Reference Manager, the most underutilized tool in AutoCAD

I believe that this is one of the most underutilized tools of AutoCAD and most people are not even aware of its existence, even I was unaware of its existence but recently I read about it and decided to share it with you.

Reference manager is like a control panel of all reference files of your drawing, it stores the path of every dependent file like font style, plot style tables, X-ref etc. which are generally accompanied with the drawing.

This tool can help you in identifying all missing files in a drawing and not only that you can even re-associate those missing or broken file paths using this tool.

AutoCAD reference manager

You can’t open reference manager from your AutoCAD window, to open it go to start button in your windows PC select All Programs option then expand Autodesk folder and select your installed AutoCAD version then select Reference Manager from expanded list. Once reference manager is open you will see a window like the one shown in the image above.

You will notice an error icon in the left pane of this window indicating that no drawing is added to it. Click on Add drawings button on the top left of this window locate your drawing and add it, you will see a prompt asking you to load all reference or first level references. If you want to analyze all nested referenced drawings then select load all references else select only first level references.

You can add DWG, DWT and DWS files to reference manager and you can also add multiple files to the reference manager.

Once your drawing is open you will see a list of all drawing entity type in the left pane and also you will see a list all entities in the right pane with their path, as shown in the image below.

AutoCAD Reference manager

You will notice that a green check mark 1 appears in the status of most of the entities, these are resolved entities but there are also some entities shown with an exclamation mark 2 which AutoCAD was not able to resolve and a “Not Found” button appears in the status of those unresolved entities.

To make sure AutoCAD finds these missing entities you need to repair their broken path. If you know the path of missing entity then double click on the unresolved entity or select it then click on Edit selected paths button 4 on the top of Reference manager window. You can also press and hold CTRL key to select multiple entities.

A new edit selected path window will appear, click on the box next to the empty field in the window and locate the folder where the unresolved file is present and click OK to close the window. You will notice that the exclamation mark is now replaced with check mark with edit icon3 indicating that the reference is now manually resolved.

AutoCAD Reference manager

If you don’t have access to those missing files then you can replace those files with your own custom file as well. For example, if you have a missing font then rename your custom font with the filename which you see in the reference manager and reassociate path of the missing font with the path of your own custom font.

Once you have made these changes click on Apply Changes button6 on the top of reference manager window.

You can also export a report of all the changes that have been made and save it as excel (CSV, XLS) or XML file for your own reference. For that click on Export report button on top of the Reference Manager window specify the location where you want to save your file and click OK.

Do you have questions related to this tip? Let me know in comments below.

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About the Author:

Mulkesh is a Mechanical engineer proficient in surface and sheet metal designing, he has worked for Agricultural components manufacturing unit like Sonalika tractors and CLAAS India and is currently working with GE as CATIA designer. He primarily works with CATIA & AutoCAD and loves to fumble around with other CAD software's too.


  1. IVAN J JARAMILLO B June 25, 2018 at 7:23 pm - Reply


  2. tbanker May 17, 2018 at 7:51 pm - Reply

    When I try to add a drawing I get an error message:

    Drawings not added because of problems: 1

    Any suggestions for what could cause this?

  3. Don May 9, 2018 at 8:20 pm - Reply

    Well if the xref manager didn’t force the file format to match the version of xref manager used then we would use this all the time. Unfortunately we have clients that require files to be saved as older version formats (such as acad 2010 and acad 2004) xref manager wont allow that.

  4. Keith April 6, 2018 at 4:45 pm - Reply

    20 years using A-Cad and have never opened this, have always used xref manager.I’m going to have a look now.
    I have a quick query about xrefs and maybe you can help.
    I have a base file which continually gets rev’d up ie it started with KM-004-01-A or something similar, every week this gets rev’d up a step to KM-004-01-B, then KM-004-01-C.
    There are a about 80 drawings that reference this file and it gets time consuming to Link the most updated xref everytime.Is there any way to get cad to load the most updated xref in the folder across the board ie load by latest date or to ignore the A/B/C

  5. She February 7, 2018 at 5:20 am - Reply

    Hi, can you load an unloaded reference from the Reference Manager?

    • Jaiprakash Pandey February 8, 2018 at 12:19 pm - Reply

      I don’t think you can do that in reference manager, but you can do that using external reference palette.

  6. mohammed February 6, 2018 at 4:57 pm - Reply

    how to download this software

    • Jaiprakash Pandey February 8, 2018 at 12:21 pm - Reply

      Reference manager is not a standalone software it comes baked within AutoCAD, just navigate to the Autodesk>AutoCAD folder in the start menu of PC and select reference manager option.

  7. Stephen June 26, 2017 at 8:45 pm - Reply

    I have a drawing where I edited the baseplan path from a logical drive to a UNC path. Therefore, the “Saved Path” is the UNC path but the “Found Path” is blank. How do I edit the “Found Path” to match the “Saved Path?” I am unable to perform this edit in neither the Reference Manager nor the actual drawing. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.

  8. Chad Haywood February 9, 2017 at 8:56 am - Reply

    After ‘Applying changes’ to resolve my Xref with ‘checked mark with edit icon’ it just becomes not found again. I know for a fact that ive selected the correct reference folder… Any idea why things seem to revert afterwards?

    • Jaiprakash Pandey February 9, 2017 at 7:18 pm - Reply

      Have you checked your drawing to conform if it is resolving Xref or is it just in reference manager?

  9. Anonymous February 16, 2016 at 12:56 pm - Reply

    Hi sir………..I have a doubt in autocad which is out of this topic.when I try to use LAYISO for a block, the block gets turned off too………….what is the solution…………?

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