Tip 1002: Use the “Zoom Extents” method to keep your drawing compact and orderly.

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler.
–Albert Einstein

The Zoom Extents command provides a great test to judge the orderliness of your drawing.

My model space work area sometimes becomes, how should I say this, a bit chaotic. I often combine multiple drawing sheets, or multiple views, in one large DWG file, using layout grids, layout tabs and viewports to make it all presentable. Often I combine views having different scales (such as 1/8″ = 1′-0″ and 3″ = 1′-0″) in one file. There are varying opinions on whether this sort of “mashing” of views should be done at all or avoided altogether, perhaps by using lots of xref files.

Leaving that discussion for another time, I think it’s helpful to make this a general rule:  Regardless of how much “stuff” you have in your model space, the imaginary area encompassing all of the objects in your model space–that is, the extents of the drawing– should be arranged so that is orderly, compact and rectangular, matching the proportions of the AutoCAD® work area on your monitor screen.

The main advantage in following this self-imposed discipline is that whenever you want to review and assess your progress on the drawing file as a whole, you can run the Zoom Extents command, and the entire collection of objects in your model space will zoom instantly to fill the AutoCAD work area and allow you to clearly see “the big picture” all at once.

My favorite way of invoking the command is by typing “Z [SPACEBAR] E [SPACEBAR]” with my left hand. I use a syncopated motion, almost like drumming on bongos. With a little practice it can be done very quickly.

The term “extents” in this case means the area occupied by the entire collection of objects in your model space. I’m suggesting that this area should be kept compact, following the proportions of your on-screen work area. The ratio might be two wide to one high, or three wide to one high.

Ideally, there will be very little empty space visible in your work area after executing the Zoom Extents command. Your work area should be filled with good-sized, readable objects. If you see a lot of empty space after running ZE, you know you have an opportunity for improvement.

If the area occupied by the most far-flung objects is, say, proportionally twenty measures wide to only one measure high, all of the objects will most likely be too small on the screen to read clearly after doing the Zoom Extents operation. Similarly, if one object is “way over yonder,” far away from the other objects, this will become apparent by applying the Zoom Extents test.

Here is an example of a less-than-optimal layout of objects in a work area:

A non-optimal work area

How much time could you potentially waste looking for objects that are not placed optimally in your work area? A lot. Put that time to more productive uses. These bits of time really add up in the long run.

It’s easy to get “Lost in Space” in the process of doing CAD. This simple “Zoom Extents” technique ensures that you always have a “home base” view to quickly return to and plan your next move.

Keep on CADDing!  🙂


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