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Reducing ACAD file size

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I read a few of the comments left by others on this topic. While they are good advice for versions of Autocad below say 2006, the default size for default drawings in ADT 2006 and up is considerably less. The primary reason is that ADT uses Xref standards and a built-in database manager to keep your drawings together. ADT starts with the assumption of Objects verses historic line drawings that we used to preset in various plot standards – including embedded blocks and layer standards. ADT 2007 goes one better by reducing plot standards so there is no conflict between line weight and predefined plot styles. For example, it assumes that there are only less than a dozen plot styles – three for screening (25%, 50% and Full Saturation or 100%), non-plotting notes in cyan that can be used for coordinating projects, Normal and non-plotting styles. The user can establish line thickness by working on a customization of the layer standards.

It is not a perfect system yet, but I found that the only real problems are faced when updating from a past version to the shortened AIA Layer Standard #3. I have not yet figured out how to make the migration easier.


Remember that each drawing in ADT, whether a construct, element, view or plot drawing is predefined to maintain a library of small size drawing usually less than 50Kb in size. I’ve created some sheet templates for final plotting and even these (in ADT 2006) don’t exceed 150Kb for a 30x42” sheet border. The largest is about 1 mb to 1.6 mb for general notes sheets.


While ADT is no speed demon to load, the ability to work in smaller file sizes while not worrying about maintaining the database or structure of the file associations is very convenient. You can use the option function to pre-load the default ADT layer standards for various views when you start a new drawing. Even this keeps the file sizes very small and controls the location and linking of files.


We have much to learn about the improvements made in drawing and creating a drawing that uses a Building Information Management (BIM) standard. I noticed that the last issue of NCSEA’s Structures Journal is promoting courses on BIM to help bring many of us up to speed. At the small office level, we are probably the last ones to use 3D and BIM standards to coordinate drawings with other professionals. Almost all of the designers and Architects I work with are farther behind on this than I am. For the structural engineering community, integration of analysis tools such as RISA 3D into Autodesk Revit may be moving us from ADT to the various components of REVIT (Structural, Building etc). The goal is to keep the file sizes manageable and to start building structures on paper than waiting until they can be visualized in the field during actual construction. The problems associated in pre-design and planning are solved in most cases up front rather than in the costly problem of correcting design flaws during construction.


When using ADT it is worthwhile to throw away the pre-defined standards sheets with large embedded blocks and layer standards for small drawing (DWT) templates while using the content browser to locate the layers, standards and blocks we used in other project and simply dragging and dropping them into our new drawing.


The down side is there is a learning curve and this can be frustrating when you are in the middle of a project. Attempting to use online PDF manuals is not desirable for me as I have too many temptations to wander. What does help is the web cast tutorials that Autodesk has been inviting registered users to participate in. I attended two online using MS Office Net Meeting and found them to have a few annoying problems, but if you can get past this – they taught me a great deal. There are not enough of them yet and once they have been done live, they are recorded and posted for those who missed them. One big advantage in participating online for a new web cast is that you can chat with one of the tech support while the lecture is going on to ask specific questions. There is a small web client installed on your machine that makes the webcase virtually flawless so that you can follow every drawing step and explanation by the lecturer. Also, the lectures are audio as well as video and this makes it easy to follow everything that is being presented without having to read sub-titles which can be distracting.


ASCE has also announced the use of e-seminars today. I think that most of us (if the price is right) can benefit from online education to keep up with code changes and with technologies. Whether you use REVIT or ADT, the improvement and productivity advancements are excellent for those of us who can not travel and still wish to have a face-to-face lecture or be able to watch a demonstration to learn to use the tools available to us.




Dennis S. Wish, PE

California Professional Engineer

C-41250 Exp. March 31, 2007

Structural Engineering Consultant.