InstantOn Basic customer asked me to clarify and summarize the basics of…


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An InstantOn Basic customer asked me to clarify and summarize the basics of Figure editing in AutoCAD Civil 3D 2012 and 2013. Makes sense to me.

Where the Heck is the Figure?

The first user head space issue to resolve is,

“Where are the real figures?
Are they in my drawing?
Or are they in the current Survey Db?”

I think we must consider the Survey Db to be the “source” of the Figure data and any drawing as an editing “interface’ into the Survey Db space.
A case in point : To perform many figure edits you don’t even have to import a figure into a drawing to change a figure.
In some cases inserting the figures or a figure into a drawing may only confuse this issue for you.
Some figure edits (a join for example) require that you have selectable Figures in the drawing. When to insert and/or remove the Figures takes some experience with the Survey Toolspace, the Figure Editor, and the individual Figure Editor’s tool requirements.

Survey Tab

Survey Toolspace Tab

If we consider the Survey Db to be the data source, then understanding the nuances of the Survey tab (or Toolspace) and its dynamic relationship to the Figure Edit Ribbon becomes very important to our Figure edit workflow.
Can you find and select the “right” figure to edit quickly?
Is it faster for you to insert into the drawing a few selected figures to identify the “right” figure or is Civil 3D’s Figure highlight enough for you to make the proper identification.
As CAD people visible stuff in our drawing makes us more comfortable. However, we often tend to insert in more Figures than we really need to get a fix identified and made.

Divide and Conquer

The Survey Toolspace nicely separates Import Events and collects Figures into discreet piles for us. In Civil 3D 2013 we also have those niffy Survey Queries which will help do the same thing to more finer grained detail in an automated way.
Even without the new Survey Queries we can also manually create named Figure Groups from the list of individual Figures.
If we take a bit of time to get organized, the Figure Group structure cuts down on the overall Figure edit time (and surface creation time)in many cases. The bigger the project, the more Group organization time pays off.

Figure List View

The Lists are a Lack of Search

Yeah we all wish we could search and find a Figure by name (or a Point) faster in the Survey Db. As the things are today inside Civil 3D, you have to be able to sort, slice and dice in the current List and Panorama Edit views in the Survey Toolspace. This is a necessary Civil 3D Toolspace skill.
Take a little time to practice getting the List view columns and sort results to be familiar ground. List view manipulation skills you acquire here pay off repeatedly elsewhere in Civil 3D.

Because the List and Panorama views are so “Name dependent” in Civil 3D maybe a Figure renaming plan is something to consider. Field time is always more expensive, but that doesn’t mean we can’t reorganize the Figure names in the office to something a bit easier to organize in our Survey Dbs and drawings. For example: InstantOn Basic ships with both single digit and double digit Figure Prefix Dbs that work with the Figure names to help organize your left and right Figures.

A Figure Highlight

You’ve found the right Figure and selected it in the Survey Toolspace or the drawing. Civil 3D highlights the Figure. The Ribbon reflects the active selected figure – Time to start paying attention to the Ribbon, the Survey Toolspace, the right click menus, and the command line all at the same time. This is like driving a car.
You should cycle your attention through all the above continually while you’re editing.
If you don’t, you are sure to get lost.
Gone are the days when you could just pay attention to the command line and the screen.

The Figure highlight shows you the direction(s) of the Figure. First we have to identify the overall direction of the Figure and whether the Figure has internal Order problems. Both are important. Figure point arrows that point at each other point to internal order problems you may have to fix.
Reversing the entire Figure temporarily may save you a ton of time getting to the right point to edit inside the Figure Editor.

Figure Editor

Hit the Survey Figure Properties tool in the Figure Ribbon. This brings up the Survey Figure Editor. In many of the right click menus of the Survey Toolspace for figures the Figure Editor tool appears listed as “Properties” even though the only formal Property of a Figure inside Civil 3D is its Name.
That’s weird.
Again this interface weirdness points to the reality that the Survey Db and your drawing stuff are NOT necessarily exactly the same thing. We want at the Figure data in the Survey Db and not the Civil 3D representative data in our drawing.

Figure Editor Tools

The Figure Editor opens and Civil 3D zooms automatically to the extents of the whole figure. Civil 3D refreshes the hightlight. If the figure is represented in the drawing, the drawing figure is buried behind the highlight. 
Are you editing the Figure in the drawing?

Assess the Figure

Is it easier to reverse the whole figure right away? Do that and Apply the change right away.

Next I identify the internal Figure order problems and take a look to make an assessment.
What looks like an order problem can be the result of a miscoded point in the initial import event. Figures that continue from one Setup to another often may have order problems. These conflicts may point to deeper problems like errors in the Setup itself, busted rod heights, etc.

Try to pay attention to the elevation column which may point to issues.

Figure Ribbon

If you have the Figure in the drawing you can select it and affect the Figure with the Figure Ribbon’s many useful tools.

Figure Ribbon Tools

Up in the Figure Ribbon remember you also can access Geometry Edit and Elevation Edit panels and their many useful tools. The buried panels aren’t all that obvious to users new to AutoCAD Civil 3D.
For example: you can access the Elevation Editor Panorama which helps you assess what’s going on in the entire figure in terms of Slope/Grade.

Figure Edit Elevations

Do things in this flowline figure make sense en toto?
Maybe this should really be two different Figures?
Maybe actually more than one point got miscoded in the field. Maybe there’s a Field Note on the description of a Survey point I need to read and pay attention to…etc.

Getting from a Figure to the underlying Survey Point data details is only a click away.

Unfortunately in Civil 3D 2012 and Civil 3D 2013 we can’t look at a Figure as though in was an Alignment with horizontal control. We cannot adjust things like tangency constraints. That might be handy? Maybe this will happen in a later release if you all wish for it?

Curves in Figures currently support only tangency in and out of one point or a best fit solution of many points with “Curve breaks”. Since most field crews tend to still shoot 3 points arcs this makes sense, but  the Survey Db does support multipoint curves and you can certainly apply edits to Figures to make it happen.

Zoom Around the Figure Editor

The Figure Editor is a big tool. It’s going to clutter up the screen and cut down the view. Arrrgh!
It is not dockable. 
I therefore tend to dock the Panorama above my command line since I have to pay attention to both anyway when using the Figure Editor. Hopefully, you have dual screens and can park your Figure Editor and Panorama somewhere consistent. Every tab that appears in the Panorama  takes up memory, so if you don’t have tons of RAM on your system close the tabs you don’t need now. They will come back when you employ and need them.

Zoom To Selection Figure Editor

Zoom To Selection

I tend to like the Zoom to Selection tool as a way to get around and track what’s going on visually in the drawing. 99% of the time I need more than one point inside the Figure to Zoom to. I employ Shift and Ctrl keys to select a few points around the part of the figure I want to edit in the Figure Editor and then Zoon to that selection.

I Don’t Want a Highlight

When you leave the Figure Editor that won’t kill the highlight on the Figure. It’s still selected in the Survey Toolspace and in the Survey Db. Remember Civil 3D always expects you want to do what you just did again and again.
Hint: Pick any other collection in the Toolspace like Survey Points to deselect the Figure.

One Two Three…One Two Three...

Recently I did a post about Tracking edits in AutoCAD Civil 3D with COGO and Survey points. It applies here so you might want to read it.

Ok so we found a Figure edit to perform.
The current order of the Figure is set up to allow me to get at it in the Figure as fast and easily as possible.
Select the Figure.
Hit the Survey Figure Properties tool in the Ribbon. 
Select a few points around the edit location in the Points List.
Zoom to Selection.
Make the change in the Editor using any edit tool. Things still don’t look right.
Hit the Recycle tool to start over.
Attempt other changes. The edits go bold in the editor. Things look good.
Hit Apply to save. Nothing is bold anymore. Only then OK out of the Figure Editor.
Civil 3D will update the figure in the drawing with the new data in the Survey Db.
If you have any doubts, remove the Figure(s) from the drawing and insert the Figure(s) from the Survey Db again.
Add the edited Figure to a “Manually Edited” Figure group so you keep track and keep organized.
Stir and Repeat until done.

Get to Work