I forgot to send it! Never again, with eTransmit!

How many times have you forgotten to send a referenced drawing, .ctb file, font or image? I personally a lot, of course after that there is an angry call from a client who can’t see the attached files or images. It is very depressing to make such a mistake especially for young professional.
There is a reversed problem. How many times someone has sent you a project or has burned a disc with missing links between drawings or missing entire drawing, image, font, etc?

There is a very elegant solution to this problem – eTransmit!

Even now after so many years of AutoCAD existence a lot of users are not aware of eTransmit. It simply is a tool that combines all files connected to your current drawing and creates an archive of them.

Here we will learn how to use eTransmit in simple steps:

  • To start eTransmit tool we can type in command line ETRANSMIT or we can click on AutoCAD logo>Publish>eTransmit.

    Note: Upon starting eTransmit AutoCAD will automatically ask you if you want to save your drawing before you continue. Usually, we hit ok since there could be a correction made after the last save.
  • When we see the eTransmit window we can click on Transmittal Setup to set up our options.
    After clicking on Transmittal Setup a window will pop up where we can choose either to modify the standard setup or to create new. In the example, we will click modify.
  • A new window will pop up called Modify Transmittal Setup. Here we can see that AutoCAD provides a lot of different options concerning our package.

    1. Transmittal type and location
    – First, we pick the package type – we can choose from zip file or folder, I personally prefer .zip
    – Second is File format here we can choose a different (older) version of AutoCAD files. However, it is better to stick with current version unless we have specific requirements. We can also pick drawing format with exploded AEC Objects. For example, if we are using Civil 3d our profiles, alignments etc. will be exploded into simple AutoCAD objects like polylines, lines, arcs etc.
    – We want to leave the box of visual fidelity checked because if we uncheck it could harm our annotative objects (if we have one)
    – Transmittal file folder is our input folder we can change it if we want.
    – Transmittal file name – here we can set predefined name for our package. We will leave it as it is because we want AutoCAD to ask us every time for a name.
    2. Path Options – Here we are choosing our folder organization. If we want to be sure that our path won’t be broken we can choose “Place all files in one folder”.
    3. Actions – here we are choosing from different actions that AutoCAD can automatically complete for us. I find interesting “Bid external references” since some cad users are not familiar with the external reference, sometimes bind them all in master file can be a good idea.
    4. Include options – Here we can choose what to include in our package – here we can check all boxes but the last one which is “Include unloaded file references”. Since we have unloaded our reference I assume that our client doesn’t need to see it. If you want you can send them too.
    We can hit OK and complete our eTransmit package.
  • When we are back in Create Transmittal window we can hit OK again
    here AutoCAD will ask us about .zip filename, we type in the name and click Save.

Here is our .zip Package ready to be sent away!

Block vs Xref FIGHT! When and what to use?

Block or Xref what should we use?

Blocks and Xrefs they look so similar if a person is new to AutoCAD. However there are a lot of experienced users who are so used to blocks that they don’t even try to learn what an Xref is.

The main difference between Block and Xref is that Block is part of the drawing while Xref is an entire new drawing file. Being so different in their definition they are suitable for entirely different tasks. Of course you can make drawing file with your door and attach it as external reference to for example your main floor plan, but that won’t be smart solution.


Blocks are usually used when we need to duplicate small complex objects that can exist hundreds of times in one drawing. They are great tool that can minimize errors in drawings, make files lighter and accelerate our work. For example table block or door block. When we create our own library with blocks it becomes really easy to create our drawings. Here is an example of Sign block library.

So let’s make a list of the tasks that would need using blocks:
  • We have lots of identical objects in our drawing. Like the traffic organization example or doors in architect’s floor plan:
  • We want to edit multiple objects at once. For example if we want to enlarge our doors we can simply edit the block from block editor.
  • We want to create bill of quantity for different unified object. For example we want to know how many 3′ doors we have. Just select the block and hit select similar.
  • We can create report using blocks in the drawing using Data Extraction. For example we can create coordinate report for curb curves.
  • We want to send just a part of drawing to a client. This could be made easily with command WBLOCK.
  • We can use dynamic blocks. Dynamic blocks have extended functionality, with one dynamic block we can replace several normal ones.

With all those great benefits why on earth would I want to use Xref then?

We already disguised What is Xref? Why should we use it? so there is no need to explain again what exactly is external reference. Now when would we prefer to use Xref rather then block:

  • When there are other specialists that work on other part of the project and we need their work referenced in our drawing. We can actually use block either, but when a correction is made to the drawing we wan to have attached, block won’t upgrade and we would have to edit it or replace it in the current drawing.
  • When we want to attach the same base drawing in multiple drawings. For example: We have main floor plan as base and then create furniture drawing, water and sewer drawing, electricity plan etc. We can again use blocks, but it is way more flexible to use Xref.
  • Using Xref makes our drawing less complicated and lighter. If we have a very complex drawing, with a lot of nested blocks, our file can easily get corrupted

The only disadvantage of xref in those situations is that referenced drawings can easily get lost. This usually is due to forgetting about them when we send mails or if we try to use host drawing in different computer.
I would suggest reading the post about Attaching Xrefs so you will know how to properly attach an Xref and the post about Xref – choosing our Path Type.

If we want to send drawings that contain Xrefs the best way for us to do this is to use eTransmit command.  That way we won’t left any file behind.


Open or Edit In-place? How to edit our Referenced drawing?

Our journey across Xref possibilities continues with one little task many of drafters would neglect and won’t spend time to learn more about it, but I personally think it is important to know When and How to edit your referenced drawings.

Of course as most of the things in AutoCAD, editing can be done in several ways. Here we would talk about which way is more suitable for specific situation.

Find and open your Xref

1. If we are working in drawing with some Xrefs attached to it, the first way of editing one of the drawings is to go into the folder of our project and open the file. It is great but sometimes we have to go through several directories until we get to the project folder. For example the folder for this exercise is located in E:\BACKUP\PROJECT America\2016\Property Staking\CS TEST\Drawings.

It is a lot of clicking with the mouse and I usually don’t recommend it. However there are some cases in which this could be useful like:
  • Editing Drawing that is still not attached but would be in the future.
  • You are lazy and want to lose some work time in clicking hehe

Open Xref through Host drawing

2. Opening the Xref directly from host drawing. This could be done in 4 ways:
– We go to external reference menu by typing “XR” in command line, then right click on Xref we want to edit and click “Open

– Click on Xref, then right click and hit “Open Xref

– By selecting the reference we want to edit and then look at the ribbons, there we would see “Open Reference

– By typing “XOPEN” in command line and then select the reference which we want to open.
I would recommend fist method for the first couple of tries because if we have nested references we can easily see which one we need without the chance of missclicking.
As we can see here we are having nested reference and we can choose to edit it directly.
Note: Usually if we have selected nested drawings and hit Open Xref or type XOPEN or select Open Reference AutoCAD will ask us which reference we want to open.

When would we use this method?

  • When we want to see the original drawing with it’s original settings – colors, linetypes etc.
  • When we want to copy something from Xref to clipboard. This will not work with the third method “Edit Xref In-Place
  • When our referenced drawing is having some fancy objects like Objects from Civil 3d. We would like to open the reference and work with those objects freely. This will not work with the third method “Edit Xref In-Place” either.
  • When we want to paste objects into the referenced file in it’s original coordinates. This is very useful because we often use drawings drawn in local coordinates (architects love everything to be horizontal and vertical) and then attach those drawings to projects in specific coordinates (state coordinate system, country coordinate system, world coordinate system etc.)
  • When we have other data in the referenced drawing not visible in the host drawing that we have to edit. For example some tables, profiles, layouts etc.

Edit Xref in-place

3. Third method of editing External references is Edit Xref In-Place. This is very interesting and very interactive method. In many cases it could be the fastest way to edit some objects in the referenced drawing.
As the name suggests editing the reference is made in the host drawing while we can see all the objects from it.When we start editing the reference all it’s objects become solid and all the host’s object get faded. The great thing is that all the settings (colors, linetypes etc.) are kept as they are set in the host drawing.
For example: If we want to move this furniture a little bit to the west we can see where exactly the pavement ends.

There are again 3 ways to enter in the Edit Xref In-Place mode:
– By selecting Xref, then right click and hit “Edit Xref in-place..

– We select the reference we want to edit and then look at the ribbons, there we would see “Edit Reference In-Place

– Type “REFEDIT” in command line and then select the reference which we want to open.
Note: Usually if we have selected nested drawings AutoCAD will ask us which reference we want to open.

When would we use Edit Xref In-Place?

  • When we want to edit something connected with the host drawing (As the first example)
  • When the referenced drawing is in different coordinates it could be a bit confusing to find the object we want to edit.
    Here is an example:
    We want to delete the table which is in the East part of our drawing.

    When we open the external reference the same table is hidden by some ugly hatches in the North part of the drawing.
  • When we want to paste objects to the reference but we want to use host’s coordinates
  • When we want to move objects from reference to the host drawing or vice versa. This can be done by using Add to Working set and Remove from Working set commands. When we enter in Edit Xref In-Place mode they are located in the right corner of the ribbon.

    To move object from reference to host we just have to select the object and then click on Remove from Working set.
    Moving objects from host to reference can be done by selecting the object and then clicking on Add to Working set.

To save changes in the external drawing we just have to click on Save Changes button which is located in the ribbon again.

I think we now are ready to edit every Xref in no time.


Additional EXTRAS with Xrefs! What options do we have?

We already know why Xrefs are so useful but let’s take a deeper look at what additional Extras they offer.


First and one of my favourite “Extras” is freedom to change reference’s layers in current drawing without affecting the reference drawing.
When we open Layer Properties we see all layers coming from references with xref’s name prefix. In the example we have X- – BS.dwg and our layers have prefix X- -BS|.

Or if we want to see only layers from references we choose one we are interested in. In the example we will choose x-(Main level).dwg

Here are all the layers in that drawing. We will make them color 8 because it works best with our ctb file.

Xref clip

This is also great feature we have with Xrefs. We can create our own clipping boundary to clip references.
To clip an Xref we have two options either select the Xref we want to clip, then right click and select Clip Xref or select the Xref and choose Create Clipping Boundary from the ribbon menu.

When we select the command we have several options
  1. On – Turnos on clipping if there is one
  2. Off – Turns off clipping if there is one
  3. Clipdepth – Sets the front and back clipping planes on Xref. Objects outside the volume set by boundary and depth are not displayed. We have tree sub options:
    Front clip point – Creates a clipping plane passing through and perpendicular to the clipping boundary.
    Distance – Creates a clipping plane the specified distance from and parallel to the clipping boundary.
    Remove – removes the front and back clipping planes.
  4. Delete – Removes a clipping boundary from the selected Xref. If we want to turn it off temporarily we will use Off option.
  5. Generate Polyline – Automatically draws a polyline coincident with the clipping boundary. The polyline assumes the current layer, linetype, lineweight, and color settings.
  6. New Boundary – Here we can create or select new boundary. Upon chosing new boundary we have new 4 options.
    Select Polyline – We can select Polyline already drawn in the drawing.
    Polygonal – We can create our own Polygonal boundary
    Rectangular – We can create our own Rectangular boundary
    Invert Clip – This is very usefull here we can invert the mode of the clipping boundary: objects are clipped either outside the boundary or inside the boundary.
    Note: To create new boundary we first have to delete the old one!

For example we will clip our X- -(Main floor).dwg with our Building outline. We select the Xref, then right click and select Clip Xref, then we choose New Boundary and then Select Polyline.


This is quite basic option which gives us flexibility to unload some of our X-refs

whenever we want that, and then load them back without the need of attaching, scaling and rotating them.

To Unload Xref we have to type “XR” in command lane then choose which Xref to reload, then right click on it and click Unload
As we can see our Xref’s status is Unloaded, to Reload it just right click it again and click Reload.


We use Reload usually when we have Unloaded our drawing or if corrections are made to referenced drawing while we are using host drawing.


Detaches our reference in other words we delete the link between the two drawings.



Xref – choosing our Path Type

We discussed What is Xref? Why should we use it? And learned First step of How to attach Xref? It is time to continue learning how to use Xrefs effortlessly.

Another important setting of External References is Path type. It is important to choose it wisely to minimize some confusion later on.

Now upon inserting an Xref we are presented with 3 options related to Path Type – No path, Full Path and Relative path.

  1. No path – When we attach an external reference with No path, AutoCAD will first look for the xrefs in the folder of the host drawing.
    For example: If we have all our drawings in one folder, including TITLE BLOCK drawing we will be Fine.

    If we move our TITLE BLOCK.dwg to folder “Xrefs” for example AutoCAD won’t find it.
  2. Full path – When we attach Xref with full path, Xref’s location is saved to host drawing. This is precise but not very versatile. If we move our project folder, AutoCAD won’t find any Xrefs that are attached with Full Path.
    Note: If references are in the same folder as host drawing AutoCAD will still be able to find them just like No path option!
    For example: We have our drawings in folder “drawings” and our TITLE BLOCK is in folder “..drawings/Xrefs” if we move folder “drawings” somewhere on the disk or on external drive AutoCAD won’t find our TITLE BLOCK external reference.
  3. Relative path – When we attach Xref with a relative path, Xref’s location will be relative to the host drawing. This is most versatile, if we move our project folder AutoCAD can find Xrefs attached with relative path, as long as their location relative to the host drawing has not changed.
    For example: If we have our drawings in folder “drawings” and our TITLE BLOCK is in folder “..drawings/Xrefs” we can move our “drawings” folder wherever we want and still have connection to our TITLE BLOCK.
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