The power of the Display Manager – Part I

14 December , 2007

For today’s post I want to go back to basics and highlight the unsung hero of AutoCAD Map – The Display Manager.

When the AutoCAD Map application opens the Display Manager will appear automatically on either the right or left hand side of the GUI. At first sight its use may seem slightly ambiguous, with a lot of white space and just a few buttons. DO NOT SWITCH IT OFF! All too often I train users that simply turn the Display Manager off, and in doing this, lose access to huge amounts of functionality.

In short, the Display Manager enables you to manage how data is displayed in the model space and how that data is styled. It doesn’t replace the AutoCAD Layer Control, it just compliments it.

The Display Manager is a bit ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’ depending on the type of data you are managing…..It will provide different functions and options dependant on where your data resides. When managing data held within the DWG file, i.e. CAD entities, it provides one set of functions for styling and querying. When managing data accessed through the FDO (Feature Data Objects) connection mechanism it provides a whole range of other functions, including connection to the data, styling, editing and a quite a bit more. A major advantage of the Display Manager is its ability to manage all of this data, regardless of its source and produce a map for you to use in model or paper space.

In this post I will highlight some of the cool things you can do with the Display Manager when managing data held within the DWG.

Cool Thing no. 1 – Managing the display of your CAD layers

You can use the Display Manager as a time save for turning layers, and groups of layers, on and off. All you have to do is pick which layers you would like to add to the display manager…..


This will open the ‘Select Layers’ editor which lists all the layers within the DWG.

Each layer you tick is added to the Display Manager. Once on the Display Manager you can control the visibility of the layers within your Map very easily by simply switching the data on and off using the tick box.  

Another top tip is to group the layers together by using the ‘Group Selection’ option. This way you can turn a number of layers on and off at the same time. Any layers that aren’t added to the display manager can be turned on and off all together by toggling the ‘Map Base’ option, which automatically groups all other DWG layers.

Managing your layers through the Display Manager in this way will allow you very powerful control over what you see in your Model or Paper space. It also provides a effective way of managing draw order – more on this in a future post!!

Cool thing no. 2 – Managing Styles on your layers 

Once you have added your DWG layers to the Display Manager you then have a range of functions you can perform on that data. One such function is ‘Add Style’. The different styles available can be found by selecting the layer in the Display Manager and right mouse clicking.

Styles offer you the ability to apply hatching, annotation, symbols and themes to the data. You can style based on your standard CAD properties such as .Area or you can style based on intelligent Object Data (data attributes) that can be stored against each entity. For example you may be storing an attribute on a set of polygons recording the ‘Use’ of a building – The resulting Theme may look like this…

Cool thing no. 3 – Querying the data

Any CAD entity within the current DWG or stored within an external DWG can be “queried”. The results of the query are added to the Display Manager as a single display layer. 

The query can be based on a range of conditions such as a location – e.g. All entities within a rectangle, or it can be based on a property or data condition. It is possible to build up very powerful query by using a combination of different conditions.

Queries can be saved reused over and over. As long as you know your data, the query tool can be extremely powerful.

Continuing with the ‘Buildings’ example, the following query has produced a Display Manager layer containing all polygons in which the CAD property .Area is greater than 2000 msq.

So if the first thing you do when you open AutoCAD Map is to turn off the Display Manager – don’t. Have a play with some of your data and some of the functions and I bet you will like what you see.

The AutoCAD Map connection…

4 December , 2007

I was pondering what to write about for my first proper post when I got a surprise email from Autodesk informing me of a new FDO provider for AutoCAD Map 3D 2008……..

FDO stands for ‘feature data objects’ and is the data access technology that Autodesk introduced in AutoCAD Map 2007. It enables users too directly and natively access spatial data stored in a wide range of databases and file formats, including ESRI SHP files, data held within Oracle spatial and OGC web services, to name but a few. 

For my money the FDO technology has totally transformed the options that AutoCAD users have for accessing and managing geospatial data. Although creating, importing and storing CAD entities within the DWG is still important and appropriate, it is now possible for users to directly link to large geospatial datasets through the FDO mechanism, providing huge efficiencies in access and storage.

The FDO provider list has now got a new addition from those data translation experts at Safe Software. The free ‘FDO FME Provider’ enables you to directly connect to all the original Map import formats, including MapInfo TAB files, DGN files, and importantly for all the users in Great Britain, the OS MasterMap GZ/GML files.

It couldn’t be easier to add the provider to your AutoCAD Map Installation (or AutoCAD Civil 3D installation) :

  • Simply fill in the form on the Safe website –
  • Wait for the email from Safe to tell you it is ready to download (I got my email in about 2 minutes).
  • Download the ZIP file to your computer, extract the contents and run the MSI file. (Make sure AutoCAD Map is closed down)
  • The install wizard will add the provider to the AutoCAD Map installation. When you next open up the software the provider will appear neatly into the Data Connect menu.

To determine the formats that appear in the format drop down select the small button on the right hand side of the list and in the editor tick the ones you want. 

So from now on when you want to add external data from DGN, MapInfo, ESRI or GML files you have a choice to either translate your data into the DWG and create CAD entities, or connect to the files through FDO and save space in your DWG.