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AutoCAD Layers Deep Dive: CAD Standards

Ahhhh, nothing spurs more heated conversations than CAD Standards. Everyone knows they need them, nobody likes to use them, and everybody wants their own. Why do we want a CAD Standard? Many reasons, but it mostly boils down to consistency, so that each drawing produced looks the same and behaves the same. Many times it is part of a contract to deliver the drawings following exactly the customers standards… it is that important. So what can we do within AutoCAD and what does this have to do with Layers?

Covers a Standard 8 Ute that was sold in Australia in 1955.

 Image courtesy of Five Starr Photos via Flickr – https://flic.kr/p/aiPBnu

Building a Drawing Standard (.dws)

The first step is to define the Drawing Standard, which in AutoCAD is stored as a .dws. The DWS is really just a drawing (or template) with no geometry, saved in this special format. The drawing standard file can contain your standard settings for layers, text styles, dimension styles, and linetype.

To create a Drawing Standard, start with a drawing in which you know the layers and styles are defined to your standard. Make sure each layer is there and is configured properly. This can be your template or any drawing which you know is correct. Remove all geometry and purge any layer or style you do not want as part of your standard.

AutoCAD Layer Dialog

Save As the drawing, changing the file type to AutoCAD Drawing Standards File (,dws) and specify a location that will be easily accessible, but a set location that won’t be changing. Like xrefs and images, the drawing standard will be attached like a reference, so you want to make sure its in a location that won’t change.

AutoCAD Save As DWS

Using the CAD Standards Tool

The CAD Standards tools are found on the Manage Tab in the Ribbon.

AutoCAD CAD Standards Ribbon Location

The first step is to configure the drawing by attaching the DWS. [NOTE: You can actually associate multiple standards to a drawing]. Use the + to browse and select the DWS. Once you’ve associated a drawing standard, it will remain until you remove it.

AutoCAD Configuring CAD Standards

Using the Plug-ins Tab you can select the types of standards you want checked. The four options (layers, dimstyles, text styles, & linetypes) are available but you don’t have to check everything.

AutoCAD Configuring CAD Standards - Plug Ins

To check the drawing against the standards file select the Check Standards button in the ribbon (CHECKSTANDARDS if you prefer typing). This can be initiated anytime you want to check the drawing. AutoCAD will also check the drawing in real-time. If problems are found you will be notified via a notification bubble in the bottom right corner of the screen.

AutoCAD Standards Violation Found

If errors / conflicts are found you will be presented with a series of dialogs, listing the problems and possible replacements. For example if your drawing contains a layer called MIKE which is not defined in the standards. You will be prompted about the violation and asked which layer you’d like to move this layer and all of its objects to.

Note there is an option to ignore a problem. There will be times where you have added layers for a specific reason. You can mark these layers as ‘ignored’, which in turn will be tagged with your name, so if anyone else is looking at the drawing, they will know it was you who ignored the problem.

Two types of problems will be found:

  • non-standard names meaning the layer or style exists in the drawing but not in the standard.
  • non-standard property meaning the layer or style exists in the drawing and in the standard but its properties don’t match.

When selecting the Replace With Layer, the dialog will show the differences between the layers so you know what’s going to happen to the existing objects.

AutoCAD CAD Standards Problem Found

Click the Fix button to make the correction or the Next button to skip this. Using Next to Skip, is different than Ignoring, since Ignoring is a permanent setting where as clicking Next simply moves on and the problem will continue to appear each time the standards are checked.

Attaching the Standard to Your Template

Are you thinking the CAD Standards Tool can be a powerful ally? Thinking wouldn’t it be great if I could attach this to my template so every new drawing I start is associated with this standards file? What’s stopping you?

Associating a Standards File to your Template is as simple as opening the template, attaching the standards file (see steps above) and saving the template… boom! and its done.

Configuring the CAD Standards

From the Ribbon > Manage tab > CAD Standards panel, select Settings to access the CAD Standard Settings.

AutoCAD CAD Standards Settings

In the first section you can configure the notification settings: disable completely, display alert, or display just the icon.

Next, you can specify if AutoCAD will automatically fix non-standard properties. With this enabled, if a Layer was found to exist in the drawing and in the standards but the color was wrong, the CAD Standards would automatically fix the color using the DWS settings without prompting.

The CAD Standards will check layer properties such as color, linetype, and lineweight but will ignore the layer status (on/off, frozen / thawed, etc)

You can also choose whether ignored problems are shown each time.

Performing a Batch Standards Check

A standalone Auditing tool is installed automatically with your AutoCAD. This tool can be used to audit a batch of drawings for standards violations. It will create a report listing all the issues and problems, but will NOT fix any of the problems… even property conflicts.

To launch the tool, press the Windows key on your keyboard and type ‘Batch Standards Checker’, then press Enter or select the result.

AutoCAD Batch Stds Checker - Drawings Tab

Use the tabs to configure the audit:

  1. Drawings: add the drawings you want to check.
  2. Standards: specify which standards files are used.
  3. Plug-ins: select which of the four standards you want to check.
  4. Notes: Any additional comments you want appended to the report.

From the Standards tab, you can specify whether it should check each drawing against the standards file already associated to the file, or to check each drawing against the standards file you specify in this dialog.

AutoCAD Batch Stds Checker - Standards Tab

Click the New button to define the name and location for the report, which will be created as a .chx. Save any time you make changes to the dialog.

Click Start Check to initiate the Audit, sit back and relax, and wait for the audit to complete.

AutoCAD Batch Stds Checker - Sample Report

What’s Next?

Here we are, at Part 4 of our deep look at AutoCAD Layers. We’ve already covered Layer Filters, Layer States and Reusing Layers… so what’s next? A look at a tool that technically falls into AutoCAD’s CAD Standards tools: the Layer Translator.

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