Introduction to AutoLISP

AutoLISP is a dialect of the LISP programming language designed specifically for use with the full version of Autodesk’s AutoCAD software. Through AutoLISP, users can create custom tools, and macros, and automate repetitive tasks. This lesson aims to introduce you to the basics of AutoLISP, laying the foundation for your journey into creating custom AutoCAD solutions.


To follow a training in AutoLISP, the following prerequisites are generally recommended:

  • Basic Computer Skills: Before diving into any programming language, it’s essential to be comfortable using a computer, managing files, and navigating the operating system.
  • Understanding of AutoCAD: Since AutoLISP is primarily used to customize and automate tasks in AutoCAD, a solid understanding of AutoCAD’s basic features and functionalities is crucial. This includes familiarity with the AutoCAD interface, commands, and drawing techniques.
  • Basic Programming Knowledge: While not strictly necessary, having some understanding of programming concepts (like variables, loops, and conditional statements) can be beneficial. If you’ve worked with another programming language before, you’ll likely find it easier to grasp AutoLISP.
  • Mathematical Skills: Depending on what you’re trying to achieve with AutoLISP, a good understanding of geometry and basic math can be helpful, especially when dealing with coordinates and transformations in AutoCAD.
  • Problem-Solving Mindset: Programming often involves troubleshooting and problem-solving. Being patient and persistent, and having a logical approach to solving problems, will be beneficial.
  • Access to AutoCAD Software: To practice and implement what you learn, you’ll need access to AutoCAD software. Some features or functions might be specific to certain versions of AutoCAD, so it’s good to have a version that’s relevant to your training.
  • Reference Materials: While not a prerequisite for starting, having access to AutoLISP reference materials or documentation can be invaluable as you progress in your learning.

Who might benefit from an AutoLISP course

People who might benefit from an AutoLISP training include:

  • AutoCAD Users: Professionals who use AutoCAD regularly and want to automate repetitive tasks, customize the software to better suit their needs, or develop new tools and functionalities specific to their projects.
  • CAD Managers: Those responsible for overseeing the CAD environment in an organization might use AutoLISP to standardize certain processes, implement company-specific standards, or integrate AutoCAD with other software.
  • Civil Engineers and Architects: These professionals often have specific needs when it comes to drafting and design. AutoLISP can help tailor AutoCAD to better serve these unique requirements.
  • Drafters and Designers: Individuals who create detailed technical drawings might find AutoLISP useful for automating certain aspects of their work, ensuring consistency, or introducing new tools to make their tasks more efficient.
  • Software Developers: Programmers who want to develop applications or plugins for AutoCAD might need to understand AutoLISP to leverage the full capabilities of the software.
  • GIS Professionals: Those working in the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) field might use AutoLISP to integrate AutoCAD with GIS applications or to automate certain GIS-related tasks within AutoCAD.
  • Educators and Trainers: Instructors who teach AutoCAD or related courses might benefit from AutoLISP knowledge to provide advanced training or to develop custom teaching tools.
  • Students: Those studying architecture, engineering, or related fields might find AutoLISP beneficial for their academic projects or to enhance their skill set before entering the professional world.

In essence, anyone who uses AutoCAD extensively and believes that customization could improve their workflow or efficiency might benefit from a training in AutoLISP.

What is AutoLISP?

At its core, AutoLISP stands as a programming dialect derived from the foundational LISP language, crafted with the primary intention of synergizing with Autodesk’s renowned AutoCAD software. Its potency as a powerful tool isn’t merely confined to its coding capabilities; it’s also a transformative instrument that significantly amplifies the utility and adaptability of AutoCAD.

Several key functionalities emerge from AutoLISP:

  1. Direct Communication: One of the most distinguishing aspects of AutoLISP is its ability to communicate directly with AutoCAD’s intricate internal functions. This seamless integration ensures that users aren’t just operating on the surface but have the depth of access required to harness AutoCAD’s full potential.
  2. Creation of New Commands: AutoCAD, as versatile as it is, may not have every command a user requires for specific tasks. AutoLISP bridges this gap, enabling users to craft new commands tailored to their unique needs, ensuring a more personalized and efficient design experience.
  3. Automation: In the repetitive and precision-demanding world of design, manual processes can be time-consuming and prone to errors. AutoLISP offers the capability to automate processes, ensuring tasks are executed with speed and consistency, leading to optimized workflows.
  4. Customization of Existing Features: Beyond introducing new functionalities, AutoLISP also empowers users to customize existing features within AutoCAD. This ensures that the software isn’t just a static tool but an evolving platform that can be molded and adapted according to the evolving needs of its users.

Why Learn AutoLISP?

AutoLISP stands out as a pivotal tool within the realm of computer-aided design (CAD) and has several compelling reasons for mastery:


  • Efficiency Boost: One of the primary advantages of learning AutoLISP is the ability to automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks within AutoCAD. Instead of manually performing the same actions over and over, you can write an AutoLISP script to handle it for you.
  • Consistency and Precision: Automation not only speeds up workflows but also ensures that tasks are executed in a consistent manner each time, minimizing the potential for human error. This consistency ensures higher precision in design outputs.
  • Time-Saving: With automation, tasks that previously took hours can be reduced to mere minutes, freeing up valuable time for more complex and creative aspects of design.


  • Personalized Toolset: AutoCAD is a versatile tool, but every professional or industry might have specific needs not met by the default toolset. With AutoLISP, you can create custom commands and tools tailored to your unique requirements.
  • Enhanced Workflow: By customizing AutoCAD’s functionalities, you can streamline your workflow, making the software more intuitive and aligned with your specific design processes.
  • Solution to Unique Challenges: Every project may present its own set of unique challenges. With AutoLISP, you can craft solutions specifically catered to tackle those challenges, ensuring that you’re not limited by the software’s default capabilities.

Career Advancement:

  • Diversified Skill Set: In the competitive world of CAD design, having a specialized skill like AutoLISP programming can set you apart from your peers. It showcases your commitment to continuous learning and your ability to leverage technology to its fullest.
  • Increased Value to Employers: Organizations always value employees who can bring more to the table. By mastering AutoLISP, you become an invaluable asset, capable of not only using AutoCAD but also of enhancing its functionalities to better suit the company’s needs.
  • Opportunities in Advanced Roles: Proficiency in AutoLISP can open doors to more advanced roles within a design team, such as CAD Manager or Customization Specialist, roles that often come with increased responsibilities and compensation.

Before we dive into the course,

let’s familiarize ourselves with some basic elements of the AutoLISP language. Understanding these will make your journey smoother.

  1. Parentheses: One of the first things you’ll notice about AutoLISP is the use of parentheses ( ). They play a crucial role in the structure of the language. Every function and expression in AutoLISP is enclosed in parentheses. For example:
    (print “Hello, World!”)In the above code, we’re using the print function to display “Hello, World!” on the screen. Notice how everything is wrapped inside parentheses.

    Important: Always ensure that every opening parenthesis ( has a corresponding closing parenthesis ). Mismatched parentheses are a common source of errors in AutoLISP.

  2. Comments: In AutoLISP, the semicolon ; is used to indicate a comment. Comments are notes that you, the programmer, can add to your code to explain what certain parts do. The computer ignores these comments when running the program, but they’re invaluable for anyone reading the code. For example:
    (print “Hello, World!”) ; This line prints a greetingIn the above code, everything after the ; is a comment and won’t affect the execution of the program.
  3. Readability: While not a strict rule, it’s a good practice to format your code in a way that’s easy to read. This might mean indenting certain lines or adding spaces between functions. As you go through the course, you’ll get a feel for how to format your code for clarity.

Basics of LISP

Before diving into AutoLISP, it’s essential to understand some fundamental LISP concepts.


In LISP, data and code are both represented as lists. Lists are sequences of elements enclosed in parentheses.


(1 2 3 4 5)


Atoms are the most basic elements in LISP, and they can be numbers, symbols, or strings.


“Hello, World!”


In LISP, functions are applied by enclosing them in parentheses and placing the function name at the start.


(+ 1 2 3)
This would return 6.

Setting Up AutoLISP Environment

Before delving into AutoLISP code, setting up an appropriate environment within AutoCAD is crucial.


  1. Open AutoCAD: Start the AutoCAD software on your computer.
  2. Using an Editor:
    • If you’re using the full version of AutoCAD on Windows, you can type VLIDE in the command line and press Enter to open the Visual LISP Editor.
    • For AutoCAD Mac and AutoCAD LT (both Windows and Mac), the Visual LISP Editor is not available. Instead, use a simple text editor of your choice to create and edit .lsp files. Popular text editors like Notepad (Windows) or TextEdit (Mac) can be utilized for this purpose.
  3. Writing and Testing: Write your AutoLISP code in the chosen text editor. Once written, you can load and test the code within AutoCAD.

Note: It’s imperative to save all your work before executing any AutoLISP code to avoid potential data loss.

Writing Your First AutoLISP Program

Let’s dive in and write a simple program that prints “Hello, World!” in AutoCAD.

(defun c:Hello ()
(alert “Hello, World!”)
  • defun: This is a function definition.
  • c:Hello: This defines a new command called “Hello”.
  • alert: This function displays a message box.


To run this program, type Hello in AutoCAD’s command line after loading the program.

Loading an AutoLISP (LSP) File

To load the a lsp file, follow these steps:

For AutoCAD on Windows:

  1. Navigate to the ribbon.
  2. Click on the Manage tab.
  3. Proceed to the Applications panel.
  4. Select Load Application.

For AutoCAD on Mac OS:

  1. Head to the Mac OS menu bar.
  2. Choose Tools.
  3. Select Load Application.

Alternatively, regardless of the operating system:

  1. At the Command prompt, type appload and press Enter.
  2. In the ensuing Load/Unload Applications dialog box, navigate to the Documents > LSP Files directory or to the specific location where the lsp file resides.
  3. Click Load.
  4. If confronted with the “File Loading – Security Concern” dialog box, click Load once more.
  5. Conclude by clicking Close, taking you back to the main application interface.

Opening an AutoLISP (LSP) File

To access the LSP file, follow the guidelines below based on your operating system:

For Windows Users:

  1. Direct Access: Simply double-click the LSP file. This action will launch the file in Notepad.
  2. Through Notepad:
    • Navigate to the Windows Start button.
    • Select Windows Accessories followed by Notepad.
    • In Notepad, go to the File menu and choose Open.
    • From the Save As Type drop-down menu, pick All Files (.).
    • Locate and highlight the LSP file.
    • Click Open.

For Mac OS Users:

  1. Direct Access: Double-click on the LSP file. By default, this will open the file in TextEdit.
    • Note: If you are prompted to choose an application, select Choose Application. In the pop-up dialog, opt for TextEdit and then hit Open.
  2. Through TextEdit:
    • Launch Finder and on the Mac OS menu bar, head to the Go menu.
    • Choose Applications.
    • Within the Applications window, double-tap on TextEdit.
    • Once in TextEdit, navigate to the File menu on the Mac OS menu bar and select Open.
    • Search for and choose the LSP file.
    • Click Open.

Understanding the Semicolon (;) in AutoLISP Code:

In the context of AutoLISP, the semicolon (;) has a specific and important role. Unlike some other programming languages where the semicolon is used to terminate a statement, in AutoLISP, any statement that begins with a semicolon is treated as a comment. Comments are crucial for developers as they provide a way to annotate the code with helpful descriptions, explanations, or notes, aiding in code readability and maintenance. These comments are ignored by the interpreter when the program runs, meaning they have no effect on the actual execution or output of the code. Using comments effectively, especially with the semicolon in AutoLISP, ensures that the code remains understandable and maintainable, both for the original developer and for others who might work with the code in the future.

Basic Data Types in AutoLISP

AutoLISP supports various data types, including:

  • Integers: Whole numbers. Example: 123
  • Reals: Decimal numbers. Example: 123.45
  • Strings: Text enclosed in double quotes. Example: "Hello"
  • Symbols: Identifiers. Example: MySymbol
  • Lists: Sequences enclosed in parentheses. Example: (1 2 3)

Variables and Functions


In AutoLISP, variables are defined using the setq function.


(setq myVar 100)


Functions are blocks of code that can be reused. They are defined using the defun keyword.

Example :

(defun c:Square (x)
(* x x)
This function returns the square of a number.


AutoLISP offers a powerful and flexible way to enhance AutoCAD. With the knowledge you’ve gained from this leçon, you’re well on your way to creating custom tools and automations to streamline your CAD workflows.