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Introducing the
Mechanical Desktop

In this chapter
This chapter introduces you to Mechanical Desktop 2.0 and
helps you to get started whether you are using the Desktop
for the first time or upgrading from an earlier release.

Where to start

New features


The Mechanical
Desktop interface

The new features are highlighted here and described in

depth in the online Help. The fundamentals of parametric
modeling are illustrated, with references to the tutorials in
this manual and to online Help topics.
After you have read this chapter, you will be able to find the
information you need so that you can get to work.

Where to Start
Before you begin, you should be familiar with AutoCAD. This release of the
Mechanical Desktop is built on AutoCAD Release 14. If you need information
about using AutoCAD Release 14, see the AutoCAD online documentation
available from the Help menu.
Whether you are building your first solid part or making a complex assembly,
you should find all the information you need in the printed and online

Printed and Online Documentation

To familiarize yourself with the Mechanical Desktop, be sure to read the
section Fundamentals of the Mechanical Desktop on page 19. This section
describes the modeling paradigm of the Desktop so that you can conceptualize, design, draw, and document your mechanical product. The tutorials in
chapters 3 through 14 in this manual demonstrate this paradigm in detail.
The online Help provides conceptual information for all the new features.
These concepts are listed on the Help Contents tab, and they are also accessible from the step-by-step How to... procedures.
Some of the most useful new features are described briefly in New Features
on page 11. The online Help is your source of information about all of the
new features in this release.
You can easily find illustrated step-by-step procedures listed in the Help
Contents or you can search for them in the Help Index. Concepts that are
difficult to visualize are illustrated with videos.
To access Help and to find out more about it, see Using Help on page 25.
You will find the commands and system variables documented in online
Help. The Mechanical Desktop Interface on page 24 describes the options
for accessing the commands that you use for creating your models.
The topics in Hot Tips in Help will maximize your productivity and efficiency. The Desktop Browser on page 11 and The Assembly Catalog on
page 15 describe two powerful new features that will increase your productivity and efficiency as you create assemblies and scenes.

Chapter 2


Introducing the Mechanical Desktop

Migrating Drawings from Previous Releases

In previous releases of the Mechanical Desktop, part files could contain
multiple parts. Now, a part file is defined as a file that contains only one part,
while an assembly file may contain multiple parts or subassemblies.
To migrate parts from a part file with more than one part, you need to follow
specific procedures. For more information, see Handling Legacy Data in
online Help.

New Features
Mechanical Desktop 2.0 provides advanced 3D modeling capabilities,
powerful 2D drafting tools, and a new interface that will increase your
productivity as you design your mechanical models.
When you work with the Mechanical Desktop, you can choose the Single
Part environment or the Part/Assembly environment. With the Single Part
environment, you create a Single Part, save it as a drawing file, and use it later
in an assembly. To create multiple parts, assemblies, scenes, exploded views,
and extended bills of materials (BOMs), you work in the Part/Assembly

The Desktop Browser

The Desktop Browser is a powerful graphical interface that gives you the flexibility to create and modify your designs as you work. When you start the
Mechanical Desktop for the first time, the Browser is docked at the left of the
screen. For specific procedures about managing your designs, see Working
with the Browser in online Help. For more information about moving the
position of the Browser on your screen, see the online Help topics, Expanding
and Collapsing the Desktop Browser and Quick Access Icons under Hot Tips.

The Part/Assembly Environment

When you start the Mechanical Desktop, the Part/Assembly environment is
the default, and the Browser displays three tabs: Assembly, Scene, and
Drawing. With these tabs, you can create multiple parts, assemblies, scenes,
BOMs, and documents.

New Features


In the Part/Assembly environment there are five icons at the bottom of the
Browser. The two at the left are quick filters. The first icon, the Part filter,
controls the display of part instances and their features. If the Part filter is
selected, only parts and their features are visible in the Browser. If it is not
selected, assembly constraints are also visible.
The second icon is the Assembly filter. If selected, only the assembly
constraints attached to your parts are visible. These filters make it easy for
you to visualize your data while you are performing various functions.

part filter
assembly filter
Assembly Catalog
update part
update assembly

The middle icon provides immediate access to the Assembly Catalog, a powerful new interface for attaching and localizing external part files as well as
instancing both external and local parts to your current model. The two icons
at the right update modifications to either the part or the entire assembly.
Scene mode has one icon, for updating the changes you have made to your
current scene.

update scene

Drawing mode has two toggle icons: by selecting the one on the left, you
suppress automatic updates of drawing views. The icon on the right determines whether hidden line calculations are automatically performed if you
make any changes to your parts.

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Introducing the Mechanical Desktop

automatic drawing view updates suppressed

automatic hidden line calculations suppressed

Single Part Environment

The Single Part environment supports only single part files. If you are working in the Single Part environment, the Browser provides two tabs: Part mode
and Drawing mode.
In Part mode, only one button is available at the bottom of the Browser, to
update any changes you have made to your part.

update part

In Drawing mode, you can control automatic updating of your drawing

views, or your parts.

automatic drawing view updates suppressed

automatic hidden line calculations suppressed

New Features


Modifying Designs with the Desktop Browser

Whether you are accustomed to using toolbars or menus to access commands,
the Desktop Browser is recommended for modifying your designs. Its graphical interface and flexibility make it invaluablefrom designing a simple part,
to manipulating large assemblies, to producing final documentation.
The Desktop Browser integrates all of your work into one visual controller. It
centralizes all modifications to your model and provides quick access to many
of the functions you need to finalize your design. You can create and modify
part or subassembly definitions, scenes, and drawing views; edit, rename,
copy, or delete parts and their features; activate parts, subassemblies, assemblies, and scenes; and control the visibility and properties of your models.
To modify existing information, move your mouse over the object to be
modified and right-click to bring up a menu of options.

To create new part and subassembly definitions, or to control the Browser

Filter, right-click the window background within the Browser to bring up a
menu of options.

Use the Browser Filter to globally control the visibility of objects associated
with parts, assemblies, or scenes.

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Introducing the Mechanical Desktop

For procedures about using the Desktop Browser, see Working with the
Browser in online Help. Use the tutorials in chapters 3 through 11 to familiarize yourself with the Desktop Browser.

Viewing Enhancements
New viewing capabilities are available from the Desktop View toolbar. With
this release, you will find a drag-and-drop interaction as you rotate, pan, or
zoom your drawing. You can now sketch and edit directly on shaded images,
as well as display edges on shaded images. You can lock viewports, rendering
in one view and editing in another. Complete material properties are now
used, including translucency.

The Assembly Catalog

The Assembly Catalog provides easy access to all of your external and local
part and assembly files. With the Assembly Catalog, you can reference your
external files, localize them, and create as many instances in your current
drawing as you need, whether they are externally referenced or localized. You
can also externalize local parts for use in other assemblies. For specific procedures, see Using the Assembly Catalog in online Help.
The Assembly Catalog has two tabs: External and All. The External tab lists
all the Mechanical Desktop parts and assemblies found in the directories that
you have specified. You can attach or remove directories and subdirectories
and instance parts and assemblies into your current drawing.

New Features


The All tab lists all of the externally referenced files on the left and all of the
locally defined parts on the right. You can create additional instances, and
localize parts or assemblies. You can also perform other functions on both
externally referenced and localized parts and assemblies.
See Using the Assembly Catalog in online Help for procedures you can perform in the Assembly Catalog. Several videos are also included to illustrate
these procedures.
Use the tutorials in chapters 8, 10, and 11 to become familiar with the
Assembly Catalog.

The Mechanical Desktop now features intelligent assembly constraints:
mate, insert, angle, and flush. Using these constraints is very intuitive. You
have complete flexibility with object cycling and the use of selection sets in
each of these commands.
As you select the objects to constrain, an animated cursor appears on your
screen. If cycling through the objects on screen is permitted, the animated
cursor indicates rotational arrows.

rotational arrows

If flipping a direction is permitted, the animated cursor indicates left/right


left/right arrows

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Introducing the Mechanical Desktop

If you have a selection that is difficult to define, you can create a selection set
from the existing geometry. For example, you need a plane that is defined by
an axis and a point. You can make these selections in any order, and the
plane will be defined. You also have the option of flipping the normal before
the selection process is completed. You have the opportunity to work with
the intelligent constraints in the tutorial in chapter 8.
The Mechanical Desktop also allows flexibility in the order in which you
constrain your parts and subassemblies. The base part, or subassembly, also
called the grounded part, or subassembly, is the first one that you define in your
drawing. Any other part or subassembly can be constrained to it, in any
order. However, it is important to constrain parts and subassemblies in a
logical manner.

Feature Reorder
Features can now be reordered within parts. For example, you have created a
part with a hole in it but later decide to add an extrusion to the part. You
want the hole in the original part to extend through the extrusion. Instead
of deleting the original hole and redefining it, you can simply reorder it in
the Desktop Browser. Select the hole feature and drag it down under the new
extrusion. The part is then updated automatically to show the hole passing
through the entire part.
For concepts and procedures about reordering parts, see Reordering
Features in online Help.

Fillet Enhancements
This release of the Mechanical Desktop includes major enhancements to the
fillet feature command. Combinations of fixed width, linear, and variable
radius fillets can be performed without having to restart the command. Editing of fillets, as with any part feature, is as easy as right-clicking the feature
within the Desktop Browser.
For concepts and procedures about the fillet enhancements, see Filleting
Parts in online Help.

Copy Feature
Part features can now be copied from one location on the active part to
another, or from one part to another. You have the option of flipping the new
feature. You can also choose to edit the new feature without affecting the
For concepts and procedures, see Copying Features in online Help.

New Features


Shelled Parts
The Mechanical Desktop gives you the ability to generate a hollow part, using
the new shell command. You can specify a constant wall thickness for all
faces, or you can override the wall thickness for selected faces. You can also
exclude faces from the shell by selecting them.
Use the tutorial in chapter 7 to create and edit a shelled part. See also Creating
Shelled Features in online Help.

Combined Parts
Parts can now be parametrically combined. You can perform Boolean operations such as cut, combine, and intersect on the combined parts. Both parts
used to create the new combined part can also be edited at any time because
the Boolean operation is parametric.
Use the tutorial in chapter 9 to combine parts with parametric Boolean features.
For detailed concepts and procedures, see also Combining Parts in online

Table-driven Parts
You can also control a part using information from an external spreadsheet.
By defining dimensions using variables, you can then set up a spreadsheet
with various versions of the part. After the spreadsheet is linked to your
drawing, you can easily resize your part by selecting the version you need.
For concepts and procedures, see Creating Table-driven Parts in online

Dimensioning Improvements
Mechanical Desktop 2.0 gains a new dimension formatter and four new
dimensioning commands: join, align, insert, and break. You may change the
properties of existing dimensions and see them reflected in real time on your
drawing as you use the dialog boxes to make your selections.

Mechanical Symbology
Improved drawing annotation capabilities are provided in the following key
areas: datum targets, datum identifiers, feature control frames, feature identifiers, and surface texture and welding symbols. AutoCAD treats all of the
new symbols as intelligent objects. These symbols comply fully with international drafting standards.

Chapter 2


Introducing the Mechanical Desktop

Fundamentals of the Mechanical Desktop

The Mechanical Desktop provides the power of parametric design. With
parametrics, you define your model according to the size, shape, and positional relationships of its parts.
Another advantage of the Mechanical Desktop is that it is built with AutoCAD,
which immediately reduces the learning curve usually associated with using a
new design product. The power of AutoCAD, coupled with the complementary design tools of the Mechanical Desktop and its Mechanical Application
Initiative (MAI) partners, make the Mechanical Desktop a compelling design

Part Modeling
Many mechanical designs consist of complex assemblies made from angular
shaped parts. This type of design work can be made easier by part and assembly
modeling capabilities that are well integrated. The Mechanical Desktop is a 3D
parametric solid modeler with both part and assembly modeling abilities. You
can use the Mechanical Desktop to model piece parts and then combine them
into more complex assemblies.
With the Mechanical Desktop, you design a part by sketching its component
shapes and defining their size, shape, and interrelationships. By successively
creating these shapes, called features, you construct the part in a building
block fashion.

sketched shape

first feature

many features

Because the Mechanical Desktop has parametric features, you can change
one feature and all related features are automatically updated to reflect the
change and its effects throughout the part.
The Mechanical Desktop can be used to create angular shaped parts, to which
you can apply 3D surfaces to create hybrid parts consisting of a mixture of
angular and curved shapes. The Mechanical Desktop provides the ability to
create model designs with shapes of varying types.

Fundamentals of the Mechanical Desktop


You can apply surfaces to Mechanical Desktop parts and use them to cut
material from a solid to create the hybrid shapes that your design requires.

before surface cut

after surface cut

Follow the same general modeling process for each part:

Plan the part.

Create the base feature.
Create the remaining features.
Analyze the part.
Modify the features as necessary.

Use the tutorials in chapters 3, 4, 5, and 6 to practice these techniques.

Assembly Modeling
You create assemblies from parts, either combined individually or grouped in
subassemblies. The Mechanical Desktop builds these individual parts and
subassemblies into an assembly in a hierarchical manner according to relationships defined by constraints.

exploded assembly

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Introducing the Mechanical Desktop

As in part modeling, the parametric relationships allow you to quickly

update an entire assembly based on a change in one of its parts.
You can also use the Mechanical Desktop to create subassembly and assembly
models from previously made parts. You can build 3D solid assembly models
from two or more parts or subassemblies. Like part features, parts and subassemblies act as building blocks.

The general process used to build assemblies and subassemblies is similar to

that for building parts:

Lay out the assembly.

Create the base part.
Create and attach the remaining parts.
Analyze the assembly.
Modify the assembly as necessary.

Use the tutorials in chapters 8, 10, and 11 to practice these techniques.

Surface Modeling
If you are developing products that require the design of stamping dies, castings, or injection molds, surface modeling capability is important. The
Mechanical Desktops surfacing tools can create complex models from freeform shapes. These tools meet design requirements when free-form surfaces
are needed to represent contoured and sculpted surfaces, such as those found
in the interiors and exteriors of automobiles.

Fundamentals of the Mechanical Desktop


Surfaces created with the Mechanical Desktop are based on NURBS (nonuniform rational B-spline) curves that serve as wireframes and can be manipulated into different surface types. Create your design by combining these
different surfaces into fewer, but more complex, surfaces.

Some design processes create wireframe models as part of the conceptual design
work. Creating surfaced versions of these models provides many benefits for
subsequent design and manufacturing activities, such as the generation of sections for engineering and packaging studies, input for finite element modeling
and analysis, and input for rapid prototyping equipment.

Use the Mechanical Desktop to convert your wireframe models into surfaced
models by using the following general modeling process:

Acquire the wireframe model.

Study the wireframe model.
Create and verify the needed surfaces.
Output the surface model.

Use the tutorials in chapters 12, 13, and 14 to practice surface modeling

Chapter 2


Introducing the Mechanical Desktop

Design Documentation
Often, drawings and documentation are the true products of design because
they guide the manufacture of a mechanical device. Because the Mechanical
Desktop tools reside within AutoCAD, a full set of drawing capabilities is available. But the Mechanical Desktops documentation abilities do not end there.
The Mechanical Desktop adds an important dimension to drawing creation:
it does most of the work for you. Traditional 2D orthographic, isometric,
auxiliary, section, and detail views of parts and assemblies can be automatically created.
The Mechanical Desktop creates these views complete with dimensions
derived from the models. You can then add annotations or more dimensions.
Because the views are derived from the models, the Mechanical Desktop
updates them as you make changes to your models. These Desktop drawing
features save you time so that you can focus on providing more consistent,
complete, and useful documentation that better supports the manufacturing
Another feature of the Mechanical Desktops documentation tools is the
ability to create exploded scenes of assemblies complete with associated
BOMs that are parametrically updated as the assembly changes.
The Mechanical Desktop helps you create part drawings, assembly drawings,
and BOMs to document your design. Create design documents by using the
following general process:

Create your parts.

Create assemblies using your parts.
Create scenes and BOMs.
Create design drawings using views of your parts and assemblies.

Use the tutorials in chapters 5 and 11 to practice these techniques.

Data Exchange
The design cycle is a long and complex process that can be served by tools
from many computer-aided design (CAD) vendors. Because you may want to
complement the use of the Mechanical Desktop tools with other CAD software, the Autodesk IGES Translator (AIT) is contained within the Mechanical
Desktop. The Initial Graphics Exchange Specification (IGES) is the ANSI standard for data exchange between CAD systems and is supported by many CAD

Fundamentals of the Mechanical Desktop


The AIT complies with the latest version of IGES and related standards. It
supports both the United States Department of Defense Continuous Acquisition and Life-cycle Support (CALS) initiative and the Japanese Automotive
Manufacturers Association (JAMA) subset of IGES.
Besides creating and maintaining a flexible CAD tool environment, the AIT
preserves the investment you have made in legacy data from previous
designs developed with other CAD systems.
The AIT supports the following types of design objects:

2D and 3D wireframe geometry

Ruled, parametric, and NURBS surfaces
Mechanical Desktop and AutoCAD native solids, and IGES boundary representation (BREP) solids

The Mechanical Desktop Interface

This section describes the main components of the Mechanical Desktop
interface, explaining the various ways to execute commands and to use the
online Help.
When you install the Mechanical Desktop, four toolbars and the Desktop
Browser are displayed.

Chapter 2


The Mechanical Desktop toolbar is a streamlined toolbar providing you

with many of the commands found in the AutoCAD Standard and Object
Properties toolbars, and some additional new Mechanical Desktop
The Desktop Tools toolbar acts as a toggle giving you quick access to Part
modeling, Assembly modeling, Scenes, and Drawing Layout.
The Part Modeling toolbar is the default, but, when you use the Desktop
Tools toolbar or the Desktop Browser to switch modes, the toolbar representing the mode you have chosen appears.
The Desktop View toolbar is designed to give you full control over how
you view your models, including real-time pan, zoom, dynamic 3D rotation, and rendering commands.
The Desktop Browser is docked at the left side of the screen. For more
information, see The Desktop Browser on page 11.

Introducing the Mechanical Desktop

Desktop Tools toolbar

Mechanical Desktop toolbar

Desktop Browser

Desktop View toolbar

Part Modeling toolbar

Using Help
Online Help contains all the information about the new features in this
release. To get Help, click the ? button on the Mechanical Desktop toolbar or
choose Mechanical Desktop Help Topics from the Help menu.
The information in online Help has been designed for you to find solutions
while you design with the software. Help is available for the different kinds
of information you need: conceptual, procedural, and reference. Each category of information is linked to the others. For example, every step-by-step
How To... topic is linked to its underlying key concept and to the appropriate commands.
Help is full of graphics that demonstrate how the features work. The Quick
Preview contains short videos that demonstrate some of the important new
features. Videos for other topics are accessible through a Show Me button.

The Mechanical Desktop Interface


The step-by-step procedures contain drawings that pop up when you click
the ? button within the step being illustrated.

Hot Tips topics summarize the enhancements in this release that are designed
to improve your productivity, to get the most out of the Mechanical Desktop.
From online Help, you can access the same tutorials that are printed in this
manual. Go to the Mechanical Desktop Tutorials, under the Tutorials heading.
You can find any Help topic by typing a word in the Search box in the Help
Index or by scanning for it in the Help Contents. The Help Index links you
to all Mechanical Desktop and AutoCAD Help topics.

Issuing Commands
You can issue commands in several ways: selecting toolbar icons, selecting
options from menus, entering the command name on the command line, or
entering an abbreviation of the command, called an accelerator key, on the
command line.

Using Toolbars
Toolbars have icons to represent frequently used commands, settings, and
environments. You can choose an icon instead of selecting a command from
a menu or entering its name on the command line. When you pause with
the mouse selection arrow on an icon, the command action is shown at the
bottom of the screen. A tooltip also appears under the mouse pointer. Click
the left mouse button to select the command.

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Introducing the Mechanical Desktop

Some icons have a subtoolbar (flyout) with related icons. If the icon has a
small arrow in the lower right corner, drag the mouse to reveal the additional
icons, and then select one.

To hide a toolbar, click the button in its upper left corner. To redisplay it,
right-click any toolbar. In the Toolbars dialog box, find the toolbar to redisplay and click the dialog box to the left of its description. The toolbar is automatically redisplayed.
To reorient the Mechanical Desktop toolbars to their default positions,
choose View Desktop Tools Left. If you prefer the toolbars at the right of
your screen, choose Desktop Tools Right.
Along with the four toolbars, the Desktop Browser appears in a docked position at the left of your screen. You can change its shape and size by dragging
it on your screen. To return it to its docked position, drag it back to the left
side of your screen. If you prefer, the Desktop Browser can also be docked to
the right of your screen.
You may want to view larger toolbar icons. To do so, right-click any toolbar
and select Large Icons at the bottom left of the Toolbars dialog box.
If you choose Large Buttons and wish to display the toolbars in a docked position, either in the screen header area, above the command line, or at either
side of the screen, some toolbar icons may not be visible. In that case, you
may want to drag the toolbar onto the screen.

Using Menus
To select a menu option, double-click. To access a submenu, hold down the
left mouse button while you navigate through the menu. When you find the
command you want to use, release the mouse button.
You can also access menu commands by using the keyboard. Hold down ALT
while selecting the underlined letter of the menu option. For example, to
select AMPROFILE from the keyboard, press ALT, then P, S, P.

The Mechanical Desktop Interface


Selecting Options from Dialog Boxes

Many commands have options within dialog boxes. As the term dialog box
suggests, you interact by selecting options to make a particular setting active,
display a list from which to choose an option, or enter a specific value. If a
command has a dialog box, it is displayed when you access the command,
regardless of whether you did so on the command line, or from a menu or
toolbar icon.
To get Help for using a dialog box, click its Help button. Many dialog boxes
also feature Whats This? Help: click the ? button in the upper right corner
of the dialog box and then click any of the controls to find out more about

Using the Command Line

You can directly access a command or system variable by entering its name
on the command line. Many experienced users prefer this method because it
is faster than using menus. However, all of the functionality for each feature
of the Mechanical Desktop is available through dialog boxes. It is recommended that you use the dialog boxes instead of the command line, to insure
that you have access to the full functionality of each feature.
All the commands and system variables for the Mechanical Desktop and for
AutoCAD are documented in online Help.

Using Accelerator Keys

Many frequently used commands are accessible using automated shortcuts
known as accelerator keys. Accelerator keys are available for AutoCAD as well
as for the Mechanical Desktop.
WARNING! Accelerator keys are automatically loaded when you install the
Mechanical Desktop. Accelerator keys specific to the Mechanical Desktop are
appended to the end of the acad.pgp file. If you have created custom accelerator
keys with the same letter combinations as those in the following table, they will be
superseded because the last entry in the file is activated by the keystrokes. To restore
your custom accelerator keys, move the definition to the end of the acad.pgp file.

To use an accelerator key to start a command

1 On the command line, enter the key(s) that correspond to the command you
want to use.
2 Press ENTER, the spacebar, or the right mouse button to execute the command.

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Introducing the Mechanical Desktop

Accelerator keys available in the Mechanical Desktop




Draws an arc


Splits an object


Draws a circle


Displays a perspective view




Fits objects to the screen


Extrudes a profile


Draws a horizontal construction line


Freezes a layer


Draws a vertical construction line


Adds assembly tweaks


Draws a line


Moves a selection


Adds a new instance, part, scene, or



Thaws a layer


Pans the model


Adds a drawing view


Redraws the screen


Draws a spline


Creates paragraph text


Undoes the last action


Restores a view


Toggles Drawing and Model modes


Using Accelerator Keys


Accelerator keys available in the Mechanical Desktop (continued)

Chapter 2





Zooms out


Adds an assembly trail





Updates an assembly



Activates an assembly



Constrains an assembly



Sets UCS and prompts for depth



Sets object properties



Zooms extents



Revolves a profile



Adds a hole to a part



Adds dimensions to a profile



Adds constraints to a profile



Deletes tweaks from an assembly



Edits a feature



Moves and copies a selection



Manages assemblies



Updates a part



Defines a part profile



Edits a drawing view



Regenerates all views



Creates a part sketch plane



Trims an object


Introducing the Mechanical Desktop

Accelerator keys available in the Mechanical Desktop (continued)





Sets the UCS to view



Sets visibility



Sets design variables



Zooms in



Deletes assembly trail



Realtime zoom


One viewport

Two viewports

Three viewports

Four viewports

Top view


Bottom view


Top view, sets depth


Top view with construction plane

Front view


Back view


Front view, sets depth


Front view with construction plane

Right view


Left view


Right view, sets depth


Right view with construction plane

Isometric view

Using Accelerator Keys


Accelerator keys available in the Mechanical Desktop (continued)

Chapter 2





Isometric SW view

UCS sketch view


Rotates left

Rotates right

Rotates up

Rotates down

Introducing the Mechanical Desktop