Picks and Clicks: Conquer Problem Drawings

This article originally appeared in the February 2011  issue of Professional Surveyor magazine.

While working with IntelliCAD, AutoCAD, or any other AutoCAD-based programs, we’ve all encountered the proverbial drawing from “you-know-where” that seems to drive us crazy from start to finish. Here I offer several tips to help you identify problems and conquer your problem drawings. I’ve listed these tips in the order I would apply them.

1 Purge your drawing.

The PURGE command removes any unused layers, linetypes, text styles, shapes (for linetypes and text), and many other items in the drawing.

When you run the purge command once, it will purge those items that are not currently in use and that have no other dependencies. For example, if a particular linetype definition depends on a particular shape, the purge command will delete the linetype definition only on the first pass.

Purging again will now delete the shape because the dependent linetype no longer resides in the drawing. Enabling the option to “Purge nested items” before purging will automatically execute the command repeatedly until all unused and dependent items are gone.

2 Purge remnants of registered applications that have accessed your drawing.

Typing “–PURGE” will execute the command line version of the purge command. This version includes a few options not available from the purge dialog box.

One of the extra options is “Regapps,” which is available only from the command line version of the command. You access it by typing “R” when prompted. This option removes “leftover” data from other programs (registered applications) that have been used to work on the drawing file.

3 Audit the drawing.

The AUDIT command looks for discrepancies between the objects displayed on the screen and the objects’ definitions in the drawing file database. The command then gives you the option of correcting the errors it has found. This command can be executed only while the drawing is open and active.

4 Recover the drawing and all reference files.

The RECOVER command is a more robust version of the audit command and can be used to open drawings that are so corrupt they cannot be opened otherwise.

Starting the recover command prompts you to browse to and select the problem drawing. If the problem drawing is already open and active, recover will prompt you to save changes before reopening the drawing and starting the recovery process.

For drawings that have attached XREFs (external references), use the RECOVERALL command to open and repair the selected drawing plus all dependent XREFs. Note that errors corrected by the audit are not saved back to the XREFs.

5 Block out the drawing contents to a new drawing.

If you suspect a drawing has become corrupt, you can WBLOCK the entire drawing out to another file. After starting the wblock command, set the “Source” option as “Entire Drawing” and provide the location and name for the newly created file.

Note that this command saves only Model Space entities to the new drawing. If needed, use AutoCAD Design Center to transfer layout tabs.

6 Insert the problem drawing as a block into a new drawing.

Using the same principle as above, you can use the INSERT command to bring the Model Space contents of a problem drawing into another drawing. Doing this will reduce or eliminate corruption in the problem drawing.

Make sure to use 0,0,0 as the insertion point and set the rotation angle and scale appropriately.

As with wblock, this command saves only Model Space entities to the new drawing. If needed, use AutoCAD Design Center to transfer Layout tabs.

7 Export drawings from vertical programs to AutoCAD.

Autodesk products such as Land Desktop or Civil 3D create program-specific, proprietary entities such as AEC Contours and AEC Point Objects. These proprietary objects can become corrupt or otherwise create problems when being accessed from standard AutoCAD or another program that doesn’t recognize the proprietary entities.

You can enter the -EXPORTTOAUTOCAD command at the command line to create a new drawing file that strips out the proprietary entities and leaves only standard AutoCAD entities. For instance, a Land Desktop or Civil 3D drawing containing AEC Contour entities will result in elevated polylines with text when exported to Autocad. And a Land Desktop or Civil 3D drawing containing AEC Point entities will result in a block with attributes when exported to AutoCAD.

Note that any AEC Objects will obviously lose their intelligence, but the new drawing can be opened in any version of Autocad.

8 Use DWG TrueView Convert to fix errors and bind XREFs.

DWG TrueView is a free program that you can download from Autodesk’s website. It is most valuable for its ability to convert drawings to earlier versions individually or in bulk. In the Conversion Setup dialog box, you can specify one or more options to clean drawings during the conversion process.

9 Use the Drawing Cleanup command in AutoCAD Map or Carlson Software.

Both AutoCAD Map and Carlson Software provide Drawing Cleanup commands that provide a variety of cleanup tools. In either version, you have the option of performing one or more cleanup tasks on the entire drawing or on only selected entities in the drawing.

Note: Use these commands with caution and apply cleanup options incrementally to avoid making unwanted changes. Also, I recommend making a backup copy of the active drawing before performing this command.

If you use AutoCAD Map, Land Desktop, or Civil 3D, you can access the Drawing Cleanup command from Map ➜ Tools. In Carlson Software, access it from the File menu.


I’ve come up with 9 tips that will help you clean up and, maybe, access drawings that have become corrupt. To round out the list and make it an even 10, I’d like to hear from readers to find out what your favorite drawing recovery and cleanup tools are. Please email me at [email protected] and I’ll report in a future column.

This article originally appeared in the February 2011 issue of Professional Surveyor magazine.


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