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BATTMAN: Shape Font Dilemma


Jeanette Popiel

Product Manager, Bluebeam, Inc.


Sorry, this isn't a post about the super hero or his alter ego Bruce Wayne. This is a post about how to help customers struggling with CAD files that contain shape fonts. For those of you already familiar with shape fonts, feel free to skip down to the blue text for helpful tips to share with customers.  ​ The topic of shape fonts comes up at almost every training session I've done.  If you have ever worked with Civil, Mechanical, Electrical, or Plumbing drawings, chances are you have seen shape fonts too. For those that haven't had the pleasure of dealing with them, shape fonts are a font style in AutoCAD referred to as SHX fonts. Unfortunately, these shape fonts do not convert to searchable and editable text when converted to PDF. This presents a challenge for customers downstream when working with PDF drawings.  ​ See images below for examples of shape font text. Notice how the "S" and "8" are made of segmented lines instead of smooth curves. That's a an easy way to tell it's a shape font. 



Here's another example of a common shape font that is often found in architecture drawings. (those darn architects sure do love those handwriting style fonts)


As much as I like to advise customers not to use shape fonts and switch over to True Type fonts (.ttf), this process is not exactly a simple two click fix. CAD drawings are typically comprised of mutiple types of text elements that all have to be edited. I'll spare you the long geeky CAD term filled explation on why it's not easy. Just know that this process can be very time consuming IF you don't know about a command called BATTMAN!! (see, now the title makes sense) The next time a customer comes to you with a PDF with shape fonts, you might want to inform them on why true type fonts are preferable and share these tips on how to convert shape font text to true type font. 

In CAD, type BATTMAN in the command line to open the block attribute manager. The block attribute manager will help to edit the text of all the blocks in the drawing at once. No more editing one block at a time!  ​ Da Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na! BATMAN!

In the block attribute manager, select the block that you want to switch from shape font (shx) to true type font (ttf). Click on Edit. ​


In the attribute edit menu, change the text style to a true type font. I recommend Arial since it is a standard true type font that is often used in drawings. Be sure to check the justification setting and size of the text and click OK


TA DA! All of those blocks will now have Arial font! If you have other blocks with text attributes you will want to repeat this process to convert those to arial as well. 

Here's another little tip for drawings that have a lot of text in the drawing that are not part of a block. Select a piece of text or multiline text. Right click and chose Select Similar. 

​Right click again and select Properties. In the Properties tab, change the text style to Arial or another true type font.

Ta Da! All of your text is quickly converted to Arial! (insert applause here) Now that you have true type font, you can export your CAD files to PDF. The recipients of the PDF files should thank you now. ​​

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