May 26, 2017

ArcGIS for AutoCAD 365 Now Available

A new version of ArcGIS for AutoCAD 365 is now available for free download. I think this release is a very important one, the new block attribute behavior and text linking especially paired with the updated bonus tools for labeling will be an important and useful improvement. These new behaviors will not only help when annotating your drawings but also provides some powerful new options for editing. And lets face it, it takes some of the clunkyness out of working with AutoCAD blocks with attributes in ArcGIS for AutoCAD.
For more information see the Esri blog post.
And, or my YouTube Playlist on what’s New in ArcGIS for AutoCAD 365.

October 18, 2016

ArcGIS for AutoCAD 355 Now Available

A welcome interruption to the current blog series on the five uses of ArcGIS for AutoCAD, is this reminder that the new shiny version ArcGIS for AutoCAD 355 is now available for download on

Esri is increasing the pace of releases of ArcGIS for AutoCAD. This is one of those incremental releases. Be sure to download the newest version of ArcGIS for AutoCAD 355 now, which is available here.

This new release includes updated support for AutoCAD versions 2013-2017 in nine different languages. New in this release is a command to generate local feature classes from all the populated layers in your drawing. This new command is good for creating new local feature classes from well-structured drawings that you intend to share with ArcGIS desktop users, or that you want to add tabular attributes to within AutoCAD.

This important release fixes a bug when connecting to secure services on ArcGIS 10.3.x and higher servers. This release will also warn you when you connect to feature services on 10.3.1 servers containing unsupported date fields. (This issue with feature service date fields in ArcGIS Server was fixed in ArcGIS Server 10.4), but in case you are using 10.3.1 servers with ArcGIS for AutoCAD you will be warned that you cannot synchronize services when a date field is present in feature services on those servers. Check out this brief video for an overview of what’s new in ArcGIS for AutoCAD 355.

September 23, 2016

ArcGIS for AutoCAD Five Uses: #3 Creating ArcGIS Data

I have a number of saws in my garage to cut wood and other materials.  The chop saw is great for precisely cutting 2x4’s and other slender stock to length.  If the stock is not too long I can perform the same task and even more precisely using my table saw.  Which one is better?  Well… depends on what I am cutting and which one is plugged in.  The chop saw is a little louder, but its really easy to operate, the table saw is more refined, but in my garage at least I have to unfold it and plug it in, and then make some adjustments to get it all squared up.  My chop saw is always ready to go… for most cases I just chop.
Sometimes I want to use AutoCAD to create ArcGIS data, it might be because I have AutoCAD work flows that help me create data, such as AutoCAD-based survey data collection.  Or, I may just find I am more productive generating spatial data from scratch using AutoCAD.   Creating attributed ArcGIS data using AutoCAD is one of the primary uses for ArcGIS for AutoCAD.  I can use the free plug-in and plain AutoCAD to create a georeferenced, attributed geodatabase feature classes within my AutoCAD DWG file.   ArcGIS desktop (ArcMap/ArcGIS Pro) can directly open my AutoCAD drawing file created with ArcGIS for AutoCAD and use it in a map or in ArcGIS geoprocessing tools, and geoprocessing models like any other native GIS data sets to migrate the data or use it in analysis directly.
In the past I might have had to figuring out some way to attach data to AutoCAD entities or export a Shapefile, or some other intermediate file from AutoCAD if I could figure out how to attach my GIS attributes in some way in AutoCAD that I could use in ArcGIS later?  ArcGIS for AutoCAD allows me to store field-typed tabular attributes on simple AutoCAD entities like splines, curves, lines, points, blocks and 3D faces.  The application helps me organize my drawing according to my existing CAD standards while also making it understandable as ArcGIS data for desktop users.   And that is one of the real powers of the application.  I don’t create a different kind of AutoCAD object, but rather I just teach the drawing which entities in my drawing I want to be understood as ArcGIS objects, like a filter.

This video from the Esri training series outlines how I can use ArcGIS for AutoCAD to easily do this.

August 16, 2016

ArcGIS for AutoCAD Five Uses: #2 Exported GIS Data

It is always nice to find something useful I own that I didn’t know I had.  I might wish I had found it sooner, but it is always good when it happens.  ...The pristine hardwood floors you find under that old carpet you’re replacing, or the twenty dollar bill in your suit coat from your last business trip, or the other half of your sandwich you thought you’d already eaten!

When I share ArcGIS data with an AutoCAD user, I want them to not only see the vector geometry but the attributes too.  I hope it is not a surprise, but the second most common use of ArcGIS for AutoCAD is the ability for AutoCAD users to see the smart drawings that ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro create whenever they export AutoCAD DWG files with the EXPORT TO CAD tool.  The default behavior of the EXPORT TO CAD geoprocessing tool in ArcGIS desktop for the last decade or so has been to create smart DWG files that contain a coordinate system and attributed feature classes inside the file. Any AutoCAD users can see and use this ArcGIS data if they have the free ArcGIS for AutoCAD plug-in.   If they don’t have ArcGIS for AutoCAD they will just see the simple AutoCAD entities without their smart attributes and data organization.  It is because of this that I often say that exchanging shapefiles is an outdated method of exchanging data between ArcGIS and AutoCAD.  The combination of ArcGIS for AutoCAD and ArcMap, or ArcGIS Pro means you can use the DWG file itself as an exchange format for ArcGIS data.

August 03, 2016

ArcGIS for AutoCAD Five Uses: #1 Self Service Mapping

I have been enjoying my summer this year paddling around with the family in some craigslist kayaks.  We have a double kayak and two singles.  I can easily park my car near the shore and carry the single kayaks to the water myself.  The double kayak really takes two adults to manage on top of the car.  Just a little too heavy and a little too long to manage myself.  When it is just me and my younger daughter we use the two singles,  I also have a small sailboat that I can launch myself, but with the use of a trailer, which requires a boat ramp to get me to where I need to use it… the water.

ArcGIS for AutoCAD is the free Esri’s plug-in AutoCAD that is used by many, to do five essential things: Self-Service Mapping, Creating GIS data for the GIS system using AutoCAD, Editing Geodatabases using AutoCAD, Repurposing AutoCAD construction and design drawings as GIS content, and Reading attributed ArcGIS data in DWG files exported from ArcGIS. 

I use the term Self Service Mapping, to describe my ability in AutoCAD to access ArcGIS content and capabilities that are available to me through ArcGIS Web Services.  Instead of making a request to my ArcGIS colleagues to Export the land base, or the existing sewer network so I can use it for my project, I can use the existing ArcGIS services already available to my organization and pull that data myself.  I don’t have to wait for the GIS group to fulfill my request, and I can browse for just what I want when I want it, and even more importantly where I want it, in AutoCAD.  The same image services, map services and feature services being published by the GIS group are accessible by me with my free ArcGIS for AutoCAD plug-in.

Once I connect to my ArcGIS server, I can browse to the services that are available to me on that server and add them to my drawing.  I can get access to smart maps and imagery, georeferenced in my drawing or pull ArcGIS feature into my drawing from feature services.  (I can even edit those features:  I’ll talk more about that in another post.)  I can also access the Esri world geolocation service to navigate my AutoCAD drawing by address or place name.  I use this to help me zoom to a project location, when I know the cross streets, place name or street address.

The GIS group is taxed with more work to fulfill my information requests and I don’t have to wait for them to give me the data I need.  I can also use ArcGIS online hunt for servers that contain freely available data that my organization doesn’t have but that I need for my project.

This Self-Service Mapping is used by most everyone in ArcGIS for AutoCAD to save time and effort, when they, like me, need to access ArcGIS information to get their work done in AutoCAD.  My choice of recreational boats for now is limited to budget and my ability to get on the water.  I need the boats in the place where I can use them, in the case of my sailboat and kayaks that place is the water (not my garage).  My rooftop kayak racks, and my sailboat trailer “Serve” me well.  In the case of my project and design work in AutoCAD, I can get my ArcGIS information into AutoCAD served out from my, or other people’s ArcGIS Server Web Services.

November 19, 2015

Esri Maps Button Back To Normal

Early this month their was a short disruption in access to the Esri Maps button in ArcGIS for AutoCAD.  The issue was resolved. As a reminder however it is good to know that you can also connect to those Esri maps by making a connection via the Add Service dialog box to the ArcGIS Online server  There are other useful maps on that server more than just the 9 listed in the Esri Map gallery. The esri_addmapservicebyURL command and the AutoLISP (esri_map_add) function are useful alternatives.

March 24, 2015

Hyperlinks in ArcGIS for AutoCAD

Go figure. The morning after my daughter returned from a week-long class field trip to a winter camp she announced that she was a "vegetarian".  I was intrigued as I fished frying up a pan of bacon for breakfast and asked her to explain.  She said that she doesn't eat meat anymore.  As the bacon came out of the pan she was quick to add that she was a vegetarian; except for bacon…. and hotdogs… and …cheeseburgers.  I then asked if there was anything else, she said no, she doesn't eat any meat like fish, or other gross things.  But added, actually fish sticks are ok.
Sometimes the full meaning of GIS data is better found in another place and format, and a hyperlink on an AutoCAD entity is a good way to associate that data in ArcGIS for AutoCAD
If I have hyperlink locations already included in my ArcGIS feature attributes I can employ an advanced use of the ESRI_CALCULATEFIELD bonus tool to quickly associate the URL of my hyperlinks found in the attributes of my ArcGIS features and apply them to the associated entities as AutoCAD hyperlinks.  The ArcGIS field name containing my hyperlink is called URL in my example.  I am not actually changing the value of a field when I am using the ESRI_CALCULATEFIELD bonus tool (which is why I call this an "advanced" use of the tool, since it primary use IS to modify a field.)  I am arbitrarily specifying the "URL" field as the field I am modifying with the ESRI_CALCULATEFIELD command.  I am supplying the value of the [URL] field as the last statement in my expression so the URL field remains unchanged. 
What my AutoLISP expression does before that is to establish and AutoCAD hyperlink on each entity in my feature class because my expression invokes  the –HYPERLINK command and supplies the value of the ArcGIS attribute field value [URL] (from the URL field on each entity). 
My AutoLISP expression actually has four parts.  First it runs the PROG function that simply allows me to perform more than one AutoLISP statement as a single
expression.  Then the ESRI_CLEARSELECTION command to ensure the –HYPERLINK command processes one entity at a time.  Typically I don't need to clear the selection set to perform other AutoCAD commands in my expression, however in this case the AutoCAD –HYPERLINK command exhibits a different behavior/syntax when an existing selection set is active.
Next I include the –HYPERLINK command with its parameters that include the value of my url field designated with square brackets, [URL].  
Then finally the value of the [URL] field again all by itself.  Because this is the last statement of the AutoLISP expression, the current value of the [URL] will be returned by the overall expression which allows me to use the ESRI_CALCULATEFIELD to access and process entities using their feature attribute values, and still leave those field values unchanged.
This example assumes you are working with ArcGIS for AutoCAD and have downloaded and installed the ArcGIS for AutoCAD bonus tools.  It assumes you have valid hyperlink text values in a field called "URL" in the current ArcGIS for AutoCAD feature class :
I am not sure if there is an official classification for a bacon/burger/hotdog-eating vegetarian, perhaps someone could provide a link.
>Command: (load "afa_utilities")

Enter the field name: URL
Enter a valid Expression (see documentation for syntax): (progn (command "ESRI_CLEARSELECTION") (command "-HYPERLINK" "Insert"  "Object" ESRI_CALC_ENT "" [URL] "" [URL] ) [URL])

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