Text fonts in AutoCAD and IntelliCAD drawings
Text in an AutoCAD or an IntelliCAD drawing, is created whenever you use the DTEXT command for a single line of text, or the MTEXT command for a paragraph (multi line) of text).
Activating the text commands
These DTEXT and MTEXT commands can either be typed at the keyboard, or activated by clicking on toolbar buttons (icons). The actual command is 'hidden' behind the toolbar button and is fed to the AutoCAD or IntelliCAD command line whenever you 'pick' one of them.
The buttons are usually found on the standard toolbar, but may be on other toolbars depending on your version/release of AutoCAD or IntelliCAD. [There have been 20+ versions of AutoCAD and 7 releases of IntelliCAD since they were first released].
We like to use the DT and MT shortcuts to start these from the keyboard rather than use the toolbar icon.
A word of warning: In our hands, AutoCAD often loses its way to these shortcuts, so be careful when using it.
Detailed instruction on using the DTEXT command and DT shortcut in producing CAD drawings (to AS1100) is given in our QuickStart CAD, Basic CAD 1 and Basic CAD 2 courses.
To place text, you simply start the command by whichever means you prefer, click into the drawing area where you want the text to appear and start typing the required text.
We prefer to use single line text (created with the DTEXT command) when building technical drawings. If we need several lines of text one under the other, we commonly set up a grid of appropriate size (and snap settings) in the zone where we are placing text. In this way, our text lines up. Drawings with text misaligned, especially where the text is lined up in a column, look rather amateurish.
Problems soon arise
However, it is highly likely that the height and possibly the style of lettering (the font) of text will be incorrect for the drawing. In order to correct the problem(s), you need a proper understanding of the AutoCAD/IntelliCAD STYLE command.
Although it is possible to place text without giving any thought to the style of lettering, an understanding of the STYLE command can help enormously in your application of CAD.
(Incidentally, as a service to our students we sell copies of IntelliCAD, but will not supply it without a proper reference manual. CAD is not trivial software - you do need reference materials. You should insist that your copy of AutoCAD or IntelliCAD is delivered with a copy of the (excellent) manual. This can be in PDF form to cut down on harvesting trees, but you do need one.
Do not throw away old manuals from earlier versions of AutoCAD. We constantly refer to the manual which came with our copy of AutoCAD 12 for DOS.
The STYLE command
We have provided a few brief comments on the STYLE command below.
Setting a named style
In our view, it is far better to create a named text style and use a specific lettering font rather than take 'pot luck' that the text you type will turn out to be appropriate for the (technical) drawing that you are about to produce. Lettering fonts are best created by using what is called an SHX file to build the font rather than use Windows True Type fonts.
The default style in the AutoCAD and IntelliCAD environment (the lettering style that will be used by the program if you do not use the STYLE command before starting to place text) is called STANDARD. This style uses a CAD shape font called TXT.SHX. This is a very crude lettering style indeed and produces quite awful lettering.
There is however, a reason for this crude style as it was developed early on in the development of Computer Aided Design in order to optimize speed of plotting in the days when pen plotters were in common use. Individual strokes of a pen held in a carousel in the pen plotter were used to form each letter. The more strokes used to form a letter (and the 'nicer' the lettering looked), the slower the generation of the plot.
Setting a style
Use type the word STYLE on the command line or find it in a toolbar or drop down menu. The figure below shows the result of doing this in the IntelliCAD 4 environment.
Naming styles - one approach
It is very easy to become confused about styles and fonts in a CAD drawing, so in our office, we adopt a very disciplined approach to style naming conventions and always name the style the same as the font name. That is, if we want to use the ROMANS font, then we create a style called ROMANS and select the romans.shx font to go with it.
We recommend that you set up a consistent naming convention and publish it in your CAD standards manual.
Fonts for technical drafting
In Australia, the Australian standard for technical drafting (AS1100) requires the use of a SHX font called ISO3098b.SHX so we are in the habit of creating a style of that name - ISO3098b.
(There are ISO fonts similar to iso3098b.shx that are used in the internationally accepted ISO system).
If you do not have a copy of this font file, visit our downloads page.
Using the naming system set out in the section above, means that whenever we the LIST command to determine information (extract information) about a piece of text in our drawings, the style name and font match. A trivial point, but one that we find eliminates much confusion.
Problems with fonts seen by designers who need to use 'base plans' from others
Designers in disciplines such as Landscape Architecture and Facilities Management are at 'the end of the line' where the transmission of electronic drawings is concerned. A drawing which they need to work with may have passed through many hands - from a surveyor to a civil engineer, then to an architect and possibly to a mechanical and electrical services engineer before it reaches them. This long chain can create a number of problems for the user who is further down the 'food chain'. Foremost among these is the issue of font (in)compatibility and missing fonts.
This is important because lettering in drawings containing missing fonts can often 'bleed' into unwanted parts of the drawing.
True Type fonts and SHX fonts
As mentioned, fonts define the shapes of the text characters that make up each character set. There are two types of fonts commonly in use in CAD drawings - True Type (Windows) fonts and SHX fonts.
True type fonts
You can create styles using Windows TrueType fonts in AutoCAD and IntelliCAD drawings. Generally speaking, these True Type fonts produce a nicer style of lettering than that generated by styles which use SHX fonts. Despite these advantages, as mentioned, we do not recommend that you use TrueType fonts for CAD lettering styles in your technical drawings as it is not possible to guarantee that the Windows font you used is available on the computer of the next user of your drawing file. We have experience of drawings containing True Type fonts in which it was not possible to edit the text. In one instance, some text was rotated by 90 degrees and nothing we tried could correct the problem.
Recommendation: Always use SHX fonts in your drawings
We recommend that you always use AutoCAD's own compiled shape fonts (.SHX fonts) when defining text styles. Lettering in technical drawings which are going to be distributed to others will give far less problems than those with contain text placed with a style which uses Windows (True Type) fonts.
If you always use the SHX fonts that come as standard with AutoCAD, anyone on the receiving end of your drawings will be able to read the lettering that you have placed in your drawing as you intended. There will be no font substitution as the drawing loads.
By all means, use SHX fonts, but be aware that only those fonts that are delivered with AutoCAD and IntelliCAD are 'Royalty Free' and can be copied. The table below gives the fonts that can be freely copied between AutoCAD users.
Fonts from IntelliCAD 6
Fonts from other sources
It is possible to create your own fonts and compile these using tools distributed by Autodesk, the publishers of AutoCAD. This is where copies of old AutoCAD manuals comes in handy. Detailed instructions are provided there on how to make your own fonts.
Several industrious CAD users have done this and the techniques for doing so are discussed in our CAD workshop series. We are aware of some very nice fonts which simulate hand lettering. These are much valued by architects and landscape architects who want an 'individual' look and feel to their CAD drawings.
Some commercial custom SHX fonts exist. These are not royalty free and cannot be distributed without the recipient purchasing copies of the fonts.
An example is the Ausfont series produced by Graphic Computer Services, a company based in Western Australia. I have listed the fonts in the Ausfont series in the table below. If you are transmitting drawings and font files from the list below, you are breaching copyright if the recipient has not purchased a set of Ausfont fonts.
Some tips regarding fonts in CAD drawings
Drawings often fail to load and display properly in your environment because previous users fail to transmit the font files that they have used. The notes below are designed to help you deal with font transmission problems.