041307 1647 linkingexce1Arguably the most valuable tool in the modern-day engineer’s toolbox is Microsoft Excel. People love Excel so much that after its launch in 1985 Microsoft redesigned the rest of the Microsoft Office programs to look more like it. Microsoft Excel’s dominance is undoubtedly tied to its flexibility. After all, I think it’s fair to say that nearly all of us have at least one Excel table that is “wickedly complex”. The introduction of OLE objects, and more recently AutoCAD Tables were noble attempts to synchronize AutoCAD with Excel, but still fell short for many real-world needs. What engineers wanted and needed was bidirectional synchronization between AutoCAD and Excel. Among the new features packed within AutoCAD 2008 is just that capability through use of Data Links.

To set up Data Links:

  1. Launch the TABLE command.
  2. Click “From a data link“, and launch the “Data Link Manager” by clicking the button (illustrated).

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  3. Click “Create a new Excel Data Link”

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  4. Name the Data Link – something intuitive.

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  5. Browse for your Excel Table

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  6. The “New Excel Data Link” dialogue can be expanded by clicking the 041307 1647 linkingexce6 button in the bottom right corner.
  7. Under “Cell Contents”, uncheck “Convert data types to text”, and check both “Retain Formulas” and “Allow writing to source file”. Checking those options will make it so your Excel formulas will be preserved, and that you will be able to make edits to the table in AutoCAD, and they be populated to the origional Excel file.
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  8. Press the [Ok] button 3 times to get out of the command, and insert your linked table.

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  9. Assuming you checked the “Retain Formulas” option when setting up the Data Link, you’ll notice fields (text with a grey background) for any calculated value.

After inserting your Excel table, any updates made in the source Excel file will be updated in AutoCAD. By default however you will not be able to update data from AutoCAD, and have it update in the source Excel document. To modify a table value in AutoCAD, select a cell, right-click, and navigate down to “Locking”, and select “Unlock”.

After unlocking a cell, you can click into a cell, change a value. As a deliberate checks and balances, to update the Excel file, you must right-click once again, and select “Write Data Links to External Source“.

So there you have it, a quick run-through on how to harness the new Data Links in AutoCAD 2008. Stay tuned for more in AutoCAD 2008.

Update: If you found this post helpful, you might also be interested in my other post titled “Quickly Link Excel Tables to AutoCAD“. You can find it and all of my posts related to Microsoft Excel by clicking the Excel tag below.