AutoCAD is one of the most used and complete CAD products on the market, suitable for both academic and business environments. It is available in several versions, each including dedicated features and tools for either architectural, mechanical or engineering projects.

Let's see in a very short time all the basics to start working with Autodesk AutoCAD 2021! 

In this blog we will cover only the main version, seeing all the basic tools you can use to realize simple 2D projects from scratch. AutoCAD also includes advanced tools to build houses and buildings.

When opening AutoCAD the main Start page shows up. At the bottom, you can click on Learn to get suggestions and official tutorials from Autodesk and switch to Create to find everything to start working with AutoCAD.

AutoCAD Create window

You can use Open Files... to open any existing project or use Start Drawing to create a new AutoCAD project completely blank.

This gets open on the wide preview on the center and listed on a dedicated tab on top, from which you can also come back to the Start page at any time. Around the preview, you also get the Ribbon bar on top, with all the tools and features inside AutoCAD; visualization tools on the right, and the Command-Line at the bottom. You can also customize this workspace with the Minimize button on top or the View tab to show and hide the panels you need.

AutoCAD all options

By default any new project starts in a 2D environment, taking the cartesian system (or gizmo) in the bottom left corner as a reference, with the red X-axis representing the horizontal direction and the green Y-axis the vertical direction. So let's see how to draw 2D objects, using either the mouse cursor or the keyboard.

All the 2D drawing tools are collected inside the Home tab, under the Draw section. Some of these shapes can be made in different ways, just hover over any tool to get help at the drawing steps. Here, we will just see the default drawing process.

Use Line or Polyline to draw straight and consecutive segments by fixing points on the preview.

You can finish drawing with the Escape key. Remember that the current drawing tool gets disabled every time you finish creating the object. You can always use the Enter key to enable the tool again and continue drawing.

Use Arc to drop an arc by fixing three points and use Circle and Rectangle to drop a regular circle or rectangle by defining two points. With Polygon you can draw regular polygons by typing the number of sides, applying with the Enter key, and then fixing the center and second point. Use Ellipse to drop an ellipse with three points.

AutoCAD has several drawing aids to help you with the creation of your objects, all collected in the bottom right corner. Use GRIDMODE to hide or show the basic grid; SNAPMODE to enable snappings to such grid and ORTHOMODE to bind the cursor to the horizontal or vertical direction. With Objects Snap you can get snappings to the main objects keypoints shown in green color like endpoints, centers, and midpoints.

Moreover, if you hover over these, AutoCAD saves and uses them to generate dashed guidelines along segment lines, perpendicular and parallel directions, useful to extract intersections and tangents. You can manage the snappings to take into account next to the Object Snap button.

While drawing any object, AutoCAD shows a live preview of it, with measurements on length and angles. Angles are measured in degrees in respect to the X-axis; whereas length is always unitless, taking the default measurement unit specified for the whole project. To manage the units, just type UNITS on the Command-Line and apply with the Enter key, setting the format, decimal precision, and unit to use from the dialog box.

AutoCAD Units option

To undo any drawing in progress, just use the Escape key. The keyboard can play an important role while realizing drawings. From the Command Line, you can launch any tool by typing its name. For example, if you type POLYLINE and apply with the Enter key you enable the Polyline tool directly.

In addition, if you have any drawing in progress you can type the exact length and angle to use directly from your keyboard, using the Tab key to switch parameter and update the drawing preview. Then use the Enter key to apply and proceed with the next step.

You can also use the Up and Down arrow keys to browse through the list of options available for the current drawing step. For example, you can choose Arc to turn the current segment into a curve and Line to come back to a straight side. This same list of options is also available from the Command-Line. Just type the highlighted blue letters corresponding to the interested function and apply with the Enter key to enable it.

The visualization tools on the right allow you to change and control the preview of your project. For example, you can enable the Pan tool to move through your project by clicking and dragging on it, using the Escape key to finish; or the 3D View Cube to rotate, clicking and dragging its circumference, or using its top arrows to rotate by 90 degrees. Useyour mouse wheel to zoom in and out around your cursor.

Now let's see how to edit 2D drawings. When no drawing tool is ON, the cursor is in the selection mode, showing a small square on its center. This way you can click on any object to select it. This gets highlighted in blue color with several nodes that you can hover over to get quick measurements on the object and several options you can use to edit it.

On regular objects like Lines, Arcs, Circles, and Ellipses you can click and drag from the central node to move and drag from the others on the sides to reshape the object. You can also use Stretch to move any endpoint; Lengthen to resize any line or arc length and Radius to adjust any curve radius.

On other objects like Polylines, Rectangles, and Polygons you get big and small nodes. You can use the big ones to move, add or remove vertices and the smaller ones to manage the sides, using Stretch to move the single side; Add Vertex to add a new vertex and Convert to Arc or Line to transform the straight side into a curved one and vice-versa.

With the object selected you can use CTRL (or CMD) and X, C, and V to cut, copy and paste it. Use the Delete key to remove the object and CTRL (or CMD) and Z to undo any of your latest actions in order.

AutoCAD also includes advanced 2D editing tools inside the Modify section, under the Home tab. Just select any object on the preview and then enable the interested tool. With the Move tool, you can move the object; with the Rotate tool you can rotate it, fixing the rotation point and its angle; with the Scale tool, you can scale the object without deforming its shape. You can also make multiple selections to move or edit several objects in the same manner.

To select multiple objects just click on each object or use the Lasso selections. If you click and hold on while dragging from the left to the right, you create a Window Lasso, selecting all the objects fully contained within the blue area.

If you do the same from the right to the left you use a Crossing Lasso, which includes all objects touched by the green area. To deselect all, just use the Escape key.

To save your AutoCAD project, click on the A icon in the top left corner and go to Save As. This gets saved as a .dwg file that you can open later at any time, saving all your work in progress. Whereas to export your work, open the Output tab and use Plot to send all to any printer or Export to export your drawing in .dwf/.dwfx format (a read-only project file) or in .pdf.

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