The BricsCAD User Interface
What’s different versus AutoCAD®?
(This article is part two in a series on migrating from AutoCAD to BricsCAD. Part one is here.)
You may have heard phrases like “muscle-memory compatible” to describe the BricsCAD user interface (UI), with regard to AutoCAD’s. The command syntax is almost identical. Your scripts and menus generally work in BricsCAD without modification, and your AutoLISP routines just load and run. And of course, if you’re a LISPer, you’ll be excited to meet BLADE, the BricsCAD LISP Advanced Development Environment.
There are some advances in BricsCAD® that might confuse a long-time AutoCAD user. Let’s talk about them up front, to simplify your migration journey. First: did you download the free eBook, BricsCAD for AutoCAD Users? If not, please do this right now. It’s written for Bricsys by Ralph Grabowski, who is very fluent in both products.
The BricsCAD Start Screen
The simplified startup screen in BricsCAD makes it easy for new users to get going. The BricsCAD “Get Started” dialog sports a simple, single-pane layout. It lets you select an existing drawing, or create a new one from a template. You can also select your drawing units from the start screen. Wondering what’s new in the latest release? It’s easy to get to our (comedy) award-winning Release Notes and our on-line tutorials from the startup screen, too. Don’t like it? Turn it off or on with the GETSTARTED setting.
Inside the Main Window
Are you one of those “left hand on the keyboard, right hand on the mouse” CAD users? The BricsCAD command prompt uses a simple “:” character to tell you that it’s ready for your input. You can change the BricsCAD setting “CMDLNTEXT” to any text string you want. BricsCAD’s prompt menu is a floating menu box that pops up whenever a command supports additional options. You can use it to pick command modifiers (or simply key-in the modifier, as you would in AutoCAD). You can control the display of the prompt menu – go to SETTINGS, search for “Prompt menu”, or just type in PROMPTMENU. I set it to “4”, so that the prompt menu appears near my command window.
The biggest UI enhancement in BricsCAD has to be the Quad cursor. It’s a fully customizable, context-sensitive “head-up” tool palette. The Quad brings relevant commands directly to your cursor. For more information on the Quad, go to Chapter 2, Page 57 of the Grabowski book (you DID download it, right?). – or check out the extensive HELP on “The Quad Cursor Menu” in Chapter 1 of the BricsCAD User Guide.
The BricsCAD SETTINGS Dialog Box
All 954 BricsCAD Settings (options + “sysvars”) live here!
All BricsCAD User Interface options and settings are controlled from a single dialog box, named… SETTINGS. The search function in the SETTINGS dialog is like magic. Type in the first few letters of a setting’s name, title or description and your cursor will jump to that setting automatically. More than one? Move to the next using the arrows next to the search text box. The search box changes color to show when you’ve typed an invalid string (or run to the end of the options). In BricsCAD, you can export all of your current settings to a CSV file by clicking a button in the SETTINGS dialog.
A comprehensive overview of the SETTINGS dialog is in “BricsCAD for AutoCAD Users“, Chapter 2, starting on page 60. I recommend Ralph’s guided tour so that you are savvy with this important BricsCAD feature. Once you use this powerful tool, you’ll be smitten!
“Panels” versus “Palettes”
The menu elements called “palettes” in AutoCAD are called “panels” in the BricsCAD user interface. Some of your favorite AutoCAD palettes appear to be missing in BricsCAD, until you discover that they have been centralized into the BricsCAD Drawing Explorer. This tool gives you all the necessary information about your open drawing(s), and the ability to copy data between drawings via drag and drop. Just type “EXPLORER” at the command prompt or invoke a related command like “LAYER” or “XREF”.
The Properties panel in BricsCAD lets you discover data about entities, or edit entity properties. You can turn on the Properties Bar by entering “PROPERTIES” at the command prompt, or right-clicking in any toolbar (or the ribbon) and selecting “Properties”.
It’s important to know that, in the BricsCAD user interface, the Properties panel isn’t the only way to get information on the entities in your drawings. Rollover Tips in BricsCAD appear on your cursor when activated (via the “RT” switch in the Status Bar). You can use the CUSTOMIZE (CUI) tool to set up the properties displayed in the rollover tip for each entity type.
Tool palettes in AutoCAD and tool panels in BricsCAD operate very similarly, but customization works a bit differently. For more info, see Chapter 4 of Ralph’s book, starting on page 121. While AutoCAD tool palettes use a file extension of “ATP”, BricsCAD palette bars use “BTP”. They are both stored as XML data, and you can import ATP files into BricsCAD.
More on the BricsCAD User Interface
Next installment, we’ll pick up with the differences in Sheet Sets between AutoCAD and BricsCAD. In the meantime, please feel free to “read ahead” in Ralph’s book. The more you know, the more you’ll like BricsCAD. You can never know too much about the world’s best CAD software. Try BricsCAD V18 Today!