How to Use the AutoCAD Reference Manager

By Bill Fane

If you move project folders around or transfer drawings to or from somewhere else, AutoCAD may not be able to locate any raster image files and DWF/DWFx, DGN, PDF underlays and font files. The ETRANSMIT command does a good job of gathering dependent reference files, raster files, and font files, but it can’t gather what AutoCAD can’t locate.

The AutoCAD Reference Manager utility (not included with AutoCAD LT) is a real lifesaver if you’re suffering from file-path perils, whether they occur in your own company or when sending files to, or receiving them from, others.

Reference Manager is a separate program, not a command inside AutoCAD. Follow these steps to launch the utility from the Windows desktop:

  1. Start Reference Manager. The process depends on your version of Windows and how you have set it up. The bottom line is that Reference Manager is a separate program, so it must be started accordingly. The Reference Manager program opens.
  2. Click the Add Drawings button to add one or more DWG files to the Drawings pane on the left. Navigate to the folder that contains the drawings you want to send, select them, and then click Open.
  3. In the Reference Manager – Add Xrefs dialog box, choose Add All Xrefs Automatically Regardless of Nesting Level. The Reference Manager processes the drawings and displays all referenced objects in its right pane.
  4. Click Export Report to create a text report listing all dependent files and their paths, or click Edit Selected Paths to modify the paths of selected reference files.
  5. If you choose to modify any selected paths, click Apply Changes. When you’re finished exporting reports and repathing reference files (or finding reference files that you may never have suspected you had if you hadn’t run the Reference Manager), close the Reference Manager window. Click the Help button in the Reference Manager to find out more about the utility’s capabilities.
Reference Manager
Reference Manager.

If you always store parent and child DWG files in the same folder, which is the simplest approach to dealing with xref paths, you probably don’t need to use the Reference Manager.

AutoCAD can also save files in the ubiquitous PDF (Portable Document Format) from Adobe Systems. Files can be opened, viewed, and printed from virtually any type and model of computing or communicating device. This format can be particularly useful when you want to show drawing information to people who aren’t particularly CAD literate (that is, they aren’t fellow geeks).