For best results – the best XREF Attachment practices should be considered at all times. On the one hand, XREFs are the best only way to share data with the Design Team, on the other, you’re responsible for the results. That might cause some problems. So there are…

A Few AutoCAD TIPS & TRICKS for Best XREF Attachment Practices

  1. Before you attach external data, clean the files using a “deeper than AutoCAD’s” Purge App. I’m very happy with Gilles Chanteau’s Radical Purge APP. After Purging with AutoCAD, it still digging deeper and remove many “unaccessible” purgeable data (available at the AutoCAD Department at the Autodesk Exchange Appstore)

    A Few AutoCAD TIPS & TRICKS for Best XREF Attachment Practices
    Much more Powerful than AutoCAD’s Purge
  2. If the file you’re gonna be attaching is UNITLESS, Select the right units and set them.This will enable AutoCAD to Automatically set the SCALE FACTOR.
  3. Sometimes there are lots of excessive Annotation Scales with the file(s)- If you are using the Purge App, it might help but sometimes you’ll be better doing this manually. Excessive Annotation Scales will cause Slow File Opening (Every time).
  4.  By default, attached files come with all layers On and Thawed, click the freeze layer button to freeze within the attachment and finally create a Named View with the Default Layer Snapshot Checked. That will include both Your Layers and the XREF’s altogether.
  5. Within the File to be attached, set everything to By Layer Using the SETBYLAYER feature. In Newer Versions, You might use the XREFOVERRIDE feature to force the entire attachment to be ByLayer.
  6. If  the file to be attached is Layer-Chaotic, before saving it, ISOLATE the OBJECTS (Not Layers) of your interest and save the file. IF You reload and don’t see it right, detach an re-attach the file. This is the shortest way to deal with Chaotic Layer Files.
  7. In some cases, prefer selecting only the part of the drawing you need. There cases in which CAD Users place all the Plans, Elevations, Sections and Detail in the same file, if you work in different files, you might opt for separating the data to suit your needs.
  8. UCS Thumb rule: Always attach while in WCS (your file). To make the rule easier save both files at WCS before you attach. The best practice is to attach to 0,0. If something goes wrong, open the external file and check the BASE coordinates. The trick is to share the same BASE in both files. Do not move the External Reference! You can install an App to warn you and help you return to the Current UCS after attachment. Best App: RefUcsSPY.

    A Few AutoCAD TIPS & TRICKS for Best XREF Attachment Practices
    If you like the Attachment in its Right Place…
  9. If the External File Source contains Nested XREFs, decide if you use it as an attachment or as an Overlay. In modern Versions, this can be achieved within the same session (after attachment). In older AutoCAD versions, You’ll need to do it from within the Source file(s).
  10. In the worst cases, you can create a PDF of the file to be attached and Use it as a PDF Underlay. This might save a lot of trouble. Make sure to create the PDF using Autodesk’s DWGtoPDF or AutoCAD PDF Features to create a Vector based PDF.


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dannyk | “Distilling Exactly the CAD Knowledge You Need” |A Few AutoCAD TIPS & TRICKS for Best XREF Attachment Practices

One Response
  1. Roy Gallier

    I have found that when using reference files (RF) from outside sources, it is best to do the least work you can directly to the files. Try to stick to commands that can be scripted so it can be easily repeated; often theses files get replaced several times during the design process and doing most of the cleanup in a batch process is less painful.

    Another technique is to use a container file (CF) to hold the RF and attach the CF to your drawings. This isolation method will allow you to attach RF that are not aligned with your coordinate system. Attach your design file (DF) to the CF as a reference and then attach the RF to the CF. Move the RF to correctly align with the DF and then turn off the display of the DF in the CF; the CF acts to translate the RF coordinate system to match the DF.

    In the CF, apply layer attribute overrides as necessary to the RF so that the display conforms to your requirements when attached to the DF. This method prevents you from having to accomplish these changes everytime a new RF is provided. When a new RF is received: the first step is to process it with your script file; the next step is to open the CF and redirect the path for reference attachment from the old RF to the new RF.

    HTH – Roy

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