Formatting Dimension labels

Formatting Dimension Labels

Format Dimension Label

On every dimension line you use, a label is placed along it showing how long that section of the line is. These labels do not usually show units, ie the label on a 42.67 cm dimension would just be "426.7" (depending on the default Length Units you have selected), and would look like this:
Format Dimension Label
However, we can easily change this to show a different number of decimal places or fractions and can also choose to display the units. We do this by using a format string , which is a special text code containing formatting information.
Format Dimension Label
Once we have figured out the format string to use (explained later), it gets entered on the Label page of the dimension's property sheet, in the "Text" box. Because of this, each dimension line can have a different label format, or you can set the default by editing the Dimension Tool (In the Blue format). Note that each line in a Dimension Set can also have a different format.

NOTE: when editing the default tool, it will appear with a blue background, and can be selected by double clicking on the tool in the ribbon, or right clicking and choosing ‘format dimension tool’. Otherwise if the tool is already in use on the page it will appear with a grey background

Format Dimension Label

Every format string has a particular structure, which indicates that it is a format string and not a regular section of text. Format strings must start with a percentage sign ‘%’ and must end with the letter 'F'. Using a lower-case 'f' indicates that units should not be displayed (this is the default), and a capital 'F' makes units visible. There are no other required elements of a format string, so the simplest string is ‘%F’ (which will show the units on a dimension).

There are several optional elements though, two of which are the period (or full-stop) and the forward-slash ‘/’. These are called the remainder characters and indicate that decimal places or fractions are to be used. You can only include one or the other, although you won't usually want to use these by themselves. This is because the default remainder (decimals or fractions) is selected based on what units you use; ie, metric units have decimals and imperial units have fractions.

If you use a remainder character, you can also include a number P after it (but before the 'F' at the end) to indicate the precision. When you use decimals, P determines the number of decimal places to print. With fractions, P is the maximum denominator. This will be made clear in the examples below.

So, the general structure of a format string is:

% [remainder] [precision] <show units>


  • remainder (optional) is either the period or forward-slash character
  • precision (optional) is zero or a positive integer
  • show units (required) is either an upper or lower-case 'F' character 

Format String Examples

Some interesting points to note from these examples:

1.    The first example is the same as the one at the start of this article, with the default precision and no units shown

2.    Since precision was specified as "no decimal places", note that the number has been rounded not just cut off

3.    Shows the current units being added to the label

4.    Shows the current units and includes 1 decimal place, again will be rounded, not cut off.

5.    With fractions, the precision indicates the smallest fraction to use (1/32" in this case). Fractional remainders are always simplified, ie 14/32" will be written as 7/16"

6.    This example shows that you can still have other text in a dimension label. The text is printed as it appears, except the format string is replaced with the dimension length. The format string is only replaced once, and if no format string is explicitly included it is appended at the front of the label.

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