Whats is the differences between Binding or Inserting Xrefs?


Have you ever wondered what die difference is when binding Xrefs? Using either the Bind or Insert options?


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. Once you have used the Xrefs you can either detach the linked file or Bind it to the main file.

Now there are two way how to Bind an Xrefs to a drawing. Bind and Insert. We’ll look at the differences between the two and how it effects 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.

Main drawing layers

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’.

Attach 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. The Xrefs drawing’s layers has been added to the list with the name of the drawing as a prefix to the layer’s name.

Inserted layers

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

Binding differences:

Currently the Floor Plan Sample drawing exist 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 re-path the Xref. For future reference this is done from within the External References Setting (keyboard shortcut is ‘er’) or see the icon found in the Insert tab and Reference panel.

External Ref settings

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 its only the ‘Floor Plan Sample.dwg’ drawing. Note that the file status is ‘Loaded’.

Linked files

Right Mouse Click the linked file. Select the Bind option. This will bind the linked file to the Main drawing file.


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

two options

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. That is why its not showing as a linked file in external reference dialogue box.

Bind done

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

Bind option - layers

The benefit of this will be that because these layer names will be unique, they will be kept separate from the Main drawing’s layer names.

Insert Option.

Select the Insert option and then click OK.

Insert option

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. No prefixes have been added to the layer names. Note that the layer names from the external reference has been merged with the local layer names from the Main drawing.

Insert Option - layers

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 inserted into the local drawing. You’ll just need to decide how you want to see the layer names, 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.