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AutoCAD Layers Deep Dive: Layer Translator and Reconciling Layers

Layer Translator

You’ve received a batch of drawings from an outside source… customer, vendor, sub-contractor… and the layers do not match your own company standards for layers. The properties are wrong, the names are different, and you’re looking at a lot of work to get the drawings to standard. Don’t fear, our AutoCAD Layers Deep Dive series delivers the Layer Translator!

AutoCAD CAD Standards Ribbon LocationThe Layer Translator is used to map a set of layers to the standard set of your choosing. If the layer in the drawing is called A-Wall-Partition and your standard calls for WALLS you would map the layer so that WALLS is added to the drawing and all objects currently on A-Wall-Partition are moved to WALLS and take on the properties of WALLS. A-Wall-Partition would be removed from the drawing.

From the CAD Standards Tools select Layer Translator. Use the Load button to add the desired layers, the ones you want to map to. You can use existing drawings (DWG), templates (DWT), and standards (DWS).

AutoCAD Layer Translator initial viewThe Map Same button is used to match layers that have the exact same name, but more than that it insures that these layers have the same properties as the destination layers.

After using Map same you go through the list mapping the layers to their target. In this example I take all A-ANNO-TTLB layers and map them to the TITLEBLOCK layer. Not all layers need to be mapped as you can leave layers as they are.

AutoCAD Layer TranslatorOnce you are satisfied with the mappings you can save this as a drawing. This mappings drawing can then be used to load in the mappings into other drawings you have received from the outside source

Select Translate to make the magic happen!

Layer Translator Before After

Reconciling Layers

Once the layers have been translated, or really with any drawing, how do you manage the layers so that you are aware of layers that are added? Especially in situations where you are not even aware that layers have been added, like when you insert a block. For this you can use the built in Layer Reconciliation process. The AutoCAD Help explains it the best…

Unreconciled layers are new layers that have been added to the drawing and have not yet been acknowledged by the user and manually marked as reconciled.

The base in which AutoCAD uses to compare is set the first time the drawing is saved. At this initial save the existing layers are reconciled and all new layers added, either manually or by some other process, are considered unreconciled. Now sirens, buzzers, and warnings are not going to start just because an unreconciled layer has been found, but it gives you the option to review these layers at any time and decide what to do with them

The Layer Settings are important with this feature. If you want to use the Reconcile option you need to enable New Layer Notification and select whether just to evaluate xrefs or all new layers. You also need to configure when you want AutoCAD to notify you of new (unreconciled) layers. The options are on Open, xref attach / detach, Restore layer states, on save, and on block insert.

AutoCAD Layer SettingsWithin the Layer dialog a layer filter is automatically created to isolate just unreconciled layers. To reconcile the layers (accepting them to the drawing) right-click on them and select reconcile)

AutoCAD Reconcile LayerWhen new layers are added you will see a message similar to this….

AutoCAD Unreconciled New Layers NotificationIn Review

Hopefully I’ve shown you a couple tools to not only take a drawing and make it to your standard, at least layer wise, but shown another option for keeping you within your defined standards. If you liked this article let us know using the comments below and keep an eye out for the next in our series of diving deep on AutoCAD Layers.

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 –

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.

AutoCAD’s Vault Browser

AutoCADs Vault XRef Palette

I’ve been surprised to learn over the last 6 to 9 months that a large number of AutoCAD users who work with Vault on a daily basis, don’t realize AutoCAD’s External References palette double’s up as a Vault browser. As it happens it’s pretty close to the one found in Autodesk Inventor. This is true across all flavours of AutoCAD, including Mechanical, Architecture, Civil 3D and Plant 3D. I suppose there are a lot of AutoCAD users who don’t even go near the Xref Palette. I’m not sure why I was surprised about that, because since I’ve been a heavy Inventor user for 10 years, my AutoCAD use hasn’t demanded their use. The same will be true for thousands of other AutoCAD users world wide. So, as I will demonstrate in the following video, every Vault user, who also uses AutoCAD on a daily or even weekly basis should dock and auto hide their External References palette and take advantage. Oh, but please be aware, overlayed file references ONLY show up in the Xref palette for the drawing they are referenced in. Which is all good until you need to find a broken reference when checking the dataset into Vault.


AutoCAD Layers Deep Dive Series: Adding Standard Layers to Your Drawings

Welcome to part 3 of our Deep Dive series on AutoCAD Layers. Part 3? Is there really that much to cover? Don’t be surprised, layers are so crucial to working with AutoCAD that Autodesk has spent considerable time over the years tweaking, enhancing, and adding features and functionality to layers and layer management.

Clone Troopers

Image Credit – Jeremy Keith (Flickr)

In part 1 we looked at AutoCAD Layer Filters, part 2 was AutoCAD Layer States, and now lets take a look at the various methods to add layers to existing drawings… and I’m not talking about creating layers from scratch. Creating new from scratch is not productive and it opens up the opportunity for mistakes in naming the layer wrong, picking the wrong colour, or setting any of the properties incorrectly.

Match Properties

Match Properties (or Format Painter in MS Office) is one of my favorite tools, in fact its one of the few that I add to the Quick Access Toolbar not only in AutoCAD, but in Microsoft Office as well. Match Properties allows for you to select a source object, the properties of that object are then applied (matched) to each subsequent selected object. This also works across drawings!

What does this have to do with layers? If you select an object in one drawing who’s layer does not exist in the other drawing, AutoCAD will create the layer with the same properties as you match properties. It is a quick method to have a layer added to a drawing where the layer didn’t exist before.

One catch… say the layer exists in both drawings but with different properties. Match Properties will NOT update the layer properties to match the source drawing. It will apply the layer to the object but leave the layer properties as set in the drawing.

Tool Palettes

Tool Palettes are designed as a container to hold frequently used content including blocks, images, and geometry commands. What’s great about Tool Palettes is that you can assign layers to the tools so that as the tool is used if the layer doesn’t exist it will be created.

AutoCAD Tool Palette Layers

For example: You markup drawings digitally placing all text, lines, polylines, and revision clouds on a layer named MARKUP. This layer is not part of your standard template as it is only used when the drawing is actually marked up and reviewed. You can create a button in the Tool Palette for the Revision Cloud so that each time it is used the MARKUP layer is automatically set current for that operation. If the layer does not exist it is created.

Design Center

The Design Center is used to share content between drawings, and the content is accessible from any drawing without having to open it. This includes layers which can be dragged-and-dropped into any drawing adding the layers to the drawing. Working with a set of drawings from a vendor that is missing some of your standard layers? Add them from any of your drawings or your template using the Design Center

AutoCAD Design Center Layers


Blocks can be inserted into any drawing providing a great way to standardize symbols across your drawings. But are you aware that you can also use blocks to add layers to your drawings? Insert a drawing which contains the layers you want added to your drawing, but don’t actually pick an insertion point. After you click OK to the insert dialog hit ESC on the keyboard to cancel the operation. The drawing is not inserted into the drawing, but its layers are! For more details on this, and the macro to create a button, take a look at the article Edwin Prakoso (@EdwinPrakoso) did over at CADNOTES


I’ve started to realize that I’m getting old… not John Evans old, but getting there. Going through Tech School one of the first things we learned after learning the basics was building scripts. Scripts are a very easy method to program and script a list of commands, especially when your programming knowledge and experience is limited.. Now a days scripts are kind of the forgotten language with .NET and Python and all the rest… but when it comes to layers there is still a place..

Before we look at scripts lets look at a couple other things: (1) building layers from the command line and (2) creating a button to create a layer


There are a couple commands in AutoCAD that can be accessed from the commandline by proceeding the command name with a “-”. Take for example the layer command as if you type layer and hit enter the Layer Manager is displayed. However if you type -layer and hit enter then you are prompted with options on the commandline, no dialog. This is important as if you want to create a button to build a layer, or a script to create a collection of layers you’ll need to use this form of the layer command

New Layer with a Button

Type CUI and hit enter. This will start the Custom User Interface environment, where you can create toolbars, ribbons, menus, and commands. Navigate to the Commands area and click the button to create a new command.

AutoCAD CUI New Command

For now ignore the name, description, and other settings of the command and focus on the Macro. Macros start with ^C^C which basically represents two cancels so that any command you may be in will be cancelled when you start this command. As a space in the Macro will be interpreted as a enter I will follow the ^C^C with a _. We want to create a new red layer called MARKUP so here is the macro….


I’ve used “m” for make as it will create the layer if it doesn’t exist but proceed (not error) if it does. The ; represents an enter. Using this command I can quickly create a new layer, which is red, called MARKUP. I could continue and add MTEXT; to the end so that in addition to creating the layer it also starts the MTEXT command with MARKUP set active.

Creating a Script

Scripts are not really different than the Macro we created for the command in the above section. With a script you can use any command you can access from the commandline, dialogs are off limits. What do I need? A pen, a piece of paper, and notepad.

Start with AutoCAD and step through the sequence of commands you want to perform, writing it down with the pen on the paper, including each time you hit enter. Most scripts fail as you forget to add the right number of ;

In notepad we will create our script. The file is saved with a .scr extension. To run the script in AutoCAD goto the Manage Tab of the Ribbon and select Run Script.

Now we want to create a script that adds three layers to any drawing, in this case specifically for markup and review. Here is the script contents




That’s it. Run this script and three layers will be added to the drawing.

AutoCAD Layers Deep Dive Series: Layer States

We know that layers are an important component of working with AutoCAD. We use layers to control colour, linetype, and lineweight of our objects. They control the visibility of objects and they control what is plotted and what isn’t plotted. We organize our drawings via layers.

In this continuing series on AutoCAD Layers I’m taking a deep dive into not just using layers, but using all the tools at our disposal, to be as efficient as possible. I used to always say during my days of teaching AutoCAD that there is a fine line between efficiency and laziness, that we should strive to be lazy, do things as efficient as possible, so that it doesn’t take as long, we don’t have to work as hard, and we have more time for more important things like coffee!

In Part 1 of the series we looked at Layer Filters, in this next part lets take a deep dive look at Layer States

“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change ” ― Heraclitus

The one constant thing about layers is that they are constantly in a state of change… layer on, layer off, layer thaw, layer lock, layer color change, layer freeze, layer off, layer on, repeat, and repeat again. Its also very common to perform the same set of state changes on a group of layers. For example, turning off Plumbing, Electrical, and HVAC layers when working on the Walls of a building, and then locking the walls, turning on the Electrical to make changes to the electrical related objects. When you find yourself repeating this process of performing repetitive layer state changes to a group of layers you need to look at using Layer States.

AutoCAD Layer States Dialog

AutoCAD’s Help describes Layer States as a method to “Save, restore, and manage sets of layer settings” The process for capturing a Layer State is very straight forward…. Step#1 set the states of your layers of how you want them captured, Step#2 take the Layer State snapshot.

Creating AutoCAD Layer States

Take for example this architectural drawing. I want to be able to quickly restore all layers to be visible, thawed, and with the correct colors as per my standard. Using the layer dialog I insure everything is set as I want.

AutoCAD Layer States "Everything On"

Next, using the Ribbon, I save the active status of the layers as state “EVERYTHING ON”.

Everything ON layer states in the AutoCAD ribbon

Making further layer changes I freeze layers, turn layers off, and change a couple layer colors. I then capture the current state as Layer State “WORKING THE WALLS”

Layer States "Working with the Walls"

layer states in the AutoCAD ribbon

That’s the process! I now can quickly flip back-and-forth between the two states, quickly restoring the desired layer states.

 Modifying Existing Layer States

OK, now a dilemma. You’ve created a state but realize after that one of the layers is the wrong color and another is frozen and should be thawed. Never fear, the Layer States dialog is here to save the day!

AutoCAD Layer States Dialog

Using the Edit option you can tweak all aspects of the layers… on/off, frozen / thawed, color, linetype, locked / unlocked… you can even remove layers so that they are not controlled by the layer state.

Editing an AutoCAD Layer State

The Options

Take note of the options within the Layer States Manager. You can enable the inclusion of XREF Layers. You also set how you want new layers introduced into the drawing to behave with Layer States. The default option is to have these new layers turned off automatically in the State. To include the layer with the state, so that the Layer State can manage it you need to edit the state and add the layer to the state.

Layer States can be exported so that they can be used in other drawings. Select the Layer State in the Layer States Manager and click the Export button to export the .las file. The import button in this dialog is used to import the .las files.

See it in Action

In Conclusion

Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you have groups of layers that you constantly perform the same set of state changes to why would you expect it to get easier each time? Using Layer States you can capture these frequently completed state changes into an easy to restore option.

For a bit of suspense I’ve leaving out the topic of the next AutoCAD Layer Deep Dive…. will it be Layers and Paper Space Layouts? will it be Layers and scripts? will it be layers and the CAD Standards tools? The only way to find out is to tune back into the post… same bat-time, same bat-channel! As always leave us comments, we love to hear the good, the bad, and your questions and suggestions.



AutoCAD Layers Deep Dive Series

Layers are a very important component of working with AutoCAD. They control the colour, linetype, and lineweight of your objects. They control the visibility of objects and they control what is plotted and what isn’t plotted. Layers organize your drawings, by providing “buckets” to group objects with the same properties.

Shrek: For your information, there’s a lot more to AutoCAD than people think.
Donkey: Example?
Shrek: Example… uh… AutoCAD is like an onion!
Donkey: They stink?
Shrek: Yes… No!
Donkey: Oh, they make you cry?
Shrek: No!
Donkey: Oh, you leave ‘em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin’ little white hairs…
Shrek: NO! Layers. AutoCAD has layers. Onions have layers. You get it? They both have layers.

Layers by Robert Couse-BakerImage Credit - Robert Couse-Baker (flickr)

Even with the layer automation of many of the vertical “flavours” of AutoCAD, like AutoCAD Mechanical or AutoCAD Electrical, it is still important to understand layers and use all the layers tools within AutoCAD to your advantage. In this series of posts I’m going to dive deep looking at all aspects of layers, from creation to deletion.

Series Table of Contents

  1. Layer States
  2. Layer Filters
  3. Adding Standard Layers to your Drawings (Quickly)
  4. CAD Standards
  5. Layer Translator
  6. Layer Bag-of-Tools
  7. Layers and Paper Space Layouts
  8. Layers with Blocks and Xrefs

It’ll be important to check back often so you don’t miss a post, also your comments are greatly appreciated as you can use them to ask questions or to point out areas I should expand on or that I missed.