AutoCAD Electrical, Part 1: The ABCs of Choosing AutoCAD Electrical

18 December 2023AEC, AutoCAD, Electricalautocad electrical, electrical controls



Part 1 in a 4-part weekly series on AutoCAD Electrical.

If you are using standard AutoCAD to represent your electrical controls designs, you run into the issue of those designs being individual drawings with text and lines and no intelligence. This puts the burden on you to ensure the drawings are accurate. In addition, there is no way to extract information from them.

AutoCAD Electrical has proved to be a time-saving solution for documenting electrical controls. Even when they don’t fully implement AutoCAD Electrical, companies have found that they can save at least 25 percent of time compared to using standard AutoCAD. Additional time savings come from being able to run audits to verify designs and extract information from the drawings like BoMs and wire reports.


Since AutoCAD Electrical is built on standard AutoCAD, many of the core concepts are the same. In fact, the specialized toolset is basically standard AutoCAD tools grouped together with some special programming blended in. You can think of it this way:

A = It is still standard AutoCAD

If you already know how tools, layers, styles, etc. work, the transition will be smooth. Plus, you can use your existing AutoCAD drawing templates.

B = It still uses standard AutoCAD Blocks and attributes

If you already know what AutoCAD blocks and attributes are, you do not need to learn anything new!

C = It still uses standard AutoCAD Commands

While the best practice is to use the specialized toolset that comes with AutoCAD Electrical, you can mix in standard AutoCAD tools once you become familiar with the way AutoCAD Electrical works.


AutoCAD Electrical is a time-saving choice for design of controls

The AutoCAD Electrical toolset automates the process of designing electrical projects. It provides specialized tools to automate the creation of drawings with smart components – wires, wire numbers and circuits – giving you the ability to generate accurate reports. These reports include bills of materials (BoMs), wire numbers, wire from-to, and others in a typical electrical project. Drawings are managed together in a project, rather than individually as in standard AutoCAD. Grouping the drawings into a project enables the software to generate accurate reports based on the way components are linked together inside each drawing and across every drawing in the project.

The specialized tools are groupings of AutoCAD commands. In some cases, programming has been added to perform special updates, ensuring your components, drawings and project remain up to date with accurate information.

It is a best practice to only use the specialized toolset that comes with AutoCAD Electrical. However, once you are familiar with using the software, you can mix in standard AutoCAD tools while working with the project and drawings. If you opt to do this when creating the project drawings, you simply need to remember to run the update tools to ensure the project and drawings are properly linked. When you understand the basics of AutoCAD Electrical, your drawing creation can include workflows using AutoCAD Electrical tools, classic AutoCAD tools mixed in, and update tools. In this way, you ensure that all components, wires, wire numbers, drawings, and the project are up to date and accurate before running your required reports.

Here’s a quick way to calculate your potential time savings:

  1.     Multiply the number of drawings in a typical project by the length of time it takes to open each drawing and edit the title block attributes with the proper information. Compare that to the AutoCAD Electrical workflow, where you can modify the properties and then process all the drawings with a couple clicks.
  2.    If you implement the error checking tools to run accurate reports, you can easily double the time savings of the project and title block updating tools in #1.


When using AutoCAD Electrical, the AutoCAD Home tab ribbon will still be used. Additionally, there are AutoCAD Electrical tabs on the ribbon for Project, Schematic, Panel, and Reports that you will use.

The “Project Manager” palette also has tools on it for creating projects, drawings, plots, and other configuration settings. There are even tools to check the accuracy of the data in the drawings. One of these tools, Electrical Audit, checks for common errors and displays them to make it easier to find and correct them.

AutoCAD Electrical project manager menu
AutoCAD Electrical electrical audit menu

Blocks with attributes are used to link from one block to another and run required reports like Bill of Materials. However, AutoCAD Electrical does require special attribute names that must be used.

AutoCAD Electrical attribute names

Specialized tools save time over regular AutoCAD tools. They also help you keep the components, drawings and the project up to date and accurate. For example, if you are working on a schematic drawing, you will be on the Schematic ribbon, which has the tools needed to complete schematic drawings. These tools include inserting symbols, wires, wire numbers, and many more.

AutoCAD Electrical schematic tab on command bar

AutoCAD Electrical uses unique layers

There are specific layers used in AutoCAD Electrical smart drawings. Best practice would be to use these layers as they exist out of the box. But you can modify them if you have specific needs. In addition, you can create user layers as needed, since ultimately you are still using AutoCAD.

AutoCAD Electrical layers list


If you are using or familiar with standard AutoCAD, moving to AutoCAD Electrical to complete your controls designs is a choice that will save you time. All drawings are located in a project with components linked inside each drawing and across each drawing in the project. Using AutoCAD Electrical reduces or eliminates the worry of ensuring the regular text in each drawing is up to date compared to using standard AutoCAD. Even if you only implement AutoCAD Electrical for the project and title block updating functionality, you will be saving a great deal of time compared to using standard AutoCAD.

The sooner you implement AutoCAD Electrical the sooner you will save time and eliminate the more time consuming process of doing controls drawings in standard AutoCAD.

The following links are for other articles in this AutoCAD Electrical series by Todd Schmoock, Top Rated Speaker at Autodesk University 2023:

Part 2  How to Use AutoCAD Smart BlocksDecember 26, 2023

Part 3  Using Project & Drawing Properties to Update Title BlocksJanuary 3, 2024

Part 4  Producing BoMs and Other ReportsJanuary 8, 2024

Check out these popular webinars on AutoCAD Electrical and learn other insights into saving time:

Migrating from AutoCAD to AutoCAD Electrical

AutoCAD Electrical Overview



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