5 CAD File Management Tips

Updated Apr 12, 2017
CAD File Management Tips

One of the key difficulties with CAD files, whether you’re a part of a large-scale company or just a CAD-hobbyist, is managing them.

If you don’t have control over your CAD file management, it can lead to situations where files can be lost or overwritten. When working in teams, poor management can lead to files being re-duplicated and the wrong CAD files being revised.

To avoid these issues, and to make your life a little easier, use these 5 CAD file management tips.

1. Folder Systemscaddmanager's example of a folder system for cad

To begin with, make sure you have a logical folder system for all of your CAD files, whether they’re a DXF or DWG file format. Separate them by project name and create sub-folders within each project folder; e.g. Project > Concept > Design > Completed.

Standardizing this system will help you to structure your projects in a simple, logical manner, meaning you can locate your CAD files quickly and efficiently.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can make these systems as complex as you like. For more tips, check out CADDmanager’s example of folder conventions.

2. Naming Conventions

Creating a standard naming convention is another great way of increasing efficiency. It may sound very basic, but it can prevent a lot of confusion when trying to figure out where a specific file is because you can’t remember the name.

One of the most common naming conventions distinguishes between files using number sequences and dates. For example, your file could be named ‘filename_xx_2016’. This can help to avoid confusion when locating files on your system.

Be aware, though, that conventions only work if they are standardized. You can use naming conventions across projects, or across an entire team. To find out more click here.

3. Revision Conventions

With most projects, there are constant re-edits and revisions. This is true no matter how many people are involved, or whether the project involves CAD or not. Inevitably, you will end up with multiple versions of the same file, with only slight differences between them. This can lead to the wrong duplicate being revised or even published.

Instead, choose a revision naming convention – e.g. ‘filename_xx_2016_revision_a’. 

When you want to revise a file, copy it and rename it according to this convention. This revised version will be placed into a separate folder for older files. Meanwhile, the original (‘filename_xx_2016’ ) will be the copy you update and edit.

This ensures that the updated version of the file stays in the project folder, and keeps the original name. Meanwhile, older revisions can be stored in a separate folder, detailing the history of your project.

4. Consistent Tidy-Ups

Once you’re done with a particular version of a project, place it into a ‘history’ folder. This ‘history’ folder will contain previous revisions and versions of your CAD files.

By doing this, you avoid having multiple older files within your project folder. This gives you access to a file’s full revision history, and allows you to revert back to an older version if you need to. The difficulties that arise when you don’t use revision conventions are discussed here.

5. Alternatives

The Cloud

You’re probably accustomed to using cloud storage systems to store and access your CAD files. In fact, we discussed this in an earlier article here. The cloud makes it easy to access these files anywhere and to collaborate efficiently.

You may also be familiar with cloud-based CAD. cloud-based cad interaction with hardware depiction This allows you to store all of your CAD files in the cloud, meaning that you can view and edit them from any location.

Full-cloud software like Autodesk’s Fusion 360 and Onshape are perfect for CAD file management, as they allow teams to edit simultaneously, meaning that there is only ever one version of a file. This prevents duplicates or confusion. Their sleek interfaces allow for more efficient management of CAD files.

More information regarding Onshape and Autodesk can be found in our monthly roundup here.

Other Options

Software like GrabCAD’s Workbench can also be useful for ordering and managing CAD files. This software is most appropriate for larger companies. Smaller companies may be better served by following the steps above first.

PDM (Product Data Management) is also an alternative. However, this can be difficult to manage and maintain, and it can be very expensive.

In the short term, file management can take some serious work. The long-term payoff, however, can be huge. From document history to increased efficiency, there are huge benefits to good file management.

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