DraftSight is a free CAD program that uses the DWG file format. It includes all the main tools to produce precise technical drawings and runs on a wide variety of operating systems, including Windows, Mac, and Linux.
We will cover the following topics in this chapter:
Downloading and starting DraftSight
Understanding the user interface and locating all elements
Setting up a drawing
Opening, saving, and closing drawings
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.
Downloading the example code and graphics
You can download the example code files for all Packt books and colored graphics of this book you have purchased from your account at http://www.packtpub.com. If you purchased this book elsewhere, you can visit http://www.packtpub.com/support and register to have the files e-mailed directly to you.
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:
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.
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.
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).
Model/Sheets tabs: Drawings are made on the model space. Sheets spaces are specific to prepare sheets for printing; presented in Chapter 10, Printing Efficiently.
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, presented in the next chapter. 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.
After configuring DraftSight, let's start a new drawing and configure it.
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.
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.
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 is presented in Chapter 7, Creating and Applying Components.
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.
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.
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 chapter, we covered an introduction to the free DraftSight program, including where to download it from, how to start and configure it, followed by creating and configuring a drawing. Then all commands to open, save, and close were presented.
In the next chapter we will learn how to draw lines with precision, delete entities, and how to apply pans and zooms to better view drawings.