new drawing without displaying the file dialog box. We may configure which template will be applied with the OPTIONS command, System Options | Open / Save As | Template file name for SmartNew.
Setting up a drawing
When using a blank template (for instance, standardiso.dwt, coming with DraftSight), we may configure it, especially units. Again with the OPTIONS command, going to Drawing Settings | Unit System, we can configure the following drawing options:
- Base angle: We control the base angle direction, from which absolute angles are measured, by clicking on the compass or by writing a value. By default, 0° is East (3 o'clock). Normally, angles are measured positively in the counter clockwise direction, unless Clockwise is checked.
- Length: The Type list allows the linear unit to be defined and the Precision resolution (number of decimal places or fractions) to be displayed in coordinates or answer to inquiry commands.
- Angle: The Type list allows the angular unit to be defined and the Precision resolution (number of decimal places or other) to be displayed in coordinates or answer to inquiry commands.
- Units scale: The Block units format list identifies the drawing unit when inserting contents like blocks or images. With this option, DraftSight automatically applies the suitable scale factor when inserting a block whose unit is different from the drawing unit. A block is a set of objects constituting a single object, like a door or a bolt; its creation or modification.
- Preview: This simply displays a preview of linear and angular units.
By digitizing the UNITSYSTEM command name we get access directly to this section of the OPTIONS command. But a better way is to simply digitize UN (or UNITS).
Opening, saving, and closing drawings
The OPEN command (shortcut Ctrl + O, on the Standard toolbar or File main menu) opens a drawing in formats DWG or DXF. Also, it allows opening template files, DWT extension, to edit these.
It only displays a standard file dialog box to select the file, including a preview area.
DraftSight allows several open drawings. To activate another open drawing, we may press Ctrl + Tab or apply the Window main menu and select the drawing by its name.
When saving drawings, there are two commands depending on whether or not you want to modify the name or location.
The SAVE command (shortcut Ctrl + S, on the Standard toolbar, or File main menu) saves the current drawing, maintaining its format, name and location. If the current drawing has no name, the next command is automatically applied.
If we want to modify the name, location, type of file, or version, the SAVEAS command (shortcut Ctrl + Shift + S or the File main menu) must be used. This command displays a standard file dialog box and we can specify name, location and type/version of drawing file. On the Save as type list, as displayed on next image, there are several possibilities covering all DWG and DXF versions for last twenty years. Saving as a template, DWT file is also available.
There is a third command to save drawings, called SAVEALL (no alias and not on menus). This one allows us to save all open drawings at once.
To close the current drawing without closing DraftSight, the CLOSE command (File main menu)should be applied. This is equivalent of pressing the lower X button on the upper-right corner of the user interface. If the drawing has modifications that have not yet been saved, a warning box is displayed, reminding us to save the drawing.
The CLOSEALL command (Window main menu) allows us to close all drawings without closing DraftSight. To each drawing that has modifications not yet saved, a warning box is displayed, allowing us to save that drawing.
To quit DraftSight, the EXIT command should be used. This is the equivalent of pressing the upper X button on the upper-right corner of the user interface. If any drawing has modifications that have not yet been saved, a warning box is displayed, allowing us to save that drawing.
In this article, we covered an introduction to the free DraftSight program, including where to download, how to start and how to configure it, followed by creating and configuring a drawing, namely units. Then, all commands to open, save, and close were presented.
Resources for Article:
- Introduction to 3D Design using AutoCAD [Article]
- Dynamically enable a control (Become an expert) [Article]
- Working with Away3D Cameras [Article]