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A ruler, sometimes called a rule or line gauge, is a device used in geometry, technical drawing, engineering and building to rule straight lines. Engineering designers used (before the advent of CAD) devices with graduations marked on their edge called scales, when setting out or measuring length on a drawing. They did not draw lines with their scales, they used set or T squares when ruling a line.

Rulers have long been made from different materials and in a wide range of sizes. Some are wooden. Plastics have also been used since they were invented; they can be molded with length markings instead of being scribed. Metal is used for more durable rulers for use in the workshop; sometimes a metal edge is embedded into a wooden desk ruler to preserve the edge when used for straight-line cutting. 12 in or 30 cm in length is useful for a ruler to be kept on a desk to help in drawing. Shorter rulers are convenient for keeping in a pocket. Longer rulers, e.g., 18 in (46 cm) are necessary in some cases. Rigid wooden or plastic yardsticks, 1 yard long, and meter sticks, 1 meter long, are also used. Classically, long measuring rods were used vt|for larger projects, now superseded by tape measure or laser rangefinders.

Desk rulers are used for three main purposes: to measure, to aid in drawing straight lines and as a straight guide for cutting and scoring with a blade. Practical rulers have distance markings along their edges.

A line gauge is a type of ruler used in the printing industry. These may be made from a variety of materials, typically metal or clear plastic. Units of measurement on a basic line gauge usually include inches, agate, picas, and points. More detailed line gauges may contain sample widths of lines, samples of common type in several point sizes, etc.

Measuring instruments similar in function to rulers are made portable by folding (carpenter's folding rule) or retracting into a coil (metal tape measure) when not in use. When extended for use, they are straight, like a ruler. The illustrations on this page show a 2 m (6 ft 7 in) carpenter's rule, which folds down to a length of 25 cm (10 in) to easily fit in a pocket, and a 5 m (16 ft) tape, which retracts into a small housing.

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