Create and customize AutoCAD tool palettes

Tool palettes are one of the best CAD management tools. Whether you want to set standards for symbols and layers, give your employees easy access to tools, or build a good set of standard components, the tool palette is where you want to start. The Toolbox is a free-floating tab that you can open and keep active on your screen while you’re working on a drawing, giving you quick access to common symbols, commands, and most of the other tools you need to draw. Think of it as a large, mobile, highly customizable toolbar and you can’t go wrong.

  1. Working with Tool Palette Groups
  2. Working with tool palettes
  3. Using Tool Palettes
  4. Customize tool palettes
  5. Add tools to the palette
  6. Share your palettes

Working with Tool Palette Groups

AutoCAD products come with a wide variety of tools already loaded into your palette. These depend on the vertical product you are installing, such as Civil 3D, AutoCAD Electrical, or even just “vanilla” AutoCAD. You can enable or disable the tool palette using the toggle on the Home tab of the ribbon panel, or by typing TOOLPALETTES at the command prompt. The tool palette is divided into two categories: groups and palettes.

groups † Groups are top-level folder structures that help you organize your tools into reasonably sized sections. In the example above, the default AutoCAD palette has sections for architectural, civil, structural, etc. symbols and tools, so you can quickly access what you need. You can create your own groups to organize corporate standards, use the groups that come with your version of AutoCAD, or combine them. We’ll explain how to customize tool palettes later in this guide.

Working with tool palettes

palettes † Within each group, you can create several palettes (tabs) that allow you to separate and structure your tools. In the example above, we are in the Civil Multiview block group ( Civil 3D ) and you can see we have palettes for highways, exteriors, terrain, and building footprints. This is a very useful way to limit the number of tools shown to your users at any given time. Sure, you can put all the functions in one palette, but in doing so, you have to scroll through hundreds of functions to find the one you need, something of a purpose. Remember, we want to improve productivity by helping users find what they need faster. By splitting your tools into organized palettes, the user can select the desired category and select only a small group of tools.

Using Tool Palettes

To use a tool from the palette, click or drag it into your file. The good thing about these tools is that as a CAD manager you can set all the variables you want to use right in the palette, so users don’t have to worry about settings, they can just click a symbol or command and run it. You set these options by right-clicking on the tool and selecting the “properties” option. In the example above, we set the Layer property of this symbol to C-ROAD-FEAT so that no matter what the current layer is, when the user inserts this symbol into their drawing, it will always be on the C-ROAD- posted. FEAT layer. As you can see, we have many other settings such as color, line type, etc. that can be predefined to determine how all the tools work without users having to select the appropriate settings.

Customize tool palettes

The true power of tool palettes lies in the ability to adapt them to your company’s standard symbols and commands. Customizing palettes is quite easy. To get started, right click on the gray title bar on the side of the palette and select the Customize Palettes option. This opens a dialog box (above) that gives you areas to add new groups and palettes. You create new palettes on the left side of the screen by right-clicking and choosing “new palette” and adding new groups on the right in the same way. You add palettes to your group by simply dragging them from the left pane to the right pane.

Note that you can also “nest” groups to create branching sub-options. We do this with the standard parts of our company. At the top level, we have a group called “Details” that when you hover your mouse over it displays the “Landscaping” and “Drainage” options. Each subgroup contains multiple palettes for elements belonging to that group, such as tree symbols, light symbols, etc.

Add tools to the palette

Once you’ve set up your group tree and palette, you’re ready to add the actual tools, commands, symbols, and more that you want your users to access. To add symbols, you can drag them from your open drawing, or if you’re working from the default network location, you can drag the desired files directly from Windows Explorer and drop them into your palette, as in the example above. You can also add custom commands or lisp files that you developed in a similar way, just run a CUI command and drag your commands from one dialog box to another.

You can even drag drawn elements into your palette. If you have drawn a line on a specific layer, with a specific line type that you want to use regularly, you can simply drag it to your palette and when you want to create a line of that type, click on it and AutoCAD will run the command lines with the same parameters set for you. Think how easy it is to draw tree lines or central grid lines on an architectural plan in this way.

Share your palettes

To share custom palettes with everyone on your CAD team, copy the folder containing the palettes to a network share. You can find out where your tool palettes are located by going to the TOOLS > OPTIONS function and looking at the “Tool Palette File Locations” path, as shown above. Use the Browse button to change this path to the network share that you want everyone to use. Finally, you need to find the source system’s “” file, for example: C:UsersYOUR NAMEApplication DataAutodeskC3D 2012enuSupportProfilesC3D_Imperial where our Civil 3D profile is located and copy it to the same location on each user’s computer.

That’s it: simple steps to create a fully customizable tool palette for your users! How do you work with tools in your company? Do you want to add something to this conversation?

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