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The AutoCAD Layer Translator

April 30, 2016

I have been spending time over the past year checking and customizing standards for my company. I have grown to love the CAD Standards Manager in AutoCAD. It is an extremely useful tool not only for checking standards but for modifying drawings received from a client.

My upcoming article in AUGIWorld June 2016 issue focuses on the CAD Standards manager in AutoCAD, check it out in June online at AUGIWorld. If you are not a member of AUGI join today, it’s free! Read through the post then watch the video at the end to see the layer translator in action using AutoCAD.


Within this post we will review the Layer Translator in AutoCAD.  We have a new intern who decided to draw up an access road detail (Figure 1) 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 1: Access Road Detail

Let’s take a look 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 and highlighted the 3 violations in Figure 2 below.


Figure 2: Detail Drawing Properties

  1. Incorrect Layer Name. (Our standard is to have a prefix of 2 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 file as an AutoCAD Standards file named MY_COMPANY_DETAIL.dws. as shown in Figure 3.  We are saving this to a standards file so we can use again to check other details against our standard. In the video we simply used a drawing file (.dwg) and not a standards file; both will work just fine.

03 Save the Standards

Figure 3: Save the standards file (.dws)

Next open up the detail drawing the intern created. Move over on the Ribbon > Manger Tab and this time select Layer Translator as shown in Figure 4.

04 Layer Translator

Figure 4: Layer Translator on the Ribbon

The Layer Translator window will pop up. Select the load button and browse to the standards file MY_COMPANY_DETAIL.dws and load it up. Notice how your current open drawing layers are shown on the left (Translate From) and your company standard layers on the right (Translate To) as shown in Figure 5.

05 Load the File

Figure 5: The Layer Translator

Next up we have to check our layer translate settings by selecting the settings button in the lower left portion of the window.  The settings button will control what we want forced on to each layer. This is important as in some instances you may not want one of these items selected.00-Standard Button

Continue by checking the properties you wish to have translated. My preference is to check the first 4 and leaving the transaction log and layer contents unchecked. In Figure 6 I have listed the descriptions of the options as shown in the AutoCAD help file.


Figure 6: Layer Translator Settings

List of Options described from AutoCAD Help:

Force Object Color to BYLAYER
Specifies whether or not every object translated takes on the color assigned to its layer.

  1. Force Object Linetype to BYLAYER
    Specifies whether or not every object translated takes on the linetype assigned to its layer.
  2. Force Object Transparency to BYLAYER
    Specifies whether or not every object translated takes on the transparency assigned to its layer.
  3. Translate Objects in Blocks
    Specifies whether or not objects nested within blocks are translated.
  4. Write Transaction Log
    Specifies whether or not a log file detailing the results of translation is created. If this option is selected, a log file is created in the same folder as the translated drawing. The log file is assigned the same name as the translated drawing, with a .log file name extension.
  5. Show Layer Contents When Selected
    Specifies which layers to display in the drawing area.

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 7 below.

  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.
  3. Layer translator mappings. In this area you can see the setting that will be converted after the translation is complete.
  4. When you are done hit the translate button in the lower right of the window. If you make a mistake don’t worry you have the opportunity to save the mapping file and start over.


Figure 7: Layer Translator Mapping

Your original detail will be changed according to the translations you mapped.  The translation is quick, fast and efficient. This post is a class teaser for Autodesk University 2016! I have submitted a proposal to teach a class on how to use this important tool in AutoCAD.

Spring is here in Michigan!  Health and happiness to you all.  Until next month.  Sam


From → CAD Tips

  1. Yes, the layer will dissapear but you can keep the original or create a new one.

  2. yes, the layer will disappear if you translate > not sure if that answered your question but you can always keep the layer or save a new one.

  3. Logg permalink

    can you under a layer translation because I’ve found that the layer disappears when translated

  4. greg carpenter permalink

    ***** This is a simple, useful set of instructions. You converted me over to the Layer Translator, thnx 🙂

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