Monday, February 13, 2012

Customizing LT: start with the Ribbon

During a slow work week recently, I had the opportunity to tackle a long list of to-do items in the office, including Network and desktop software updates for all of my colleagues' PCs and laptops.
I also took up the task of revamping our LT and AutoCAD screen Ribbon menus to create a more uniform appearance, as well as rewriting more common command shortcuts keys. For reasons more to do with legacy routines than anything else, both AutoCAD versions have had differing appearances and slightly different shortcuts abbreviations (mostly Lisp shortcuts in full AutoCAD).

Below are screenshots of LT: since we have a mix of LT2011 and LT2012 (as well as AutoCAD 2011 and 2012), I started with LT2011 for one simple reason. CUIx menu files are by design from Autodesk able to go up a version but they are not backwards compatible. So had I started with LT2012, I would have had to recreate the screen menu changes from scratch in LT2011. I sought out feedback from my coworkers on what they wanted to see, what they used often, and what things they wanted to do more with in order to spedd up their work day.

The approach to the redesign was simple: make the most used tools visible at the top of each panel, and less frequent tools are placed in the Panel's pulldown portion. Where possible, each tool is a smaller pulldown that offers more abilities to that command: for example, the LINE button on the first panel of the Home tab is a pulldown that also offers DLINE command, XLINE and RAY commands.

Here is version 1.0 1.1.
Home Tab

 Having moved the most frequently used commands up, and the less frequent commands down in each panel (see above, two views of the Home Tab), I also added a few more panels our users wanted: these include Osnaps (coded so the user can add or drop when clicked) and Group.

Insert Tab

Here I expanded many of the default Panels in this tab, and added available online libraries of blocks from manufacturers we use often.

View Tab

 In this tab I added several new Panels for Script files we use most often, Viewport Layer controls (yes, you can control viewport layers separate from modelspace layers), and enhanced the existing panels with some additional commands, variables and customizations.

Annotate Tab

This tab is set up for all things Annotation related: In addition to text and dimension tools, I added a panel for Notation blocks, Room numbers, and dimension overrides.

Custom Tab

In our field of Architecture, the LT users have few tools to work with that are native to LT: I have added custom routines over the years for adding doors/windows/sidelights (with wall breaks), ceiling grid routines and more. Now I just need to work on my icons to look less sloppy.

Output Tab

In addition to having more tools on display, I added a panel to simplify the built-in Export options available in LT for the users.

Manage Tab

This Tab is mostly dedicated to "fixing" a DWG file and I added new panels to adress exactly that need: Linetype Scales settings, Recovery, Purge, Variables settings, Variables toggles (on and off), as well as a few customizations to fix objects not residing at Z=0 elevations.

Online and Parametric Tabs

These are core tabs that I did not change: the ONLINE tab is available with no effort in LT2012, bur in LT2011 you must install this add-on to gain access to the excellent cloud service AutoCADWS.

Field testing went well with a few key employees in both full AutoCAD and LT. Their feedback resulted in the Versions 1.1 you now see above in the snapshots. In a future blog I will cover some of the basics of using the CUI command to customize the Ribbon to match your needs and requirements, but in the meantime I must finish migrating the above into LT2012 (and AutoCAD 2012). ◦