Tipster R.T. Rinehart discusses using the AutoCAD tool DataExtraction to export specific bits of information from your drawings.
“An often overlooked tool in AutoCAD that is great for drawing analysis and quantities is the DataExtraction command. A nifty wizard will guide you through the whole process of extracting data from the current drawing or multiple drawings’ sheet sets, depending on your needs.
“Upon creating your first template saved as a DXE file, you are shown all of the objects in your drawing that you can choose to include in a table or extraction. The properties or extractable data varies according to the object selected. I work for a civil firm, so, for instance, one might select polyline for the object type and choose to extract the layer, color, and length for a roadway striping quantities table. If you have drawn each type of striping on individual layers (e.g., solid yellow, skip yellow, etc.), then each layer, color, and overall length of all polyline objects on that layer will be shown by the data extraction wizard. Once that data is extracted, AutoCAD allows you to write the data out to several different formats like XLS or CSV, or you can just insert the data extraction table directly into your drawing.
“Once you play around with the table styles a little bit, you can end up with a good-looking data table that is automated for you, saving tons of time and manual calculation. Also, keep in mind that the data contained in the table is easily updated if the geometry changes by right-clicking and telling it to update the data links. I only scratched the surface of the DataExtraction command in this example. We have used this powerful feature to automate an entire summary of quantities table, and I think you will find it an invaluable tool with a little bit of practice at getting what you need.”
Notes from Cadalyst tip reviewer Brian Benton: DataExtraction is a very powerful tool that can be used in many different ways and for an infinite number of reasons. Any bit of information that is displayed in the Properties palette can be extracted. A line, as an example, has a lot of data. You can extract color, layer, linetype, length, starting (or end) coordinates, rotation, etc. You can use it to count blocks in your file. You can use it to extract areas (or volumes) of objects. Use it to count or list anything in your files. Once identified, the data can be inserted directly into your AutoCAD file in a table or extracted to a third-party file, including XLS and CSV file types. Once extracted into one of these files, the data can be viewed and used in other programs.