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Blog: Stop Guessing About What Changed In Your Xrefs with Xref Compare

In my over 20 + years experience with AutoCAD, I have seen thousands of times when changes have been made to a drawing that is referenced in my design file. Sometimes we may get an email informing us of the changes, but mostly it’s going to take putting on your detective hat and figuring out what the change was. These changes can range from a downspout changing location, to someone shifting a building 1 foot to the left to make sure they have proper parking depth. Nonetheless, it is heart-stopping to not know the exact change, and it can cost precious time when met with a tight deadline.

Quite often we have to resort to over-laying the two drawings on top of each other to see the changes, or we have to resort to the older method of the light table. Younger generations won’t understand that reference, or the struggle we went through before technology caught up. Thankfully in the latest installment of AutoCAD, there is a new feature that will show you exactly what has changed. It’s called Xref compare. In a nutshell, what this does is color code the changes that have been made to your reference file. Then it uses the universal linework method to highlight the change. That’s right, it will wrap the changes in a revisions cloud. Let’s take a look at this new workflow.

As we are used to seeing when a reference changes, a bubble will pop up when a change has been made to any of the referenced drawings. We have all seen this bubble a million times, so this is nothing new. However, this one will have a check box that says “Compare the changes” instead of the usual Reload modified xref link we are used to seeing by itself.

After this similarity is where the new feature takes over. Traditionally we would click the bubble and the xref would update. Then we would have to go on the hunt, looking for labels that aren’t lined up correctly or linework that isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Or if you have an older Project Manager, you’d have to pull out the dreaded light table! With this new feature, however, what actually happens is a dialogue box will pop up allowing you to do some nifty things. The gear icon on the left will bring up the setting, allowing you to change colors of new vs old and even the color of the revision cloud. The light bulb icon will turn off the settings and revert your reference file back to it’s original non-compare state. The two arrows are for Previous and Next and finally the green check mark is what you select when you are done with Xref Compare.

Initially you will see that I have moved the tanks on the top right 300’ to the right. What Xref Compare does to show those tanks have changed. It wraps the area in a revision cloud. If you had multiple items and areas that changed it would wrap those additional areas in a revision cloud as well. You can also see it has changed the colors of the revision items to Red (old version) and Green (new version). This is intentional as we see in the settings below. It’s also 100% customizable to your liking.

When you select the Gear icon some additional settings will pop up. These allow you to change the color of old version (Red) and new version (Green) to any color of your liking.  Additionally, you can toggle off and on the features you would like to see and not see by selecting the light bulb icon. You can set these from not showing any changes all the way to turning off everything except what has changed to really narrow down the differences. Reverting back to my light table reference, this is much better than printing up both versions of the drawing and then taping them to a light table to see what has changed. Plus, this is now done in seconds, versus potentially hours if there are lots of changes.

In closing I would have to say this is one of the best features I have seen in a release that is truly going to save a significant amount of time for drafters and designers. The best part is right out of the box you will notice that check box and see it work immediately.  There’s no hunting for a setting or special command needed. One can only hope that this will end the need to have that old light table sitting in the corner of every office.

This blog is written by ATG Civil Technical Specialist Felix Cortez. If you have any questions or need help with your AutoCAD needs, please email us at whyatg@atgusa.com.

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