Building an AutoCAD Drawing Template (.dwt)

Do you find yourself doing some of the same things over and over again in AutoCAD?  Things like adding text styles and dimensions styles, or creating the same layer again and again.  If so, your drawing templates could use some work.  Template files are the seeds from which all AutoCAD drawings start.  Thus, it is important to take the time to setup a good template with all the elements in place for your typical drawings.  Nurture your seeds and your AutoCAD garden will grow fast and verdant.

The common elements you’ll want included in your template files are:

1.      Text Styles
2.      Dimension Styles
3.      Mleader Styles
4.      Layers
5.      Table Styles
6.      Linetypes
7.      Drawing Variables
8.      Block Definitions
9.      Layouts

If you are using a vertical product such as AutoCAD Architecture, AutoCAD MEP, or AutoCAD Civil 3D, then you’ll also want to include object styles in your templates.

From an organizational stand-point, think about how you use AutoCAD and how you might organize your template(s).  If you’re a small firm working in a single discipline, maybe a single .dwt will suit your needs.  If you’re a larger, multi-disciplinary company, several templates are the way to go.  For example, we typically don’t want to mix units, so one template for working in Architectural units and another for working in Decimal units is appropriate.  If your AutoCAD users are discipline specific, a different template for each department often makes sense.  Separate design/model templates versus sheet templates helps keep the list of layers you might need in a drawing to a minimum.

In general, try to provide a good foundation for your garden of drawings, don’t clutter them with weeds you’ll rarely use.  It may be tempting to add every block definition under the sun, but then you end up with an overloaded, five megabyte .dwt.  Same with layouts.  Do you really want to populate all your drawings with layouts and title blocks for every single sheet size that might be used when you’re only going to use one of them and erase the rest?  Limit your templates to only include the block definitions you use most often, and the one layout/paper size you use most often.  Use something like Design Center to pull in the additional block definitions or layouts you need on a case-by-case basis, or look at more robust solutions such as the Sheet Set Manager or CAD Standards Manager.

Working in tech support, the most problematic, error-ridden drawings are the drawings started from the SAVEAS command, instead of the NEW command.  These have problems such as an entire block library resident in model space within the drawing, or copies of typical details strewn about.  Such overhead will deteriorate drawing performance and is an incubator for file corruption.  Granted, it can save time to start a drawing from another drawing/project that may contain many of the elements you’re likely to use.  This is true the first time you do it, but not true when it becomes a cyclical process, even if you are fairly careful when you erase and purge.  A well implemented drawing template saves not only saves time, it starts you off in clean, healthy soil, free of the mutations produced by frequent cloning.  Take the time now to set one up, enhance it with more nutrients as you notice missing elements in your work, water it with the potential enhancements found by a new release of AutoCAD, and your drawings will grown strong and bear fruit for years to come.

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