Create Polyline around the Outside of Multiple Objects!

As we discussed in the previous post related to Civil 3D – How to find Closest Distance Between 2 Objects? there are a lot of great drafting tools that can improve our work.

Create Outside boundary of Multiple objects

For today’s post, we are going to look at a tool that automatically creates Polyline around the Outside of Multiple Objects.

This can be really useful when we need to compute some overall areas. For example, if we have several parcels and we want to get the whole area they take. Or if we have some irregularly shaped objects and we want to compute their area – like river outline.


The tool’s command is LINEWORKSHRINKWRAP. Civil 3D will automatically auto-fill the command if we type in “Linewo” so don’t worry if you can’t remember the whole thing…  After starting the command we just have to select objects from which we want to create the outer polyline.

Note: This tool works with all AutoCAD objects like line, polyline, circle, etc. as well as with Civil 3d objects like corridors, surfaces, etc.


Auto-Number Multiple Text Objects!

It is absolutely normal for us to add numbers in AutoCAD. Sometimes there are hundreds of numbers and if we have to renumber them (which happens very often) it is really a pain. For example, we have to number all the columns in a building, or we have to renumber the stations of road alignment. Of course we can use special software for some tasks but now we will look at how to deal with this problem in simple AutoCAD. Since don’t have time to click and modify 100 objects, we will use a command called TCOUNT it is part of AutoCAD’s Express Tool

Command TCOUNT

What this tool does is to add sequential numbering to text and mtext objects as a prefix, suffix, or replacement text. It can be used for Text objects as well as Mtext objects. To use the command we will just go through these simple steps:

  1. To start the command we have to type in command line TCOUNT, Autocad will ask us to select objects – we will just select text objects and hit enter.
  2. After selecting objects we will have to decide how to sort our objects. We have 3 options – X, Y, Select order.
    1. X – Determines numeric order by increasing x-coordinates of the object.
    2. Y – Determines numeric order by decreasing y-coordinates of the object.
    3. Select order – Numeric order is determined in the same order the objects were selected.
  3. AutoCAD will ask us to specify starting number and increment (Start, increment). Here we will enter the start number for example 10 then type in comma and increment for example 1 (10,1). Then we hit enter. We also can use a negative increment. To use it we just have to type in minus sign (10,-1)
  4. The last thing we have to choose is – Placement of numbers in the text. Here we have 4 options – Overwrite, Prefix, Suffix, and Find&replace..
    1. Overwrite – Replaces selected text with numbers.
    2. Prefix – Adds numbers in front of the text
    3. Suffix – Adds numbers at the back of the text
    4. Replaces a user-specified text with a number


For example, we have this text objects:

Example 1: Start number 1, increment 2, added as prefix:
1 WE
Example 2: Start number 5, increment -5, added as a suffix:
WE 5
Example 3: Start number 10 increment 10, overwrite:

OVERKILL! Or how to erase duplicate objects Easy and Fast!

Duplicate objects!?

A lot of times we have some lines, polylines, arcs, etc. placed on top of each other. This is very irritating and often times we make mistakes by accidentally clicking on wrong object. These duplicate objects also make our drawings big, bulky and slow.  So it would be great if we delete, rejoin all of them and get rid of all overlapping things.

However sometimes we have big drawings with many people working on different parts and those overlaps happen. If we have for example 20 overlapping objects it can take us several minutes just to find them, delete duplicates or join those which are not complete.

Solution! OVERKILL!

There is one very useful command – OVERKILL. It may sound scary but it is just what we need! The command itself finds all overlapping objects and has some settings. So we can choose what exactly do we want to have as a result. Here are the steps have to go through:

  1. We start the command by typing OVERKILL in command lane and hitting enter
  2. AutoCAD will ask us to select objects. Here we would select objects that we want to edit. Or we can type ALL to select all the objects in the drawing.
  3. When we have selected objects and hit Enter a window will pop up here you can see the different options we have.
    1. Tolerance – Controls the precision with which the command makes comparisons. If value is 0 objects must match before OVERKILL modifies or deletes one of them.
    2. Ignore Object Property – Here we can select these object properties we want to ignore during comparison
    3. Options – This is the really cool stuff.
      1. Optimize Segments Within Polylines – If we have individual lines or arcs within selected polylines they will be erased. It also compares separate objects like lines and arcs and deletes them too.
        Here we have two sub-options
        Ignore Polyline Segment width (Ignores segment width) and Do Not break Polylines (Polyline objects are unchanged)
      2. Combine Collinear Objects That Partially Overlap – Combines overlapping objects into single one.
      3. Combine Collinear Objects When Aligned End To End – Objects with common endpoints are combined
      4. Maintain Associative Objects – We can select that if we want Associative objects to remain unmodified.

This is ALL we are ready to ELIMINATE duplicate objects!
If you want to Optimize your drawing even more be sure to check out the post about Drawing files SLOW AS HELL!!

From CAPITAL to small Letters with 2 clicks in AutoCAD!

CAPITAL letter text?

Today we are going to look at one really simple task – writing text in capital letters.  There are many people who prefer writing text in drawings in capital letters. There are also people who like writing with small letters.

Why do we even have to read about something like this we can use Caps Lock right?

Well, we indeed can use Caps Lock, turn it off or turn it on when we need it. However there are many cases when we use AutoCAD and for example Microsoft Word simultaneously. We write with Capital Letters in AutoCAD and then with Small and Capital letters in Word. Suddenly our General Notes for example are written with small letters.

Change Small letters to Capital and vice versa. Solution?

First thing that comes in mind, is to delete everything, turn on Caps Lock and write it again.. Since we are lazy and

don’t have time to write all the text again we can simply use „Change Case“.

We just have to double click on our text (this works for Mtext as well as for text objects), then we select the part of text we want to change. After selecting we right click on it and at the menu we can choose „Change Case“ then it will show us two options “UPPERCASE” and “lowercase”.  By selecting one of those two options we can  make all our text written with Capital letters or with Small letters.

We can also use the shortcut keyboard combination – „Ctrl+Shift+U“ for UPPERCASE and „Ctrl+Shift+L“ for lowercase.

Here is what happend to our General Notes:

Capital letters by default? Autocorrect cAPS Lock and All CAPS ?

There are two more options that can prevent those minor mistakes from happening.

We can use All CAPS option to set Capital letters by default even if we have our Caps Lock turned off. We can activate this option by entering the Text editor (by double clicking on MText object) and clicking on Auto CAPS. 

Autocorrect cAPS Lock on the other hand corrects our text if we forgot our Caps Lock on and we want to type with normal Capital and Small letters.
Here is an example:

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.



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