AutoCAD Dynamic Input: Love it or Hate it?

A question that I get asked a lot, is how do you turn Dynamic Input in AutoCAD off? In this post I will discuss not only how to turn Dynamic Input off and on, but also how it works, what is different, and a few of the options available when using it.

If you would prefer this content in video form, please check out these videos I made on this topic:

First, I will admit it, I am not a fan. In fact, in the textbook I wrote, A Practical Guide to AutoCAD, I have students disable it in the first exercise. That way their interface will match the rest of the book, which does not use Dynamic Input (shocking!). I do however demonstrate it and give the students a chance to try it, and encourage them to use it if they are more comfortable working that way.

When Autodesk added Dynamic Input to AutoCAD many releases ago, I was initially excited. I always try to get my students to get used to looking at the Command line so that they can learn all of the options that are available to them when drawing. I often have students change the color of Command line so that it is more eye-catching. The idea of Dynamic Input is that you do not need to look at the Command line. Instead, everything (in theory) will be easily accessible right next to your crosshairs.

What is Different?

Dynamic Input affects the way coordinates are entered. By default in AutoCAD, all coordinates entered are absolute, meaning that they are relative to the origin (0,0). To draw with relative coordinates (in relation to the last point placed) you type the @ symbol in front of the coordinate.

For example, a line is started at the absolute coordinate of 2,2. Entering 5,3 for the next endpoint would draw to the absolute coordinate of 5,3. Entering @5,3 would draw 5 units to the right, and 3 up relative to the previous point. You can see the difference below:

Autodesk AutoCAD Dynamic Input - Comparison of absolute and relative coordinates.

What does this have to do with Dynamic Input? By default, coordinate values are relative when using Dynamic Input. In fact, you can look at the Command line and you will see that AutoCAD literally enters the @ sign for you. So what can you do if you really want to enter an absolute coordinate? You have to type the # symbol before the coordinate. After using AutoCAD the “normal” way for so long, I just can’t change my mindset on that. Typically I try to embrace the new ways to do things not just in AutoCAD, but in other CAD applications I use. I just can’t (or won’t) do it in this case.

Let’s talk about angles. By default, angles in AutoCAD are positive in the counter-clockwise direction:

Angles in AutoCAD

You can draw in the clockwise direction by entering a negative angle. For example, to draw the line below using polar coordinates, I could type @2<315, or I could type @2<-45.

Angles in AutoCAD

Dynamic input simplifies this (kind of). You do not need to worry about positive or negative as the angle is based upon the location of the crosshairs. If you bring the crosshairs above horizontal, it will draw the line 45 degrees up. If you bring the crosshairs below horizontal, it will draw the line 45 degrees down.

Angles in AutoCAD

This is probably great for new users. For experienced users who are used to working with positive and negative angles, this could be confusing. If the crosshairs is below horizontal, and you type -45 for your angle, it is going to draw up in the (traditionally) positive direction. This can be extremely confusing.

The last difference I want to discuss is the ability to see command options. Whether Dynamic Input is on or not, you can see the options for the current command in the Command line. You can even click on the option there, or type in the capitalized letter. You can also press the down arrow key on the keyboard to open up the dynamic menu:

AutoCAD Dynamic Input Options

I am not a fan of this workflow as it adds a keystroke every time I want to use an option.

Turning Dynamic Input Off

Several releases ago Autodesk decided to not only turn Dynamic Input on by default, but they also hid the button to disable it. To show the button, click the three lines on the far right-side of the status bar (sometimes referred to as the “hamburger”). In the menu, select Dynamic Input. It is important to note that this does not turn Dynamic Input on or off, it merely displays the button on the status bar. Of course, you can than use the button to turn it off.

Turn AutoCAD Dynamic Input Off

Alternatively, you can type DYNMODE at the Command line, then set it to 0.

Turn AutoCAD Dynamic Input Off - DYNMODE = 0

As I tell my students, I don’t expect people to do things the way I do them. It is important for everyone to be comfortable with their workflow, as that is what is going to make them most efficient.

What do you think? Am I just an old timer stuck in my ways? Do you use Dynamic Input? Let me know what you think in the comments!

AutoCAD Dynamic Blocks – Part 3: Flip (Mirror)

In this installment of my series on Dynamic Blocks in AutoCAD, we are going to take a look at how to add the Flip action to a block. The Flip action works just like the Mirror command. I have always wondered why Autodesk chose to name it differently. Just like with the mirror command, we will select the objects to be mirrored, then specify a mirror line.

If you would like to try the same exercise that I use in the demonstration, you can download the exercise drawing file here: Flip.dwg

The lesson is presented in the following video. Step-by-step instructions are also included below.

The drawing contains a counter top. We will add the Flip action to mirror it horizontally and vertically.

Double-click on the Counter Top block, then click <OK> to enter the Block Editor.

First we will add a flip grip to mirror the block vertically.

Select Palette: Block Authoring > Parameters > Flip.

You are prompted to specify the base point of the reflection line.

Select the midpoint of the left-most vertical line.

The flip grip will be located at this point.

You are prompted to specify the endpoint of the reflection line.

Move the crosshairs to the right, locking on to the 0 degree Polar Tracking angle, then select a point in space.

Click to the left of the first point to place the parameter label.

A warning symbol appears next to the grip because an action needs to be associated with the parameter in order to function.

Select the Actions tab in the Block Authoring Palette.

Select Palette: Block Authoring > Actions > Flip.

You are prompted to select a parameter.

Select the Flip state1 parameter that was just created.

You are prompted to select the objects that will be flipped.

Select all objects in the block, then press [Enter] at the keyboard.

Next you will add a flip grip to mirror the block horizontally

Select Palette: Block Authoring > Parameters > Flip.

You are prompted to specify the base point of the reflection line.

Select the midpoint of the top horizontal line.

The flip grip will be located at this point.

You are prompted to specify the endpoint of the reflection line.

Move the crosshairs down, locking on to the 270 degree Polar Tracking angle, then select a point in space.

Using Polar Tracking, click a point vertically below the first point.

Click above the first point to place the parameter label.

A warning symbol appears next to the grip because an action needs to be associated with the parameter in order to function.

Select the Actions tab in the Block Authoring Palette.

Select Palette: Block Authoring > Actions > Flip.

You are prompted to select a parameter.

Select the Flip state2 parameter that was just created.

You are prompted to select the objects that will be flipped.

Select all objects in the block, then press [Enter] at the keyboard.

Select Ribbon: Block Editor > Open/Save > Save Block.

Select Ribbon: Block Editor > Close > Close Block Editor.

Select the Counter Top block.

Select the flip grips to mirror horizontally and vertically.

Once again, a fairly simple process that gives us the ability to quickly modify a block!

I hope you enjoyed this quick lesson. Next time we will look at how to add the ability to rotate a dynamic block.

AutoCAD Dynamic Blocks – Part 2: Alignment Grip

In this installment of our look at Dynamic Blocks in AutoCAD, we are going to add the alignment grip to a block. It is a very simple process, but the results are very powerful. Just in case you haven’t used an alignment grip yet, let’s first take a look at how it works.

If you would like to try the same exercise that I use in the demonstration, you can download the exercise drawing file here: Align.dwg

The lesson is presented in the following video. Step-by-step instructions are also included below.

The drawing file contains a half bathroom.

Selecting the toilet will display an alignment grip on the back of the tank.

Select the grip, then place it on the wall next to the door. Using the midpoint object snap will allow you to place it accurately.

The alignment grip automatically rotated the block at the angle needed to match the wall!

Next you will edit the 48 x 30 Cabinet with Sink block so that it also has the ability to align to existing geometry.

Double-click on the 48 x 30 Cabinet with Sink block, then click <OK> to enter the Block Editor.

Select Palette: Block Authoring > Parameters > Alignment.

The Alignment tool does not require an action; you will only be adding the parameter.

Select the midpoint of the bottom line of the cabinet.

This is the original base point of the block and currently displays the UCS icon.

Select the lower-left endpoint of the cabinet.

We have now defined the edge of alignment. The Alignment grip now displays.

Notice that it is pointing away from the cabinet. This indicates the direction in which AutoCAD will align this block.

Select Ribbon: Block Editor > Open/Save > Save Block.

Select Ribbon: Block Editor > Close > Close Block Editor.

Select the cabinet.

Select the alignment grip on the lower side of the cabinet.

Select the midpoint of the wall across from the toilet.

The cabinet block is automatically rotated to align with the wall.

As you can see, that was a pretty simple process, and the ability to rotate a block automatically to align to another object is terrific!

I hope you enjoyed this quick lesson. Next time we will look at how to add the ability to mirror a dynamic block.

AutoCAD Dynamic Blocks – Part 1: Multiple Insertion Points

I am going to start a series of posts demonstrating the creation of dynamic blocks in AutoCAD. If you haven’t worked with dynamic blocks yet, hopefully this series will give you the confidence to jump in and create your own. If you are already creating dynamic blocks, hopefully you will learn something new that you can apply to your work. These posts are based upon a top rated class of mine that I have presented multiple times at Autodesk University.

Today we are going to look at the ability to create a block with multiple insertion points. We have all had the situation where we insert a block, but the insertion point is not quite where we would like it. So what do we do? We usually place it somewhere in space, then move it into place using the object snap of choice. Let’s look at how we can improve this workflow with multiple insertion points!

If you would like to try the same exercise that I use in the demonstration, you can download the exercise drawing file here: Insertion_Points.dwg

This lesson is presented in the following video. Step-by-step instructions are also included below.

The drawing file contains a block of a desk.

The desk needs to be inserted into the four corners of the room. To make the process more efficient, I am going to add insertion points to each corner of the desk.
Double-click on the desk to open the Block Editor.
Confirm that the correct block is selected, then click <<OK>>.

The desk is now open in the Block Editor environment.The Block Authoring Palettes should appear. If they do not, select Ribbon: Block Editor > Manage  >Authoring Palettes.

Select the point parameter, located at Palette: Block Authoring  > Parameters  > Point.

Using the Endpoint Object Snap, select the upper-right corner of the desk.

Click above the selected point to place the Position 1 label.

Repeat the process to add point parameters to the other three corners. For best results continue clockwise from the first point. This will provide a smoother transition between insertion points later when the block is being inserted.

Save the block by selecting Ribbon: Block Editor  > Open/Save  > Save Block.

Close the block editor by selecting Ribbon: Block Editor  > Close  > Close Block Editor.

Now let’s insert another copy of the Desk block into the drawing. Select Ribbon: Home  > Block  > Insert. Select the Desk – 30 x 60 in. block.

Press the [Ctrl] key at the keyboard to cycle through the insertion points. The insertion point starts at the original location on the top midpoint, and then moves clockwise around the desk. The desk can now be placed quickly at each corner of the room.

I hope that you have found this helpful. Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions. Stay tuned for the next post, where we will look at adding the Alignment grip to a dynamic block.