Tip 1011: Using the Grid for Text Lists

To love rightly is to love what is orderly and beautiful in an educated and disciplined way.
— Plato

Keynotes arranged on a grid

Here is a tip about a truly useful application of the grid feature in AutoCAD. For a long time I thought the grid feature was a nice tool in search of a need to use it. Now I use this tool frequently–for text objects in a vertical column.

Often I create lists of multitext objects organized in a vertical column with a space (similar to a blank line) between the text blocks. One example is a list of keynotes (see image). If this list is one big multitext object, no problem–the space between paragraphs is just a blank line. More often, the list is made up of many individual multitext objects, for easier editing. The empty spaces between the multitext objects will look very orderly if they are consistent, or look sloppy if they are inconsistent. Many designers just “eyeball” the spaces between text objects, which ends up taking more time than this method and lacking the crisp, orderly appearance of this method.



First, set the grid spacing. Let’s assume you are working in a 1/8″ scale drawing, and your typical text height is 9″, which will give you 3/32″ text when printed. Find or create a multi-line, multitext paragraph and do a property check (cntl-1) on it. You will see that the line space distance is 1′-3″. This is the dimension that you will use to set the grid spacing. I use the same dimension in both the x and y directions, and for both the grid display and the grid snap (see dialog box).

Grid settings dialog box

Here is a text object with its properties displayed.

Properties of a multline text object

Note that I have set the Line Space Style to “Exactly.” This is crucial. Why? AutoCAD has two settings for the Line Space Style: Exactly and At Least. Exactly holds the specified distance between the lines no matter what–this is what you want. At Least makes the line spacing variable, depending on which characters are in the text object. No other software that I’ve ever seen does this, yet in AutoCAD “At Least” is the default setting! Go figure.

With the “At Least” option, the line spacing will be increased on lines that have any of these characters in the line:

‘ / ” , \ ( ) [ ] { } $

Many keynotes, especially in architectural drawings, contain some of these characters, so if you leave the Text Space Style setting at the default–At Least–you are guaranteed to have irregular line spacing within the paragraphs of your multitext objects.  This detracts from the orderliness of your work.

Table showing line spacing options


In the example to the left, I’ve taken the same multi-line paragraph and shown it four ways: two options for line spacing (1.0 and 1.5), and within each of those, two options for line space style (Exactly and At Least). You can clearly see the difference in spacing between the paragraphs.

If you want to keep the line spacing constant, and use the Grid tool to keep all of the text objects spaced consistently, it makes sense to use the Exactly line space style. You can then snap the Insert point of each text object to the grid and have perfect line spacing throughout all of the objects.

Also, if you use this technique, get in the habit of using hotkeys F7 and F9 a lot. The F7 key turns the grid visibility on and off, and the F9 key turns the Snap-to-Grid tool on and off. These are toggle switches–hit once to turn the tool on, hit again to turn the tool off.

Post your comments and responses–I enjoy hearing from you!

Keep on CADDing!  🙂