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Understanding AutoCAD User Interface

Understanding AutoCAD User Interface

Whether you just started using AutoCAD, or you are already an experienced user, you are likely not fully aware of all user interface elements. The same applies to AutoCAD commands. Let us review the user interface elements in AutoCAD 2018 as well as some AutoCAD commands that can give you a shortcuts that will improve your workflow.

AutoCAD Interface

Application Menu

This is the first thing you see on launching AutoCAD, located in the far left corner at the top of the screen. It is represented by a big red “A” button with a downward facing black arrow. Single-clicking this button opens a drop-down menu which contains some number of the same options in the quick access toolbar, and more. More importantly, it contains links to most recently opened drawings and sheet sets. With the click of a button you can change this to a list of currently open drawings. Double-clicking the application menu is not advised unless you mean to close AutoCAD application.

Another feature of the Application Menu is the Search Commands part. Here you may type the full name or partial name of AutoCAD commands you are not sure of, and AutoCAD will carry out a search for related commands in the menu. The figure below shows the results you get when you type ‘poly’ in the Search Commands part.

Quick Access Toolbar (QAT)

This is next to the application menu at the top of the screen in the title bar. The The quick access toolbar (QAT), by default, contains icons for a number of commands, such as New, Open, Save, SaveAs, Undo, Plot and Redo. Like most user interface elements it can be customized to meet the user’s desires. The figure below shows a highlighted QAT.


The ribbon is a user interface element that  contains various AutoCAD commands arranged in panels and tabs . The tabs are quite powerful.  They have panels of commands as well as options that relate to any task at hand. For instance, if you select a HATCH object, a contextual tab appears. The tab contains a Hatch editing command that appears automatically.

In-Editor elements

These are elements found inside the drawing panel. The user can control their visibility. In the upper left corner are the view port controls that allow the user to alter the view and visual styles. The ViewCube, Navigation bar and the UCS icon are positioned as shown in the figure below.

Status Bar

At the bottom of the sreen, is the Status Bar.  It contains only icons. Several icons, by default, are not enabled, but the user can decide to turn on some of them.

The figure below shows a status bar, with an expanded control icon on the far right, to show you the other available icons.

When you hover the cursor over any icon, you will find out its purpose. The gray ones mean the toggle is off, and blue means the toggle it on.

File Tabs

File tabs give access to all open documents. Each document that is open has a tab. Left-clicking on a tab makes it the current open document. Right-clicking on a tab gives access to more options, including Save As and Close. The tab that has a plus sign allows the user to open a new document. File Tabs are located just below the Ribbon. The figure below shows three File Tabs.

Layout Tabs

Layout tabs give access to different Model Spaces of each Layout in any given document. Left-clicking on a tab to makes it the current open layout. Right-clicking on a tab gives you access to more options that include Print, Move, or Rename. The tab that has a plus sign allows the user to create a new layout. Layout Tabs, by default, are located at the bottom of the drawing panel below the command line, in the area around status bar.

Drop-Down Menus

A drop-down menu is a top level name that is clickable. On left-clicking the menu reveals a list of  commands or sub menus below it. When a command is selected, the menu vanishes. An example of a drop-down menu is shown in the figure below.


Toolbars are flat panels containing buttons or drop-down lists. Each button has an icon and macro that performs a either a command or a macro. The figure below shows two toolbars.

Command Line

This is a palette in which you can input command names. When docked, it has some fixed number of visible lines. When floating, the command line can expand to show more data. The figure below shows an example of a floating command line:

There are many other palletes apart from the command line such as Drawing Recovery Manager, Quick calculator, Materials Browser and so forth.
I cannot exhaust all the elements in AutoCAD interface but the ones I have described can help you start understanding the various elements that you see on the user interface of AutoCAD.
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