Tutorial: Getting Started (AutoLISP)


Creating custom routines with the AutoLISP programming language is an excellent way for you to automate and extend AutoCAD to the way that you want to work.

AutoLISP is based on the LISP (LISt Processing) programming language. A list is a structure enclosed by parentheses. The elements in a list can be one or more of the following:

Usually, the first element in the list is the name of a function, and the following elements are called arguments, which provide the values that the function will process.

The following shows the syntax that is used for an AutoLISP expression:

(function_name [argument1 argumentX …])

The AutoCAD Help system contains a list of the available functions that can be used in an AutoLISP program. Each function topic, includes information about

Most function topics also include example code to help you get started with that function.

At first glance, the syntax used by AutoLISP expressions in a program can be intimidating but with a little bit of practice and time you will get used to it. In addition to an AutoLISP expression starting with a ( (open parenthesis), an expression can also start with the ! character. The ! (exclamation point) character can only be used at the AutoCAD Command prompt and is used to return the current value of an AutoLISP variable.

The following are some examples of AutoLISP expressions:

Nested Expressions

As an AutoLISP program grows in complexity, so will the expressions that you create. AutoLISP expressions can be nested inside of each other. When expressions are nested, they are always evaluated from the innermost expression to the outermost. The evaluation process of AutoLISP expressions is similar to the order of operations in mathematics.

The following is an example of a nested mathematical expression in AutoLISP:

(+ 0.01 (* 2 0.875))

In this example, the innermost expression (* 2 0.875) is evaluated first. The two numbers are multiplied together, and the * (product or multiplication) function returns a value of 1.75. AutoLISP then evaluates the outer expression as (+ 0.01 1.75). After the two numbers are added together, AutoLISP returns a final value of 1.76.

The following are other examples of nested expressions:

(setq nDist (getreal "\nEnter a distance: "))

The getreal function prompts the user for a real numeric value. The value provided is then passed to the setq function and assigned to the nDist user-defined variable.

(alert (strcat "Welcome " "to " "AutoLISP!"))

The strcat function combines all the strings into a single string value. The value returned by the strcat function is then passed to the alert function and displayed in a message box.

Working with AutoLISP Expressions at the AutoCAD Command Prompt

  1. At the Command prompt, enter !dRadius.

    AutoLISP returns the value stored in the dRadius user-defined variable. If the variable has not been defined yet or has no value, then a value of nil is returned.

  2. At the Command prompt, enter (setq dRadius 1.25).

    AutoLISP creates a user-defined variable named dRadius and assigns it the value of 1.25. The setq function returns a value of 1.25, which is the value assigned to the variable.

  3. At the Command prompt, enter !dRadius.

    AutoLISP returns the value stored in the user-defined variable, which is a value of 1.25.

  4. At the Command prompt, enter (command "._circle" "0,0" dRadius).

    AutoLISP starts the AutoCAD CIRCLE command, and passes the command two values. The value of “0,0” is used to define the location of the circle's center point and dRadius is used to specify the radius of the circle. Since dRadius has a value of 1.25, the radius of the circle is set to 1.25.

  5. At the Command prompt, enter (setq pt (getpoint "\nSpecify the circle's center point: ")).

    AutoLISP prompts you for a coordinate value. You can enter a coordinate value using the keyboard or click in the drawing area. The coordinate value provided is assigned to the pt variable.

  6. At the Command prompt, enter (command "._circle" pt dRadius).

    AutoLISP starts the AutoCAD CIRCLE command, and the command uses the values assigned to both the pt and dRadius variables.