How to Make and Work with AutoCAD Sheet Sets

Sheet sets prepare you for project management.

It is inevitable that your project will become more than one drawing. It is common for sets of drawings to communicate a design. The more drawings there are, the harder it is to keep them organized. And the more people there are who are working on these drawings at one time, the harder it is to manage.

AutoCAD Sheet Sets are like a smart organizer for all these drawings. They collect, organize and allow you to manage related drawings. Not only does it make project navigation easier, but it also allows you to use the embedded tools to quickly print, publish and archive multiple drawings at once. They also make it possible for multiple people to work on the same set of drawings, smartly, without tripping over each other.

Although the tool might lean on the architectural side, this feature is for anyone, regardless of the type of drawing or the industry. If you have multiple drawings per project, sheet sets are the tool for you.

Sheet Set Manager

The Sheet Set Manager is the be-all and end-all of sheet sets. This palette supplies the project-level view of your project, including the drawings, views and other content that the sheet set manages.

A project is a set, and each set is a collection of sheets. A sheet is a layout (paper space). You add sheets for each layout, even when a drawing has many layouts. There is a sheet for each layout, and there is no limit to the number of drawings each sheet set can manage.

With the sheets acting as a palette, you can resize, dock and anchor the Sheet Set Manager. You will find the features on the menus located along the top of the palette and via the right-click menu.

The Sheet List Control shows the active sheet set. You can use this to switch to different sheet sets, open other sets and create new sets.

Pro Tip: The Sheet Set Manager is only partially functional until at least one drawing is open.

Right-clicking within the palette supplies a context menu. The menu is dependent on what you right-click on.

At the top level, the menu provides options for working with the sheet set—features like closing the active set, accessing its properties and resaving all sheets.

Project Organization

The Sheet List is just that—a list of the sheets contained within the project. You can double-click a sheet to open the drawing and navigate to the associated layout.

NOTE: Sheet sets work with paper space layouts. They ignore model space layouts.

You can further organize the sheets into subsets. Think of subsets as folders in which you can collect related sheets. Each subset is configurable. As you add new drawings to a subset, Sheet Set Manager uses the correct template and applies the desired naming scheme. You can quickly publish a subset (and its sheets).

The Sheet Set Manager lists properties about each sheet (hover for a tooltip), including file properties, a preview and who is currently working on the drawing. A lock appears on sheets that are in use by someone else.

Creating Sheet Sets

Creating a new sheet set starts from the Sheet Set Manager. From the Sheet List control, select New Sheet Set. When you are creating a new sheet set, you have two choices: Use an example or use existing drawings (we will discuss cloud sheet sets later).

Existing Drawings

You will use existing drawings when you already have the drawings and you are looking for a method to collect and organize them.

Start by setting the Details. This is the name, description and location for the sheet set data (DST) file. The DST stores the details about the sheet set.

Use the Sheet Set Properties to adjust the metadata properties, set the block defaults and pick other set properties.

Now browse and select the folders with the drawings you want to add. Although AutoCAD adds all the drawings from the selected folders, you can use the checkboxes to deselect drawings that are not needed. Use the Import Options to (optionally) set a sheet name prefix to create subsets automatically based on the folder structure.

The last step is reviewing the details. This is an opportunity to go back and make changes before you create the new set. Select Finish for AutoCAD to generate the sheet set.

Although it is not fully functional, the process of creating new sheet sets by collecting existing drawings is quick and easy. You can manage these drawings without needing to make any changes to them. And there is nothing to stop you from adding more sheets or creating new drawings for the project.

An Example Sheet Set

By starting from an example sheet set, you can select an existing set that AutoCAD will use as the template. The selected template builds the structure and sets the default settings. This does not copy existing sheets from the template.

After setting the type, select the Sheet Set Example. You can select an existing Autodesk template or browse to select from any existing set.

Then, using the same process as with an existing drawing, you can add the details—the sheet set name, description and location for the sheet set data (DST) file. You can enable the folder hierarchy choice to store subset drawings in their own folder.

Use the Sheet Set Properties box to adjust the metadata properties, set the block defaults and pick other set properties.

When everything is set, you get one last chance to review the configuration. Click Finish to generate your new sheet set.

Adding Sheet Views

An empty sheet is useless on its own. This is why you want to add sheet views. These views are saved model space views of a project’s drawings.

Start from the Model Views tab and then add the drawing file locations with the views you want to add.

Expanding a drawing reveals its available views. Hover over the view for a tooltip, which includes a thumbnail preview.

Drag and drop the view onto your sheet to place it. AutoCAD generates a preview to help with positioning. Adjust the scale by right-clicking and selecting the desired value. Then left-click to place the view.

Pro Tip: If you do not see the view you need, right-click on the drawing and select Open. Add the view(s), save and close the drawing. Then refresh the Sheet Set Manager.

AutoCAD attaches the drawing as an XREF and generates a viewport. AutoCAD freezes the current drawing’s layers in the new viewport. This is to display only the geometry of the XREF. The viewport zooms to the extent of the view and is scaled to the selected scale. AutoCAD adds a view callout automatically.

The new viewport is a standard one. You can use all standard features like grips and properties to make changes to the viewport.

Pro Tip: Use SCALELISTEDIT to set the available scales. Save this within your template to make the scales available to all new sheets.

How do you create views? You create them by using AutoCAD’s VIEW command. For sheet sets, you want to add Model Views. Name the views descriptively to make it easier to identify them when you want to insert them into sheets.

Working with Views

The Sheet Views tab lists all the views used in the sheet set. You can toggle between listing the views by existing sheets or by category.

You can review a view by double-clicking it or by right-clicking on it and selecting Display. This opens the drawing and navigates to the view.

You can use the right-click Rename & Renumber option to adjust the view number and view title.

You can change the view’s category by right-clicking the Set Category feature. Categories are just labels that help you to organize views.

Sheet View Labels

Although AutoCAD adds view labels as you place the view, there may be times when you need to insert new instances. From the Sheet Views tab, right-click on the view and select Place View Label Block. AutoCAD extracts information from the selected view. Use the right-click options to adjust the scale and rotation before picking the insertion point.

To change the default sheet view label, access the Sheet Set Properties. In the dialog, Sheet Set section, select the Label Block for Views edit button. In the Select Block dialog, pick the block you want to use as the default view label block. The view label can be a drawing file or a block from a drawing.

Placing Callouts

In AutoCAD, callout blocks are the symbols that reference other sheets. Like view labels, the callouts reference data from the associated sheet and/or view. Use the right-click Place Callout Block feature to select the block and place the instance into the active sheet.

Blocks and Callouts

By using Fields, you can access metadata properties within a drawing. This metadata includes drawing, object and sheet set properties. For sheet sets, you can use fields in building blocks and to add text or leaders that extract properties like the sheet number, view number and name and the number of sheets (pages). As the set or drawings within the set change, so does the associative fields update.

With blocks, add the field within a block attribute (not text). To the attribute, add placeholder text as the value and select the Preset option.

To make a block available for the sheet set, it must be a drawing or be in a drawing specified in the Sheet Set Properties. Specifically, select the Callout Blocks edit button, use the dialogs to add the drawings that have the blocks and select the specific blocks you want to use as callouts.

Autodesk Vault

Integrating sheet sets with Autodesk Vault enhances project management with secure storage, permissions, version control and lifecycle management.

To add the sheet set to the Vault, you must first log into the Vault. Then right-click the sheet set name and select Save to Vault. The set and all its associated files will check into the Vault and then be managed by the Vault. It is important to add the set to the Vault via the Sheet Set Manager.

With the sheet set added to the Vault, you will be prompted to check out the file before making changes to the set, sheet, or view. You should also notice the added Sheet Set Manager status icons that reflect the sheet’s vaulted status.

Some things worth noting:

  • Sheet set DST files convert to DSS when they are checked into the Vault.
  • When you remove a sheet or subset, its equivalent vaulted copy is not removed automatically.
  • You will need to build property mapping to extract sheet set metadata for searching within the Vault.
  • After moving or renaming the sheet set data file, you need to use Open Sheet Set from Vault within AutoCAD to get the changes locally.

AutoCAD supplies an offline mode for working with sheet sets. This allows you to disconnect from Vault but continue working with the sheet set.

Sheet Set Manager for Web

Autodesk Docs is a cloud-based platform for collaborative document management. If you are using Autodesk Docs, AutoCAD 2023 added the ability to use sheet sets with the platform.

From the traditional Sheet Set Manager, you can create new sheet sets in the cloud. Like in the way that has been described here, you create the cloud sheet set by selecting an existing cloud sheet set. AutoCAD uses the selected set as the template for the new sheet set. The difference is that you select an Autodesk Docs folder location for the data (DST) file. You need an Autodesk Docs account with the right permissions to create cloud sheet sets.

Use the Desktop Connector to upload the set’s drawings and other supporting files to Autodesk Docs.

When you open a sheet set file (DST) from Autodesk Docs, it loads the file in Sheet Set Manager for Web by default. This lighter version of the Sheet Set Manager supplies core features like creating and removing sheets (and subsets), setting sheet set properties, renaming sheets, publishing to PDF and building eTransmits.

Pro Tip: Sheet Sets managed in Autodesk Docs are also available in the AutoCAD web app.