Binding vs Inserting Xrefs


Have you ever wondered what die difference is when working with Xrefs and then binding the Xrefs to your drawing?

The idea behind Xrefs or external references is that you link another drawing to the main drawing. If the linked drawing changes it updates the main drawing. It can be used in many environments. And once you have used the Xrefs you can either detach the file or Bind the external file to the main one.

Now there are two ways how to Bind an Xrefs to a drawing. Bind and Insert. We’ll look at the differences between the two and how it affects the drawing’s layers.


I opened an empty ISO drawing and called it ‘Main drawing.dwg’. Below is a screenshot of the layers in the drawing.

I then used the Attach tool found in the Insert ribbon and Reference panel to attach a sample drawing called ‘Floor Plan Sample.dwg’ to the main drawing. The Floor plan drawing is found in the install directory of AutoCAD, for example, C:\Program Files\Autodesk\AutoCAD 2019\Sample\Database Connectivity\Floor Plan Sample.dwg

Looking at the layers of the Main drawing that contains the Floor Plan external reference you’ll see that original layers remain the same and the Xrefs drawing’s layers have been added to the list with the name of the drawing in front of the layer’s name.

As a user, you can manage the Xrefs layers as normal layers like changing properties like Colours and Lineweights. You can also Lock these layers or turn off their visibility by clicking on the yellow bulb so that it turns blue.

Binding differences:

Currently, the Floor Plan Sample drawing exists as a separate file to the Main drawing. The two files are linked together using a Path. So if the Floor Plan Sample drawing should be renamed or moved the path will be broken and you’ll need to repath the Xref. For future reference, this is done from within the External References Setting (er keyboard shortcut) or see the icon found in the Insert tab and Reference panel.

You’ll also use this icon to bind the Xref files to the Main drawing. So click this icon. A dialogue box will appear showing all the drawings linked to this Main Drawing. In this case it is only the ‘Floor Plan Sample.dwg’ drawing. Note that the file status is ‘Loaded’.

To bind the linked file to the Main one you will simply Right Mouse Click the file and select the Bind option.

Once you select Bind you’ll be presented with two methods: Bind and Insert.

We’ll first look at the ‘Bind’ option.

Bind Option.

When selecting the Bind option, you’ll notice that the drawing has now been inserted and thus not showing as an external reference.

Looking at the layer manager you’ll see that the layers have been imported and their names remain in the same format, with special characters separating the old drawing name and the layer name.

The benefit will be that because these layer names will be unique they will be separate from the Main drawing names.

Insert Option

Select the Insert option and then click ok.

Like the Bind option, you’ll notice that the Floor Plan Sample drawing is missing from the Xref List.

Looking at the layer list you’ll notice that the layers have been inserted with no prefix so the layers from the external reference have been merged with the local layer names from the Main drawing.

One thing to remember with this option is that if there had been a layer named similar in both the Main drawing and the external reference drawing then the layer which is Inserted will take on the properties of the Main drawing’s layer’s properties.


With both the Insert and Bind options when binding an external reference, you’ll get the layers inside the local drawing. You’ll just need to just decide how you want to see the layers as based on the options above. Perhaps the safest option is to use the Bind option as layer names will be unique and not merge with any of the local drawing’s layers.