A Beginner’s Guide to Annotation Scaling in AutoCAD

Annotation scaling in AutoCAD allows you to plot annotation at the same height or size regardless of the viewport zoom scale. Annotation scales can be associated with annotative objects so that these objects can be sized properly for specific annotation scales in model space and displayed correctly in paper space.

In the November Infrastructure Tuesday webinar, I gave an overview of annotation scaling, looked at the actual tools for annotation commands (including the styles and how those work), and discussed how you can use these tools to reduce the time spent in annotating drawings.

Understanding Linetype Scaling Issues

Annotative scaling covers a lot of different bases. It covers linetypes, text, dimensions, hatching, blocks, and even attributes. One of the things we have problems with in AutoCAD is linetype scaling. Fixing linetype issues is just one thing that annotative scaling can help you with.

For example, when you’re working with linetype scaling, one of the problems you have is that it’ll look good in paper space but not in model space because we have a couple of variables: LTSCALE and PSLTSCALE. When annotative scaling was introduced in 2007 with the release of AutoCAD 2008, they also added an MSLTSCALE. The idea was that when you jump into paper space, you have your LTSCALE set to 1 and it all looks good because it’s using the viewport scale factor to adjust the linetypes. Then, when you jump in model space, you have the LTSCALE set to 1 in order to make everything work right in paper space.

In AutoCAD 2008 when annotative scaling was added, they also added a scale factor down at the bottom of the screen so you could switch the scale factor. The variable that goes along with that is that MSLTSCALE.

Watch this short video clip for a demonstration of how to use the MSLTSCALE variable.

In short, you want MSLTSCALE set to 1, PSLTSCALE set to 1, and LTSCALE set to 1. The LTSCALE is where this could vary a little bit for each person. This is kind of just that personal touch. Some people like to change the LTSCALE to maybe .75 so the linetypes are a tiny bit smaller. Or maybe they want it set to 1.25. You change the LTSCALE up and down just a little bit in order to get the look and feel that you want. But that would be the only one that would really change.

This can save you a lot of time and stress because you’re not worried about it in model space. You don’t have to come in model space and change the LTSCALE back to 40 or 60 or 20 or 10 or whatever it is that you’re working with. So it makes it a little easier to work with.

Understanding Layer Issues

It can be hard for companies to switch over to annotation scaling, especially for consulting engineering firms because they might be working on lots of different projects from lots of different companies at many different times. But, on the other hand, if you don’t understand annotative scaling and you are working for a consulting engineering firm, you may get drawings from other people that have used annotation scaling. Then, if you don’t understand the concept, it can be quite difficult to work with their files.

One common reason we use annotation scaling is because of layering within drawings. This is a common problem within a lot of different organizations. I’ve found from the companies that I’ve worked with that if your team is dealing with any of these four common issues with layering, annotation scaling would likely be beneficial.

Annotation can be beneficial if you…
  1. Have multiple dimension styles for each scale factor that you use
  2. Have a layer for every scale factor that you use
  3. Have to create multiple versions of the same text, dimension, etc. for each scale factor that you use
  4. Have to freeze layers for every viewport for all of the annotation layers that you’re not using for that viewport

You don’t have to play a game with all your layers when you use annotative scaling because the system automatically manages those for you based on the scale factors that are assigned to the objects.

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In this video, I demonstrate some of the issues that can arise when you use multiple layers in your drawing to display different things at different scale factors.

Creating Annotative Objects

Before you get started with annotation scaling, there are three things you should know.

  1. You must have an annotative style set current to create annotative text, dimensions or multileaders. The styles will have a triangular shape in front of the name indicating that it is an annotative style.
  2. Before you start creating annotative objects, you have to make sure the Annotation Scale is set to an appropriate scale, regardless of whether you are in regular model space or model space through your viewport.
  3. You need to understand how the ANNOAUTOSCALE  variable controls what scale factors are automatically assigned to all of your objects! By default, if the button is enabled when you switch scale factors, all of your annotative objects will have the new scale factor added to their list of scale factors. That may sound good, but it won’t be what you want all the time. Only enable this setting if you really mean it!

Now I’ll go through key points for creating different kinds of annotative objects.

#1: Annotative Text

Watch this clip for a demonstration of how I create annotative text.

  1. Set your Annotation Scale to the desired scale factor
  2. Make an Annotative text style current
  3. Start the text command and set a “paper height” (or printable height) for your text
  4. Text will size itself based on the Annotation Scale

#2: Annotative Dimensions

Watch this clip for a demonstration of how I create annotative dimensions.

  1. Set your Annotation Scale to the desired scale factor
  2. Make an Annotative Dimension style current (look for the triangle symbol)
  3. Start any dimension tool
  4. Dimension components (text, arrowheads, etc.) will size based on the Annotation Scale

#3: Annotative Multileaders

Watch this clip for a demonstration of how I create annotative multileaders.

  1. Set your Annotation Scale to the desired scale factor
  2. Make an Annotative Multileader style current (look for the triangle symbol)
  3. Start the Multileader
  4. Multileader components (text and arrowheads) will size based on the Annotation Scale

#4: Annotative Hatches

Watch this clip for a demonstration of how I create annotative hatches.

  1. Set your Annotation Scale to the desired scale factor
  2. Start the Hatch command and turn on Annotative
  3. Select Pattern, Rotation, etc.
  4. Remember the scale of the hatch pattern will be based on the Annotation Scale, but you still might want or need to change the hatch scale by small amounts for minor adjustments

#5: Annotative Blocks

Watch this clip for a demonstration of how I create annotative blocks.

  1. Set your Annotation Scale to the desired scale factor
  2. Insert an existing Annotative Block (type I for Insert or use a tool palette, etc.)
  3. The Block will automatically scale based on the current Annotation Scale

Time Savings with Annotation Scaling

So let’s take a quick overview of what we’re dealing with. Are there time savings associated with annotation scaling? Yes. Companies that are using annotation scaling, that have multiple viewports and different scale factors within the same drawing, have reported an average 30% – 50% reduction in time spent on documentation.

Now, that’s with a very specific combination. If you’re using a lot of different viewports with different scale factors within that same drawing, you’re going to see that there’s a definite decrease in the amount of time you spend on documentation in that situation. If you only ever use one viewport and one scale factor, you may find some time savings in the text and things like that, but you’ll probably love using just the linetype scaling so that you can see a corrected paper space and not have to worry about model space.

The amount of time saved in each organization is different and is directly affected by several factors:

  • The type of work that you perform
  • How well the annotative styles have been developed
  • How well each person has been trained to use annotative scaling
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If you decide that you need to put annotation scaling plan in place at your organization, you will want to really think carefully and plan this out. You may want to just start by introducing linetype scaling with the MSLTSCALE variable to everyone. Then, after that, you may want to get your templates updated with annotative styles and make those styles available to the organization.

Companies that are utilizing annotative scaling, that commonly have multiple viewports and different scale factors within the same drawing, have reported an average 30% – 50% reduction in time spent on documentation.

Integrating Annotation Scaling

If you decide your team needs to be using annotation scaling, make an annotative scaling implementation plan if you don’t have one. Remember: you don’t have to go whole hog; you can do a little bit at a time. Like I said, maybe you start with just the linetypes. But, make sure you create sample workflows for your organization and save those as PDFs and put them up on your server or wherever people get access to documentation.

Create Your Integration Plan

  • Identify what functionality you want/need
  • Identify your team players
  • Update your existing templates with new styles and settings
  • Create a training plan for all your AutoCAD users

Want to learn more about annotation scaling?

KaDe King is a veteran Autodesk University speaker and has taught many courses related to annotation scaling. Fill out the form below to receive a copy of the PowerPoint slides, handout, and datasets from her 2016 AU lab called Annotation Scaling in AutoCAD: Bringing the Technology Home.

Looking for more information about annotation scaling? Check out the full Q&A transcript below from the November 7th Infrastructure Tuesday webinar.

Webinar Q&A

Can’t you use SELECTIONANNODISPLAY to get rid of ghosting?
So, what they mean by ghosting is when I select something and it ghosts. If you don’t like that, there’s a variable SELECTIONANNODISPLAY and you can turn that off so it doesn’t do the ghosting. Now, sometimes that’s useful. If you’re working in an environment where you’re always using annotation scaling, you probably don’t need the ghosting, so you can turn that off. If you work in one where it’s kind of a mixed environment, ghosting might be useful. You might also notice if you hover over an object that’s annotative scaled, it’ll have little annotative marks above the cursor on there. If the object has only one annotative scale assigned to it, you’ll only see one little triangle, if it has more than one, it’ll just have two.

Does text automatically right itself in a viewport that is rotated (DVIEW-TWIST)?
That’s also a good question. If you have Match text orientation to layout turned on inside the style, it will. So, very important little checkbox there. If you need the text to rotate in a viewport, you’ll want to use that Match text orientation to layout in the style.

Can you set survey points with annotative scale so we can see the symbol in two or three different scales?
Yes, if you’re using survey points, it will automatically change those survey points based on scale factor. Now there may be some specifics inside your Civil 3D styles that may prevent that from happening, so you may want to check your Civil 3D styles. You can also communicate with us directly about that.

Have you seen the annotative hatch pattern make the files larger and slower?
It really would not be specific to annotative. Associative hatch patterns can make them go slower. Associative tells it to link the hatch pattern to the boundary objects and that definitely can cause them to go slower if there’s a lot it or if the boundaries are really complex there. In the newer versions of AutoCAD, they’ve eliminated a lot of these specific issues. So if you had problems in the older versions, try it again. A lot of times, Autodesk has fixed those things.

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