DraftSight and Units

When I draw in DraftSight, everything I draw is at full size, I don’t draw to scale. This is generally the accepted practice within the CAD world I inhabit!  I’m not saying there is anything wrong with drawing to scale, but…

Before you can start your drawing, you need to know what type of Units you are working with. There are various unit choices when working in DraftSight, both Linear and Angular.

The linear options are:

  • Architectural (Feet and Inches)
  • Decimal
  • Engineering (Feet and Inches)
  • Fractional
  • Scientific (Scientific exponential notation)

The angular options are:

  • Decimal Degrees (Metric Units)
  • Degrees / Minutes / Seconds
  • Grads (400 grads equal to 360°)
  • Radians (2 pi radians equal to 360°)
  • Surveyor’s Unit System

I’m based in Europe and as we use the metric system here, my default selection is always Decimal. Since I draw everything at full size, 1 unit in my drawing equals 1 millimeter. This doesn’t change, it’s set that way in my template file. Your default option will depend on the standards used in your geographic area, but I would suggest adding the setting to your DraftSight template just so it is always used.

You may be wondering how you can set these units, well at the command line, simply enter Units and the Drawing Settings dialogue box will appear. Click on Unit System if already hasn’t expanded.


As you can see in the image above, my Unit Length Type is set to Decimal and to 3 decimal places for accuracy. My Unit Angle Type is also set to Decimal and 0 decimal places. You’ll also notice that my Blocks Units Format is set to Unitless.  This means any block I create, when inserted into a drawing, will take on the units of that drawing. So if it’s a decimal drawing, it takes on decimal units, if it’s Architectural, it will take on those units. It’s a nice feature, it means you don’t have to make blocks in different Unit types.

One point to note, when receiving drawings from an external source, it doesn’t hurt to check what units they used when creating their drawings. I got caught out once with this before, and felt like a bit of a fool when I realised what the problem was.  There were some red faces that day in the office!

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MJ Smyth
The first time I used CAD, it was on a DOS PC with an 8088 processor, 640K of memory and a Hercules Mono Graphics Card... That, well that was a long long time ago. I switched to DraftSight the day it was released and haven't looked back!
MJ Smyth

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    survey dimension, I.E.: DEGREES, MINUETS & SECONDS WITH DECIMAL FEET. Will it do Land survey drafting? I usually work in bearings, i.e.: N 00 deg. 00′ 00″ E & decimal feet.
    Thank you!

  • Seb

    I can’t get the answer I’m looking for anywhere – everyone dances around the exact question I’m trying to answer and I’m hoping you can help.

    I have setup a completely new drawing in DraftSight and in UNITSYSTEM, the block units are listed as inches.

    Then, in one of the layout sheets, I’ve created an ARCH D page (24″ x 36″). The viewport scale is set 1:1.

    In modelspace, I drew something that was 50 x 20 in modelspace units. Therefore, given everything I have said so far, shouldn’t this be 50″ x 20″ and thus take up more than the page area in the ARCH D layout tab? Instead, it is a small drawing in the middle, leading me to believe that the modelspace drawing units are in mm not inch. I’ve tried changing the UNITSYSTEM block units to mm, in, feet, etc. But the appearance of the drawing always remains the same in the layout tab. Why is this??

  • Jorge Arturo

    If I have a measurement of 20 inches, what can I do in order for the measuremente to indicate 50.8 cm?