All sheets in one file?…

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    Ok so I work for a great firm, but most everything is done old school (not neccessarily hand drawing only, but in autocad I fill that we could be saving so much time and energy by doing things the “correct” way.  I am only 1 year into my career, and in school we really didnt have the time neccessary to learn how to use autocad properly.  I know that many people learn new things in autocad by their piers in office. My firm is very small and everyone else except me run autocad 2000.  so my question is…

    How can I begin using layer states?  I have watched alot of tutorials, however nothing is explained in depth.  I would like to create one file and use the AutoCad layouts to create planting plans, lighting plans, layout plans, grading plans and so on.  Can you create a Master plan file, and then xref it into a file and just apply corresponding layer states to a view port?  I watched a video earlier about the new sheet set manager and it kinda does what i want it to do, but it also opens every file you put in at the same time.  It does make navigating alot easier but, im sure there is a way to do what i am talking about without getting into a whole new world of complexity.  

    Any takers on this question??



    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I have not bothered with layer states in years. I and others whom I have worked with in the last 8 or ten years have been managing layers in viewports. … not sure where Acad 2000 was as far as sheet tabs or if it only had one paperspace.(they can’t get a newer ACAD?), but it would make your life easier to use separate tabs for each sheet and manage your layers in the viewports.

    I’m not sure if they fixed the issue since 2009, but when you paste a viewport in earlier releases all of the layer would come in on and thawed.

    You can make a template drawing with several tabs set up with viewports appropriately set up with different layers being frozen or thawed and ready for printing, The best thing about that is that after a revision, you are always ready to print all of the sheets without changing layer states. In newer releases you can import a tab from a template drawing by right clicking on the tab and selecting “from template” from the pop up. When you do that you then can select which tab out of that drawing. Those will come in with layer states in tact.

    Newer releases give you the additional ability to run different colors and different line types in each viewport as well so that you can display the same line work differently in different viewports.

    If you don’t do 3d work or need add on programs, try to talk to your office about at least getting a current version of ACAD LT.


    I only use layer states to manage layers in model space while I’m actively working on a drawing. I’ve found that you can drive other people who are working in or with a drawing absolutely crazy if they’ve never worked using layer states. So to avoid the calls and explanations, I turn all layers on in a ‘all on’ layer state before I send a drawing to anyone. The biggest problem has been with engineers. They understand turning off and freezing layers, and most get using tabs (having multiple sheets in one dwg file), but layer states will almost always generate a pissy call. Some people learn one way to do something and that’s how they do it forever. They learned ACAD in R14 and that’s how they’ll use it forever.  I actually worked in an office in 2007 that used scale charts and spent hours laying out sheets so they could print from model space. I was viewed as a trouble maker because I used viewports and tabs.

    Wyatt Thompson, PLA

    What version of acad are you running? I would be concerned about potential compatibility issues between 2000 and whatever later version you’re on, especially if you and your coworkers are expected to work on the same set of documents. You might need to set up a system where the project base file is in 2000, and then you create sheets, xref the base, add notes, etc. in your version. That’s a messy workflow IMO for a lot of reasons, but it might be the only way multiple people could work on the same project.

    Regarding sheet set manager, I’d suggest you explore it some more or watch more videos.  I set up every project in SSM. In my experience, SSM does not “open every file at the same time.” SSM creates a new Sheet Set file that allows you to manage project information and organize your drawing set from a single acad dialogue. When paired with a title block set up with fields, you can autopopulate title blocks with all the recurring project information (project name, sheet titles, owner info, dates, page #s, etc.). It will take time to set up, but it becomes a HUGE time saver. Imagine a large document set (I don’t know what large is in your world, but could be hundreds of sheets) that is 90% complete, and suddenly you need to add a sheet early in the set; have fun renumbering everything. SSM also allows you to batch plot each sheet without opening each drawing, which can also be a time-saver. I don’t think SSM was available in 2000, but fields def were. There shouldn’t be any compatibility issues.

    I have not found much use of Layer States. I’ve found LS to not be very reliable, especially if new layers are ever added. There is a Layer States Manager that could be helpful to you if you go this route.

    Andrew is correct that it’s possible to set up a template drawing with multiple tabs with preset viewports and layer configurations. I would suggest that a single file with multiple tabs is not a recommended best practice. The problem you’ll find is that when you are working on one sheet in that file, no one else can access it to work on another sheet in that set. That may not be a problem if you’re the only one working on a project, but I don’t think most offices work that way. And when you’re cranking on a deadline, you might find it helpful to have someone else step in to assist with those redlines. You could still set up templates; just use one tab per template, so you’d have a layout_template.dwg, grading_template.dwg, detail_template.dwg, etc. Then you could xref your base drawing into each one and have it preload those viewports with the correct layer information. Just a thought.


    It’s not that you won’t get an answer, but I honestly don’t think of Land8 as the place to get cad help.  Go to CADTutor and research this.  There are tutorials that may explain what you want to know.  Heck, post your question (let them know it’s for landscape) in the forums and you’ll get solid replies.  Someone already posted the question, “I know all about layers but i dont know what is layer states manager can any body explain about this.”

    In my office (just me), everything is in one file and layers are frozen in viewports.  The plans are never so complicated that I use all the features available with Layer States.  Your posting the question about it however has piqued my curiosity that I’ll look at implementing it within the workflow.

    Also, ACAD 2000 is so…yesterday.  There are a number of free and low cost ACAD alternatives that save to .dwg and have the look and feel of Autocad.  Getting the office to one platform and beginning a CAD management program (IIRC, you all are “separate” from each other in terms of clients right now) can go a long way towards the growth of office in the future.


    I’ve worked three ways for three different firms–sheet set manager (not worth time to set y
    Up IMO), sheets as individual files (good if you have large team working on sheets simultaneously), and plot sheets file (as you described sheets in single file managed in layout tabs (cleanest IMO).

    I have an architect client now who thinks they’re awesome–they make everything native in their files, including survey data, and color their layers willy hilly, ie lots of different stuff on single layers. They are the bane of my existence.


    Just remember to set up each project file a little bit differently from the next so that you are the only person who can possibly navigate them, thereby ensuring at least a few extra days on every project for your teammates to identify and solve archaic AutoCAD problems. I swear that’s what our surveyors and civils do. 😉

    Thomas J. Johnson

    You could write a chapter on the subject. The basics… Yes, you can (and should) have a standardized file you open for a new project that has all of your layers and their properties set up properly (weight, color, type, etc). The file should be locked so it doesn’t get altered. Then when you open it, “Save As” using the correct file name for your new project.

    Then you can get into frozen, unfrozen, locked, unlocked, and non-printing layers. Also related to layers is your CTB file that specify how lines actually print I.E. a line can look blue on your screen but print red. (color-weight). Most offices have one set up as their “signature look” for their printed files and is essential to have, if printing files from another office (i.e. subs & contractors), otherwise it will print all wonky.

    The best way to learn is by cracking out on AutoCAD for four months. Figure it all out yourself. Piss of your project manager when you point out that it’s not being done according to company policy and get fired after moving across the country and working yourself to death. Good luck. Have fun.


    I can’t get past “cracking out”. Whether a typo or intentional, I’ve already used it on this call that won’t end. Thanks

    Wyatt Thompson, PLA

    Got to get your fix sometimes/somehow.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    A lot of us work in residential and we are not xreffing 30 drawings together. That is a whole separate world that a lot of us don’t have to deal with and have little interest in going there. We completely understand the need and that the complexity of the projects require that, but equally understandable should be that if you don’t have to deal with that there is no benefit to adding complexity to an otherwise more simple way of working.

    I assume that most of us are starting with a base plan from one of many surveyors or engineers which means we are starting out with a variety of different layer management approaches (and lack thereof) on almost every project.

    Many of us in “residential” tend to work at a 10 scale while the surveyors and engineers are usually working in 20 or 30 scale, so we usually have to screw around with text styles, dimension styles, and line type scale just to get things to get going. Then they are all over the place on what colors they use and what those colors mean in their plot styles. Each may be using their own layer naming conventions or various add on survey software that uses its own layer names  – some are even generated by the codes used by the survey crew in their data collectors. This cuts both ways, by the way. I worked more than a dozen years doing civil site plans and have been on the receiving end of dwg files from LAs that can do all kinds of effed up stuff to a CAD file as well – including altering existing conditions.

    The point being that you can only do so much through a drawing template and at some point you have to get in there and make their drawing your drawing. It is the first thing that I do when I get a CAD file after I save it to a new name – I copy some layers, change line types, line type scales, colors, and start drawing on my own layers. I have an icon for the “-layer” command so that I can hit it, key in “m” for the make a new current layer, key in the layer name, key “c” for color, and return twice – and I’m off and running. It is so automatic and fast that it almost negates the benefit of having the layer pre-made in a template.

    I insert my typical 24×36 paper space tab with typical notes, title block, viewport, and details and edit it accordingly. If there are multiple pages I’ll put the title block in model space with a viewport in paper space so that the date and revisions only have to be edited in one place, but I can move the title block on each sheet to keep sheet layout flexible.

    WHEN I SEND A CAD FILE to a surveyor or engineer I try to make it as easy on them as I can since I had to sit in their seats and know what it is like to receive a dwg that others have drawn in. The easier you make their lives, the more likely they are to want to have you work with them in the future if they are in the position to bring you or someone else in. I do a “copy with base point” at 0,0 through a viewport and then insert it into a new clean drawing at 0,0. This keeps the file clean. Then I rename the layers that don’t have an “L-” prefix so that the all do. That way the engineer or surveyor does not have to worry about redundant things on his layers and they can recognize and have complete control of my layers in their drawing.

    I know this is not the best system for everyone and I am not saying it is what everyone should do. All I’m doing is letting people know what one person does so that they may or may not find some of the information useful.

    …. I have to assume that a company using ACAD 2000 in 2014 is probably a residential design/build and not working on big campus jobs xreffing 100 drawings together.

    Mark Di Lucido

    I suggest adopting what can easily and quickly be learned, employed, and shared across multiple firms as opposed to procedures that are harder to learn and require strict adherence to standards but supposedly offer the most time/cost saving. That said, don’t be afraid to explore new ways of doing things but keep in mind that methods that are nimble and allow flexibility are good; those that are complicated probably won’t last—especially if the person who designed the standard has moved on. So, to your question:

    • Your CAD approach may differ depending on whether you are the prime or sub-consultant. If you’re a sub you have to accommodate whatever you’re provided so having a working relationship w/ your prime is important (getting them to provide base drawings you don’t have to spend hours de-clunkifying).
    • Learn to use xrefs, including imagerefs. Xrefs can be a little clunky but if you’re a sub-consultant being able to use them is indispensable.
    • I’ve found layer states to be unwieldy and as Craig responds they don’t “translate” well across different firms.
    • Andrew suggests managing layers in viewports. I use this and I know many firms employ this method. It’s not as nimble as I’d like it to be but it’s a de facto standard.
    • Drawing tabs (one tab per sheet within the same file): This is another de facto standard that works pretty well except I use different files (.dwg) for drawing type, i.e., one file with multiple tabs (and sometimes viewports) for all the planting plans; another file w/ multiple tabs (and sometimes viewports) for all the irrigation plans; etc., etc., etc. This is a tad more drafting but I like the flexibility.

    Last, and I’ve suggested this before, find someone that has implemented these ideas and ask them to thoroughly explain them to you. A little bit of instruction will make your life sooooooooo much easier. 

    Amy Åkerlund

    In Sweden we are using AutoCad 2014 and Novapoint. Works great with Xrefs! A tip: create filters on your layers in the layer manager.

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