I have a map in CAD 2002 format with 20 layers all with different features.

I need the procedure and steps on how to convert these layers to shape files so as to be able to work on it in ArcGIS Desktop.

  • 3
    Welcome to GIS.SE. What tools do you have? What have you already tried? By CAD 2002, do you mean AutoCAD .dwg or .dxf files?
    – BradHards
    Mar 21 '14 at 10:20
  • 2
    I have tried this a lot and the best way to convert is with FME. Although a bit expensive, it's well worth it. It can get really tricky to get everything to shapefiles otherwise (in a useful manner), especially annotations. If you only want to display data in Arcmap, then it's something different and you don't need converting (as stated in the answers below).
    – Martin
    Mar 21 '14 at 11:25
  • I have not tried anything yet. I meant AutoCAD .dwg files.
    – Emily
    Mar 21 '14 at 12:37

In ArcMap, you can add the DWG. The DWG will show up as multiple layers (points, lines, etc) representing all of the different geometries in the DWG. You can right click on one of those layers and do a Data Export to convert the CAD elements to shapefiles. Alternatively, you can export the entire DWG to a Feature Dataset if you would like to use a Geodatabase (this is the preferred method if you're trying to export annotation out of the DWG.)

2 things to keep in mind:

  1. There might be mixed geometries on one level in the CAD drawing (ex. Points and Polylines); so to completely capture everything on the level you would need to export all the different geometry types
  2. Does the DWG have a coordinate system defined? If not, once you add your DWG to ArcMap you will want to Georeference it prior to exporting to shapefiles so that your data shows up in the correct place on th earth's surface
  • As @mpianka said, your features will be grouped by geometry type on export, not feature type. Therefore, you may be interested on selecting on layer or another attribute to export multiple feature classes.
    – Jyler
    Oct 12 '15 at 21:34
  • I have pulled in my .dwg file into arcmap and it shows 0 attributes. Even after attempting to convert to a shapefile via the various methods mentioned, my output file still contains 0 attributes. Am I missing a step of needing to project the .dwg file, or how do I know if my .dwg file already has a coordinate system defined. I am not familiar with CAD and .dwg files. Or maybe there is potential that I received a rogue .dwg file that actually does not contain data.
    – user56486
    Jun 22 '16 at 17:13
  • If the .dwg shows zero features or attributes, it is probably empty or perhaps all the layers are turned off. Try opening it in CAD software or a free .dwg viewer to confirm if there is actually information in it.
    – mpianka
    Jun 29 '16 at 14:43

I just found this blog posting entitled Importing CAD data in ArcGIS Desktop 10 which should give you a good introduction to how to do this. The embedded links were added by me and prior to these steps you add your DWG file to your map (as a CAD layer).

Best practice CAD conversion tools can be opened directly from the shortcut menu when you right click a CAD feature layer in the table of contents. These tools open already populated with the selected input feature layer and output to your default geodatabase. Clicking OK runs the tool and adds the output to your map.


To convert CAD to shapefile, you should convert each layer in CAD to shapefile by using select by attributes and export data

This tutorial may help you https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mr9XwnawSbE

  • Why would the asker need to Select By Attributes? They make no mention of that being a requirement in their question.
    – PolyGeo
    Jan 22 '17 at 6:53

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