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Dynamic blocks in AutoCAD–When and why?

I’ve written posts about how to create specific types of dynamic blocks and about some of their features, but I’ve never explained when and why you would use a dynamic block.

If you have a block library that contains variations on an object or component and you insert them at various scales and rotations angles, you can probably save a lot of time with dynamic blocks. For example, you may have a desk that comes in various lengths. You can create one dynamic block to replace all the individual variations.  Moreover, your dynamic block will give you even more flexibility to add additional lengths.

It takes some time to define a dynamic block — of course, simple ones take less time but complex ones can take a long time. For this reason, the most common use for dynamic blocks is to create a block library. That means you don’t usually define  dynamic blocks for your current drawing. Instead, you create them and save them to use in future drawings.

But if  you’ll need to draw several components in variations in your current drawing, you can create a quick dynamic block to save yourself some time.

The first part of the process of creating dynamic blocks is to define the block. Here’s an overview of the workflow:

  1. In your block library drawing or a new drawing, create the block.
  2. Choose Home tab> Block panel> Block Editor (BEDIT command) or just double-click the block. In the Edit Block Definition dialog box, choose the block, and click OK to open the Block Editor. (You can also start the BEDIT command, name the block, and create the objects in the Block Editor.)
  3. Add parameters and associated actions, or geometric parametric constraints.
  4. Save the block definition in the Block Editor.
  5. Close the Block Editor.
  6. If the drawing will contain just this block, use the BASE command to set the drawing origin where you want the insertion point to be, usually somewhere on the block. You do this when creating a block library that has one block per drawing.
  7. Save the drawing.

You may want to follow this process for any number of blocks. When your blocks are defined, do the following to insert your dynamic blocks:

  1. In your current drawing, either use the INSERT command to insert the drawing containing the block, or use the DesignCenter to choose the block from within the drawing.
  2. Select the block to see its special grips. These grips show you where you can modify the block.
  3. Usually, you click and drag a grip to modify the block. Some dynamic block parameters involve choosing a visibility or option from a drop-down list or table.

Here you see the process of stretching the desk length.

When and why do you use dynamic blocks? What is your process for creating and storing them?

Ellen Finkelstein

32 comments to Dynamic blocks in AutoCAD–When and why?

  • Raymond Land

    Hi Ellen,

    The two problem I have with dynamic blocks is when I use a consulting engineer who is still using version 2004 and when I insert the block into a table. The block can not be adjusted by the engineers and their drawing will show the block as originally created and I have to explode the block beforing sending the background drawing. The same is true when I try to insert a dynamic block into a table.

  • Ellen

    Yes, dynamic blocks don’t travel well into the past. Other new features, such as parametric constraints, have the same problem. Sometimes, Autodesk puts out an update so that earlier releases and work with features that came later, but my guess is that they wouldn’t do that for 2004, which is very old.

  • Joe R. L.

    Great information, Thanks

    Can dynamic blocks be introduced or use in ACAD 2004?
    when a drawing is created, say in 2007, 2008 and its saved in 2004. will the DBlocks work?


  • Ellen

    When you open a drawing in 2004 that was created in 2007 with dynamic blocks, they appear static, in their last configuration.

  • Joe R. L

    Hello Ellen,

    Can one create a dynamic block which would be inserted/placed once and only show in two or three different layers simultaneously (let’s say if these layers are specific to particular sheets in a set).

    Thank you in advance for your recommendation(s).


  • Joe R. Lugo

    Hi, Ellen

    In opening a dwg file in ACAD 2004 which was created in 2007or 2008 which would contain dynamic block(s) created with, say visibility parameters. once I have inserted this one dynamic block in its many/different instances(to shown the many different objects contained within the one dynamic block. will I see all of the instances of this particular block once I’ve open the drawing in ACAD2004?

    Thank you for your response.

  • Anibal

    Muy interesantes tus aportes, te Felicito por tus conocimientos y ponerlos a disposición de todos los interesados. Por favor quisiera tener conocimiento como manejar bien la calculadora en AutoCAD 2010, para cambiar medidas etc. Todo esos detallitos. Gracias.
    Anibal Gonzalez.

  • Isaac

    I have been away from using Autocad for some time. I am now getting back to it and am having problems with blocks inserted from the Design center, not coming in to scale.
    To be exact, if I start a new drawing, and insert a block, it comes in correct but if I open a drawing (dxf file) for example and insert a block, it will come in at a x 25.4 bigger in size. Can you please tell me where it is I need to go to change the setting so that this problem is corrected?
    Thank you very much in advance for your assistance.

  • Ellen

    25.4 is the number of millimeters in an inch, so it sounds to me as if one drawing is in inches and the other is in millimeters.



  • Ellen

    As far as I remember, it’s not recommended to nest dynamic blocks, but you can certainly try.

  • Keith

    Can a Dyno block be insert and as it is beig inserted cycle thro Visible states, like you do with insert points, I want to make A block that contains the several views of the object, and try and select the view “on the fly”

  • Ellen

    When you create visible states, there’s a drop-down arrow and you can pick the one you want from the list.

  • Keith

    You can also look in the PROPERTIES pallet to change settings (Visible states, distance lengths etc) before you actually drop the block into the drawing.
    What i would really like to do is use a key to cycle through the visi-states, like CTRL is used to change the insert points

  • Keith

    What are Dynamic Blocks used for?

  • Ellen

    Hmmm, read the second paragraph of the post and let me know specifically what you don’t understand.

  • Aaron

    I’ve created dynamic blocks with many attributes. They work perfectly as intended. The block is saved by itself in a drawing.

    When I am in the drawing for the project, I type in “insert”, browse to find the block (which is in a drawing containing the block), the entire drawing is inserted. Effectively a block (the block) within a block (the drawing).

    How can I insert just the block so it is ready to use with all grips available?

  • Ellen

    Hmmm, this should be obvious, but… Try using the DesignCenter or Content Explorer.
    Also, try using the BASE command in the drawing that has the block and setting it to the basepoint of the dynamic block.

  • Aaron

    Thank you for the reply. Currently using DesignCenter/toolpalettes.
    But the ultimate goal is to have a list of blocks to choose from a drop down menu which will run off macros, in some cases lisps.
    Will I need to recreate the blocks and “create the dynamic block in the Block Editor without ever creating and naming a block.” ?
    In order to get these to work?

  • Anthony

    I’ve created dynamic blocks in “autocad 2009 LT” and used them in a drawing. when I save the drawing and open it an other day, the dynamic blocks loos there function. The block name is still the same and when I open the block in the block editor all the Parameters and Actions are stil there. But it just stops functioning, what cane I do?

  • Ellen

    I don’t remember when LT started letting you create dynamic blocks, but this is what happens when you create a dynamic block in AutoCAD and then open it in LT, or at least that’s the way it used to be. Do, I’m not sure. If you have access to AutoCAD, I’d try opening the drawing there and seeing if the dynamic blocks work.

  • West

    I have a problem with dynamic blocks dragging down my drawing when I insert multiple…do you know of any fixes? I would really like to use them but I can’t if it’s going to take me 3-5 min to save a drawing….

  • Ellen

    I haven’t seen that but don’t usually draw with many copies of the same block or with complex blocks. Maybe someone else will see this and has a solution. To troubleshoot, it’s always good to start from scratch, insert those blocks and see if you still get that problem.

  • Ben

    Hi Ellen,
    I’m trying to use a dynamic block inside of an autocad table. The block only has different visibility states, no other actions. The drop-down for the visibility state is not showing up, and when I double click on it I only get the attribute editor. Any thoughts on how to get the visibility states to show up?

  • Keith

    Hi Ellen,
    I’ve made a dynamic block that consisted of 3 visibility states, 20 lines and arcs and 7 or 8 parametric constraints (2012). I was planning to add several bells and whistles to it but I found that even after purging that the size of this ONE dynamic block is about 10 percent of a normal sized drawing. Am I correct in assuming that dynamic blocks are not meant for repetitive use?

  • Keith

    I just realized there is a similar question before mine (sorry). I’ve spent a lot of time creating dynamic blocks and found that after creating one it is best to copy and paste the block to a new blank drawing and save the block as another name. This speeds up the manipulation of the block greatly, but I am still curious as to whether the size of these will prohibit using them repetitively. Please let me know you find out anything.


  • Hans Graveman

    Make sure that every item is connected to one or another visibilitystate.
    You can walk through the states in the blockeditor

  • Dave B

    Do you have any advice on using dynamic blocks in table cells?
    I am trying to create a table to hold plan title information. Imagine two text styles, one heavy and large (in CAPS in the example) and one ‘normal’. The title is in multiple lines, where each line could be HEAVY or normal. For example BLAH BLAH BLAH | in the district of | BLAH BLAH | in the state of | BLAH BLAH. I’ve used the pipe symbol (|) to denote new lines. Also note that my title could cover many lines and need to show multiple lines of HEAVY or normal text, sometimes sequentially. The pattern of HEAVY normal HEAVY normal HEAVY in the example cannot be relied on.
    Since I can’t put text content on different layers in a table, and I need different line weights for the heavy and normal text, I though to create a block called Title Text Part with two coincident attributes – one for the heavy text and one for the normal text, with each attribute on its appropriate layer. I then added a visibility state to swap between them and if I can make this work, I will try to lock the two attribute values together. I then TINSERTed the block into a cell. I can see both attributes in the properties window, but I can’t see the visibility state grip or the visibility attribute in the properties window.
    Do you have any ideas?

  • Dave B

    Like Keith I saw a similar question asked previously – sorry.
    Since there has been a year go by with no suggestions though, I assume it can’y be done.

  • Ben and Dave B. A workaround that I’ve discovered for the inability to change visibility states of a dynamic block in a table cell is to insert the block in the drawing, change the visibility to the way you want it. Then, copy and paste as a block. Get the name assigned name of the pasted block (eg A$C0861780C). Use this name to insert the block into the table cell. Cheers 🙂

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