Layer Management in AutoCAD
Jaiprakash Pandey posted on March 10, 2016 |

AutoCAD drawings generally contain large amounts of data in the form of blocks, layers, xrefs, line types, text styles, dimension styles, plot style tables and so on. If proper techniques for managing these drawing elements are not implemented, then it becomes an intimidating task to find the object you actually need from your drawing. This article will address one such issue of layer management, whereby a proper naming and filtering technique can make layer management a seamless task.

 

Layer Naming

If you are not using a standard layer naming procedure, you should consider it. It will help make your drawings more manageable, and also enable the easy sharing of data between the different engineering disciplines within a department.The most widely used layering standard has been developed by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), but you can use your own layer naming standard as well.In fact, most companies have their own layer naming standard.

As per the CAD layer guidelines of the AIA, a layer name should have the format shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Layer naming format as per the AIA.
Figure 1. Layer naming format as per the AIA.

An example of a layer that follows this layer naming standard is “A-DOOR-IDEN-ABC.” In this example, the first letter (A) is the discipline code, which in this case indicates the architectural discipline. The next four letters (DOOR),represent the major group, which indicates the type of component represented by this layer. The next segment (IDEN) is from the minor group, and it adds further information about the object within the layer. It’s not necessary to have all groups in a layer name, but generally a layer name must contain at least the discipline code and the major group in order to define it properly.

 

Layer Properties Filter

There are two types of layer filters in AutoCAD,one being the Property Filter and the other being the Group Filter. Let’s first start with property filter. Type “LA” on the command line and press enter to open the Layer Properties Manager.A palette similar to the one shown in Figure 2 will open.

Figure 2. New Property Filter in layer properties manager.
Figure 2. New Property Filter in layer properties manager.

Click on the New Property Filter icon in the top left corner of the palette (shown in the red circle in Figure 2). Alternatively, you can also use the keyboard shortcut ALT + P to open the Layer Filter Properties window. When the Layer Filter Properties window opens, type“color filter” in the filter name field. Now move to the filter definition panel.Here you will see a list of properties with which a filter can be created. We are interested in creating a filter based on the color of the layer,so click on the Color column and a small box will appear. Click on that box and select the red color from the color swatch. When the color has been selected, click OK to close the swatch. You will see that all layers with red coloring will be listed. Click OK to close the Layer Filter Properties window. This color filter will also get listed in the filters panel on the left side of the Layer Properties Manager.

Let’s assume that we want to create another filter that includes all layers that have names starting with the letter “A” and“S”as the third letter.For this task,we can use wildcard characters to create a filter. Click on the New Property Filter again and name it as “name filter.”

Now click in the Name column of the filter definition palette and you will notice that your cursor will follow an asterisk(*) symbol. Type “A?S*” in the Name field. This wildcard character will tell AutoCAD to select all layers starting with “A”followed by any second letter(indicated by the question mark)and with the third character as an “S” the remaining characters can be anything indicated by the asterisk. When applied to my own drawing example, the results can be seen in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Name Filter in Layer Filter Properties
Figure 3. Name Filter in Layer Filter Properties

Once you have created this filter, click OK to close the Layer Filter Properties window. The new name filter will also be added to the Filters panel of the Layer Properties Manager.

If you want to further refine your property filter, then you can double click on it and add more filters,such as On/Off status or Line weight. You can also create a nested property filter which will act like a new filter on your existing property filter. To add a nested filter to the existing property filter, right click on the filter name in the Filters panel, and select New Properties Filter from the menu, as shown in Figure 4. Now add the filter as mentioned above in the Layer Filter Properties window.

Figure 4. New nested properties filter.
Figure 4. New nested properties filter.

Similarly, you can also add filters based upon different properties such as Line weight and Line type to the Layer Properties Manager. To edit filters that are already added to the filter panel, double click on its name and the Layer Filter Properties window will appear.

 

Layer Group Filter

If you want to create a filter so that you can place your own layers inside them, no matter what their properties are, then Group Filter is a good choice. Click on the icon New Group Filter next to the New Property Filter in the Layer Properties Manager.You will notice that a new group filter with default name “group filter 1” will be added to the Filters panel. Right click on its name and select Rename from the contextual menu, and then give it a new name. Now drag and drop any layers that you want to put into this group filter from the list of all layers, shown on the right side of the Filters panel.

To search for a required layer from a long list of layers in the Layer Properties Manager, you can use wildcard characters (as explained previously in the Layer Filter Properties) in the search field at the top right of the Layer Properties Manager (in the red box shown in Figure 5).

Figure 5. Layer search in Layer Properties Manager.
Figure 5. Layer search in Layer Properties Manager.

 

Layer States Manager

The Layer States Manager saves the different states of layers which can further help you in switching between the best possible layer states for working on a particular part of a project. Let’s say that I want to have a layer state in which all dimensions and annotations are hidden from the drawing. In that case, first turn off all layers containing dimensions and annotations and then type “LAYER STATE” on the command line and press enter to bring up the Layer States Manager window. A window similar to the one shown in Figure 6 will appear.

Figure 6. Layer States Manager window.
Figure 6. Layer States Manager window.

Click on the New button from this window to create a new layer state and give your layer state a name.For this particular example, I am naming it as “Anno off. If you want to provide a description,then enter it in the Description field. Otherwise, leave it blank and click on OK to close the new Layer state dialogue box. Click on Close to close the Layer States Manager window too. In a similar way, you can again change the state of a layer, so that all blocks and xrefs containing layers are frozen, and then save it as a new layer state.

You can also export these layer states to an external file. For exporting layer states, select the layer state that you want to export from the Layer states dialogue box and click on the Export button. Specify the location where you want to save your LAS (layer states) file, give it a name and click on Save. You can send this LAS file to your colleagues or team members and they can directly import it into their drawing from the Layer States Manager to have the same layer state that you have without manually changing the state of each layer in the drawing.

 

Layer Properties Override in Viewports

Properties of layers are not only controlled in model spaces, they are also controlled in paper spaces, and you can change the settings of layers for every viewport in the layout. When you go to the layout view and double click inside any viewport,a new list of layer options (as seen in the red box in Figure 7)will become visible in the Layer Properties Manager, which will be specific to that viewport only.

Figure 7. Layer properties in viewports.
Figure 7. Layer properties in viewports.

The properties of the layer with the prefix “VP” can be customized for the selected viewport only.Changing their properties will not affect the original drawing in the model space or in any other viewport. For example, you can create two viewports in layout view in such a way that one of them shows geometry without any block or xref, and the other shows the drawing without annotations. In both cases,the original drawing and drawings in other viewports will remain unchanged.

 

Conclusion

If layer naming standards are not followed properly,then it becomes difficult (if not impossible) to manage layers in a large drawing containing hundreds of layers. These layer management tools, such as the Property and Group filters, Layer States Manager and layer property overrides in viewports, help in managing long lists of layers by categorizing them in meaningful groups. And with layer management techniques, it becomes easy to locate required layers quickly and with ease.


About the Author






Jaiprakash Pandey is a CAD corporate trainer and designer currently working with the engineering design consulting company, Ramboll. He is an Autodesk AutoCAD Certified Professional, Autodesk Expert Elite and mechanical engineer. He also develops video courses for many online tutoring platforms and occasionally writes for AUGI World magazine. You can reach him on his blog Thesourcecad.com.

Recommended For You