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AutoCAD Reference Manager, the most underutilized tool in AutoCAD

Updated on May 10, 2024 | By Jaiprakash Pandey | Category AutoCAD | min reading time

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I believe that AutoCAD reference manager is one of the most underutilized tools of AutoCAD and most people are not even aware of it's existence.

Even I was unaware of its existence but recently I read about it and decided to share it with you.

Reference manager is like a control panel of all reference files of your drawing.

It stores the path of every dependent file like font style, plot style tables, X-ref etc. which are generally accompanied with the drawing.

This tool can help you in identifying all missing files in a drawing and not only that you can even re-associate those missing or broken file paths using this tool.

Starting Reference manager

You can’t open reference manager from your AutoCAD window.

To open it go to all apps on your windows PC and select Reference manager from Autodesk folder as shown in the following image.

Once reference manager is open you will see a window like the image shown below.

Loading drawing

You will notice an error icon in the left pane of this window indicating that no drawing is added to it. 

Click on Add drawings button on the top left of this window locate your drawing and add it, you will see a prompt asking you to load all reference or first level references.

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If you want to analyze all nested referenced drawings then select load all references else select only first level references.

You can add DWG, DWT and DWS files to reference manager and you can also add multiple files to the reference manager.

Once your drawing is open you will see a list of all drawing entity type in the left pane and also you will see a list all entities in the right pane with their path, as shown in the image below.

You will notice that a green check mark appears in the status of most of the entities.

These are resolved entities but there are also some entities shown with an exclamation mark which AutoCAD was not able to resolve and a “Not Found” button appears in the status of those unresolved entities.

To make sure AutoCAD finds these missing entities you need to repair their broken path.

If you know the path of missing entity then double click on the unresolved entity or select it then click on "Edit selected paths" button on the top of Reference manager window.

You can also press and hold CTRL key to select multiple entities.

A new edit selected path window will appear.

Click on the box next to the empty field in the window and locate the folder where the unresolved file is present and click OK to close the window. 

You will notice that the exclamation mark is now replaced with check mark with edit icon indicating that the reference is now manually resolved.

If you don’t have access to those missing files then you can replace those files with your own custom file as well.

For example, if you have a missing font then rename your custom font with the filename which you see in the reference manager and reassociate path of the missing font with the path of your own custom font.

Once you have made these changes click on Apply Changes button on the top of reference manager window.

Exporting report

You can also export a report of all the changes that have been made and save it as excel (CSV, XLS) or XML file for your own reference. 

For that click on Export report button on top of the Reference Manager window specify the location where you want to save your file and click OK.


So, that was the reference manager tool of AutoCAD and as you can see it is quite helpful in identifying not just missing xRef but also other drawing objects.

If you have questions related to this article let me know in the comments down below

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About the Author

Jaiprakash Pandey is the published author of “Practical AutoCAD book” by Packt publication he is also an Autodesk AutoCAD certified professional and Autodesk expert elite community. He has been delivering CAD training to corporate clients for more than 8 years and his clients include Steel, Power, Automobile industries and also government organizations, fortune 500 companies and the military.

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