Nate Holt's Blog

August 19, 2010

Updating drawings from scratch database edits – AutoCAD Electrical

Filed under: Electrical — nateholt @ 7:55 am

Alternate to the Excel –> Project update tool set: edits to the project scratch database (Microsoft Access) updating the project drawing set.

This is actually the 5th installment of the Excel / AutoCAD Electrical tutorial. This is driven from an Autodesk webcast from a couple weeks ago by Autodesk’s Nathan Eliason. The first four blog postings were:

  • Part 1 – Copy existing project drawing set, export “To Spreadsheet”, edit in Excel, update drawings “From Spreadsheet”
  • Part 2 – Ability to not only push edited attribute values from Excel to the drawing set, but do “block swap” as well
  • Part 3 – Enhancing the editing capabilities by adding your own custom attribute columns to an existing Excel sheet and having these work with the “From Spreadsheet” update tool
  • Part 4 – Editing wire number assignments from Excel and then pushing the edits back into the drawing set

This is an alternate to using Excel. It may or may not appeal to you.

When using the Excel-based “To Spreadsheet” / “From Spreadsheet”, you had to first dump the project data out to Excel (the “To Spreadsheet” utility) before making edits in the speadsheet and then updating the drawing set (with the “From Spreadsheet” part of the tool-set).

Here, with this alternate approach, we use Microsoft Access and make edits directly to tables in the project’s “scratch database” file. When finished, we run a command called update “From Project MDB”.

The scratch database “From Project MDB” tool is accessed from the same ribbon as the Excel tool set. 

And it works similar to the update “From Spreadsheet” half… it goes through looking for differences between the edited database table(s) and the project drawing set. When differences found, it attempts to push the edits out to target attributes.

Step 1 – Before you select the “From Project MDB” tool, make a COPY of the current state of the project’s “scratch” database file. This file is in Microsoft Access format and is likely buried deep in a folder structure. Find its name as shown below. Make a working copy of this file by either opening up the file and doing a SAVEAS or using normal copy file sequence in Explorer or equal. Put this temporary working copy somewhere you can easily find it again.


Step 2 – Open up your working copy of the Access file in Microsoft Access. Here is where you can make edits to fields in various tables, paralleling what was presented in the Excel-based tutorial here.

Step 3 – After edits to the copy of the scratch database file are finished. Save the file.

Step 4 – Now launch the “From Project MDB” command. Select it from the AutoCAD Electrical menu as shown below.  Browse to the edited copy of the scratch database file. Hit Open.

Toggle ON the tables that you’ve edited on this dialog (below). There are actually more options here than available in the Excel version of the tool.


Then hit OK. A dialog pops up asking you to identify what drawings you want to process. Then the update happens, just like with the Excel version (!)

Caution: Make sure that you are the only person currently working on the project between the time you make the working copy of the scratch database and you trigger the actual update with the “From Project MDB” tool. Otherwise, there is a chance that someone else’s edits to the common project drawing set made durng this short time could be overwritten when you trigger the update.




  1. […] sounds to your too-quiet AutoLisp utility Updating drawings from scratch database edits Tutorial – Using Excel with AutoCAD Electrical (Part 4 – Wire numbers) Tutorial – Using […]

    Pingback by Index of AutoCAD Electrical Utilities – April 2006 through August 2010 « AutoCAD Electrical Etcetera — September 1, 2010 @ 3:49 pm

  2. Nate, is there any way to utilize the “Import From Spreadsheet” feature from the AutoCAD Electrical API? Either C# or AutoLISP?

    Comment by David Faunce — June 8, 2017 @ 4:24 pm

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