Creating and Editing an External Reference File in AutoCAD

By Bill Fane

To create a file in AutoCAD that you can use as an external reference, just create a drawing and save it. That’s it. You can then create or open another drawing and create an external reference to the previous one. The xref-ed drawing appears in the host drawing as a single object, very much like a block insertion.

In other words, if you click any object in the xref, AutoCAD selects the entire xref. You can measure or object snap to the xref-ed geometry, but you can’t modify or delete individual objects in the xref. You need to open the xref drawing itself to edit its geometry.

The XOPEN command provides a quick way to open an xref-ed drawing for editing. You just start the command and pick any object in the xref. Alternatively, you can select the xref from the External References palette and then right-click and choose Open to open one or more xrefs for editing.

An alternative to opening the xref-ed file when you need to edit it is to use the REFEDIT command. Use REFEDIT (short for Reference Edit) to edit the external file from within the host drawing, rather than having to open the reference in its own window. Look up REFEDIT in the AutoCAD online help system’s Command Reference.

With several xrefs attached to your drawing, or with a very complex xref, it can be difficult to tell which objects belong to the drawing you’re editing and which are part of the xref. You can fade your xrefs so you can tell them apart from your drawing’s objects as follows:

  1. Open a drawing containing an external reference drawing. Alternatively, you can attach a drawing to your current drawing.
  2. On the Insert tab, click the Reference panel label to open the Reference slideout. The Reference slideout also contains the Edit Reference button, which runs the REFEDIT command.
  3. Click the Xref Fading button to toggle reference fading off and on.
  4. Drag the Xref Fading slider to increase or decrease the level of fading in the reference file. The default value is 70; increasing the value toward 90 (the maximum) increases the degree of fading, and lowering it reduces the fade level.