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AECbytes Tips and Tricks Issue #12 (November 20, 2006)

How to Switch Your AutoCAD Tool Palettes Dynamically

Rohit Arora
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 location.

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 Line:


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 Toolbar.

Note: Make sure that under the Macro associated with the button, all the back-slashes in the path have been replaced by the forward slash (/), for example, C:/CADSTD/acad2005; otherwise AutoCAD will terminate the command with an error.

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


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