Top 10 Tips for DraftSight

Over one million users around the world already know how simple it is to view, create, edit or markup DWG and DXF files with DraftSight, especially those with past AutoCAD experience—but can we make things even easier? In this article, we dive straight into a top ten list of tips for maximizing your productivity with DraftSight, the 2D drafting solution from SOLIDWORKS.

1. Use AutoCAD Aliases

For newer users migrating from AutoCAD (especially those who prefer to use the command line), this tip can significantly reduce the DraftSight learning curve. Although many DraftSight commands have different names compared to AutoCAD, any AutoCAD alias can be used to activate the equivalent DraftSight command.

For example, even though the equivalent to MOCORO in DraftSight is QUICKMODIFY, typing MOCORO into the command line (or even just a portion of MOCORO) will show both the AutoCAD alias and the corresponding DraftSight command name. Then, simply click or press Enter to activate the command. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

You can continue using AutoCAD aliases indefinitely or slowly learning DraftSight command names over time.

2. Automatic Dimensions

Automatic dimensioning is a great way to make quick work of an otherwise tedious situation that would typically require the individual placement of multiple dimensions. Before this tool can be used, however, a dimension bounding box must be established. After selecting the objects you wish to automatically dimension, use the command DIMBOUNDINGBOX to create a bounding box for the arrangement of dimensions.

Then type the AUTODIMENSION command or find it in the Dimension dropdown menu in the ribbon. A properties window will appear allowing you to control the dimension scheme (baseline, continue or ordinate), the dimension placement, the origin and the geometry to be included in the automatic dimensioning. Geometry can be added and removed by selecting entities graphically and using the +/- buttons in the window. Once you have set the properties, simply click the Preview button to take a look at the results and if satisfied, click Apply.

3. Power Trim

As the 2D drafting companion to SOLIDWORKS, DraftSight has inherited a handful of productivity tools directly from the world of 3D. Power Trim is one that you will not be able to live without once you have tried it.

Power Trim can be found in the Modify section of the ribbon under the Trim icon, or can be activated with the POWERTRIM command. Once active, simply click/hold and drag over any number of entities you would like to remove, and they will automatically be trimmed back to the nearest intersection with any other geometry. Trimming has never been easier.

4. Associative Patterns

Patterns on their own can save you plenty of time by reducing tedious, repetitive creation of identical geometry. However, traditional patterns lack any sort of intelligence and cannot be dynamically modified once created. Associative patterns, on the other hand, behave like features that can be adjusted—instances can be added and removed and spacing can be changed at any time with just a few clicks.

With an entity (or multiple entities) selected, input the PATTERN command or use the available icon in the Modify section of the ribbon. Once activated, be sure to select the Associative checkbox in the dialog or a traditional pattern will be created. Set the desired spacing and number of instances as you normally would and confirm.

Once created, you will find that clicking any of the pattern entities selects all of the instances and additional handles become available. Click and drag the first handle to reposition the entire pattern as a group. Click and drag the second handle to dynamically modify instance spacing, and then click and drag the third handle toward the source geometry to remove pattern instances or away from it to add instances. If preferred, the pattern can be double-clicked or the EDITPATTERN command can be used to adjust the pattern options using the original dialog.

Patterns have never been more intuitive.

5. Reuse Dynamic Blocks

Understandably, many DraftSight users are AutoCAD veterans and often have libraries full of dynamic blocks created with AutoCAD that they would like to reuse. The good news is, you can. All versions of DraftSight allow you to insert, view and configure existing dynamic blocks from AutoCAD, while DraftSight Premium and Enterprise Plus also allow those blocks to be edited.

Simply insert the dynamic block, specify position/size/rotation and then select the block to view the configuration handles. The handles will control the visibility state of the dynamic block just as they did in AutoCAD, making it exceptionally easy to swap between different variants.

If you happen to have DraftSight Premium or Enterprise Plus, dynamic blocks can be converted to Custom Blocks (the DraftSight equivalent of dynamic blocks) in order to enable editing. Right-click the dynamic block and use the Convert to Custom Block command. Once converted, the Custom Block may then be opened with the Block Editor to adjust or add visibility states as required. Now you can gain even more design efficiency by reusing legacy data from AutoCAD.

6. Geometric/Dimensional Constraints

Constraints can add intelligence to your work, otherwise known as design intent. Put simply, geometric and dimensional constraints allow you to control how your design elements will behave when changes are made to them.

For example, the sizes of lines, arcs or circles may be defined by the various dimensional constraint types, while the geometric constraints allow for relationships such as parallelism, perpendicularity and concentricity to be established between entities. Constraint commands may be activated from the Constraints tab of the ribbon.

Once activated, select the entity or entities to apply the constraint to, and in just a few clicks you will have a more robust design that can easily be changed without any extra work. Don’t forget, you can use the Enter key to repeat your last used command for a fast application of constraints.

Additionally, coincident relations are very important for keeping entities connected during future changes. You may notice the icons that appear indicating the type of constraints present in the design. If you would like to turn these off, click the Options button (pictured above) and use the Hide All function or selectively choose the constraint types to hide.

Dimensional constraints function differently from traditional dimensions in that they directly control the size of the entity. In the before and after photo shown below, several geometric and dimensional constraints were added to the design and D2 was changed from 10 to 12 (using a simple double-click), automatically lengthening the required entities while keeping everything else intact. While they may take a bit of practice to learn, the power of constraints make them worth learning.

7. Reusing Customization Files

If you are a long-time AutoCAD user, you may be concerned that you are going to lose (or think you have already lost) all of your customization from your old AutoCAD environment. Fortunately, DraftSight can make use of almost all AutoCAD customization files. The table below summarizes the customization types and extensions that are supported by DraftSight:

Note that PGP files are not supported by DraftSight. This was to allow standard AutoCAD commands to be mapped to corresponding DraftSight commands, and reading in a PGP file could have caused conflicts with the default mapping. For command aliases in the PGP file, you will need to manually add aliases with Options > User Preferences > Aliases.

8. API for Customization/Automation

DraftSight’s API (application programming interface) can be used to automate many common processes within the software and allows you to create your own add-ins. Several programming languages are supported, including LISP, C++, C#, VB.NET and JavaScript for maximum flexibility.

But even non-programmers should know of the API’s existence. Perhaps you would like to import a batch of PDFs from a specific folder at a certain time of day every day. This is not a native function within DraftSight but you can invoke the API to create one. You might also use the API to integrate DraftSight with an ERP system, for example, or develop your own custom menus and toolbars. Options are unlimited with the DraftSight API. To get started, check out the DraftSight API Help Documentation.

9. Importing PDF to DraftSight

Trying to recreate geometry represented in a PDF in order to turn it into an editable DWG/DXF is one of the most tedious jobs one can face and, in most cases, it is unnecessary. So long as your PDF is not “flat” (meaning the geometry, letters and numbers are saved within the PDF, and it is not simply a picture in PDF format) the Import PDF command can be used to make quick work out of converting a PDF into an editable DWG. If you are importing an entire drawing, you will want to begin with a blank DraftSight document. Then, use the PDF command found in the Import tab of the ribbon.

The resulting dialog has several options—including a button for even more options. You can discover more about all these options within the Help Documentation on Importing PDF Files, including the ability to retain and create layers automatically. If you are only importing a single PDF, use the Insert as Block option (use the Batch Processing option for multiple files). If your PDF contains multiple pages, you may select one or more to import from the preview window.

Once the options are set, click OK and, if required, specify position, scale and rotation of your imported PDF. You will likely notice that the PDF is imported as a block and, as such, you will need to use the EXPLODE command to separate everything and allow for editing. Additionally, if you have PDF files representing smaller design elements, they can be imported into existing DraftSight documents and kept as blocks. Here is a quick side-by-side of an original PDF and the resulting DWG after importing:

Note that PDF Import is only available in DraftSight Premium, Enterprise and Enterprise Plus.

10. Network Licensing

DraftSight is often used as a collaboration tool, rather than as a company’s primary design application. Therefore, designers may use the program rather infrequently. It is likely that DraftSight licenses are shared between many users. Network licensing makes this possible by storing licenses on a server and distributing licenses as needed by users.  Network licensing allows anyone and everyone on your team to leverage DraftSight when they need to, making it easier than ever to design and collaborate in 2D. DraftSight Professional and Premium, by contrast, do not allow sharing of licenses in the same way.

Please note that network licensing is only available with DraftSight Enterprise and Enterprise Plus. These versions also offer optional perpetual licensing, allowing your company to own the software permanently without requiring an annual subscription/maintenance fee.

Bonus Tip #1: Copy/Paste to SOLIDWORKS

If you happen to be using both DraftSight and SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD, here are some bonus tips.

Because DraftSight is a Dassault Systèmes product, there is a degree of interoperability between the two programs, including the ability to copy and paste entities from a DraftSight document directly into a SOLIDWORKS sketch. Simply select the required geometry in the DraftSight document and use the Copy command. Then, open your SOLIDWORKS document, select a plane/planar face and use the Paste command.

Here is an example of some DraftSight entities that were pasted into a SOLIDWORS assembly:

It is likely that your copied DraftSight entities will need to be adjusted for position and scale once they have been pasted into SOLIDWORKS. To make quick work of this (especially if you don’t intend to fully-define the copied entities with dimensions/constraints in SOLIDWORKS) use the Modify command found in Tools > Sketch Tools to quickly adjust the scale and position of all the sketch entities simultaneously. Alternatively, the Make Block command can be used on the pasted sketch to provide similar options.

Bonus Tip #2: Dark Mode

New for DraftSight 2022 is a dark mode which darkens menus and ribbons along with the rest of the UI. Simply access Options > System Options > Display > User Interface Style and choose the Dark option to enable dark mode. You will need to restart DraftSight for the changes to take effect.


Here’s a feature matrix for each tool or feature discussed in this article, along with the versions of the software that you can find them in.

For more information on these commands, check out the DraftSight Help Documentation.

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