Tool Palettes Window
Jay D. Helsel
For AutoCAD 2004
The Tool Palettes window was added in AutoCAD 2004 to provide an efficient option for working with blocks and hatches. See Fig. 1. When you first open AutoCAD 2004, the window is present by default. However, like DesignCenter, the Tool Palettes window takes up a large portion of the screen, so many people turn it off when they are not using it. In this article, we will explore the uses of the Tool Palettes window and discuss display alternatives that may encourage you to leave the window open on your desktop and use it more often.
As you can see in Fig. 1, the Tool Palettes window has three tabs by default. Each tab contains a tool palette. These tool palettes are examples provided by Autodesk to help people understand how to use the tool palettes window. However, you can add or delete tabs easily. It is also easy to add frequently used items to a tool palette.
Using the Tool Palettes
To use a block or hatch from a tool palette, all you have to do is display the tool palette and then drag the block or hatch into the current drawing. This provides a convenient way to share blocks among drawing files without having to import them from one drawing to another.
For example, suppose you are creating a floor plan for a three-story office building, and you have created a separate AutoCAD file for each floor of the building. You can drag the office equipment from AutoCADís Sample office tool palette into each of the three drawings.
At times, you may want to know the properties attached to a block before you insert it into your drawing. For example, this may be important when you are creating a drawing from which you will need to generate a parts list or bill of materials. To see a blockís properties, right-click the block (not the title bar) and pick Properties. See Fig. 2. The Tool Properties dialog box appears, as shown in Fig. 3. This dialog box provides both general properties and insertion characteristics of the block.
Creating a Tool Palette
AutoCADís sample tool palettes are of little use to most people. Fortunately, you can create as many tool palettes as you want, and you can populate them with the blocks you use most frequently. Letís use an electrical symbol library as an example. Suppose you are an electrical/electronics drafter, so you frequently need to use electrical symbols in your drawings. Follow these steps:
1. If the Tool Palettes window is not already open, open it by picking the Tool
††††Palettes button on the Standard toolbar.
2. Right-click the title bar of the window to display a shortcut menu and pick
††††New Tool Palette. See Fig. 4.
3. Provide a descriptive name for the new tool palette. In this example, the name
††††Electric symbols was used.
The new Electric symbols tool palette appears in the Tool Palettes window, but it is currently empty.
Populating a Tool Palette
There are several ways to add blocks to a tool palette. If the blocks to be added already exist in AutoCADís DesignCenter, you can simply select the blocks in DesignCenter and drag them to the tool palette. In Fig. 5, electrical symbols have been dragged from a DesignCenter file to the Electric symbols tool palette.
Another way to populate a tool palette is to create all the blocks you will need in a drawing file, as you would for a symbol library. Close the file. Then right-click the file name to display a shortcut menu and select Create Tool Palette. The name of the drawing file becomes the name of the new tool palette, and the blocks in the file populate the tool palette. This method allows you to use the convenient Tool Palettes window without reinvesting the time you may have spent creating custom symbol libraries.
If a block already exists in a tool palette, you can copy it to a new tool palette by using the Windows-standard Copy and Paste features. You might want to do this, for example, if you have many tool palettes and want to consolidate them or reorganize the blocks for a new job or drawing.
As you add blocks to a tool palette, it becomes more difficult to display all of the blocks at one time. There are two things you can do to see more of the items in a tool palette. First, you can increase the length of the Tool Palette window. To do this, place the cursor at the bottom edge of the window. When the double arrow appears, drag the edge of the window down to lengthen it, as shown in Fig. 6. Second, you can change the size of the icons next to each block, as shown in Fig. 7. To do this, right-click the title bar and select Size. In the dialog box that appears, use the slider to set the size of the icons.
The Tool Palettes window can be very useful, but it is also quite large. There are two ways to keep the Tool Palettes window open on the screen without covering up part of the drawing geometry. The first and most convenient way is to use AutoCADís Auto-hide capability. This is similar to the Auto-hide feature on the Windows taskbar. When Auto-hide is on, only the thin title bar of the Tool Palettes window shows up on the screen. When you move the cursor over the title bar, the rest of the Tool Palettes window appears automatically so that you can use the blocks and hatches it contains. When you move the cursor away from the window, it collapses again, exposing the drawing beneath it. To turn on Auto-hide, right-click the title bar and select Auto-hide. See Fig. 8.
The second option is to change the transparency of the Tool Palettes window. You can choose different degrees of transparency for the window so that you can see through it to the objects underneath. To make the Tool Palettes window transparent, right-click the title bar and choose the TransparencyÖ item. A dialog box appears, allowing you to control the degree of transparency of the window.
If you prefer to keep the Tool Palettes window closed when you are not using it, Autodesk made it simple to reopen the window by including a button for it on the Standard toolbar. Whichever method you use, the Tool Palettes can make your work easier and simpler, especially if you use blocks and hatches routinely.