Setting up Network Catalogs for AutoCAD Plant 3D

One of the common issues that comes up in an office is, “How do I share my custom parts with others?” In today’s post, we are going to look at setting up our catalogs on the network in order to share our design data.

Typically, the issue comes up when you start to create custom components, as the custom component information (the thumbnails and dwg) is not stored in the spec.

First we will look at factors in determining where to locate your content. Then we will look into steps to move your content.  Last we will see how to update specs to read from the network location.


When deciding where to locate content on a network, I have a few criteria.  First, the location should be intuitive.  Second, the folder should be structured to follow program best practices.  Third, the path should be short.

Locating Content


Intuitive Locations

The best networks structures that I have seen had a CAD standards drive, a projects folder, and user folders.  With that kind of a structure people can pretty easily figure out where they should look for blocks, where to find projects, and their “own” space to store their content. From the administrative view, it’s really easy to lock down a drive/share to be read-only (standards) for non-admins, and people get used to the idea of not storing their personal content on the projects drive.

Following program best practices

With Plant 3D, the biggest determinant on folder structure is that the catalogs and specs will be migrated for new versions.  To account for the migration, you will need a structure that stores the catalog content by release year – so, a 2012 Content folder, a 2013 content folder, etc..

Also, my preference is to keep my company content separate from out-of-the-box or downloaded catalogs.  I recommend creating your own blank catalog to store items your create or modify.  That way, if the provided catalogs are changed or updated, you don’t have to worry about merging your changes or additions.

Short Paths

As users sometimes we overlook how much clicking we do to navigate our folder structure.  While opening a folder is a little action, the more folders a users has to click through, the less productive they are.

All that to say, in my setup, I use a path similar to the following – K:\Plant 3D\2012 Content\.  Another better options would probably to use a folder like K:\Plant 3D\Catalogs\2012.  Remember, we are not discussing a right or wrong answer; folder structure is a preference.



Moving Content

You can copy your content to your preferred location without using the spec editor.  However, you will still need to go into the spec editor to change the shared content location.


To modify the shared content folder you will need to run the spec editor as the Administrator.  Running a program as the administrator requires that you have administrative permissions on your computer, and that you right-click on the shortcut/application  and select “Run As Administrator” to launch the program.


If you didn’t copy your content to your location already, you can do that now through if you check the copy all content box.




Updating Specs

The specs sometimes hold a reference to a specific catalog location.  So far I haven’t figured out a reason why some specs have that reference and why some don’t.  I think the spec hold a referenced to a catalog if it contains custom components.

The only way I’ve found to change these specs through the editor is to force the spec editor to not find the catalog the spec references.   So, rename your old catalog location (C:\_AutoCAD Plant 3D 2012 Content\). When you open the spec in the editor, you will be prompted for the new (your network) location.


Browse to the .pcat file located on the server for the appropriate designated catalog.

For my spec (CS150), I had to locate the Fittings and the Valves catalogs.

For any spec that doesn’t have a reference stored, you should see the catalog load from your network location.  Again, I think only the specs that use custom components will have the reference to the catalog path.

Shared Content Folder

For other users to use the new folder, you may need to use the PLANTMODIFYSHAREDCONTENTFOLDER command (or change it through their spec editor).


Bonus Points

One trick you can use to see if a spec has a reference is to use the 7-Zip application.

7 Zip is a free zip application that can open many compression file types.  It assumes any file you try to open through is a zip and will let you view the contents of the .pspx files without extracting them.


All of the specs with a catalog reference will have an editor folder: