Identifying a Secondary Catalog in the AutoCAD Electrical Project File

12 February 2024AutoCAD, Electricalautocad electrical, database, Tips and Tricks



When working with AutoCAD Electrical, identifying a secondary database starts with having two databases to choose from. Some database options are:

  • an out-of-box database,
  • a company specific database,
  • an obsolete database.

Some examples of access to the databases would be a company database as the default and the full out-of-box database as a secondary database, or a company specific database as the default and the obsolete database as the secondary. These are just two typical options, but there are many more scenarios.

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A typical installation creates a database for the users to access when working in an AutoCAD Electrical project. Over time, this default database can have records added or removed to create a database that would be more specific to the company using it. Here are two typical ways to create a new database that can be used as either the default database or the secondary database:

    • Copy the “default_cat.mdb” file and add or remove records as desired.
    • Open an existing project which contains the desired vendor information assigned in all the symbols located in the drawings that make up the project, and use the “Create Project-Specific Catalog Database” tool on the Project tab.  This tool extracts all the catalog data from the project.  After running this tool move the newly created database to the Catalogs folder located under the AeData folder.
AutoCAD Electrical secondary catalog menu

Note: Project specific databases can be made from many projects and then migrated together. Doing this will create a database that has most of the vendor catalog data used in a typical project moving forward.

Now that the databases are created and available in the Catalogs folder located under the AeData folder, the project file needs to be modified to identify the secondary project you want. This is accomplished through the Project Properties dialog.

Right-click on the project file you want to add the secondary database to and select Properties… from the list.  On the Project Settings tab in the Catalog Lookup File Preference area select the “Other File” button:

AutoCAD Electrical secondary catalog file preference

The Catalog Lookup File dialog will open. Select the second option “Optional: Define a secondary catalog lookup file for this project,” and click the browse button. It will default to the Catalogs folder where you can select the secondary database you want for this project. Best practice would be to name the secondary database “Secondary_Cat.mdb” to make it easier to identify here and when you are using Windows Explorer.

AutoCAD Electrical secondary catalog lookup file

After identifying the database you want, select OK in this dialog box and the Project Properties dialog. The secondary database will be available to use when doing a catalog lookup on a symbol in the drawing. To test this, open a drawing and right-click on a symbol; select Edit Component from the right-click options. In the Insert/Edit Component dialog, click the Lookup button under the Catalog Data area in the dialog box. After the Catalog Browser dialog box opens, you can change from the primary (default) database to the secondary database at any time by dropping the arrow to the right of Primary at the lower-right:

AutoCAD Electrical secondary catalog search database

By defining a secondary database you can avoid adding information that is not often used to the main catalog database. This is also useful for keeping custom catalog information separate from out-of-the-box information, so when you upgrade all that is required is to copy and replace with the new version’s database.

Another option is to make the out-of-box database the secondary and the company specific database the primary. Making the smaller database the primary will speed up the time AutoCAD Electrical takes to display the information. Then, when you need more information, you switch to the secondary. You should experiment with different setups in some projects to see which one works best. Once you see how this works, you will most likely want to use a secondary database moving forward.

For insights into getting the most out of AutoCAD Electrical, check out the recent How-To series:

  • Part 1  The ABCs of Choosing AutoCAD Electrical 
  • Part 2  How to Use AutoCAD Smart Blocks 
  • Part 3  Using Project & Drawing Properties to Update Title Blocks 
  • Part 4  Producing BoMs and Other Reports 




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