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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Are you sure you really know how to use OFFSET?

If you’ve used AutoCAD for any length of time, there’s no doubt you’ve found the OFFSET command by now.  If you’ve found the OFFSET command, surely it is one of your favorite commands.  The OFFSET command is a perfect example of something I’ve seen time and time again.  It could almost be a metaphor of most of our AutoCAD knowledge.  Let me know if this describes you to any extent.  Here we go…

You learn how to do something new in AutoCAD.  Maybe it’s a new command, technique or short cut.  You’re excited and immediately start using it.  In this case the OFFSET command.  You realize how it differs from the copy command and start offsetting objects left and right.  Then you place it in your box of tools and move on.

But so often, we never learn the full extent of the command and all of its options. For years, I would offset an object, and then erase the original.  When needing to offset several times, I would keep picking the last object that I just created and offset it again.  Or how many times have you offset an object, only to select it and change its layer?

If you’ve been guilty of any of the above scenarios, get ready to expand your mind.  There are several options to the OFFSET command that greatly improve its power and usefulness.

When you execute the OFFSET command Please Login or Register to see the link. you are prompted as follows:

Specify offset distance or [Through/Erase/Layer] <Through>:

What you may not have noticed is the text in the command line above it:

Current settings: Erase source=No Layer=Source  OFFSETGAPTYPE=0

As a matter of fact, you may not read anything from the command line and just enter the offset distance or pick it on the screen.  Let’s take a look at each option to unlock the full potential.

But first, a Bonus tip on reading the command prompt.  At the end of the prompt is <Through>.  Whatever is written between the < > is the default action (the action that will be taken if you give no other options or press the Enter key.)  Whatever letter/s is capitalized in the list of options is the shortcut letter for executing the option.  In this case, “T” = Through, “E”= Erase and “L” = layer (you do not have to capitalize the letter to select the option).  That’s why some commands have other letters capitalized rather than the 1st and sometimes has multiple capital letters.

Ok, back to the offset command.  When you execute the command, without selecting any options, you can simply pick the point to measure the distance (or type a distance) and then it prompts you to pick the object to offset.  If you enter the option “t”, it will ask you to select an object first and then ask you to “specify through point”, which means, pick another point so it can calculate the distance.

If you enter “e” after executing the OFFSET command, you get a prompt saying:

Erase source object after offsetting? [Yes/No] <No>

The default is the current setting (“No” if you’ve never toggled it before), but if you type “Y”, you are returned to the prompt to enter or select the distance and the object. Whatever object you pick, it (the source) will be erased and you will be left with only the newly offset object. It’s important to note that this “erase mode” will remain in effect until you change it.

If you enter “L” after executing the OFFSET command, you will get a prompt saying:

Enter layer option for offset objects [Current / Source] <Source>:

The default is the current setting (“Sources” if you’ve never toggled it before) which means the new object will be on the same layer as the source object.  If you toggle it to “Current”, all offset objects will change to the current layer (so make sure you set the desired layer first).

The last item in the command line above the OFFSET prompt is the current setting for the OFFSETGAPTYPE system variable.  This variable has 3 settings to control what happens to the potential gaps between segments when you offset closed Polylines.   The settings are as follows:

0  –  Gaps are filled by extending the polyline segments.

1  –  Fills the gaps with filleted arc segments with a radius equal to the offset distance.

2  – Fills the gaps with chamfered line segments with perpendicular distance to each chamfer equal to the offset distance.

What???  A picture is worth a thousand words (or at least 47 words in this case).  So this should help:

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There, much better, don’t you think.

After picking the object to offset, the prompt changes to this:

Specify point on side to offset or [Exit/Multiple/Undo] <Exit>:

The default is to “Exit” the OFFSET command if you press Enter.  If you pick a point, it will offset the selected object and if you type “U” for “undo”, the previous object that you offset will be undone.  Picking “undo” in the offset command will only undo the last offset object, but picking “Undo” after the OFFSET command is finished and you are back at the “Command: ” prompt will result in undoing ALL the offsets you performed during your last OFFSET operation.

The final option is “M” for “Multiple”.  This option rocks!  And for some reason, I didn’t use it (or know about it) for years.  That will teach me to read the command line. If you select the “Multiple” option, you can repeatedly pick the side to offset onto and AutoCAD will use the same distance and other settings previously set.  Then you can do some rapid-fire offsetting. Pretty awesome.

I hope you learned something new about the OFFSET command.  Don’t forget to post a comment below.

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20 Responses to “Are you sure you really know how to use OFFSET?”
  1. Mike says:

    Sweet! You got me on this one. I use OFFSET all the time, but had no idea. Thanks!

  2. Chris says:

    I used to use AutoCAD 2007/2008 at a job a few years back and used the OFFSET command with all the cool tips that you mentioned. Then I got layed off and the company that I work for now uses AutoCAD 2005. What a bummer to go backwards. I miss all the cool upgrades and new commands and CUI. My only consolation is that I have a job! I love all your tips. Some tipsI allready know because I am always looking for time saving techniques. Thank you for your daily/weekly tips!! Keep up the good work!

  3. Les says:

    I have used the offset lots. I have also used IntelliCAD, and the offset command there also allows you to type “B” for offsetting to both sides of the object. Does AutoCAD have a way to do the same? If so I have not found that option in Auto CAD.
    Just wondering in case I have missed something.

  4. Hey Les,
    That’s a cool function that doesn’t appear to exist in AutoCAD. I found this post on the AutoCAD discussion group that give a LISP rountine that accomplishes it. You can read it at

  5. Seth says:

    Wow. Wish i had read this the first time around. i could have saved a lot of time yesterday. Thanks for the excellent tip again.

  6. Ben Jolin says:

    I love your tips and tricks.. Now only if I could figure out which to draft with…. Autocad Mechanical 2009 or Inventor 2009…….

  7. Seth,
    Better late than never. At least you know for next time. I guarantee that you will use the offset command real soon. haha.

  8. Jim Wilson says:

    Very good!


  9. Brenda Shaffer says:

    Great tip! I’ve noticed several tips would have been more obvious if I focused more on the command line. Any tips for training the eyes to focus on the command line? I have repositioned my command line to bottom of screen but still seem to ignore it.

  10. Gerald says:

    Thanks Mike.

    I also use offset alot especially to get a quick detail done.
    The multiple and fillet features are wonderful.
    You have been very innovative in creating this website.

    Where do you get the time to explore. I never seem to get enough time.


  11. Brenda,
    I agree completely. Maybe if Autodesk made the command line options turn red and start blinking we would realize there’s other things we can do with commands than the same things we did 15 years ago. haha.
    Thanks for the reply,

  12. Gerald,
    Thank you so much for the comments. I really appreciate it.
    It is very difficult keeping the site updated, working full time, family of 5 and having a life. That’s why it sometimes takes a little time to respond to the questions I get. I really appreciate everyone’s patience.

  13. Love says:

    Great! Especially I liked “Multiple” option.

  14. Emanuel says:

    hey mike thanks for the tip you know for some reason i just never looked at the command prompt at the bottom of the page i just hit o-enter and typed in the distance and if it was a square or rectangle and i was offsetting it to the outside then i had to go through the fillet command and fillet allthe corners.
    thanks a bunch

  15. The AutoCAD command line gives new meaning to “the answer being right in front of your face”. We are all guilty of not reading it.

  16. john says:

    fantastic, this is what you miss if you don’t give the command line attention. thanks

  17. Mark says:

    Wish I had learned this long ago. Thanks for the tip it will save me hours of work in the future.

  18. maidenutza says:

    thanks for the tip, indeed, i use offset , but never question about this options.
    i use the command line, not the buttons, and you push me now to make deep analyses to the options of all the comands that i use. thank you and have a nice day, from a romanian mother.
    you do a good job, helping us to improve our skill in autocad.

  19. aileen says:

    I am a Instructor in Drafting Students major in Drafting Technology here in the Philippines..
    it help me a lot..
    thanks a lot for the tips… i love it..

  20. Samantha says:

    Phew. I use the offset command quite often. I knew all about the multiple option but never knew about the OFFSETGAPTYPE. This will surely help me in the future, thanks!

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