Vol. XIV, No. 3
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Winter, 2002

AutoCAD® Drawings as Computer Files

Harrison Eiteljorg, II

One of the most unnecessarily difficult aspects of working with AutoCAD used to be creating good paper drawings for publication. The program was very competent at helping users make drawings, but annotating or adding non-CAD-related affects to drawings was difficult, and there was no direct way to transfer a 3D drawing in vector format to another program for editing. For years I used an intermediary program to do that.

I recently needed to be able to something similar, but CSA's version of the intermediary program is too old for Windows 2000®. I could not find a work-around that would do what I needed, produce good drawings as computer files that could to be sent to an Italian journal to illustrate an article. It is not difficult to produce drawings as files, but good drawings are another matter.

I had made paper drawings with considerable care. Line weights were carefully adjusted -- and several trial drawings made in the process -- to make sure that they would reproduce as I wanted, with different line weights made clearly distinct from one another so that the intended emphases would be obvious. In addition, the lines had to be fine enough that readers could measure the drawings to calculate real-world dimensions. Textures (using AutoCAD hatching) were added to some drawings as well. Most of the drawings were 3D views, so they were generated as hidden-line drawings.

Having made drawings that met my needs, I discovered only then that I needed to provide files, not paper drawings. I tried printing to a file, an AutoCAD process works very well but will not permit the resulting file to be printed on another computer with different hardware. I also tried the process of exporting the model to a PostScript file, but that would export AutoCAD entities but not the hidden-line view.

At that point I began to have unpleasant memories of the process of making the images for my monograph on the older propylon (which ended very unhappily when the printing company managed to turn what I thought were good drawings into - even in my biased view as author and illustrator - some of the ugliest drawings in print). So I did something very uncharacteristic. I consulted the impenetrable manual. As we all know from sad experience, computer manuals are mostly written for people who already know the answers to questions they will ask. Otherwise, the questioner would not have the vocabulary required to find the answer. Be that as it may, I did find an answer to my question. I was able to configure AutoCAD to print to a plain PostScript device, rather than a particular printer. Having done that, I could then ask that the print instructions be sent to a file instead of a printer, and the result was a PostScript (EPS) file that could be used by any program -- e.g., Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw, and most desktop publishing programs -- that can read EPS files. The drawings could be prepared exactly as I wanted, printed and tested here, re-printed as files only, and sent off to Italy for inclusion in the article.

To show better that this process works well, I am including here an image made from one of the files in question, in two formats for downloading. One is an EPS file that you may view (and print) in any application that will read PostScript® files; the second is a PDF file that may be viewed or printed via Adobe Acrobat®. A print version of the image (but not necessarily the screen version) should clearly display two different line weights, heavier lines for the standing architecture and lighter ones for the cracks in the wall blocks.

Since more and more publications are using systems that lead directly to print from computer files, this is an important feature. Indeed, I should have known about it before, and readers may find it useful.

-- Harrison Eiteljorg, II

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For other Newsletter articles concerning the applications of CAD modeling in archaeology and architectural history or electronic publishing or the use of electronic media in the humanities, consult the Subject index.

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