Checking Standards in AutoCAD and Civil 3D

Surprise!! Contrary to what many believe, I do have standards!!  However, those manily apply to CAD Standards and CAD Standards only!

There are a few very simple options for helping ensure that your orginizational standards are being kept. In AutoCAD, there is a CAD Standards Checker you can run for a quick audit of your drawing(s). And in Civil 3D, the Reference Template options have been available to us for a few years to date. Now, these are just a couple of the out-of-the-box solutions, and there is a lot more to a proper CAD Standards setup, but I thought this may be helpful for those that have little to no standards!

CAD Standards Checker

The CAD Standards feature makes it easier for others to understand and follow consistent drawing organization practices by maintaining common names and style settings. Standardized drawing organization is particularly useful in collaborative environments where many individuals might contribute to a drawing.

The Standards Checker consists of two parts:

  • The Standards file and
  • The configuration tool

Configuring the Standards Checker

You may already have a file that houses your CAD standards, as it may be a template that contains all your proper layers, linetypes, and styles. Simply save that file as a .dws or create a new one that contains your standards.

If you work in a multi-discipline environment, you can even have multiple files; perhaps one for each discipline, such as civil, architecture, or MEP.

From the Manage tab of the ribbon, use the Configure tool in the Standards panel to add your .dws file to the drawing.

From the Standards tab of the configuration dialog, you can add, remove, or re-order your standards files. Much like an Xref, the .dws standards file will stay attached to the drawing until you remove it, so you can actually build these into your templates.

The Plug-ins tab allows you to customize what objects will be checked in your drawing. Options are Dimension Styles, Layers, Linetypes, and Text Styles. Simply check or uncheck the plug-ins that you want. The description box on the right will tell you exactly what feature of each plug-in will be checked.

Finally, you’ll want to configure what actions happen when a standards violation is found. When you click on the Settings button, you’ll get a dialog box where you can choose how, or if, you’d like to be notified of a violation, and what you want to do when a violation is found.

Check Drawings for Standards Violation

To run a check of your drawing vs. the standards file, you can select Check Standards from the configuration editor, or you can go to the ribbon and select Check (which is just above Configure).

Doing so will display the Check Standards dialog box. It will display any problems that are found in the drawing, a suggested replacement based on what’s in the attached .dws file, as well as the options to fix the problem, ignore it, or move on to the next.

The audit checks both the named object, such as the layer or style name, and properties of that object. Choosing to fix a non-standard name will not only change the name of the object, but also purge the bad name from the drawing. If the violation should be with the property of the named object, such as the color of a layer, it will simply fix the property.

If you have not disabled notifications, you’ll see either an alert or a status bar balloon if a violation is made — or if a violation if found when opening a file that has a standards file attached.

NOTE: AutoCAD ships with an external Batch Standards Checker that is found in the AutoCAD program group. The Batch Standards Checker does not fix problems like the internal AutoCAD tool does. Instead, it creates an XML-based report of all violations it finds in the defined drawing set.

Civil 3D Reference Templates

You can use reference templates to manage styles, settings, layers, and other standard drawing components.

You can attach one or more reference templates to an Autodesk Civil 3D drawing so it will be updated on an ongoing basis with changes to the referenced components in the templates.

When you attach a reference template to a drawing, the referenced components (styles, settings, property sets, layers, blocks, text styles, and line types) that are in that reference template are copied into the drawing, and the connection between the drawing and the reference templates is maintained.

Using the Set Reference Template Defaults command, you can specify in advance which styles and settings to reference from a reference template. For example, if a template has ten-point styles, you can choose to reference only the five that you want.

If you do NOT see the Set Reference Template Defaults command in your ribbon, this means you are not in a .DWT file.  This command appears within the ribbon but only if your current drawing is a .DWT file. If you do not set up a reference template in advance using Set Reference Template Defaults command, you can change the selection of styles and settings that will be referenced from a template after you attach it to a drawing with the Attach Reference Template command.

You can have multiple reference templates attached to a drawing. For example, you might have templates for state, company, and project standards:

When you have attached more than one template to a drawing, you are alerted to duplicate components in the templates so you can decide how to resolve them. You can change the template priority order or choose to reference a component from a lower-priority template.

You’ll know when a style exists in your drawings that derives from a Reference Template by the sybmbol next to the style name.

Updating referenced components

After you attach a reference template to a drawing, referenced components should be edited in the source template rather than in the drawings to which the reference template is attached.

  • For referenced Autodesk Civil 3D components: You are notified if you attempt to edit a referenced Autodesk Civil 3D component in a host drawing. If you try to edit a referenced style, a task dialog box is displayed with choices you can make. You can save a copy of the style, keep the changes temporarily until the drawing is re-opened, or cancel the change.
  • For referenced AutoCAD components: You are not notified if you attempt to edit a referenced AutoCAD component in a host drawing. If you edit a referenced AutoCAD component, the changes will be overwritten the next time the drawing is updated from the reference template.

Control automatic updates from Reference Templates

Use the AeccRefTemplateAutoUpdate variable to control updates and alerts when reference templates change.

At the Command line, enter AeccRefTemplateAutoUpdate.

Enter one of the following:

0: Turns off automatic updates. Notifications are displayed to alert you when reference template components need to be updated.

1: Turns on automatic updates of components from reference templates. This is the default setting.

2: Turns off updates of existing layers only. Existing layers in the host drawing are not updated automatically and they are not updated if you click Apply or OK in the Attach Referenced Template dialog box.

Note: When using this value, existing layers in the host drawings are not overridden by layers in the reference template. New layers that are referenced by styles or settings in the template are referenced into host drawings, but if existing layers are in the host drawings, those existing layers are not overridden.


GIS is a beast!! There is a reason why GIS users (and GIS degrees) are some of the most sought-after individuals in the marketplace right now. While there are a ton of GIS capabilities in AutoCAD, Map 3D, Civil 3D and Infraworks, they are just scratching the surface on what you can really do by utilizing GIS in your project workflows. Hopefully this helps remind you of some of those capabilities and peaks your interest on some of the more advancing technologies we will highlight coming up soon.

Thank you!

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