AECbytes Tips and Tricks Issue
#12 (November 20, 2006)
How to Switch Your AutoCAD Tool Palettes Dynamically
AEC Specialist, Parallel Edge, Inc.
Recently, one of my clients asked me if I could
look at making the use of Tool Palettes purely
a graphical experience, avoiding the use of the
right-click menu (& select) method to change
the Palettes. This particular Architecture firm
was upgrading from AutoCAD2002 to the 2005 version,
and the firm's principal was concerned that the
employees might make mistakes while right-clicking
to select a category of tool palettes. He didn't
want to mix the direct-click and right-click menu
techniques. I pointed out that this was the way
Autodesk wanted its users to use the Tool Palette
interface, but he insisted I look into some alternatives.
To an extent, I agreed with his view. The default
AutoCAD method of using Tool Palettes
directs users to read and remember the palette
category instead of visually recalling an icon.
It seems to depart from the idea behind the use
of palettes, which is to make the interface more
graphical and user friendly.
To provide a graphical and direct (left) click
method, my solution was to create a custom toolbar
as shown below, with visually descriptive icons
for categorizing the tools, where each button
defined a new path for the default Tool Palette
The underlying technique is to assign the *_Toolpalettepath
variable a new value each time the button is clicked.
To test it out, you can type at the Command
Then hit Return or Space
Bar to manually enter the path, or paste
from the clipboard.
The syntax for each button is ^c^c*_TOOLPALETTEPATH;"path"
as shown below in a Button's details from the
Note: Make sure that under the Macro
associated with the button, all the back-slashes
in the path have been replaced by the forward
slash (/), for example, C:/CADSTD/acad2005;
otherwise AutoCAD will terminate the command with
Once you change the Tool Palette
path using this method, you will see a New
Palette at the folder location, which
you can rename and then gradually populate using
the Design Center or the Drag
and Drop method.
Once you have configured the Tool Palettes, the
switching should be seamless and you can change
the path dynamically with a single click. For
faster performance in a networked environment,
I suggest having the Tool Palettes files local,
while the icons could point to the CAD Library
on the shared drive on the Server.
For the people who may want to venture into this
further, if you would like to implement a branched
tool structure, you can place similar buttons
inside a Category Tool Palette.
Hopefully you won't go overboard with this tip,
otherwise your Tool Palettes may start looking
like an AutoCAD web browser, and emulate Architectural
Desktop's Content Browser in functionality. So
keep it simple!
About the Author
Rohit Arora has a Bachelors in Architecture
from School of Planning and Architecture, India.
He is affiliated with the American Institute of
Architects (AIA) as an Associate member. With
over 8 years of experience with CAD and BIM systems,
he has been involved in their support and customization.
With his present engagement with Parallel Edge,
Inc, he is performing a Consultant's role of an
IT/AEC Specialist, combining hardware and software
options to provide a total project solution within
an Architectural production environment. He has
been a trainer associated with Autodesk Training
Centers (ATC) in the USA and abroad. Rohit has
served multiple roles in his previous architecture
firms as the Staff Architect, CAD Manager, Network
and IT supervisor. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Tricks > Switching Your AutoCAD Tool Palettes
Dynamically > Printer-friendly