This is kind of a sneaky “new features” post, because Groups are by no stretch of the imagination “new”. They’ve been around since…well, I’m not exactly sure how long. Essentially forever, or at least that’s what it feels like.
But in AutoCAD LT 2012, the Group feature has been revamped and been given a place of prominence on the Home tab.
If you’re a long-time groups user, this change just makes it that much easier to find the commands you’re used to. And if you’ve never used groups before…it makes it that much easier to find a “new” command. (Sort of like styles in Word. I never used them before they were put front and center on the Word ribbon—and now I never create a document without them.)
So, what is a group, anyway? It’s a collection of objects that you can select and manipulate as a unit. It’s sort of like a block, except a group is easier to create and un-create, doesn’t have to have a name, and is designed for temporary use in a single drawing.
These days, all you have to do to create a group is click on the largest icon in the Groups panel, select your objects, and finish. Then, when you select any of the objects in the group, they’re all selected.
Here’s a before-and-after screenshot:
Notice that the group now has a single center grip, and a gray “bounding box” around the outside edge. (The bounding box is easiest to see where it crosses the door to the cubicle, but trust me, it goes all the way around.)
You can move, copy, scale, rotate, or mirror this group without having to select each object every time.
But what if you want to make some changes to the group—add or remove objects, or change the position of individual items? Look back up at the panel.
The icon in the top right is for Ungroup, which the group version of Explode. It just removes the group association so you can select everything individually.
Below that is Group Edit, which lets you add objects to the group or remove objects from it.
At the bottom is Group Selection, which determines whether objects remember their group association or not. If you turn it off, it’s as if the group doesn’t exist. You can make any kind of modifications to the objects in the group, and when you turn Group Selection back on, the original association is restored.
Personally, though, using Group Selection seems a little extreme to me. I think it’s a little risky to pretend you don’t have any groups at all in your drawing when you do—you might be surprised by some results down the road.
Instead, I’d rather use something on the expanded portion of the Groups panel: the Bounding Box:
When it’s on, as it is in the image on the right above, selecting a group results in a single grip with the light gray outline around all the objects.
When it’s off, selecting any single item in the group selects all the items, but they still have all their grips visible. It would look the same as in the image above on the left. That way, you can use grip-edit methods to modify individual items, but general commands like Move and Rotate would still work on the group as a whole.
What do you think—will this new Groups panel make you more likely to incorporate groups into your workflow?