Go Between CAD and ArcGIS Through Use of Shapefiles

Just like there are many ways to accomplish tasks in ArcGIS, there are many ways to accomplish tasks in CAD.  In addition, there are many ways to accomplish tasks that involve going back and forth between the programs.  This is a quick guide to the basics.

From CAD to ArcGIS:

  • Open an .mxd, and go to the “Add Data” button.  Add the CAD Drawing.  It will appear in the “Table of Contents”.  An error tells you that it’s missing a spatial reference.
  • Once the .dwg is added, you can assess the missing spatial reference accordingly by exporting the layers as shapefiles, and projecting the data.

From ArcGIS to CAD:

  • Do you want to display a shapefile, or add the shapefile to the .dwg?  If you simply want to display it, so that the changes that are made to the shapefile will automatically appear in the .dwg, you can use the “Task Pane” in Autodesk Map 3D.  If you’d like to add the shapefile, you can use the “Map Import” command.

To display a shapefile, make sure that you have the proper coordinate system assigned to your drawing by going to “Map Setup”.  Pull up the “Task Pane” toolbar.


and go to “Manage Data Content”


and “Connect to Data”.



Navigate to your shapefile, and it’s added.  You can also change the symbology.

To add a shapefile to your drawing as a layer, use “Map Import”.


Navigate to the shapefile you want to add, and then select your desired options.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *