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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.



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  • henry


    It is a great help to filter layers into group.
    We can easily view combination of layers during drawing.

    After that, is there a way to assign hotkeys for filtered layer?
    To call each filtered layer using a keyboard button which is faster than using menu ribbons.


  • Mike Thomas

    Excellent question, and it would appear that “out-of-the-box” there is no way to access this via the commandline nor to make a keyboard shortcut to toggle the active layer filter.

    I would image that this would be possible via vba or .net..

    Are your Layer Filters similar from drawing to drawing or do they vary?

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  • binnyrus

    I’ve encountered a problem with deleting layers using the Layer States Manager. I want to delete say a dozen (initial bad planning on my part) and when I do it, then go back in I find that only two or three of those I deleted are actually gone. So, it’s a rather long process to delete all the unwanted layers. Any thoughts?

  • Mike Thomas

    That is odd. What version of AutoCAD are you using? Is it “vanilla” AutoCAD or some other flavour of AutoCAD like AutoCAD Architecture?

    What happens if you use the Delete Layer feature (LAYDEL) instead of the Layer States Manager to remove these layers… do they stay away?

  • jim

    hi there,
    i received a drawing from a designer where on the model space he ( the designer) does all the electrical, plumbing and architectural drawings overlapped but on the layout view, where he prepared separate pages borders for electrical, plumbing … to be printed are shown separately within individual page boarders. the designer is not currently available so please help me out.

  • Mike Thomas

    This is a very common practice, and one of the more powerful and useful features of using paper space.

    Take a look at my post “AutoCAD Layers Deep Dive Series: Paper Space Layouts” to read more about controlling layer visibility within paperspace.

  • Sandeep Kumar

    A very informative article.
    I played a little with Layer State in Acad and found an odd behavior. Could you explain why this happens?
    1. Open a new drawing and create a new layer named as “Layer1” and switch to layout1.
    2. Activate viewport and Set vp freeze property of “Layer1” to freeze
    3. Create a new layer state named as “LS1”
    4. Switch to model area.
    5. Open layer state manager and click on edit button
    6. Change freeze property of “Layer1” to thaw
    7. click on “Ok” button and reopen edit dlg for same layer state.
    >> The freeze property does not change for layer1

  • tiffanie

    Hello Cad friends. I’m going a little crazy with my layer states not working after they are xref’ed. Have set up templates with the layer states ready to go and they did work and now they don’t. Not sure what happened but I have set the visretain to 1 which is the only thing I have found on these forums to try. They work fine in a base file but they disappear when restored as an xref. Any suggestions would be great. Thank you.

  • John Evans

    Jim, let us know if you need something more specific after reading that.

  • John Evans

    We could probably do something with LISP as well.

  • John Evans

    What do you mean when you say “they disappear when restored as an XREF?”
    I have had a lot of problems with XREF layer states. My other question is: what are you doing with the ‘symbol’ names? Have you renamed the XREF reference name inside the recipient drawing?

  • John Evans

    It sounds like you are doing the operation in paper and then model.
    If you take make a layer state for a layout in paperspace where specific layers have been frozin in that viewport, and then return to model and restore the state, the result will be to make the view appear as the viewport did. (This is brilliant by the way, love it).
    AutoCAD treats the situation differently depending on where you are working.
    It sounds like affecting the ‘Freeze” state of the layer in model is being treated as a true Freeze/Thaw. When returning to PaperSpace, the specific layer override is left untouched, and only the master layer Freeze/Thaw condition has been affected.

    If you want the PaperSpace behavior to change, you’ll need to affect the layer state in Paper Space. That’s my first recommendation to try. After that we’d need to look at the Layer State specifically. You can always send us the drawing and we can look at it if there is actually a bug. Try our suggestion here, and then get back to us.

  • tiffanie

    thank you for replying John. I have made templates with layer states set up. all on, electrical, working, structural…….they work great in another file I have. I made a base and set up everything then xref’ed for layouts. And in that file anything working will work great like it is supposed to but the xref itself, lets say I want to turn on the electrical or any of them for that matter, the entire xref disappears.

  • John Evans

    Can you send us the file combo? This would be easier if I could get a hold of it.

  • Svtlana Ushak

    I have roof assembly details created in paper space on approximately 20 different layouts. Roof sections designed for metal and steel roof decks, and I use layer state manager that allowes me to keep specific layers on/off, depends on roof structure. But I have to go and change all layout states individually for each layout if project requires switch from concrete to metal deck and vice versa. Could it be done with selecting all all layouts at once?

  • Mike Thomas

    Unfortunately not, for something like this you will need to look at using LISP or VisualBasic to automate the procedure

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