Georeference CAD data

The tools needed to georeference a CAD dataset in ArcGIS Pro are located on the CAD Layer tab. You can use these interactive tools to reposition the data, as well as register control points to specific geographic coordinates.

To display the tools, select a CAD feature layer in the Contents pane and click the CAD Data tab. Click Georeference Georeference in the Alignment ribbon group.

CAD Data tab

The sections below are organized in the order of a typical georeferencing workflow. The methods you use and the order in which you perform them can vary depending on your data.

Choose a georeferencing layer

All commands and tools on the CAD Data tab act on the CAD feature layer selected in the Contents pane. Georeferencing a single CAD feature layer applies that transformation to the entire dataset. Once you have georeferenced a CAD feature layer, you can add the other feature classes of that dataset to the map and they will be constrained by the same control points.


The CAD Data tab is not visible when a CAD group layer is selected. To display the tab, select a child feature layer in the CAD group layer.

CAD feature layer selected in the Contents pane

Assign a spatial reference

If your CAD dataset does not have a coordinate system defined, you can apply one using the Define Projection tool Define Projection in the Alignment group on the CAD Data tab on the Tools tab. Assigning a spatial reference is a best practice for producing an accurate transformation.

Move the dataset to the current view

If the CAD drawing's origin coordinate (0,0,0) is significantly different than that of the map projection in your data frame, the CAD dataset may be added outside your data extent. When this happens, zoom to the destination area and click Move To Display in the Prepare group on the CAD Data tab on the Tools tab. This shifts the dataset to fit the current view, regardless of where it is located. The file maintains its original scale. If you need to scale the file further to fit your map, see the section below.

Rotate, move, or scale the dataset

In most cases, positioning your dataset before closer to its final position before adding control points can help you complete your task more efficiently. The Rotate Rotate, Move Move, and Scale Scale tools allow you to manipulate the dataset without using control points. These tools are in Prepare group on the CAD Data tab on the Tools tab.

Add control points

Adding control points is the best practice for conducting a precise georeference. Control points allow you to snap specific CAD features in your dataset to corresponding features in your control data.

To add control points, click Add Control Points Add Control Points in the Adjust group on the CAD Data tab on the Tools tab. To update the map display based on the control points created, click Apply Apply.

In the Control Point table, you can modify the numeric values of your control points as you create them. To open the Control Point table, click Control Point Table Open Control Point Table in the Review group on the CAD Data tab on the Tools tab.

Save the transformation

After adding control points manually or loading them from a world file (.wld), you have three options of saving the transformation and georeferencing the dataset. These options are on the CAD Layer tab in the Save group.

  • Save Save—Saves the control points to a .wld file in the CAD workspace and applies the transformation.
  • Save To Workspace Save To Workspace—Saves a universal world file (esri_cad.wld) to the CAD workspace.
  • Save as New Save As New—Opens the Save as dialog box, allowing you to save a world file or universal world file outside of the CAD workspace.