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AutoCAD and PDF: Printing and Page Orientation

By John TeSelle, LineType Software Inc., July 9, 2003

In some cases, depending on both the PDF driver in use and the CAD application, there will be a problem in getting the large-format plot correctly oriented in the PDF file. This happens most commonly in AutoCAD, in which it is possible to print to large-format page sizes but only when the PDF file is output in portrait mode. When it is output in landscape mode, a part of the drawing is cut off. Portrait mode documents are fine, but if drawings are oriented to landscape mode (as are most architectural and engineering drawings) then each page will have to be rotated in an editing program such as Acrobat or Jaws PDF Editor in order to enhance on-screen readability.

There are two possible solutions to the problem.

First Solution

Various PDF printer drivers have settings for "page rotation", which determines how the driver orients pages that it receives from an application that is printing to the driver. Changing the page rotation settings for the driver will often solve drawing orientation problems.

For Adobe Acrobat, the page orientation setting may be changed as follows:

  • From the Print dialog box in AutoCAD, click the Properties button under the Plot Device tab
  • Click the Custom Properties button
  • Under the Layout tab, choose Landscape
  • Under the Adobe PDF Settings tab, click to edit the Conversion Settings file
  • This will open up a new dialog box to change the conversion settings.
  • Under the General tab, select Auto-Rotate Pages and set the rotation type to Individually
  • Click Save As to save these settings under a new conversion settings name, such as "CAD Settings" - this will preserve the default settings for other types of files.
  • Click OK to exit from all dialog boxes.

Second Solution

This solution requires the use of an application that will convert Postscript (.PS or .EPS) files to PDF files. Both Adobe Acrobat and Jaws PDF Creator come with such an application. The Adobe application is called Distiller; the Jaws version is called Jaws ToPDF.

  • Define a new printer in AutoCAD to create Postscript output. This can be done through the standard printer definition procedure, using standard Postscript Level 2 drivers that are included with AutoCAD.
  • Print documents to the Postscript printer that has been defined. The rotation problem does not occur with the Postscript driver. An .EPS file will be created for each drawing plotted.
  • Open the Acrobat Distiller or Jaws ToPDF application
  • Open the folder containing the .EPS files and select all of them.
  • Drag the .EPS files onto the Distiller or ToPDF application window. They will be processed in turn and new PDF files will be created.
  • Delete the .EPS files as they are no longer needed

This method may also be used if you have consultants or others from whom you need to obtain PDF files, but they don't want to purchase a PDF printer driver. They can configure a Postscript printer in AutoCAD at no cost, email the Postscript files to you, and you can convert them to PDF using Distiller or ToPDF.

About the Author

John TeSelle is an architect in private practice in Nashville, Tennessee, and is the founder of LineType Software Inc., a development company providing tools and information to enhance the use of PDF documents in architecture and engineering.

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