The Fab Four tools for drawing efficiently in AutoCAD

AutoCAD has been in the wild now for 31 years as of this writing. Over the years we have seen many changes, and over the years many experienced AutoCAD users have tried to keep up with all the new stuff.  In this post, I am going to talk about what I call the Fab Four: Polar Tracking, Object Snap, Object Snap Tracking and Dynamic Input.  These tools have been in AutoCAD for a few years now but it seems that most users either don’tknow about these tools or given up on them because they don’t understand them.

First, let’s explore each one in detail and understand what each one does. Then at the end of this post you will find the video that shows you the steps.

Polar Tracking (F10)

Ortho is the command we think of when we want to draw a line “straight” or at a 0, 90, 180 or 270 degree angle. Polar tracking snaps to any angle you set, but still allows you to move your cursor freely.  There are two major advantages to polar tracking over the old Ortho command.  First, polar tracking allows you to “snap” to any angle other than 90 degrees. Second, Polar Tracking allows your cursor to move freely and thus allows you to draw at an angle other than what you set.  These two features make polar tracking a much better choice than Ortho.

AutoCAD Polar Tracking

Polar Tracking

Object Snap (F3)

Objects snaps have been around for a long time, the OSNAP command was introduced with AutoCAD 2.0 (Release 5 or 1984). Object snaps allow you to snap to existing objects in AutoCAD. I normally only have Endpoint, Midpoint, Center, Intersection and Extension turned on when I do “normal” drawing.  I use the Shift-Right Click menu for over rides, or when I am in “automatic pilot mode”, I type the first three letters of the OSNAP and press enter to override the running object snaps.

AutoCAD Running Osnap

Running Osnaps

Object Snap Tracking (F11)

Object snap tracking, or AutoTrackTM is a feature that helps you draw objects at specific relationships to other objects.  In other words, you can use existing objects in your drawing as reference points to find an intersection of where two lines would intersect.  The secret to use Object Snap Tracking is to hover your mouse until you see the green plus or the object snap name pop up, also you can hover over a green plus to remove the tracking point.  Remember that you must have object snaps on to get this thing to work.

AutoCAD Object SnapTracking

Object SnapTracking

Dynamic Input (F12)

Dynamic Input gives you a heads up drafting interface, that is it gives you the information AutoCAD thinks you need right at your cursor. What’s more useful is when you draw something, move or anything that requires a second point, it switches to “relative” mode for you.  So, if you want to draw a line from a point 10 units away at a 45 degree angle you do the following:

  1. Start the line command
  2. Pick a starting point
  3. Move your mouse in the direction you want the line to be drawn, move it farther than that.
  4. Type 10 and press TAB, then type 45 and press enter
  5. Press enter again to end the command
AutoCAD Dynamic Tracking

Dynamic Tracking

Voila, you have a nice line that is 10 units long and at a 45 degree angle.



As AutoCAD continues evolves every year, we need to take some time and look at the new features and learn what they do.  As professionals we can’t just sit back and watch the AutoCAD world go by and just keep using the new tool the same way we have always done. We must invest in learning how to use the tool better. There are plenty of resources out there to learn pick the learning method that works for you and start tonight.

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