November 04, 2010

Free CAD Editing in DraftSight and AutoCAD WS

Free time! When was the last time I had any? I am thinking there is a difference between rest, vacation and free time. When I was in elementary school free time was absolute and timeless, there was nothing before it or after it in my mind, which is why I think elementary aged kids are so devastated when free time ends and something else begins, it never occurred to them that it would or should, end.

Need a free way to create and edit AutoCAD .DWG files? Even better than the light-function AutoCAD WS in the cloud from Autodesk (which is pretty cool in its own right) is this interesting and free DraftSight software from Dassault Systems, the makers of CATIA and SolidWorks. DraftSight seems to be a full function free .DWG editor for my desktop.

I used both of these software to make changes to AutoCAD files that contained GIS content exported from my ArcGIS and created with my ArcGIS for AutoCAD.

I was able to upload .DWG files I created from ArcMap to I populated the .DWG file with new entities that were understood as GIS features, using only the free web editor interface. I could not modify or add GIS attributes of features according to the Esri ArcGIS for AutoCAD method of attributing entities, but all my geometric edits were recognized as GIS features edits when I brought the drawing back into ArcMap, and ArcGIS for AutoCAD. I found the editing tools in the web interface of AutoCAD WS allowed me to do some real work, especially on existing AutoCAD drawings. I did find I was using more manual drafting techniques like swinging arcs and finding intersections with the included snapping tools. To get the drawing back on my desktop I download it back to my desktop from the cloud using the download button on the DRAWINGS tab of

In the case of Dassault’s DraftSight, I just downloaded and used the software to edit my .DWG drawings. My drawings contained feature class schema defined from ArcGIS for AutoCAD and from the ArcGIS EXPORT TO CAD tool. All my geometry edits were valid since the software edits .DWG format drawings.

Drawings created and used in ArcGIS for AutoCAD, survived the round-trip cloud editing, just as they do for any valid editor of a .DWG file, including AutoCAD LT, Microstation, IntelliCAD or the new free DraftSight software from Dassault. Editing GIS attributes and viewing map services is not possible while the drawing is in the cloud on, or in .DWG editors without ArcGIS for AutoCAD software (Only available from Esri for AutoCAD) loaded, but the drawings remain intact when they come back to ArcGIS for AutoCAD, or when used in ArcGIS desktop. Any geometry edits made in the cloud, or other .DWG editing software will work just fine as geometric GIS edits in the drawing.

If I want to see the Esri map services I enjoy in ArcGIS for AutoCAD when my drawing is up in the cloud on, or in Dassault’s DraftSight, all I have to do is disconnect the Esri map service map using the disconnect map function in ArcGIS for AutoCAD. The snap shot of my map is included as an AutoCAD raster reference backdrop positioned correctly when I upload it and view it in the cloud or, when I use the .DWG file on my desktop with DraftSight. I can only see one map at a time in AutoCAD WS, or DraftSight since transparency is not supported on layers in either software at this time. I can choose to leave the Esri map service references (which are custom objects) in the drawing and they will be seen as blank proxy objects in AutoCAD WS and DraftSight. Once the drawing is viewed back in ArcGIS for AutoCAD they will be quickened back into Esri Map Services, and I will see the dynamic Esri map again.

Enjoy your free time.
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