CSI: CAD Standards Implementation

Whether you are a CAD drafter, CAD designer, or CAD manager I bet it’s safe to say you have heard the words, “You have to follow the company standards!”  What if there was an easy way to help guide you along—a way to help you get comfortable with a new release of software or comply to a new set of rules that have been put in place? The CAD Standards Manager in AutoCAD® has been around since Release 9, but in my experience is rarely used. Take note of these tips as we dig deep into the Standards Manager and illustrate how you can implement this important tool to help you standardize your drawings and designs, making it easy to create a uniform standardize product for your organization.

On the Manage tab of the ribbon there is a Panel named CAD Standards as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: CAD Standards panel

Creating the Standards Template

On the CAD Standards panel you will find the Layer Translator, Check, and Configure options. We are going to review each option as we begin our implementation of CAD standards.

The first thing we need to do is set up a standards template or templates (you do not have to have all in one file). By setting up the template you will be able to check and apply the standards provided in the template to your non-compliant drawings or convert drawings provided by others to your company standards. Within the template we will define text styles, layers, dimension styles, and linetypes that are commonly used in all drawings. To begin we are simply going to start a new drawing and add our standards to that file then save that file to a standards file as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Save the standards file

Standard Text Styles

Start by opening up a new drawing and adding layers, text styles, a dimension style, and a few linetypes, giving each the properties you use for your company standard. Save that file to a secure location on your network where you can find it—this would typically be a CAD Standards folder where you may place your CAD Standards Manual. For this example we will save the file as My_Company_Standard.dws

We are going to start with text styles. Have you ever opened up a drawing and you have a large number of text styles, names of fonts, and text sizes and you have no idea where they came from? And to make it worse they cannot be purged due to an object, linetype, or some random AutoCAD feature that is holding on to them. This is where the CAD Standards Manager comes to the rescue. 

Figure 3 shows a drawing received from a client in which the fonts do not conform to our company standard. We have several imported from Microstation and others we are not sure what they are referencing. This operator has gone rogue! Good CAD practice tells us that we need to clean those up to our company standard.

Figure 3: Rogue Fonts

Let’s load up our template file (.dws), which includes the fonts we want to use.  On the Manage tab of the ribbon navigate to the CAD Standards panel, then select Configure as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Configure on the CAD Standards panel

After selecting configure, hit the  “+” sign and add the My_Company_Standards.dws to the window. The file will be loaded into the CAD Standards Manager and ready for checking against the current drawing you have open. [Text Box: Figure 4: CAD Standards Panel]   

Figure 5 shows the text styles that we created in our company standards file that we are going to use for comparison.

Figure 5: My company standard fonts

Keping Control with Plug-Ins

There are two tabs in the CAD Standards window: Standards and Plug-Ins (see Figure 6). Once the file has been loaded into the drawing, navigate from the Standards tab to the Plug-ins tab and uncheck all but the text styles. Now we are ready to run our check and change those fonts.  Select Check Standards and you will have several steps to review and/or complete.

  1. The problem font. The Standards Manager will display the font name and the problem.
  2. What font you would like to replace that with? Remember you are reading from the template file you created. If you have additional fonts you would like to use, simply add that to your template file prior to creating the standards file.
  3. The Standards Manager will give you a preview of the changes.  Take a look to make sure this is what you need and/or want for your particular design or drawing.
  4. Lastly, select Fix then close the Standards Manager.

This is a great way to eliminate unwanted text within your drawing file. You also have the ability to change the settings and also mark this as ignored. If you are a CAD Manager you may want to ignore one font for some particular reason and/or client request, overriding your current standard. For Dimensions Styles follow the same procedure as with text to check with your company CAD standards.

Text Styles are just one of the plug-ins that are available with the CAD Standards Manager. The standard checking process uses standards plug-ins, which are applications used to check for specific properties of that topic. Layers, dimension styles, linetypes, and text styles are each checked against the plug-ins you select.

Figure 6: The Plug-ins tab

You can specify which plug-ins to use when checking a drawing for standards violations by checking the box as shown in Figure 6.

The Layer Translator

The Layer Translator is not part of the Plug-ins, but a separate button itself. Our company hired a new intern who decided to draw up an access road detail (Figure 8) without consulting the CAD staff on standards. As a CAD Manager when I see all colors “white” and different colors for similar features (i.e., dimensions) it typically means there were some errors in layer control and some objects may even be on layer 0. The Layer Translator is one way to ensure these properties are corrected and quickly.  

From Autodesk Help, “…if you receive a drawing from a company that does not follow your company's layer standards; you can convert the drawing's layer names and properties to your company's standards. You can map layers in the drawing you are currently working on to different layers in another drawing or standards file, and then convert the current layers using those mappings. If the drawings contain layers of the same name, the Layer Translator can automatically change the properties of the current layers to match those in the other layers.”

Figure 7: CAD detail violations

Let’s take a look at the ribbon and list the standard violations individually, then we will use the layer translator to correct (i.e. translate). I have selected the geotextile line on the map included in Figure 7 and highlighted the three violations in Figure 8 below

Figure 8: The standards violations

As a CAD Manager I noticed three violations within our file.

  1. Incorrect Layer Name. (Our standard is to have a prefix of two letters.)
  2. Color set to “white” and not to “Bylayer.” (Bylayer is our standard.)
  3. Linetype set independently of the layer.  (Bylayer is our standard.)

To solve this problem I opened up one of our company standard detail drawings and checked all the properties and verified it was completed correctly and, more importantly, to our standard.  I then saved the CAD file as an AutoCAD Standards file named MY_COMPANY_DETAIL.dws.  We are saving this to a standards file, which will give us the ability to use again to check other details against our standard.

Next, open up the detail drawing the intern created. Move over on the ribbon > Manager tab and this time select Layer Translator (refer to Figure 1). The Layer Translator window will pop up. Select the load button and browse to the standards file that you created. This can be the company detail that you named MY_COMPANY_DETAIL.dws. Notice in Figure 9 how your current open drawing layers are shown on the left (Translate From) and your company standard layers on the right (Translate To). We are now ready to check our layer translate settings by selecting the settings button in the lower left portion of the window. 

Figure 9: Layer Translate dialog box

The settings button will control what we want forced onto each layer. This is important as in some instances you may not want one of these items selected.

For more information about the settings on the Layer Translator Settings, see Autodesk Help.

We now are going to map our layers and begin the translation process. There are several steps we need to follow as shown in Figure 10.  

  1. The Translate From section. Take your time and look at the names and properties of the layer you are translating from and verify this is correct.
  2. The Translate To or the target layer. This is the new layer you want in your drawing.
  3. Layer translator mappings.  In this area you can see the setting that will be converted after the translation is complete.
  4. Translate. The button to initiate the translator.

Figure 10: Standards to translate

Follow the sequence and when complete hit the Translate button in the lower right of the window. Don’t worry if you make a mistake—you have the opportunity to save the mapping file and start over.

Your original detail will be changed according to the translations you mapped.

Don’t Forget the Variables

Typically, after I check a file for standards I remove the file from the CAD Standards Manager in a way similar to when I added the file. Go to the CAD Standards Manager panel and select Configure, then select the .dws file you loaded and select the X to unload the file.

0              Notification is turned off

1              An alert is displayed when a standards violation occurs in the drawing

2              An icon is displayed in the status bar tray when you open a file associated with a standards file and when you create or modify nonstandard objects

Of course, you can keep it in there if you want to police all of your files, but depending on your system variable settings you may get a warning that the standards file is missing. There is a system variable named STANDARDVIOLATION, which can either be set to 0, 1, or 2. This variable specifies whether a user is notified of standards violations in the current drawing when a nonstandard object is created or modified. Definitions of each are shown below.

You can set this variable in your ACADDOC.LSP or ACAD.LSP to 0 and the operator will not know if you have a standards file loaded.  Otherwise, leave the default setting and the user will get a warning if the file cannot be located within the support file search path.


There are many housekeeping items that you can take care of in AutoCAD by using the CAD Standards Manager. Take that survey file, fix the text styles, map the layers, and make it comply with your standard. This tool is awesome for everyone. From the new user to the seasoned veteran, the value of using CAD Standards tools will be proven—especially to CAD Managers like me. With a little work up front, you can save yourself a lot of time and keep things consistent between design drawings, making you more efficient and productive on your current project task.

HINT: Notice how I preface the layer names for AU in the detail?  With a little luck, courtesy of my friends at Autodesk, you may just see me teaching a class on how to use this important tool at Autodesk University 2016!  As I mentioned in the article, the CAD Standards Manager can help you check, correct, and maintain standards within your company. Learn and explore with this tool and see how you can change the way you work to become more productive each and every day you use AutoCAD.

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