AutoCAD: Using the New PUBLISH Command to Create DWF Files and for Batch Plotting



By Ellen Finkelstein </adsk/servlet/item?siteID=123112&id=2260432>


Did you know that AutoCAD® 2004 has a new tool for batch plotting? That’s good news for people who like to create multiple plots overnight for regular plotting or archiving purposes. This tool is hidden in the new PUBLISH command. Most people think of the PUBLISH command as a tool for creating DWF ™ (Design Web Format™) files—which it is—but most don’t know that it is now the preferred tool for batch plotting. And while many people create DWF files, probably more people create batch plots. In this article, I describe the PUBLISH command in detail and show how you can use it to easily create both DWF files and multiple plots.

The Concept Behind the PUBLISH Command

The PUBLISH command works on the principle that most drawings have multiple layouts (paper space and model space). It easily finds and lists all the layouts as well as the drawing’s Model tab. You can edit the list of layouts (called a drawing set), so that you publish exactly what you need. You can add drawings to the list to create a custom set of layouts and then save the list for future use.

With a little spin, this new concept works very well for batch plotting, of course. All sorts of unusual combinations, such as publishing/plotting only elevation layouts for 50 drawings, become possible. In addition, the new version of the DWF publishing format supports multiple pages, so you can send someone one file containing DWFs of many drawings, many layouts per drawing, or both.

Because paper space layouts display a drawing as it should be plotted, you can quickly create drawings sets for many drawings without individually deciding how to plot each drawing.

Autodesk considers PUBLISH to be the new way to batch-plot and won’t upgrade or further document the old Batch Publishing Utility.

Starting the PUBLISH Command

Starting the PUBLISH Command

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Figure 1: The PUBLISH command opens the Publish Drawing Sheets dialog box, which automatically lists all the layouts of the current drawing.

Open a drawing and then start the PUBLISH command by typing publish on the command line. The Publish Drawing Sheets dialog box opens (see Figure 1). You see all the layouts of the current drawing displayed. You can resize this dialog box by dragging on its lower-right corner.

Creating the Drawing Set

The next step in using the PUBLISH command is to add any other drawings and layouts that you want to include in the current drawing set, which you can do in three ways:

·       Drag drawings directly from Windows Explorer into the list of drawing sheets in the Publish Sheets dialog box. To add multiple drawings, click the first drawing, press the Shift key, and click the last drawing; or press the Ctrl key as you click each additional drawing. Then drag the drawings into the dialog box.

·       Click the Add Sheets button in the dialog box and select drawings from the Select Drawings dialog box that opens.

·       Click the Load List button and select a saved drawing set . More about this later.

To remove any layout from the list, select it and click the Remove button.

Removing Model Space from the Drawing Set List

By default, the Model tab is also included in the drawing list. If you don’t want to include it, right-click in the main area of the Publish Drawing Sheets dialog box and select Include Model Layout When Adding Sheets from the shortcut menu that opens. That action clears the checkmark next to this menu item. After you change this setting, new drawings that you add do not include the Model tab.

Editing the Drawing List

After you have the drawings and layouts you want, you can customize the list in the Publish Drawing Sheets dialog box as follows:

·       Change the sheet name: The sheet names follow the drawing and layout names, but you can change them. Click the drawing’s row and then click the sheet name one time. Enter a new name.

Tip: If you don’t usually rename your Layout tabs when you create them, you might find that your sheet names are rather unhelpful. Layout1 doesn’t explain very much. To rename a Layout tab in AutoCAD, right-click the tab and select Rename. In the Rename Layout dialog box, enter a new name and click OK.

·       List/don’t list path to drawing: By default, the Drawing Name column lists the path to the drawing. You don’t have to list the path—right-click and select Display Drawing File Path Names from the shortcut menu to clear the checkmark next to the menu item.

·       Specify page setup: If you have created a page setup, you can assign it to any drawing. (Model page setups apply to model listings and layout page setups apply to layout listings.) Right-click the drawing on the drawing list and selectChange Page Setup to open the Change Page Setup dialog box. Select a page setup from the drawing you right-clicked or from another drawing. If you select from another drawing, click Browse to get there and then select the page setup. Click OK when you’re done.

·       Change drawing order: The easiest way to change drawing order is to click and drag the individual drawing to where you want it in the list. You can also select a drawing and use the Move Up and Move Down buttons.

·       Remove drawings: To remove any drawing or layout from the list, select it and click Remove. Click Remove All to start the list from scratch.

Once you have finalized your drawing set, you can save it to use again later. To do that, click Save List, which opens the Save List As dialog box. Change the list name if you want, select a location for storage, and click Save. Drawing sets have a .dsd extension. (DSD stands for Drawing Set Description.)

Note: Use the +PUBLISH command, instead of the PUBLISH command, to start with a saved DSD file instead of with the current drawing. The Select List of Sheets dialog box opens. Choose a DSD file and click Select.

Tip: Use the –PUBLISH command with a saved DSD file to publish DWF files from a script file. In the script file, set the FILEDIA system variable to 0 to suppress the display of the Select List of Sheets dialog box. At the prompt, enter the DSD file name. This method generates a log file (with the name of the drawing sheet list and an extension of .csv) so that you can troubleshoot in case there are errors.

Defining the Output

Your list is done. Now you decide on the output. From the Publish To pane of the Publish Drawing Sheets dialog box, you can select two types of output:

·       Multi-sheet DWF File: Creates a DWF file. By default, the name of the file is the same as the name of the current drawing (and in the same location), but with a .dwf extension. To password-protect the DWF file, enter a password. Don’t forget the password or you won’t be able to view the DWF file.

·       Plotters Named in Page Setups: Plots all the layouts in the list. This is how you batch-plot. (I know. The name of this item is not very clear.) Each item in the drawing set is plotted to the plotter named in its page setup, including the default page setup.


When you have created your drawing set list and defined your output, you’re ready to publish. Click the Publish button in the Publish Drawing Sheets dialog box. When the publishing process is completed, you should see the message shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: The Publishing Complete dialog box indicates whether you have successfully published your drawings, either to DWF files or to a plotter/printer.

If the Publishing Complete dialog box contains an Errors Found message, y save the log file. Click Save Log File, specify a name and storage location, and click Save. When you see the Log File Saved message, click OK. Log files are in CSV (comma-delimited) format, and you can easily open them in any spreadsheet program or Notepad. The Status column of the drawing list also indicates the problem. Here are the three errors I came across:

·       Layout uninitialized: You may see this error for Model tab items. If a previously saved Model-tab page setup exists, right-click on the item with this error and select Change Page Setup from the shortcut menu. Select a page setup and click OK. If no previously saved Model-tab page setup exists, create one in the drawing and then save and close the drawing. Reopen the drawing and then the PUBLISH command will find the new page setup. You can then assign it to the Model tab item. You may also see the layout uninitialized error for Layout tabs that you have never displayed in the drawing.

·       Drawing failed to load: This error may occur if there is some problem with the drawing or its location.

·       None device: If you open an old drawing that was saved to plot to a device that no longer exists, the plot device is set to None. Open the Page Setup dialog box in AutoCAD software (right-click any Layout tab and select Page Setup) and select the plotter or printer you want to use. You may need to close and reopen the drawing before PUBLISH recognizes the new plot device.

To view the DWF file immediately, click View DWF File in the Publishing Complete dialog box (see Figure 2). Autodesk® Express Viewer opens, displaying the DWF file. Otherwise, click OK to complete the PUBLISH command.

Viewing DWF Files

If you chose to create DWF files, you can view them with the new Autodesk Express Viewer. This new viewer supports the new multisheet DWF publishing format and is installed automatically with AutoCAD 2004. If you don’t have AutoCAD 2004, you can download the Express Viewer—at no charge!—from <>.

If you’re still using AutoCAD 2002, you can download a “DWF Creator for AutoCAD 2002” trial version from the same website URL. This software enables you to create the new multisheet DWF publishing format in AutoCAD 2002. The trial version works for 120 days after you install the product, or until March 15, 2004, whichever comes first. After that, Autodesk wants you to upgrade to AutoCAD 2004.

Customizing DWF settings

When creating a DWF file, AutoCAD software uses certain settings in the PC3 file (the configuration file). You can modify these settings, including compression, resolution, and whether to include layer information. For example, the DWF file format has a feature with which a person viewing the DWF file can turn layers on and off. You may want this feature, but by default, it is turned off.

The new version of the DWF file format follows the specification of the DWF6ePlot.pc3 file. For safety, make a backup copy of the PC3 file before modifying it:

To find the PC3 file, select File > Plotter Manager from the main AutoCAD menu.

Right-click DWF6 ePlot.pc3.

Select Copy from the shortcut menu that opens.

Right-click in the file listing and select Paste.

Rename the copy (perhaps as DWF6 ePlot-original.pc3).

If you don’t like the results of your editing, delete the DWF6 ePlot.pc3 file and remove -original from the name of the copy.

To modify the PC3 file:

From the main AutoCAD menu, select File > Plotter Manager.

Double-click DWF6 ePlot.pc3. The Plotter Configuration Editor opens

Click the Device and Document Settings tab and select Custom Properties. Iin the middle of the dialog box, click the Custom Properties button to open the DWF6 ePlot Properties dialog box (see Figure 3).

You can specify the following DWF settings in this dialog box:

Figure 3: Use the DWF6 ePlot Properties dialog box to specify settings for your DWF files.

·       Resolution (dpi): The resolution for vector and raster (bitmap) graphics. A higher resolution results in a larger file size. Select from the drop-down lists or enter a custom resolution. For plotting, use a resolution that matches the output of your plotter or printer. Use high resolutions for viewing highly detailed drawings.

·       Format: The compression format. Compressed Binary is the recommended format and the default. The Uncompressed Binary option doesn’t seem to be available at all. The Zipped ASCII Encoded 2D Stream (advanced) option is an ASCII (text) format that creates a compressed ZIP file.

·       Font Handling: The fonts included in the file. Use this setting to reduce file size by limiting the number of possible fonts.

·       Capture None (all viewer supplied): Use this setting if you are sure that the viewer’s computer has all the fonts that the DWF file needs to display properly.

·       Capture Some (recommended): Specify which fonts the DWF file includes. Then click Edit List and clear the check boxes in front of all the fonts that you don’t need. The remaining fonts display properly even if they are not on the viewer’s computer.

·       Capture All: Includes all fonts from the drawing in the DWF file. When you select this option, the All as Geometry (largest file size) option becomes available. This includes fonts as geometry (objects) in your drawing and requires plotting the drawing at 1:1 or better to get good- quality output.

·       Background Color: Specifies the background color shown in the viewer. Just click the Color drop-down list. You can use custom colors if you want. If you change the background from black to white, make sure that the objects are still easily visible. (Yellow doesn’t show up very well on white.) If the AutoCAD background color is set to black, color 7 objects plot as white. For all other background colors, color 7 objects plot as black.

Warning: If you or a colleague or client plot from Autodesk Express Viewer, change the background color to white or plots come out with a black background!

·       Virtual Pen-Set Patterns: If and only if, in the Plotter Configuration File dialog box, for Vector Graphics, you chose 255 Virtual Pens in the Color Depth drop-down list, you will see an option to edit virtual pen-set patterns. You can set the color, width, and other properties of virtual pens.

·       Include Layer Information: Includes layer information so that people viewing the DWF can turn layers on and off. This option is off by default.

·       Show Paper Boundaries: Displays a paper boundary such as the one you see on a Layout tab. It is on by default and not editable.

·       Save Preview in DWF: This option is only for use on In any event, a preview is always saved with the DWF file for use on your local system.

When you finish specifying the DWF format, click OK. You then see a message asking if you want to apply the changes for the current plot only (which creates an override of the configuration file but doesn’t change it) or to save the changes to the file (which creates a permanent change—you can always change it back). Make your choice.

You Are Now a Publisher

The PUBLISH command is easier to use than the Batch Plot Utility for batch plotting and also an easy, flexible way to create DWF files. With the new multipage DWF publishing format and free Express Viewer, sending drawings to colleagues or clients in DWF file format is easier than ever.