Nate Holt's Blog

August 16, 2009

Wire number tagging based upon “wire type” – AutoCAD Electrical

Filed under: Electrical — nateholt @ 10:39 pm

Auto-track / auto-assign wire numbers based upon wire type

Let’s say that your company standards for wire number assignment includes the following wire numbering requirements:

  1. 24volt DC wiring to use blue wire and tagged with a “DC-” prefix and sequential starting in the “5000” range.
  2. Ground wires to use green wire and have a “GND-” prefix plus a three digit sequential starting at “001”
  3. White neutral wires to have a “N-” prefix and start at sequential “1”
  4. Black power wiring to have a “-PWR” suffix.
  5. All other wiring to default to sequential starting at number “1”

At first blush you might think that your wire number assignments are going to be all manual and tedious. But that’s not the case. AutoCAD Electrical can be quickly set up to automatically conform to the above standard!

Here’s how

This mode is set up for the active project, project-wide, under AutoCAD Electrical’s “Project Properties”. This means that you can have one or more projects that behave this way (i.e. wire numbering based upon wire type) and other projects that behave in a more traditional manner. The wire numbering behavior is carried in the project itself.

Here is what the project properties dialog and wire number formats by wire layer sub-dialog look like in order to accommodate the above special conditions. The wire number format override is set up on a per wire layer basis (i.e. per “wire type” basis). Wild cards can be used.



For example, look at the “BLU*” entry. This line instructs AutoCAD Electrical to process all wiring found on layers (i.e. wire types) that begins with layer name “BLU” will be tagged with a wire number format “DC-%N”. This means that wires on layers BLU-16AWG, BLU-18AWG, BLU_1.0mm, and so on… in any drawing in the active project… will be tagged with unique wire numbers starting at “5000” and having a “DC-” prefix.

Yellow, green, and white wiring has its own format override defined above, one gauge of black wiring has a special format. All other wire color (i.e. wire types) will default to the drawing’s default wire tag format.

Test run

Here’s a simple example of a nonsense circuit with blue, green, white, red, black, and yellow wiring.


 To get the full effect, we need to make sure that the above drawing’s “Drawing Properties” is set up to default to “Sequential” wire numbering as shown here:


Now we run the normal AutoCAD Electrical “Wire Numbers” command (from ribbon or type AEWIRENO at command prompt), and… here is the result:


It works great. Note how the blue DC wiring, the green “ground” wiring, white, yellow, and black wiring all follow the project-wide wire number format overrides. The red wiring, not overridden, follows the normal drawing’s wire number format.



  1. Is the prefix considered part of the wire number for duplication checking?

    Example : wire numbers K1,K3,K5,K7,K9,#K11,K13

    Numbers K1,K3,K7,K9 & K13 are all non-critical wires while K11 is a critical safety circuit with the hash mark denoting a different coloured wire number insert.

    doing a normal renumber with manual coding of wire numbers results in two K11’s and no K13. One with a standard wire number insert and one with the special insert. This can result in confusion for the electricians.

    Would using a seperate layer for the critical safety circuit with a #K%N for the layer overide reult in the wire numbers not being duplicated or would they be duplicated?

    Regards Brad

    Comment by Brad Coleman — August 17, 2009 @ 12:16 am

    • Hi Brad,
      I tried your second suggestion… having a special “critical circuits wiretype” set up with a #K%N wire tag format. It seems to work fine. I manually forced a #Kxxx number on one drawing, another #Kxxx+1 on another drawing, and then ran auto-wire numbering on remaining wires. The wire numbers went in nicely onthe “critical circuits” wire type with the correct #K prefix. And it automatically skipped over the two previously assigned #K prefixed wire numbers, even though these were inserted on wires of a different wire type.

      I didn’t quite follow the first part of your comment (??)

      Comment by nateholt — August 17, 2009 @ 8:25 am

      • Were the numbers on the non critical circuits duplicating numbers in the critical section during the automatic wire numbering…

        I’ve had a more than one dwg where I’ve set the critical wires on a seperate layer, and then done a renumber, and non critical wires have ended up with the same number just without the prefix. It looks like 2008 doesn’t see the prefix as seperate from the wire number.
        What I end up with is two sequences of numbers, one with a # prefix and one without. Only problem is they use the same numbers. Our clients require the numbers to be different as otherwise the only difference between #K1 and K1 is the background of the wire number insert.

        This is what can lead to confusion as someone without knowledge of the circuitry could mistake them for being the same wire and cause problems by shorting them out.

        Regards Brad

        Comment by Brad Coleman — August 17, 2009 @ 6:41 pm

      • Okay, I understand now…. and yes, AutoCAD Electrical looks at the entire wire number string to determine if the wire number is unique… this includes any format prefix or suffix. For example, let’s say the wire number format is %S%N for sheet number plus wire number sequential.

        This means that AutoCAD Electrical will not use wire sequential “23” on sheet “11” if it has already assigned sequential “123” on sheet “1”. So, this means that “K1” and “#K1” are viewed as separate, unique wire numbers.



        Comment by nateholt — August 18, 2009 @ 12:17 am

  2. Hello Nate,

    Great article!

    Is there a way to have the wire size and color show up with the wire number and have only the wire number (not the size and color) match terminals?


    Comment by Aaron — August 17, 2009 @ 1:40 pm

    • Hi Aaron,
      Not sure I completely understand the question. Let’s say you have a 16 AWG red wire on layer name “RED-16” tied to a teriminal that is set up to follow the assigned wire number (instead of an independent terminal pin number assignment). You set up the wire numbering by wire type for this wire layer to be “%N (RED-16AWG)” and you get wire number assignment that might be in the format “123 (RED-16AWG)”. But the terminal on this wire network… you want it to automatically carry the wire number assignment sans the comment, right? You want the terminal to automatically get annotatated with “123” and without the extra “(RED-16AWG)”?

      Comment by nateholt — August 17, 2009 @ 1:53 pm

      • Hello Nate,
        That is exactly what I am looking for, one drawing entity to describe the wire number and the wire properties while having the terminal only consist of the wire number.

        Comment by Aaron — August 17, 2009 @ 1:58 pm

      • Where is this wire number + color/gauge information consumed? Is it just to appear as visual labels on the schematics? Or is it pulled into various reports or does it migrate to other drawing types in this form of concatenated wire number + color/gauge? If the former, then probably makes sense to just go with wire numbers and add some color/gauge labels on to the schematic drawings to supplement the displayed wire number. The terminals would then not have to be touched… the wire number itself would be “clean”. But if you’re wanting this expanded wire number format to be “the wire number” and show up on reports and migrate to panel drawings and other places, then you’ll probably need to have a small “post processing” utility written to clean up the wire number terminals. This tool would go through and strip off the extra color/gauge info that would come across from the attached wire network’s expanded wire number.

        Maybe I’m not understanding what you’re hoping to do…

        Comment by nateholt — August 17, 2009 @ 2:13 pm

  3. I was hoping to have it appear as visual labels on the schematic, so using the color/gauge labels sounds like my best option.


    Comment by Aaron — August 17, 2009 @ 2:40 pm

  4. No problem, thanks again for your help and informative articles!

    Comment by Aaron — August 18, 2009 @ 8:33 am

  5. Nate,

    I posted this at the Autodesk discussion group, but maybe you see it here faster.

    What I want to accomplish is to have the project set up in such a way to assign wire numbers based on the sheet number and line number (which is what I do now so this part is complete), but I want to do it for all wire types minus anything that is on layer GREEN***. Right now I get sheet number and line number assignment for ground wires and what I want to have is just wire number “GRD” for all my ground wires across the project. By using the method you described, I created an exception for layer GRE* so that it would label it “GRD”. I didn’t enter anything in the “Sequential start %N” and “Suffix list” fields, however, when I try to do assign wire numbers they appear as “GRD1”, “GRD2”, “GRD3”, etc. (which is my normal suffix setup for all the other wire types).

    So, the question is, is it possible to have the project set up in such a way to mark all my ground wires the same, “GRD” with no suffix? I do not label ground wires so I want them all to be the same.

    Comment by Cristian — October 19, 2009 @ 11:19 am

    • Not sure about this. But if you’re running a later version of AcadE, the wire type dialog now has an option for a wire layer to NOT get wire number assignments. Maybe you could make your green ground wire layer a layer that does not receive wire numbers. Then you manually force wire number GRD on them and hopefully AcadE will leave them alone. Try this and see if it gets you any closer to what you’re looking for.

      Comment by nateholt — November 13, 2009 @ 12:03 am

      • Thank you for the reply Nate. The workaround you suggested is how we currently do things. What I don’t like about doing things that way is that I first have to run the wire numbering project wide and then, manually assign GND wire number for each GREEN* wire. I was just hoping that there was a way to automatically make all GREEN wires GND when I do the project wide wire numbering. It doesn’t seem to be a way… I thought that maybe doing things the way it was suggested in this article would achieve that, but it doesn’t work.

        Thanks again!


        Comment by Cristian — November 13, 2009 @ 11:08 am

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