Data Management

Rules of File Referencing

8 Jun, 2011 By: Scott MacKenzie

From the Trenches: These rules will help you keep multi-person CAD and BIM projects in order on a file server.

Editor's Note: This tutorial establishes a set of general rules for naming and storing your linked files and xrefs. Scott MacKenzie, a Cadalyst contributing editor and BIM (building information modeling) manager in an architectural office, wrote these rules for managing CAD and BIM files; however, this approach to organizing drawings and models on a server could benefit CAD/engineering offices in any industry, including manufacturing.

Consistently following a few simple rules will minimize confusion for anyone who is navigating through your projects, now or in the future.

Folder Use

Files used for linking and referencing in a project should be placed in folders specifically designed for reference and linked files.

  • Do not link or reference files from archive folders.
  • Do not link or reference files from incoming, outgoing, sent, or received correspondence–type folders.
  • Do not link or reference files from other projects. The other project you link from may be archived and removed from the server before your project is finished — then all those linked files will be missing!
  • Do not link or reference files from your C: drive (Desktop, My Documents, My Pictures, etc.), or any local computer drive.
  • Files shall be referenced only from the same network drive and project folder structure.

Folder and File Naming

Be consistent in your file naming. Once you have a standard established, stick with it. Monitor what is going on and keep things consistent!

  • Files and folders with a date in the name should only be used for archive purposes.
  • Do not use files with "_copy" in the name as current working files.
  • Do not leave files with "_copy" in the name within current work folders.
  • Keep file and folder names short whenever possible. If folder and file names get too long, they can prevent files from being opened. (Long file names can be annoying anyway.)

New Work vs. Old   

  • Do not name files with the term "new." All active project files (linked or host) shall be considered as new work unless noted otherwise.
  • Do not name files with the term "old"; use "obsolete" instead. (Old can mean something other than obsolete.) After renaming the file, move it out of the current work folder.


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