All About the AutoCAD Interface (Part 1)

The first thing you'll notice about the AutoCAD interface is the big black space in the middle. It may have guidelines (that's lines across and up / down) enabled. This area is where you'll spend most of your time, and it's called the workspace or the graphic area. Formally it's known as model-space, and when…

The first thing you'll notice about the AutoCAD interface is the big black space in the middle. It may have guidelines (that's lines across and up / down) enabled. This area is where you'll spend most of your time, and it's called the workspace or the graphic area. Formally it's known as model-space, and when you create a new drawing, by default you find yourself in model space.

What's cool about model space is that it is infinite in size. This means you can draw anything on a 1: 1 scale, such as, an entire factory or country. Before you get drawing, check out which workspace you're in. There's a switch at the bottom of the screen. You will probably find yourself in the Drafting and Annotations workspace. We can switch by right-clicking on the arrow next to the switch. For example, you can switch to AutoCAD Classic, which takes you to the pre-ribbon AutoCAD interface that was introduced in AutoCAD 2009. If you watch some AutoCAD tutorials, it'll be easier to see what I'm talking about. You can also switch workspaces from the Quick Access Tool Bar.

In the top left corner of the screen we have the Application Button. Here we access the standard windows commands of New, Open, Save, Save As, as well as Publish, Search etc.

In older versions of AutoCAD, we also had the standard windows menu with Edit, View, and so on. Now these commands are accessible from the Application button's menu.

Right on top of the screen is what's known as the ribbon bar. If you do not see it, click the small arrow to toggle it visible. We also have a few more view options: Minimize to tabs, Minimize to panel titles, Minimize to panel buttons. So you can change how the ribbon appears at the top of the screen, and change how much it takes up. Let's say your monitor is not so big; you will want to make the ribbon as small as possible so you have more room to draw in model space.

This information I'm presenting here relates to basic AutoCAD tutorials. The majority of the commands we use are available on the ribbon. We can add or remove tabs from the ribbon. The ribbon is categorized into a variety of tabs. I can switch between the tabs with a simple left click on each tab. Each panel on the tab has its own tool set. If you're not sure what a tool does, hover the mouse over the tool for a tool tip, and hover a bit longer for the extended tool tip, which explains how the tool is used and provides an example. tooltip is very handy for the beginner AutoCAD student!

At the bottom of the tool tip we see that pressing F1, while the tooltip is active, takes us to the AutoCAD help files for more detailed support.

If you do not see the tool tip, go to Options, Display tab, and check Show Tool Tips. We also have two sub options checked-Show shortcut keys in tool tips and Show extended tool tips. These are pretty useful when you're just starting out, but as you get more proficient you will not need the extended tool tips. We choose the number of seconds delay before the extended tooltip flies out. (By default you have to wait two seconds).

This concludes the first part of our review of the AutoCAD interface.