CAD Document Management

William Forty
William Forty

After a lovely break over Xmas, I thought I'd get back into the swing of things on here.. and I'm starting off the year with CAD document management - a crucial yet sometimes overlooked aspect of computer aided design.

I've seen some pretty horrifically non-existent filing systems, so I know all about the woes of poor CAD document management. I've had to determine whether a file named "New.dwg" is in fact new as advertised verses a file which has a newer last modified date. I've had to perform mass searches on networked drives for "*.dwg", and sift through hundereds of files looking for something I've been handed in a hard copy, that doesn't have a drawing number on it... Not very helpful at all, and potentially costly to projects as time is wasted trying to find out stuff we should already know. And this is totally avoidable, with very little effort. Hopefully you're doing this already, but if you're not, you must implement some standard CAD document management.

What do I mean by this? It can be anything from a full-blown electronic document management system (EDMS) to simply keeping your drawings saved in "/SomePath/CAD/ProjectCode/DrawingNo.dwg". The scale of the work you are doing usually dictates what level of document management is best suited for the job. More often than not, projects with 50 drawings or less are easily accommodated by a simple folder structure. Above 50 and you might want to consider some managed solution. Look into things like Autodesk Vault to keep better control over your drawings and revisions.

Another option to keep better control over your drawings is to use sheet sets. These are really useful not just for keeping things tidy and well managed, but also has some neat batch plotting functionality that is really worth using.

Whatever you do, have something in place. The most costly option is to have nothing, as this leads to a whole range of problems. Make sure all drawings have a drawing number. Make sure you name your files sensibly. And finally, make sure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet - ensure you communicate to others working on the same project and get them to work in the same way.

If you want to keep up to date with the posts on my blog, please do subscribe below. I've many pearls of wisdom to dish out!



2011-01-21 00:47:51

Hello Will, Nice topic and I am sure lot of planner have a classic problem : data management, like me. I have only 1 drawing file. And I want to share to other but with different layer properties for each user.

Example : For user A, layer 1 on off, layer 2 is blue. For user B, layer 1 is on, other layer off and so on.

So, I create several tab or sheet for every user but only save to 1 file. So it is take a huge file. The problem is when some user need other properties that they specified before. Do I need to save for specific user?

FYI, all drawing is have exactly same objects. The different is only properties and appearance.

Thanks for your advice.

2011-01-22 10:13:22


This is an interesting problem - this is probably a situation where you can use xrefs to your advantage. It does to some degree depend on what you're doing, and why your users require different layers to be on/off. If (for example) they are working on different aspects of the design, say one is working on structural details and one is working on mechanical and electrical stuff, you could seperate the work they are doing into two seperate drawing files, and use those as xrefs.

So, for your example:

User A has xreffed everything into a drawing, and has turned off Layer 1, set layer colours etc. Remember to bear in mind the system variable VISRETAIN, so that the layer information for xrefs is remembered in each seperate drawing file. User B xrefs everything in, and does the same as User A - setting up the drawing as required.

Generally you'll want to avoid huge drawing files. 5mb is probably a reasonable cut off point. So split up your drawing into suitably sized xrefs, but make sure it is still reasonable to manage. You'll want your xrefs in the xrefs folder to keep everything tidy etc. This brings me onto another point actually - you might find it handy to list the relative folders "/xrefs/" and "../xrefs/" in your support paths - look out for a more detailed post on this soon!

You also pick up on another good point - that you're both working on the same data. What you absolutely do not want, is to have duplicated data. That's a can of worms you never want to open...

I hope this helps you out.