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How to Attach an External Reference Drawing in AutoCAD 2014

When you work in AutoCAD 2014, you will inevitably come across xrefs at some point. Attaching an external reference drawing is similar to inserting a block. Just use the following steps:

  1. Set an appropriate layer current.

    Insert xrefs on a separate layer from all other objects.

    Note that if you freeze the layer on which an xref is inserted, the entire xref disappears. (This behavior can be a handy tip, a nasty surprise, or a fun trick.)

  2. If the External References palette isn’t already open, click its icon (it looks like a sheaf of papers with a bulldog clip and a silhouetted user) on the Palettes panel of the View tab to open it.

    Use the toolbar at the top of the palette to attach an external DWG file, a DWF underlay, a PDF underlay, a MicroStation DGN drawing file, a raster image file, or a point cloud. If you need to attach DGN files, visit the online help.

  3. Click Attach DWG. Click the down arrow if the tooltip offers to attach something else.

    The Select Reference File dialog box appears.

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  4. Browse to find the file you want to attach, select it, and then click Open.

    The Attach External Reference dialog box appears.

  5. Specify the parameters for the xref in the dialog box.

    Parameters include the insertion point, scaling factors, location based on geographic data, and rotation angle. You can set these parameters in the dialog box or specify them onscreen, just like you can do when inserting a block.

    The Path Type drop-down list provides more flexibility in how the xref path is stored.

    We recommend that you choose Relative Path instead of Full Path. This makes it easier to move a full set of drawings to another location if all the xrefs are located below the host.

  6. Click OK.

    The externally referenced file appears in your drawing.

In drawings that contain many xrefs, locating the one you want can be difficult. When you select an object that’s part of an xref in the drawing area, the xref name is highlighted in the External References palette. Likewise, selecting an xref in the External References palette highlights the attached file geometry in the drawing editor.

You can select either the Attachment or Overlay option to tell AutoCAD how to handle the xref. The choice matters only if you create a drawing that uses xrefs, and then your drawing is, in turn, used as an xref. Attachment is the default choice, and it dictates that the xref-ed file will always be included with your drawing when someone else uses your drawing as an xref.

Overlay, the other choice, means that you see the xref-ed drawing, but someone who xrefs your drawing won’t see the overlaid file. By choosing Overlay, you can xref a map, for example, to your drawing of a house, but the map won’t show up when someone else xrefs your house drawing. You should use the default Attachment reference type unless you have a specific reason not to.

One use of Overlay mode is to avoid circular references. If drawing A references drawing B, which references drawing C, and then C references A, you have an infinite loop. If C references A as an overlay, though, C doesn’t see B, and so the loop is broken.

AutoCAD 2014 allows you to switch the attachment type for an xref between Attach and Overlay by double-clicking in the Type column. Better yet, a new right-click menu option lets you change the xref type for several selected xrefs all at once.

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