Control Your Large Layer List With Filters: Tuesday Tips With Frank


Layers. They’re a core feature any AutoCAD user learns about early on. After lines, arcs, and circles, along with how to modify said items, we learn about layers to help us better organize our drawings.

A well-designed layering standard is one of the key components of a design department’s efficiency. But what happens when that layer list becomes so large that it becomes unmanageable?

Imagine bringing a master plan together in an AEC office by bringing in all disciplines as Xrefs. You can suddenly have thousands of layers to manage. That’s where today’s topic comes in—it’s called Layer Filters.

Property Filters

You can create two types of named filters: property filters and group filters. One is more complicated than the other, but both can be very useful. Let’s look at property filters first.

First things first… open the New Property Filter dialog from the icon in the upper left corner of the Layer palette. It’s the one that looks like a folder with a little funnel.

Screenshot of property filter in AutoCAD

Now, it’s time to build your filter. You can use any of a layer’s properties to filter your results. I’ll be building a filter that only gives me layers that have the string “A-Flor” at the beginning and are either red or cyan in color. You first want to give it a name, as you’ll see it listed in the filters panel of the palette when you’re done. I’ll name mine Arch Floor.

Now come the property filters. Since I’m interested in the layer’s name, I’ll click on the Name column in the first row. You’ll see it’s pre-populated with an asterisk. If you’re unfamiliar with wildcards in AutoCAD, you might want to refer to one of my very first Tuesday Tips, where I discuss them more in-depth. I’ll specify the string “A-Flor*.” As I do, you’ll see the layer list begin to change, showing only those layers that match the new criteria. Next, I’ll click in the first-row field of the Color column. A small glyph will display on the right side. Click it to bring up the Select Color dialog. Select the red swatch and click OK. You’ll see your filter preview list now only shows A-Flor layers that are red. Congratulations. You’ve just built a logical AND query. That’s an important thing to know about this dialog. The first row of filters (I could have added any red A-Flor layers that are Thawed) is always a logical AND – in other words, all filters must be true to display a layer name.

Screenshot of layer filter properties in AutoCAD

But we said we wanted all A-Flor names that were either red or cyan. That’s where your subsequent lines come into play. They are logical OR statements. You’ll want to keep the first row’s filters, so let’s duplicate that row. Right-click anywhere on it and select Duplicate Row.

Now, I’ll change the red color to cyan. Just like that, I have what I was after. Click on OK to save your filter. It will immediately show up as the active filter in the layer palette.

Screenshot of active filter in layer palette in AutoCAD

Group Filters

Group filters are much easier to create. The icon is next to the properties filter – without the funnel.

Screenshot of creating new group filter in AutoCAD

This type of filter is just a name, drag, and drop operation. Let’s say we wanted a subset of our property filter containing just red A-Flor layers. Click the icon, and a new filter will appear in the palette, ready to be named. Since it’s now active, the layer panel will show no layers. It’s up to you to find what you want and populate it. I’ll return to my property filter, select only the red A-Flor layers, and drag them into the new group filter.

Yeah. It really is just that easy.

One Last Thing

There’s a very handy checkbox at the bottom of the filters panel in the palette. Check it to invert the results of the filter list. In the image below, instead of getting red A-Flor layers, you’d get those that are not red A-Flor layers.

Screenshot of checkbox at bottom of filter panel in AutoCAD

OK, two last things… remember earlier that I said you could have thousands of layers in our example scenario? If you ever do, you’ll notice that they probably won’t sort alphabetically. That’s controlled by a system variable called MAXSORT. Its default value is 1000. If you have 1001 layers, they won’t automatically sort. Set it higher to make it sort again. But not higher than 32767 – which is, of course, (nerd alert) the maximum value of a 16-bit signed integer.

So, don’t let a massive layer list overwhelm you. Take control of what you see by utilizing property and group filters.

More Tuesday Tips

Check out our whole Tuesday Tips series for ideas on how to make AutoCAD work for you. Do you have any favorite AutoCAD tips? Tell us in the comments!

Frank Mayfield

Frank has worked in various design and CAD Management roles with AutoCAD and Autodesk software since 1986 (v2.62). He is currently a Design Technology Consultant in Tulsa, OK. He also serves as Vice President on the AUGI Board of Directors and is a member of numerous Autodesk user panels. As a top-rated mentor for trial users of AutoCAD 2018 and AutoCAD LT 2018, he has provided live, real-time guidance and support for over 2,500 new users in more than 50 countries worldwide. He currently serves on the AUGI Board of Directors and is a member of numerous Autodesk user panels.

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