Knowledge Base - Technical Articles

Technical Article   HowTo:  Export geodatabase feature classes to CAD including annotation using the Export to CAD Tool

Article ID: 30328
Software:  ArcGIS - ArcEditor 9.2, 9.3, 9.3.1, 10 ArcGIS - ArcInfo 9.2, 9.3, 9.3.1, 10 ArcGIS - ArcView 9.2, 9.3, 9.3.1, 10
Platforms: N/A


Instructions provided describe one method for converting geodatabase feature classes to CAD file formats (DWG or DXF) that include layer names and text entities.


The process outlined below is performed in ArcMap.

  1. Add the geodatabase feature classes to be converted to a new, empty ArcMap session. Label each feature class, as needed, with the attribute(s) to be converted to text entities in the output CAD file.
  2. Convert the labels for each feature class to annotation in the geodatabase.

     Annotation stored in the map cannot be converted to CAD.

  3. The default AutoCAD screen color is black, and the default output text color is also black. Text converted with the default color does not show up in AutoCAD. To control the output text color for annotation in the AutoCAD file, add the field named 'COLOR', defined as 'Short Integer', to each annotation feature class and calculate a CAD color number into the field. Some standard AutoCAD color numbers are:

    1 = Red
    2 = Yellow
    3 = Green
    4 = Cyan
    5 = Blue
    6 = Magenta
    7 = White/Black (the display color for the text in AutoCAD is controlled by the screen color)
  4. In Export to CAD, the default layer name is the name of the feature class. To create data on different layers in the output CAD file, use the following method:

    Add a field named LAYER to the feature class attribute table, with the data type defined as Text, a length of 25, and populate the layer field with the layer names to be assigned to the features during export.

     CAD layers can contain different kinds of features, so the same layer name can be used for features of all feature types being converted. If the layer field is left blank for some features, those features are saved on Layer 0.

     At version 9.3.1 and previous versions, if a field exists in the attribute table that already contains suitable layer names, use the 'Set CAD Alias' Tool and set the Alias for that field to 'Layer'.

     If the data was originally imported from an AutoCAD DWG or DXF file, the field named 'Layer' already exists in the attribute tables. Those Layer names are reassigned to the exported data.

  5. After performing the above steps as needed, open the Export to CAD tool, selecting the point, polyline, polygon and annotation feature classes as needed for input in the tool.
  6. Select the output location and enter an appropriate name for the output CAD file. Click OK.

     The .dwg or .dxf file extensions must be included in the output file name.

    The data is converted to the selected output CAD format.
  7. Refer to article links in the Related Information section below for more detailed instructions and tips on this conversion process.

Related Information

Created: 1/5/2006
Last Modified: 12/12/2011

Article Rating: (2)
If you would like to post a comment, please login


By kentdr - 07/03/2014 1:59 PM

Great article! It helped a lot!

Worked great. The 'export to CAD' tool is found by right clicking on the featureclass in the ToC. The most helpful part of the article is changing the color of the annotations. I had created many annotation datasets, but people were having trouble with the black annotations.


By Anonymous - 06/25/2009 1:57 PM

The article is incorrect or the solution didn’t work.

That To CAD does not exist in my ToolBox. Even if it did, this is really cumbersome. You can easily convert a shape file to dxf using other programs with more ease. Sorry, but ESRI charges for every little extension, etc.