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Top Six solutions to common XREF problems

Xrefs (external references) let you view another drawing within your current drawing without actually inserting that other drawing thus keeping the original drawing size manageable.

Another benefit of using Xref is that changes made to the referenced drawings are automatically reflected in the current drawing when it’s opened or if the xref is reloaded. This will significantly reduce drafting time as well as minimize mistakes.

When working with external references in AutoCad, you may experience some difficulties and problems. Since XREF is one of the most common functions in AutoCad drafting, let’s look into each of these problems and more importantly the easy solutions to these six common Xref problems:

1. Deleting an XREF

To delete an existing XREF, first make sure that there are no objects in the layer. It is also not possible to delete the current layer, Layer 0, Defpoints and XREF dependent layers. Input the LAYDEL command to delete specific layers within the drawing. Type in LAYDEL, then press, Enter. You will be prompted to either SELECT the object or delete by choosing the NAME layer.

2. Exploding an XREF

To successfully export a cad file without the XREF, you will need to BIND the XREF to the drawing. By typing BIND and selecting the XREF, you will be able to convert the XREF to block. The only downside here is that any changes you wish to make in the main XREF file won’t affect the current XREF block. BIND lets the existing XREF to inherit characteristics of a typical BLOCK enabling you to explode it.

3. Change XREF color, set layers to 0

If you are looking to change the layer, line weight, and color of a referenced file without turning it into a block or editing the whole file, you can use VISRETAIN. Access the main XREF file and type in VISRETAIN. Enter values as desired (VISRETAIN=0 means that you can configure the properties of the drawing while setting it to VISRETAIN=1 means it retains its settings same as the mother file no matter what).

Another option is changing the xref’s layers color in Layer Properties Manager. This allow customization of each layer of the main xref file – not limited to colors but also linetypes etc. For additional productivity tips to work more effectively with layers, check out our blog – Tips for working with layers.

4. Detach and XREF File (and all at once)

To detach a specific file from the current drawing file, access External References from the VIEW tab or type XREF on the command line, hit Enter. From the XREF panel, select a drawing reference, right-click. A list of options will appear from the cursor, select Detach from the menu.
In the cases of having a lot of XREF to detach, such in the cases of big projects, you may opt to detach the files altogether with one click. To be able to do so, you need to UNLOAD THE file and hold the shift key down while selecting the XREFs to be deleted. See here:

5. Setting the same measurement units for the XREF File and current drawing

Enter INSUNITS in the command bar and turn it to zero, this makes your XREF unitless (by default, 1- imperial ; 4- metric). Set values for your INSUNITSDEFSOURCE and INSUNITSDEFTARGET to 0 as to make both the source file and destination file both unitless.

6. Toggle XREF Snapping

Turning the snap on a referenced drawing is possible though not usually recommended. By moving the XREF to defpoints and freeze layer 0, you will turn the XREF to an overlay on the background and render it unusable for snap and selection. To regain its previous functions, just thaw the layer and it will be usable again.

What are your top Xref problems? Do you have other Xref related issues  and solutions you want to share?

Want more productivity tips like this? You can draw and edit faster and easier with this easy to follow top 25 productivity tips every AutoCAD user should know.

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