How to increase your productivity with the AutoCAD properties palette.

My absolute, tip-top, number one productivity tip for editing geometry in AutoCAD is to use the Properties palette.

Why? – Read on…

How to open the properties Palette

To open up the properties palette go to:

View tab > Palettes Panel > Properties.

Type ‘properties’ at the command line.

Or right click on any object and choose ‘properties’.

The AutoCAD Properties palette

Like all palettes the properties palette can be dragged around the screen and docked where ever you want it to be. You can click on the little arrow icon to roll the palette up, and you can right click on the ‘spine’ of the palette to anchor the palette to the side of the screen.

Tip: The properties palette will open whenever you double click on an item that doesn’t have a double click action associated with it already.

Once you have the properties palette set up how you like it you can lock its position to stop it moving about.

I prefer to work with the properties palette anchored and rolled up to one side of the screen, but this could affect AutoCAD’s performance if your machine is a little slow. You could always set up a couple of workspaces to allow you to switch the properties palette on and off quickly.

The properties palette and model space

Straight away the properties palette is giving us some feedback, even from an empty drawing file. We not only get a good overview of the current settings in our DWG file, but we can edit them here without having to remember the system variables, or where to find the setting in the Options dialogue.

In particular, note the settings for the plot style table, annotation scale and visual style. I also want to point out that you have a full set of layer property tools here, which is handy if you don’t have the ‘Home’ ribbon tab open.

The AutoCAD Properties palette - model spaceThe AutoCAD Properties palette - model space

The properties palette and paper space

By switching to paper space, we can see that the properties palette automatically updates itself to show the unique properties that apply to the current paper space layout. This includes the layout name, plotsyle and page setup – all of which can be edited from here.

The properties palette and object filtering

Let’s go back to model space, and pick up some objects to play with.

The AutoCAD Properties palette - Select all

Immediately the properties palette is giving us some feedback about the number of objects we have selected. Note that only the properties that are alike for all objects are displayed. Some of the cells are showing *VARIES*. This tells us that a number of the objects we have selected have properties in common, but that the values of the properties vary.

If we wanted to – we could set all of these properties for all the objects in the drawing in one fell swoop… Powerful stuff!

To see a bit more about what you have in the drawing, select a geometry type from the pull down at the top of the palette. For each type of object you will see their common properties, and you can edit these properties globally, without even having to remember the right command!

The AutoCAD Properties palette - Filter objects by type

Tip: If you want to filter your selection results even further, click on the arrow and lighting icon in the top right hand corner of the properties palette to hand your selection set over to the ‘Quick Select’ command.

The properties palette and object editing

The properties palette is a powerful tool for editing an individual objects properties without having to remember the right command. Simply select an object (or a group of the same objects) and edit the values as you see fit.

The properties that will be available to edit depend on what kind of object you have selected. A property with multiple choices will have a drop down list. A property that requires a number or letter string will have an input box. Property cells that have a light grey back ground are read only.

The AutoCAD Properties palette - Drop down list

If you see the little ellipses button ‘…’ this means that a further window will pop up to allow you to edit the value (try it out with Mtext). The pointer and cross button allows you to pick a new point.

The calculator icon will bring the value into the Quick calculator. You can use the value as the basis for a calculation and, if the value is editable, the result of your calculation will be pasted back into the properties palette which will neatly edit the object accordingly.

The AutoCAD Properties palette - Point and calculator

Polylines and splines have an extra option. Under ‘Vertices’ (for polylines) or ‘Control points’ (for splines), clicking in the cell will reveal a pair of arrows that allow you to click along the available points in order to amend their value.

The AutoCAD Properties palette - Dynamic block properties

Block attributes and Dynamic properties are also available from the properties palette, making global editing of blocks a breeze. The properties palette is an essential tool while creating blocks. While in the block editing environment, open the properties palette to edit attributes, parameters and actions as well as toggling the evasive ability to explode un-explodeable blocks.

Undoing properties palette edits

If you make a lot of edits with the properties palette, and then go back into AutoCAD and run the ‘undo’ command, all of your edits may undo at once. To undo one change at a time, remain with the properties palette open, right click anywhere over the properties palette and choose ‘Undo’.

Some neat properties palette tricks

  • To align multiple text strings, select them all and edit the ‘Position X’ or ‘Position Y’ value.
  • To change a leader’s arrow head, CTRL+select it and pick a new style of terminator from the drop down.
  • To add an override value to multiple dimensions, select them all and edit the text override value. Including double angle bracket in the value will preserve the dimensions dynamic value i.e.’<> SITE DIMENSION REQUIRED’.
  • To align dimension text to one end of the dimension annotation or the other, select the dimension and pick the value you want from the ‘Text pos hor’ box.
  • The properties palette is also a really quick way of editing a dimension annotation’s extension line properties, such as ‘Extension, ‘offset’ and ‘fixed’.
  • Use the properties palette to add a mask to dimension text, mtext, and Mleaders.

Rounding up

The uses you can find for using the Properties palette are as many and varied as there are objects in AutoCAD. I guess what I’m trying to say with this post is – If in doubt, right click… and chose ‘properties’!

 For more AutoCAD productivity tips read: Never use the Layers pull down again!

  • Jenis Mistry

    How do you mask MTEXT using the properties palette?

    • Paul Munford

      Hi Jenis,

      Look under:

      Text > Background mask

      Click in the cell that says ‘No’ and then click on the ellipses button that appears to get to the Mtext background mask dialogue.

  • Soopida

    You can also press CTRL + 1 to toggle between Properties Palette.

    • Paul Munford

      Thanks for the tip Soopida :)

  • Mark Loomis

    3D modeling tip: The properties palette is the best way to tweak a helix created with the helix command.

    • Paul Munford

      Nice tip mark :D

  • Dadgad

    I am inclined to agree with most everything you say in this post, but for my own use, I greatly prefer using the QUICK PROPERTIES palette, as it is highly customizable, based on entity types.
    There is a great deal of information displayed in PROPERTIES which, while useful for others is of little to no use for me, in my work. I love being able to go through the complete list of entity types in the program and pinpoint exactly which information I typically want reported and accessible with each different type of entity. I keep it running all the time, and have never sensed any performance detriment due to its use.
    There are those who would not want it to display for every entity type, but only those for which selections have been customized? No problem, set it to work that way. You want it transparent, unless moused over? No problem. Self collapsing or not? The list goes on and on. For those who have not tried using it, I suggest you give it a chance, the time you save may be your own.

    • Paul Munford

      That’s an interesting take on the Quick Properties Palette Dadgad. It shows that you get what you put in :)