CAD data as ArcGIS Pro layers

You can add CAD data directly as feature layers in ArcGIS Pro. When CAD data is added to a map, the resulting CAD feature dataset of feature classes is accessible as a read-only feature layer. AutoCAD and MicroStation are two widely used general-purpose CAD platforms. These platforms accommodate a range of applications. ArcGIS Pro accepts data generated by AutoCAD and MicroStation-based applications and other applications that use the DGN, DWG, and DXF file formats. ArcGIS Pro also reads other feature class content in AutoCAD DWG and DXF format files from AutoCAD Civil 3D and Esri's ArcGIS for AutoCAD.

CAD data positioning

CAD data is a common source of GIS content, but before it can be used in ArcGIS Pro, the data must have a defined coordinate location. CAD files are required to have a valid Esri coordinate system file (.prj), and may require an optional coordinate transformation information file (.wld) to identify how the coordinates in the CAD data should be positioned on the earth's surface. ArcGIS Pro alerts you when you attempt to add CAD data that does not have a proper spatial reference. Notifications will guide you to choose the proper spatial reference, and you will be presented with tools for any necessary CAD data repositioning. To validate the positioning information for any CAD or BIM file, you can inspect the file properties in the Catalog pane and perform a coordinate positioning validation.

CAD feature datasets in the map

Adding a CAD feature dataset to a map generates a group layer of feature layers. CAD layers in CAD software can be used to organize data and control visibility, and is used to control the default symbolic properties of entities on that CAD layer. Unlike GIS layers, this content can be of any geometric type and there is no requirement for consistent attribution. In CAD you can combine geometry types and other data in a single layer. CAD layers are technically a graphic property and a convenient way to organize content. You can also use symbolic variations such as line type and color to organize or classify your drawing data. As a result, the data's context may be necessary to identify entities as useful as one particular GIS feature or another.

However, CAD layers are most often used as the primary data organizing property. When the CAD feature dataset is added to a map, the groups of the resultant CAD group layer are organized by both CAD layer name and default geometric types for points, polylines, polygons, annotation, and multipatch. In each group, multiple feature layers are defined for each default feature class and for each CAD layer or level name. Since the CAD layer or level is the most popular method of organizing CAD files, this organization is used in the Contents pane for each default group. An unfiltered feature layer with the default geometric type's name is included in the group and contains features representing all of the CAD entities in the drawing of that geometric type. Depending on your ArcGIS Pro visibility settings for adding data, this feature layer is generally added with its visibility tuned off, while the other layers organized by CAD layer or level are visible by default. Each of the feature layers based on CAD layer or level include symbology that mimics that of the original CAD file.

CAD feature classes in the map

Adding an individual CAD feature dataset feature class to a map or scene generates a single feature layer in the map. This is different than the behavior of creating a group layer when the entire CAD feature dataset is added. The symbology of the resultant feature class mimics that of the original CAD entities, but as with any feature layer, you can change the symbology using the standard feature layer symbology editing tools in ArcGIS Pro.

CAD data in geoprocessing

The CAD feature dataset is a valid read-only dataset that can be used by all of the ArcGIS geoprocessing tools. Similarly, the CAD file can be used in file-based geoprocessing tools. The feature classes of the CAD feature dataset are valid read-only feature classes that can be used in all of the geoprocessing tools that support read-only feature classes as input. The CAD file workspace is the system file folder for the CAD file.

The Export To CAD tool can output feature class or feature layer data to append to or create .dwg, .dxf, or .dgn file content. By default, any data that is exported to DWG or DXF format generates attributed feature classes in the mapping specification for CAD format, which is understood by the ArcGIS for AutoCAD plug-in application to AutoCAD and ArcGIS Desktop.

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