Using layer filters in AutoCAD

photo of a filter

If you typically deal with a lot of layers in your drawings, and you are not using layer filters, then you may be subjecting yourself to unnecessary frustration. Depending on your discipline, a layer standard may contain 100 or more layers. Take your base drawing and add a couple of xrefs, and you could have hundreds of layers to sift through.

So why doesn't everyone use layer filters? Maybe they don't want to take time to create them? Maybe it's unknown territory? Maybe they don't think they need them?

Well, first off you only need to create them once in your template drawing(s) and second, there is nothing magical about creating them. The only real catch is you need some type of layer standard so that a filter in one drawing will work in the next. But most importantly, if you want to filter layers by name, your layer naming standard should be structured in such a way that makes this possible.

There are two types of layer filters, Property filters and Group filters. Property filters are created and updated automatically by using the properties of layers, such as the name, plot status, color, etc. Group filters allow you to add any combination of layers to the list regardless of their properties. This could be useful if your layer names are not suited for filtering with wildcards. If your layer names look like this; "Text", "Lines", "Building", "Pavement", "Junk", then property filtering by name will be almost impossible. The AIA layer standard on the other hand is well suited to filtering.

Here is a sample layer list with 424 layers.

Layer Manager

Notice the layer filters in the left pane. These are all "Property" filters, including the automatically created filter for XREFS and a subcategory for each loaded xref. Back to the property filters... the first one is named "All Except XREF", meaning that it is set up to display all layers except xref layers. To create this filter, think about the symbol that all XREF layers contain, the pipe character "|". If we simply added this to our name filter, no layers would be selected. You need to add a wildcard character on each side like this "*|*". Now what happens? You should get only XREF layers, because you are telling the filter to show only layers whose name includes the pipe character. What we want is the opposite. You can do this by prefixing your filter string with a tilde "~", which tells the filter to do the opposite. (The full list of wildcards can be found under the topic "Filter and Sort the List of Layers" in the Users Guide"). The finished layer filter looks like this.

Layer Filter Example

The layers displayed in the bottom of this dialog are a sample of the result of the filter. Let's create a new filter from scratch. Click the NEW PROPERTY FILTER button in the upper left of the Layer dialog. Give it a name. In this example, I only want to see the "General" layers that plot, and that are on and thawed. Start by giving the filter a name, like "G Layers that Plot". Next, in the name column, enter the string "G-*". Select the appropriate values in the "On", "Freeze", and "Plot Status" columns also. Here is the complete filter definition.

New Layer Filter Example

Below is the result of applying this filter. Notice that only 18 of the 425 layers are shown.

Layer Manager

The other nice feature about layer filters, is that the filter is automatically applied to the layer drop down in your toolbar or ribbon. You can change this behavior in the "Settings" button inside the layer manager.

Layer drop down

Group filters are created in the same manner, except there is no dialog. A group name is simply added to the list of filters, and then you can drag and drop the desired layers onto this new name.


When you add Layer Combo Control to the Quick Access Toolbar you can't see any difference with applied filter. (MAP 3D 2010)

Is there a way in AutoCAD 2010 to bring in layer filters I've created in other drawings? 2009 seemed to have easy import and export buttons that I can't find in 2010.

You know, I remember there being an "import/export" in Land Desktop, I want to say the 2006 or 2008 version, but I have not seen these commands in any other version... Anyone else?

ToolPac includes a function to import named layer filters from other drawings if 3rd party tools are an option.

Thanks for the pointer. Now to figure out why useful things are removed and then given back to us in the form of registry hacks...?

The layer option is provide in the auto cad is very good because in the mechanical drawing the designer want to show the different layers from different materials so because of that layer option we can easily described on the drawing that can easily understood to the peoples who are going to implement that drawing.


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