How to Open a Shape File in CAD

Shape files are great time savers because they pre-load the computation for a drawing element.
... Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images

CAD software allows you to export elements of drawings as shape files. This can be a great time saver if you're re-using a mechanical part drawing multiple times. Shape files can be imported into AutoCAD via a multi-step process. Once imported, AutoCAD's Shape command lets you quickly copy the shape to different areas of the drawing. Because shape files are pre-compiled, they require much less computation for AutoCAD to manipulate them on the screen. Shape files, once loaded into a drawing, can be manipulated, scaled and rotated like any other drawing object.

Launch AutoCAD, click in the "Command" bar at the bottom of the window, type "Compile," then press the "Enter" key. AutoCAD will open up a file browsing window.

Navigate to your SHP file, and double-click to select it. Click "OK." AutoCAD will compile the shapefile into an SHX file. An SHX file is a smaller, high-performance file containing all of the data on a shapefile. Unlike shapefiles, they cannot be edited.

Click on the "Command" bar at the bottom of the window, type "Load" and then press the "Enter" key. The file browser window re-opens.

Navigate to the compiled SHX file, and double-click it.

Click on the "Command" bar at the bottom of the window, type "Shape," then press "Enter." Enter the name of the shape used in the original shapefile, and press "Enter." AutoCAD will import the compiled SHX file.

Ken Burnside has been writing freelance since 1990, contributing to publications as diverse as "Pyramid" and "Training & Simulations Journal." A Microsoft MVP in Excel, he holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Alaska. He won the Origins Award for Attack Vector: Tactical, a board game about space combat.