Xref Tips and Tricks
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Xref Tips and Tricks

Dec 14, 2018
Video Length:  1:03:15
Presented By:  Amanda Berry
If you’re looking to improve your office drawing production workflow, this webinar is for you. We'll take a look at a scalable setup for drawings using external references (Xrefs), showing you how and why you should use them. We'll also go over our fxREF tool, as well as the other Land F/X tools that improve with the use of Xrefs. Everyone from newbies to seasoned CAD drafters will benefit from this presentation.

Webinar Contents:

Note: The following catalog of content covered in this webinar is time stamped to allow you to follow along or skip to sections of the video that are relevant to your questions. You can also search for content on this page using the FIND command in your browser (CTRL + F in Windows, Command + F in Mac OS.)


  • Intro/TOC
  • Xref vs. Block
  • Drawing Organization
  • General Xref Tips
  • Land F/X Tools That Get Better With Xrefs

0:00–5:00: Intro/TOC

What is an Xref? (3:25)

  • Short for “External Reference”


  • Dynamic link to another file
  • People sometimes use the term interchangeably with “attachments” for images and PDFs.

5:01 – 11:19: Xref vs. Block



  • Dynamic (updates)
  • Great for base plans
  • Coordinate across multiple DWGs
  • Easy layer controls (freezing)
  • Multiple people can work on each drawing (cross referencing)
  • Fast to edit with changes


  • Static (doesn’t update
  • Great for symbols
  • Different copies in each DWG, can’t coordinate
  • Layer controls only work on the block layer
  • Only one drawing, so only one drafter
  • Slow to update to changes




Why? (6:42)

  • Faster workstation performance
  • Setup can scale to any size (1-sheet designs of 100-sheet designs)
  • Easier to contain and clean corruption
  • Multiple drafters on any project
  • Good Xref setup makes this easy
  • Coordinates better with Sheet Set Manager

11:20 – 26:29: Drawing Organization

Overlay vs. attachment (11:20)



  • Doesn’t auto-attach nested Xrefs
  • Usually better – prevents circular references
  • Easier to maintain changes
  • Allows one level of nests when used with attached nests


  • Does auto-attach nested Xrefs
  • Usually confusing – harder for newer users to understand nests and change paths
  • Consultants like to send drawings Xrefed this way – sometimes the nests conflict
  • Sounds faster to use, but ends up causing conflicts
  • Works OK for single file trees




The one good situation for attachments (14:08)

Example: Irrigation -> Planting ->Engineering base ->Architectural base -> Survey



Why overlay? (15:40)


Important: Remember to clean all your Xrefs before bringing them in. Otherwise, you risk drawing corruption.


Cleaning a drawing does not mean purge and audit. It means:

  • Using our Nuke tool, or
  • Following our manual drawing cleanup steps, or
  • At the very least, purge, audit, delete Registered Applications (RegApps), and do an AEC to ACAD. (Note that our Nuke tool completes all these actions automatically.) It’s important to close AutoCAD without saving between all these steps, because corruption Proxy Objects can spread not just through Xrefs but through an open instance of AutoCAD.


Example of a drawing organized with correct Xref setup using overlays (19:40)


Example of an overlay Xref setup with one layout per Xrefed DWG file (20:15)



Relative path vs. full path (21:45)



  • Path is relative to the open file
  • If you move the file, or copy for a new edit version, the paths continue to look for the same folder relative to the current open file’s location (example: “back one folder into the Base folder”)
  • Good for almost every Xref situation
  • Easier to test for Xref corruption


  • Fixed path, not associated with the current file
  • If you move the file, the Xref link will continue looking at the old location
  • Good for Xrefs that might need to change globally (such as a stamp block), but not much else
  • Easy to forget to update paths and end up editing the old versions of the Xrefs




Summary (24:17):

Each of these recommendations will allow:

  • Infinite scaling up
  • Ease for new users in the office
  • Fewer mistakes




  • Use Xrefs for all bases, not blocks
  • One layout sheet per DWG
  • Use Overlay Attachment
  • Use relative path

26:30 – 49:10: General Xref Tips

Using our fxREF tool to bring in Xrefs (27:50)

fxREF brings together the important elements of Xrefing a file into an intuitive dialog box. Keep in mind that fxREF will only work with DWG files – it won’t Xref in PDFs, JPGs or other file types.


Copying linework from an Xref into the current drawing using the NCOPY command (32:30)


Freezing layers associated with specific elements of your drawing, temporarily removing these items from view (34:00)


Setting the VISRETAIN system variable to 1, which automatically thaws frozen layers the next time you close and reopen AutoCAD (35:30)


Configuring the Xref layer controls in the Layer Properties Manager (36:30)


Using the FX_LAYERCOLOR command to change the color of an Xref layer (37:50)


Freezing viewport layers in Xrefs (39:20)


Example of an attached Xref and the issues it can cause (43:00)


Changing an attached Xref to an overlay and changing between absolute and relative paths (45:00)


Using the PUBLISH command to export all the Xrefs in a drawing into one PDF (47:20)

49:11 – end: Land F/X Tools That Get Better With Xrefs

Including items from the Xrefs in the Plant Schedule (49:25)


Bringing items from Xrefs into Work Areas in the main drawing (52:50)


Labeling Reference Notes in an Xref (55:50)


Sending layers from an Xref to a 3D model using our 3D Connection tool (57:20)

Make sure you either don’t have a UCS assigned, or the UCS in the main drawing matches the one in the Xref, before sending these layers to 3D.


Things you shouldn’t or can’t do with Xrefs (57:40):


  • You cannot explode an Xref. You can choose to Bind an Xref instead, but the BIND command will turn an Xref into a block, which you don’t want.

You might want to use this command when you need to send a file to a consultant who is not CAD savvy and may not know how to deal with Xrefs.



  • Never Xref a file into your drawing without cleaning that file first.


The Xref Display setting in the Display tab of the Options dialog box (59:10)

This setting allows you to set the fade level of Xrefs, which can help you easily determine which objects are in Xrefs.



Using our Layer Colors tool to save a layer color change profile for each client (1:00:03)


We recommend this practice, which will allow you to work in your own preferred colors but submit your drawings with each of your clients’ preferred colors. In fact, we recommend making it a part of your standard drawing cleanup steps. See our Change Layer Colors documentation for instructions.


Reminder: You can set up all your Work Areas in a separate file, which allows you to juggle those Xrefs easily.


Our Layer Colors tool will not currently work on items that are on Layer 0. We have plans to fix this issue in the future.

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