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Monday, March 31, 2014

Setting Component Materials Upon Import in Autodesk Inventor

“Finding the material wasn't a problem — remembering what to look for was.”
 Steven Severin

A question was posed to me earlier this week.  I'm importing files of different formats into Autodesk Inventor, but I need the material to be Mild Steel, instead of default.

Is that possible?

I wondered for a moment.  I looked around, and thought "what if I change the material in the standard.ipt template?"

It made sense.  Inventor starts with that template, what if the imported files made a pass through that template first?  There was only one thing left to do.

Try it! So the first thing I did was browse to the directory containing the standard.ipt template file, and open it directly. 

Make sure to open the file with the open command!  Do not create a new file from the template!  The material has to be changed in the template file, so when a new file is created from it, the material is already set.

Once the template file is open, it's time to choose.  In this case, I'm using Mild Steel.

Once it's the active material, I save the file and close it. 

Now that my template has Mild Steel set as the material, I can import the files that I need.  In the example here, I'm using Solidworks files that I've downloaded from GrabCAD at the link here.

The files will translate, and Inventor will now use the template to apply Mild Steel to the Imported Parts.

Checking the Bill of Materials screen in Inventor, I can see that indeed, all the materials are set to Mild Steel.

Now there are a couple of notes.

This option sets everything to Mild Steel.  Anything using this template will start with Mild Steel, so this may not be the perfect solution for everyone.

But it can be useful, and it's pretty quick to change.  So think about it, give it a try, and see what it can do for you!

And be sure to check out the video version below!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Uninstalling Your Autodesk Design Suite - Did You Know There's a Tool for it?

“Hopefully everything will be a clean slate here,”
 Koren Robinson

The 2015 releases of Autodesk software are approaching soon...

And I don't know release dates.  So please don't ask me.  :)

As part of that process, many of us may already be planning out how we're going to deploy new software.

For this post, I'm going to talk about one of the steps that I perform when I'm getting ready to upgrade my system.

First, some background on how my system is setup.  This is far from the only way, and your setup may be much different from mine.  As a result, your upgrade procedure may be different too!

My system is configured with a combination of Autodesk Factory Design Suite 2013 and 2014.  I'm also running Autodesk Vault Basic 2014 for my data management.

Time to move on from 2013!

I'll cover migrating Vault in a later post.

The first thing I do.  Is remove my oldest version of my suite.  I only keep one version back, and I like to make sure I have enough room available.

So in my case, the 2013 version of Factory Design Suite goes first.

Uninstalling all the programs in Factory Design Suite via the Control Panel is beyond daunting.  It's flat out frightening! 

Fortunately, Autodesk has a tool provided that can help with that situation.  It's called the "Uninstaller" and it can uninstall the suite much more easily than one program at a time via the Windows Control Panel. 

And it's installed with the Suites for 2012, 2013, and 2014!

The uninstaller can be located by going to Windows Start>All Programs>Autodesk, and finding the Autodesk Factory Design Suite Uninstaller 2013.

Selecting this tool will bring up a utility that let's me choose which products in the Suite to remove. 

It's important to point out that if the product is checked, it's getting uninstalled!  Make sure that if you intend to keep a product, uncheck it! 

With the proper programs selected, choose Uninstall, and let the Uninstaller do it's magic.  It might take a bit of time to uninstall, but it's time that you can spend doing something more productive! 

P.S.  There wasn't an uninstaller included with the 2011 version of the Autodesk software, but Autodesk did make one available for download at the link here!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Help! I've Lost My Autodesk Inventor Feature Browser!

“You affect the world by what you browse.”
Tim Berners-Lee

It can be easy to lose the browser in Autodesk Inventor sometimes.  Just click the "X", and poof!  It's gone!

One click is all it takes

All it take is one missed pick of the mouse, and Inventor looks like the picture below.

Inventor without its browser.  It's not fun!

Now that Inventor is broken.  How is it fixed?   That part is easy.

The first step is to go to Inventor's View Tab and locate the User Interface icon.

The User Interface icon.  The ticket to a solution

Click on the User Interface icon, and a fly-out appears.  One of the options will be, Browser.  This is the one we're after!

Find that Browser check box

Check that option, and the browser is back!  That's all there is to it!

Check the Browser checkbox, and celebrate

So that how the browser can be brought back in a matter of seconds.

P.S. Looking back at the options on the User Interface icon, other options can be turned on or off from this same screen.

These include the:

  • Viewcube
  • Navigation Bar
  • Browser
  • Status Bar
  • Document Tabs
  • Marking Menus
  • iLogic Browser

Several items can be controlled here

 These can be used to customize how Inventor looks and feels, and can tailor it to a given users preference.

It also makes for great April Fools jokes to users who don't know the trick of turning it back on.... 

Not that I'm encouraging that....

*** Update 13-November-2018 ***

It seems that somewhere along the line that somewhere in the newer releases of Inventor, the "Browser Bar" option has been replaced by "Model".  I'm not sure exactly when this happened, I'm currently using Inventor 2015 at work, and I haven't gone looking at the newer versions lately.

But if you don't see the "Browser Bar" option, look for the "Model" check box.  That should do it! 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Can't Select Threads in Autodesk Inventor? Check the Registry!

“The stitch is lost unless the thread be knotted”
Italian Proverb

Every once in a while, I run into something that in all my years of using Autodesk Inventor, I've never seen before.

And I just recently ran into one of those cases.  I encountered an Inventor installation that was doing something I had never seen before.  Using Inventor for nearly 15 years, this one was totally new.

On this particular machine, threads couldn't be added.  The hole tool would start just fine, but when I tried to select threaded holes, nothing happened.  The radio button wouldn't select.  It was like the button wasn't there.

Threads cannot be selected!
Not having seen this before, I do what any self respecting geek would do.  I fired up Google and began a search!

Fortunately, my search paid off, and I found a link with a solution!  I can't take the credit for finding the solution, but what I can do, is share what I've discovered!

Credit goes to JD Mather who put up the solution originally!
  • The first thing I do, is shut down Inventor.  I don't think this is necessary, but it's a good practice, and I don't take chances.  
  • Next type REGEDIT in the Windows Search box.  This opens the Windows Registry Editor. 

  • Once the registry editor is opened, browse to the following key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Autodesk\Inventor\RegistryVersion 1X.0\System\Preferences\Part  
    • Locate the key: UseExcelToReadThreadFile
    • Note! The value for 'X' varies based on which version of Inventor is being used.  (This example is Inventor 2014)

  • After locating the key, right click on it, and choose Modify

  • Change the value from 0 to 1

  • Once this value is changed, close the Registry Editor, and start up Inventor. 

After that was done, the computer could place threads just fine!

This was really an odd one, I've never seen it, but feel free to drop a comment if you have.  I'm curious to see if this has shown up for anyone else out there!


I'd love to say that I came up with this solution all on my own.  But I didn't.  Thanks again to JDMather.  He placed a great update at the following link on the Autodesk Discussion Group.

All I can say is that I updated some of the info, and added some updated images.

I definitely have to give credit where credit is due!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Showing file extensions in Microsoft Windows - It can help a lot!

“When a thing is funny, search it for a hidden truth.”
George Bernard Shaw

It's a simple thing.  But it's a simple thing that is many times overlooked, I think. 

How can file extensions be shown in Microsoft Windows?  There are many out there who know how to do it, but it's also something that can easily get missed.  And it's not easy to find if you're the one who doesn't know how.

But first of all, why even bother to show the file extension?  The icons are often enough to tell someone what the file type is. 

File extensions are currently hidden.  Note the dwf files with *.ipt.dwf extension!

Where I've found it helpful, is when a file needs to be renamed.  I have to do this a lot!  Because of this, I change setting right away. 

To make this change open up any Windows Explorer window, and choose the Organize icon.

Choose the "Organize" icon

Choose Folder and Search Options from the pullout menu.

After choosing this option, a dialog box will appear.  Choose the View tab, and make sure the option to Hide extensions for known File types is unchecked.  Once this is done, extensions for all file types will be displayed.

So why bother?  As I said before, I change file extensions a lot, and if file extensions aren't shown, it can be done. 


Without showing file extensions, finding a *,bak file named "Drawing" and tagging "*.dwg" actually changes it to drawing.dwg.bak, due to the fact that the extension can't be seen.  As a result the file won't function correctly.

An example of file extensions shown. Now the dwf file extension is shown!

Only when the extension can be seen as "Drawing.bak" can the extension be changed to "Drawing.dwg" correctly. 

And I've found this to be true in any Windows file affected by this.

So if you need to change file extensions, change this setting!  It will make life a lot easier!

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Review - My Experience with My SpaceMouse Wireless

“The wireless telegraph is not difficult to understand. The ordinary telegraph is like a very long cat. You pull the tail in New York, and it meows in Los Angeles. The wireless is the same, only without the cat.”
Albert Einstein

*****************************EDIT 10-Mar-2014************************************

It appears that I have to perform the metaphorical act of eating crow.  However, I'm also happy to do so.  In my review, I stated that there wasn't a way to customize the buttons per mode in the 3Dconnexion SpaceMouse Wireless.

Thanks to this excellent post by Scott Moyse at Design and Motion, I've been proven guilty of "not looking deep enough".  There is in fact a way to do it!  And I encourage all to check that out!  I know I plan on it! 

My deepest apologies to anyone that I might have mislead.  I do feel a bit sheepish now that I can plainly see what I overlooked! 

And by the way, crow....  It tastes like chicken!

A few months ago, I received my 3Dconnexion SpaceMouse Wireless.  And after having an opportunity to give it a good long trial, I'm ready to give it a review.

Having used wired 3Dconnexion devices for years, I'm quite used to them, and a huge fan of them.  I don't use Autodesk Inventor or Autodesk Showcase without it.

As always, I have to put in that disclaimer!  I didn't get compensated in any way for this.  I was just given a SpaceMouse Wireless, and then the freedom to use it as I always have.  Aside from the 3Dconnexion device, I was free to formulate my own opinions. 

First impressions

Out of the box, my SpaceMouse Wireless had the familiar heft that I've grown accustom to out of 3Dconnexion products.  They've never felt cheap to me.  There's a comfortable sturdiness to it.

Two buttons are placed in the "3 & 9 o'clock" positions.  Something I'm used to.

It reminded me of the SpaceNavigator's I've used in the past.  Just without the wire.  So I went ahead, charged it up, installed the driver, and gave it a test drive!

Here it is!  A handsome little devil!

Taking it for a spin

"Cutting the wire" is new for me.  So I wondered, how is it going to perform?  My biggest concern was lag without the wire.  Would it be as quick as the wired version?

I'm glad to say that if there was any slowdown, it was imperceptible to me.  It works just like the wired versions I use.  Performance was great.

Taking my SpaceMouse Wireless for a drive
One of the other things I wondered about was the battery life.  How would it be?  Would it be like my cell phone that only lasts a few hours of heavy use?

I'm pleased to say that the battery life is excellent. I don't use it every day for 8 hours, so I got a couple of months of use out of it.  Heavy users will see less time between charges, of course.

But even then, the charging cable doubles as a data cable, so even if the batter runs dead, the SpaceMouse Wireless will still work just fine as a "SpaceMouse Wired"

But there are a couple of things that I would put on the "wish list".

I do wish the driver provided the ability to program the buttons to perform different functions in different modes of Inventor.  For example, let it do one set of functions in a sketch mode, another in a 3D part mode, yet another in an assembly mode, and so on.

Another thing I would like is some sort of case that would make it easier to carry both the SpaceMouse Wireless and the antennae.

There is a small cardboard case that works nicely, but something, even aftermarket, would be a welcome addition. 

The antennae and charging cable in it's box.

Overall Impressions

The liked!
  • Performance is just like the wired devices!
  • Battery life is excellent!
I didn't like as much!
  • A better carrying case for both the SpaceMouse Wireless and antennae would be nice
  • Having the ability to program the buttons to do different functions in different modes of Inventor would be a great addition.
In Conclusion

I liked the SpaceMouse Wireless a lot.  I use it constantly, and have every intention of continuing to do so.  Sure, I think there are improvements that could be made with regard to the driver, and to the carrying case, but I tend to use my device for the orbiting functions, and less for the button functionality.

Naturally, many will have there own thoughts and ideas.  And these are just a few of mine!

 *****************************EDIT 26-Feb-2014************************************

I found out this morning that there may be a way to edit the contextual menus for the SpaceMouse Wireless.  Previously, I didn't think there was a way (and stated this in my review).

I'm currently revisiting this to find what the process is.  I'll post an update once I find out what it is!


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Resolving the Error: "Cannot drop the database KnowledgeVaultMaster because it is being used for replication"

“More important than the quest for certainty is the quest for clarity”
Francois Gautier

One thing about working with Autodesk Vault, is it's always got a surprise for you.  There are so many possible configurations, that it can be hard to take all the considerations into account.

A case I encountered, showed me just that. 

The condition I was working in was a replicated environment, where the Vault database and filestore existed on a server in one location, and an additional filestore existed in a completely different location.

It's an environment where I'm constantly learning something from, and this day was no exception.

I was in the process of restoring a backup, after reconfiguring the installation, and this unusual error came up.

Cannot drop the database KnowledgeVaultMaster because it is being used for replication

I was puzzled.  Never in my life had I seen this error before.  But a quick Google search yielded the solution at the Autodesk blog linked here.

It shows the solution as follows:

USE [database]
EXEC sp_removedbreplication @dbname=[database]

Unfortunately for me, I'm not sure where to put this solution into action.

But fortunately, for me, I know someone who likely does, and I "use my life line".

Mike Carlson, Vault Guru Extraordinaire gives me the tips that I'm looking for.  He filled the gaps that I needed filled. 

With his help, here are the steps that I was able to use.

First, I opened SQL Server Management Studio.

Starting SQL Server Management Studio

Once opened, I logged into my Vault.  The default login is SA, with a default password of AutodeskVault@26200 per the Autodesk Advanced Configuration Guide.

Logging into SQL Server Management Studio

Once logged in I was able to find what I needed in the interface.  First, I expand the database folder, find the KnowledgeVaultMaster database, right click, and choose Query.

Starting the Query

Once the Query window is open, I can paste in the following lines, and replace [database] with KnowledgeVaultMaster.

USE KnowledgeVaultMaster
EXEC sp_removedbreplication @dbname=KnowledgeVaultMaster

The command ready to Execute
 Once the query is run, a message acknowledging a successful execution of the command will appear at the bottom of the screen.

The command after clicking the Execute button

After this, the restore ran perfectly fine, and I was back in business!   This seems like an obscure thing to come up, but I'm glad I found the solution, and someone with the knowledge to know what to do with it!


SQL Server Management Studio is needed to run this command.  It can be found on the SQL installation disk.  There is also an Express version that can be downloaded from Microsoft here.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A trip to Mammoth, and Technology Changes My Trip to the Auto Store

We're still in the first minutes of the first day of the Internet revolution.
Scott Cook

This Valentine's Day weekend, I was off in Mammoth enjoying some snowboarding with friends.  So blog posting, well, it just wasn't going to happen.

It was a great weekend, with a storm on the first day, and beautiful scenery the ncxt.4

First, the gondolas swinging in the winds.  It was on a "Weather Hold", due to high winds.

 But then it cleared out nicely the next day!

The views after a storm passed through

So instead, I offer an "Off Topic" observation on technology.

Technology is integrating into our lives every single day.  Sometimes, it sneaks up on me.

Last Sunday, I found myself at my local Pep Boys, looking for an air filter.  I was way in the back of the store, where men communicates in "manly nods" and the occasional grunt. 

For all my life, there was a gigantic "specifications book".  My Dad taught me how to look at the book, find the make, model, and year of our car.  Then you looked up the filter type (air, oil, etc), found a number, then looked at the shelf until I found the right filter.

But this Sunday, looking at the shelves, I saw something I never saw before. 

There was no book! 

So now what do I do?  I stand in the isle and look dumfounded for a while.  Why on earth would they take out the book?!?

But then my eyes fell on a small display that almost looked like an advertisement.  But on closer inspection, it wasn't. 

It was the new "specifications book"!

It was a plastic sign with instructions on how to find the filter I needed via text, internet, or a QR code....

The new "book"
For a moment, I feel like the theme to "2001 a Space Odyssey" should be playing as I stare, somewhat awestruck at the display.

Fortunately, I have a QR Code scanner on my smart phone, so I give it a try.

Soon, a my phone asks me for the make, model, and year of my car. 

I click through choose my options, and the website kicks out what choices I have for air filters.

There' my air filter!

Now, just like I did when Dad taught me how to look things up in the old paper book, I walk to the shelf, and grab my new air filter.

Mission accomplished!

But how, in the end, does this affect those of us sitting behind computers, driving our various CAD products with our mice?

It's technology.  And technology changes, it evolves, sometimes, quickly.

For decades, I've been comfortable with that old, paper specifications book.  I had built more than a comfort zone.  I had set up furniture, a television, and a refrigerator in this comfort zone.

For a moment, I wanted to shake my fist and yell "Why did you change it!"  

Why?  Change is difficult.  I don't always want to do it!

But the fact is, whether I shake my fists and rage, or quietly accept and move on, the paper book I've been so comfortable with is gone.  It's not likely to come back.

And in our world of CAD, change marches on too.  Sometimes it's slow, even glacial, other times, it's a wave that will pull you under if you don't get in front of it.

So as we face technology, and it's unyielding march forward, once again I'm reminded....

Am I ready to adapt to it? 

I think I'd better make sure I am!

Friday, February 07, 2014

Linking Presentation File Colors to Assembly Colors in Autodesk Inventor

“Our work is the presentation of our capabilities.”
Edward Gibbon

Every day, computer software gives me challenges.  Sometimes there small, simple things.

Sometimes they make me feel like Indiana Jones when he's getting chased by that giant boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark...

This challenge probably fell somewhere in between.

What was the challenge?  How do you get Autodesk Inventor presentation file to match the colors in the assembly, even when the colors change? 

It's actually not very difficult, but there is a trick to it.

When creating the  presentation, make sure to click the Options button, pick a View Representation, and choose "Associative".

Locating the Options to link the views.

By choosing this option, the view in the presentation will now follow the view in the assembly!

If the option is left unchecked, the presentation file colors won't change as the assemblies colors change.  They will be independent.

For the full tour, check out the video here!

One thing I can't say I've found, is how to change it after the fact.  Once committed, it remains the way it is.

If those of you out in the 'Verse out there have found a way, throw out a comment below!

And one last note!

I used view representations I created in this post.  If you're interested in learning more about creating view representations, I have a post for that I created a few years back here.  Take a look! 

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

A Guest Video - Top Down Design from TheCADSetterout

“(The wins) give us a lot of momentum. We're on top right now, and nothing can bring us down.”
Jamee Juarez

This year, I wasn't able to make it to Autodesk University 2013.  Scheduling with class, work, and budget all conspired to keep me away this time.

I was very disappointed that I couldn't attend.  There was information I missed, and people I didn't get to see.

Fortunately, the classes are becoming available online, so I can at least get the information, if not raise a glass with my friends and colleagues!

One great class that I that is now offered online is MA2604: Drive Inventor with the Top Down: Alternative Assembly Modeling Techniques by Paul Munford of The CAD Setter Out

This video is very informative, and well worth watching.  I've already added it to my favorites!  Take a look at it below:

Be sure to check out the other classes that are available too!

Monday, February 03, 2014

Making Use of the OldVersions file in Autodesk Inventor

“Always be a 1st-rate version of yourself instead of a 2nd rate version of someone else.”

One thing that I think is little known about Autodesk Inventor is the OldVersions folder. 

For those of us that have used AutoCAD before, it's similar to the *.bak file in AutoCAD.  That is, every time a file is saved, a copy of the previous file is saved

In the case of Inventor, the file is placed in a subfolder of the source file's directory.  The subfolder is named "OldVersions", and the filename is Filname.XXXX.ipt, for example. 

The OldVersions folder creates backups of all Inventor file types, and it's done every time the user hits the save button.

Example of the OldVersions Folder

The XXXX part of the name is an number that increments up, starting from 0001.  By default, it only saves back one version.  Older versions are deleted (more on changing that later).

But what if the time comes to restore an old version of the file?  Maybe I've made a huge mistake, and it's easier to grab that old versions file than try to undo everything.  Or maybe, a file got corrupted and this may give a better shot at saving it? 

How do I employ that file from the OldVersions folder? 

I just open the file, and let Inventor take care of the rest.

Below is an example of a piston I created.  Let's imagine I've made a mistake, and the mistake is so dire, that it's easier to grab that old versions file than edit all the features.

I have an old version in my OldVersions folder, all I have to do is open it.

The previous version of the file, in the OldVersions Folder
When I open the file, a dialog box will appear asking what I want to do with the file.  In this case, I want to make the Old Version the Current Version.

Restoring the old version
Choosing OK opens the file, and it will now become the current version. I can now start using the file from that point in time.

The old version restored!
There's one other thing that's worth noting.  The number of OldVersions kept can be changed inside the project file. 

First edit the project file from the getting started tab.

Once in the Project Editor, locate the project in use.  In the Options section, there's a setting for Old Versions to Keep on Save.

Right Click to edit it, and it can be changed to any number I want!  If I change it to -1, it will keep all versions of the file.  It will never purge a single one!

So that's a tip on using old versions!  I hope you never need it, but it's a good resource to have if you do.

And for more, here's a video!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Autodesk Remote..... How it Saved Bacon.... Where Bacon = Time

“Extraordinary creature! So close a friend, and yet so remote.”
 Thomas Mann

My Dad had a saying.... "That really saved our bacon."  I heard him say it countless times. 

Earlier this week, I had reason to heard that quote echo in my ears.

I was faced with a big challenge.  I needed to install Autodesk Vault Professional on a computer in our training room, restore a filestore and database, perform some testing, and upload the data when it was all done.

And while one of the training machines was an ideal place to do this, the problem was that there was a class using that training room for three days!

Three days!  So what to do?  I didn't want to lose three days waiting for the room to free up!  And staying late?!?  No way!

So, I turned to a solution from the Autodesk ExchangeAutodesk Remote.   Important note!  You have to be on subscription to use it!

So what exactly is Autodesk Remote? 

From the Autodesk Exchange Website...

Autodesk® Remote is a stand-alone application for Microsoft Window 7 and 8 and is compatible with all Autodesk products. It lets you drive Autodesk software installed on your primary computer from a remote computer for fast access to native design data over standard networks. To use it, simply install Autodesk Remote on the PC you want to share. Install it again on the machine you want to connect from and start your connection. Note: dual monitor support is the #1 request from early adopters. We’re listening and actively working on it for the next release.

In short, it lets you run one computer from another via your Autodesk ID.   Then you drive one computer, from another.

Remoting to one machine from another
 I can hear everyone now "That's just like (insert name of app)".  And you're probably right.  There are a ton of tools both free, and not free, that will do exactly what Autodesk Remote did. 

And if you're happy with your app... Use it!  I'm not writing this to create a mass exodus from your app off choice.

So why am I writing a post about this one?

Because it filled a niche, when I needed it.  It was the perfect tool at the right time, for exactly the situation I was facing.

So what did Autodesk Remote do that was worthy of heavenly lights and voices singing? 

First, what problems was I facing?

I had to...
  1. install Vault Professional 2014
  2. configure a license file to run Vault Professional 2014
  3. restore a backup to Vault
  4. test data once Vault was configured
  5. upload data to an FTP site once the tests were over
  6. I had to do all of this without being able to access the machine I was using as a server

Autodesk Remote saved me by...
  1. installing quickly.  Class started at 8:30am.  I installed around 8:20am, and was done in less than 5 minutes
  2. Connection was fast. I had no problems connecting.  It took me more time to walk back to my desk than to make the connection
  3. allowing me to completely run steps 2 and 3 from my desk, in another room
  4. because I was able to accomplish tests 2 and 3, steps 4, 5, and 6 were done at least a full day than if I had to touch the computer

So if you do work remotely with computers in your network on a regular basis.  Take a look Autodesk Remote.  The bacon you save might be your own...

Saving time.... saving bacon....

It's also important to note that Autodesk Remote that let you remote to your computer from an iPad as well.  However, I didn't use it with my iPad.  Just my laptop.  

If anyone has use the iPad app, feel free to share a comment!

Friday, January 24, 2014

I Forgot to Add Express Tools to AutoCAD! Now What?

“There is a way in which the collective knowledge of mankind expresses itself, for the finite individual, through mere daily living... a way in which life itself is sheer knowing.”

One thing that can easily happen when installing any version or flavor of AutoCAD is to forget to install the Express Tools.

It's easy to miss them, but if they need to be added after installation, it's not hard at all.

Here's the steps to do it!

The first thing to do, is locate Add/Remove Programs in the Windows Control Panel.   Find AutoCAD, and right click on it.  Choosing Uninstall/Change

I'm using AutoCAD Mechanical 2014.  Keep in mind you may have a different version or flavor of AutoCAD!

Choose "Uninstall/Change" from the control panel

AutoCAD's installer will start.  Choose Add or Remove Features on the first screen that appears.

Choose "Add or Remove Features"

Click through the screens until a list of AutoCAD Features appears.  If Express tools has a red 'X' on it, check the box so it has a green arrow like in the image below.  Once Express Tools is selected, click Update.

Make sure to select Express Tools and choose update.

 AutoCAD will update.  Let it run, finishing when it completes.

Updating the feasture
 Once the update is complete close the installation dialogs and start AutoCAD.

If the Express Tools don't load, there may be one more step that has to be done.

Type CUILOAD at the AutoCAD command line.  Choose browse and locate the file acetmain.cuix.  The default location in Windows 7 is:

>\AppData\Roaming\Autodesk\AutoCAD Mechanical 2014\R19.1\enu\Support\acetmain.cuix. 

But bear in mind that the location can vary slightly with different versions of AutoCAD, and system configurations.

Click Open to close the first dialog box.

Choose , followed by Close to load the *.cuix file and then close to dismiss it.

Loading and closing the menu

After these steps are done, the Express tab should appear in your AutoCAD installation, and you're ready to go!

Ta Da!  There it is!
And for a video showing the above procedures, take a look below!

****************Edit 31-October-2014 HAPPY HALLOWEEN! ************************

Just yesterday, I used this very technique to add Express Tools to a users machine.  And while all the toolbars were added successfully, I received a "Unknown Command" warning when trying to execute one of the Express Tools functions.

Fortunately a quick Google search found the following result on the Autodesk Website

The steps I used was to type OPTIONS, and on the files tab, choose the Browse button.

 Browse to the path

Navigate to the following directory \Program Files\Autodesk\AutoCAD 20XX\Express, and choose the Add button to add the path to the support directory.

The path added in

Once I had done that, the Express tools were working just fine!