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Using Layers for Collaboration in AutoCAD and Civil 3D

July 5, 2020

I hope this post finds you and your family healthy and safe.  Now let’s talk about layers!  Last year I wrote an article in AUGIWorld on Using Layers for Collaboration. This post will highlight some of the features of that article.

Layers are a fundamental feature of AutoCAD, used to apply colors, linetypes, lineweights, transparency, as well as control plotting characteristics. Not using layers efficiently or placing everything on layer 0 will only cause rework and headaches for the next person working on your drawing. It is critical to understand layers and use all the tools within AutoCAD to your full advantage. 

Let’s start by examining how AutoCAD sorts layers. On the Home tab of the ribbon you will find the layer panel located within the center of the ribbon tab as shown in the image below. Open a drawing, select Layer Properties, and examine how the layers are sorted within the file.

The name of the layer can be the first step in controlling layers. By default, layers are sorted by name. If you give layers logical names, it becomes easier as drawings become more complicated. From the image below you can see the layers are sorted alphabetically starting with an “A” as the main descriptor. I added B and C to show how the layer sorts. You can select the name column to reverse the order as shown below.

The AutoCAD out-of-the-box template file does not include any layers, so you need to establish this standard on your own.  Have you ever looked at the layers provided within a Civil 3D® drawing file? The image below shows the layers that are provided within the Civil 3D Template.

The layers created in the Civil 3D templates follow the National CAD Standards Rules (NCS). The layers follow the National CAD Standards standards as follows, with each element separated by a dash.

Discipline Designation: Required; the AutoCAD Civil 3D templates use the C and V discipline designators, which stand for Civil and Survey/Mapping.  The discipline designator is one letter.

Major Group: Required; identifies elements such as roads, topographic elements, and storm sewers. To adhere to the standards, custom Major Group fields are not allowed.

Minor Group: Optional; identifies sub-elements such as road profiles. You can include up to two minor groups per layer name, and you can define your own custom Minor Groups. For example, the layer C-ANNO-TABL-TEXT has two Minor Groups: “TABL” and “TEXT,” both consisting of four letters.

Minor Group: Additional layer classes.

Status: There can also be a one letter status indicator on the end.

Managing Your Layers with Filters

There are two kinds of layer filters in AutoCAD.  These filters allow you to create named sets of layer selections involving many different disciplines. The two buttons shown above the filter section will navigate you to the correct filter as shown below.

To create a group filter, select the New Group Filter button in the filters list as shown and the filter will be added. Follow the steps below to create your group filter.

  1. Rename the filter to a logical name.
  2. Highlight all the layers you want to be in that group (they do not have to have the same properties or a common name).
  3. Drag the layers to the filter.

A more detailed way to stay organized is with a properties filter. Upon selecting this button, you have more flexibility based on the layer names you choose. In this example we are going to give a simple criterion—including all the layers with a prefix of A and then we are going to add all the layers with a prefix of V. Keep in mind you can use wildcards (*) after the character to include all the layers with those features as shown below.

After you add the letters with the wildcard, select OK and you can now view the layers in your properties filter as shown.

Select the links below to find helpful tips on using layers in AutoCAD.

Resetting a layer in AutoCAD with a Macro

Renaming a Group of Layers with Wildcards

Using the Layer Translator in AutoCAD

Change with width of the layer combo control bar

Finally, Autodesk University 2020 is going digital and it is FREE!  Please register and take time to connect and learn from your peers. For those of you who have been unable to attend this is your chance to get a look and feel for how the event is organized and how people teach and present. It is going to be fun!

Community voting is open!  My proposals are in and I have decided to do a little mix of AutoCAD and Civil 3D. Please vote if you feel that these classes could help you in your career. Search for the class or my name to get a description of the objectives to be covered.

CES463399 Harnessing the Power of COGO Points
CES463390-L A Complete Guide to the Sheet Set Manager
CES463392 Improving Quality with the CAD Standards Manager in AutoCAD
CES463396 Staying Productive with Plan and Production in Civil 3D
CES469005 Making your Move from AutoCAD to Civil 3D

Have a great weekend wherever in the World you may be.  Stay healthy and safe.


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