The Best New Feature in AutoCAD 2023: Markup Import

How to use the Markup Import feature

AutoCAD 2023 is out. The hottest and best new feature is Markup Import. However, this new tool has some guidelines and, if you don’t know the rules, you won’t be able to play. You might even give up on it without ever experiencing how cool it really is.

We all know that change is part of life and that changes are what give every designer and drafter job security. As long as designs change, you will have work to do. But how are those changes communicated between you and other team members? And how does a client or vendor tell you what they want?

In some cases, you might just get an email, text, or phone call with such requests. I once had a sheet metal shop call me up and tell me that they didn’t have the right size punch for an opening I have called out and wondered if they could use another size instead, because otherwise, they would need to order a new tool. What do I do when I get this kind of call? I bring up the drawing to check it. I ask myself, Will the change work?

Then, I need to document the change, usually with an engineering change request/order. Part of that engineering change process usually requires a marked-up drawing. I might create a layer in my drawing called “Revisions” and then mark up my drawing using revision clouds and notes.

In some cases, someone will mark up a drawing, take a picture of it with their smartphone and then text or email it to me. In other cases, a colleague or my supervisor will come into my office with a drawing already marked up.

Given the different ways that a change can be communicated, how does the new Markup Import tool in AutoCAD 2023 actually work and how should you modify your current change practices to leverage the power of this new feature?

The new feature is located on the Collaborate ribbon. There are two tools: The Traces palette, which keeps track of any imported traces or markup files, and the Markup Import, which brings up a dialog box where you can browse and select the file to be imported.

First off, Markup drawings can only be PDF, JPG, JPEG or PNG files. If you use the first method, where you create a revisions layer and mark up your drawings on the designated layer, you will then need to plot the drawing to a PDF file.

The Markup Import tool doesn’t recognize your revisions layer as a markup. However, using this method will allow you to use the trace (the imported PDF) as a history of how the drawing has changed.

I can import the photo of a note that my colleague snapped and texted to me.

I can click on the text and convert it to an MLEADER or MTEXT tool.

Because the tool sees the two lines as two separate elements, I can copy “MAKE” using the “Copy text to clipboard” option. I can then paste it into the Markup Assist Text window when I select the second line. This allows me to combine the two lines and then convert them to an MLEADER tool.

The MLEADER is placed on the current layer. When doing this, make sure you have the correct layer active before you switch into Trace mode. The original trace remains unchanged. Again, the trace (the imported image) can be used to track what changes were made to the drawing.

When you first bring in an imported file, aka a trace, you will need to position the file so that it overlays the existing drawing. You can use the MOVE, SCALE and ROTATE tools to align the trace properly.

A colleague printed out this floor plan and marked in red where he wanted the doors to be located. The Markup Import tool doesn’t recognize the marked redlines and arcs and won’t convert them to lines or arcs. It will, however, place blue rectangles around the redlines that can be converted to revision clouds. To add the doors to a drawing, you will need to insert the desired blocks. The trace acts as a record of the requested changes.

I tried importing a PDF that had some redlines using revision clouds and callouts. The Markup Import tool was able to identify the revision clouds with no issues but ignored the callouts. To add the callouts, use the MLEADER tool with a block and attribute.

I created a redline PDF using both red and blue ink to see how the new Markup Import tool would interpret the markups.

The revision cloud that was drawn in blue ink was determined to be a possible revision cloud.

If I accept the inserted Revcloud option, a revision cloud will be placed using the boundary defined by the markup and it will be placed on the active/current layer.

The blue text is seen as identified text.

AutoCAD gives me the option to insert the markup as MLEADER or MTEXT.

However, the placed text was quite small in size and the units of the imported PDF wasn’t recognized as millimeters. This can be rectified by setting the system variable TEXTSIZE to the desired text height prior to importing the markup. You can use the system variable DIMASZ to set the size of the arrowhead.

Once I adjusted the size of the text and the arrowhead, it looked better.

This note was completely ignored by the Markup Importer.

The Traces palette allows you to see any markups and traces that have been imported. You can import a new markup using the icons at the top of the Traces palette. You can also click on a listed trace to make it visible and available for editing as well as use the Traces palette to track comments and note how the drawing has been revised.

The Trace toolbar is available when the Trace mode is active.

The Settings icon allows you to control the amount of transparency applied to the active trace. Only one trace can be visible and active at a time.

The second icon brings up the Traces palette. This allows you to select which trace you wish to be visible and active.

The third icon sets the trace active and allows you to import/convert any eligible markups.

The green checkmark turns off the visibility of the trace and reverts the display to show only the active drawing.

Once you close the Trace mode, the traces become invisible but are still stored inside the drawing.

I don’t know why some text is seen by the Markup Importer tool and why some text is ignored. I expect that the next release of AutoCAD will have improvements to this feature. In the meantime, this tool has some excellent possibilities. You can use the Traces palette to keep a history of revisions and notes on a project and you can use the Markup Import tool to place revision clouds, MLEADERS and notes.

To ensure that your process works seamlessly, I suggest the following guidelines:

  • Save any trace files in PDF, PNG or JPG format to ensure that they can be imported
  • Create markups using red or contrasting ink so the markups will be easily identified
  • Write any text notes by printing the letters as legibly as possible
  • Set the desired layer for any current markups to ensure that imported or converted text or revision clouds are on the correct layer
  • Set the system variables for text size and arrowhead size to the desired size to ensure that any converted text or MLEADERS look correct prior to converting them


Elise Moss has worked in Silicon Valley for the past 30 years as a designer and mechanical engineer. She is currently traveling the United States with her husband and their two horses, exploring backroads and historical trails. She is writing about her horse travels on her blog Her professional website is She continues to write textbooks for Autodesk software. Her AutoCAD 2023 Basics textbook can be purchased on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and directly from her publisher at