Please Autodesk, Don't Make Civil 3D Dumber & Dumber

Tags surface, grading, bugs, label, annotation, XREF, data reference, data shortcut

I make my living helping real people adopt and make AutoCAD Civil 3D work. Don't get the title of this post wrong. I do think Civil 3D needs to get easier to learn and use. I bitch about that a LOT to Autodesk and try to make many positive and constructive suggestions.
You should bitch too.
Here's the link to the Bitch List...er...Civil 3D Wish List.

User Help and the Wish List in 2012

It's even built into the Help Ribbon in AutoCAD Civil 3D 2012., but not in Product Feedback but in the Discussion Groups. Who would have thought that?

To Make Civil 3D Too Easy

Please, do us all a favor and don't ask them to make Civil 3D dumber and More like the software of the past.
Here's just one telling example where the Search to Make Civil 3D Easy went somewhat awry because a new workflow wasn't well understood. This also birthed another whole new workflow you may need to know about too.

Simple Surface Labels in Civil 3D

Almost all of us have to label a Surface Feature (usually in a Contours representation) for plan views -.stuff like contour labels, spot elevations, etc. Surfaces have only basic Label Styles (at this point) and the Civil 3D labeling tools and processes haven't changed much for many releases.
The C3D Surface label commands even work a lot like old LDT ones!
That's easy. No User Training is Required....That is NOT true, but off my point.

Label Independence and Freedom

For many releases Civil 3D surface labels were INDEPENDENT of the actual Surface Feature as the Help Files state. Back in those Dark Ages of Civil 3D you could refer any of the Surface labels to any Surface Feature you liked. You could Move and Copy the Surface labels from one surface to another. You could actually annotate the locations and linear features in a site plan without a finished Surface Feature at all.

What is a Placeholder Feature?

Odds are you probably completely missed that incredible Civil 3D annotative time saving capability if the idea of a Placeholder Feature and that entirely new workflow process wasn't presented to you. In most cases, I know it wasn't. You were told, or just believed, the labeling works like LDT...No Training Required.

The problem with these new (now old and dead) Surface Label References was you had understand and maintain them. People complained that when they erased surfaces their labels didn't go away. The labels became these weird question mark thingys and messed up their plots. 
If you weren't paying attention, you could also "accidently" reference one Surface with some labels and a different Surface with others. I trust you can see how THAT might become a serious quality assurance problem. 

"The software shouldn't let the users do that. You have to fix it."

Autodesk fixed "the problem" by automatically deleting all Surface labels when you erase a surface. They removed the independent Feature Reference capability of the Surface Label Style. The Surface Labels are now bound to the surface they are created on permanently.  We now have Labels in chains.

Perhaps Autodesk might have spent some time creating some new commands to check and fix these Label reference issues. But More important work was afoot at the time. Corridors were coming of age and everyone knew they would become all the rage. They did too which was great news.

Hours and maybe DAYS of potential man-hour project productivity got bashed forever (I hope not). Yes. This was potential productivity since hardly anybody was doing it or even guessed at the workflow. The somebodies thought it must be Easy, be more like LDT, and No Training Required.

You Can Label Feature in External References

Autodesk did "replace" this capability with another new Civil 3D software feature. You can generate the Surface Labels on a Surface Feature in an external reference. Hey. That works a bit like LDT. That's a bit Civil 3D cool too.

Civil 3D Feature Xref labeling is pretty useful. This works for More than Surface Labels too as you can see with the ugly "Standard" labels I show below on two different Xrefs on for Surfaces and one for Parcels shown below.

Core Feature Labels on Xrefs in Civil 3D

Do you know which Civil 3D Features are supported by Xref Feature labeling?

This form of Feature labeling does work to separate the Feature annotation from the data holding Features so it's a good thing. There are some issues.
You now have an entire drawing hooked up (referenced) into your drawing. If you break things too badly, you can lose the labels and the work that went into them. 
Feature Xref  Labeling does require that Users understand both Features in Xrefs and some of the specific issues with certain Feature Label Styles. For example:
The Surface Labels in your annotation drawing may be dependent on the Style display of the Feature in the external drawing. Maybe so and sometimes not as the picture below demonstrates.

 Changing the Surface Style in the Xref

Understanding the Civil 3D Feature Labels and how they work is still necessary. Consistent, well-built Civil 3D Styles and User Training is Required. No matter what things looks like or how they appear to work, the Civil 3D Labels are NOT like dumb ACAD text labels. I bet you learned that already.

It's my birthday this month. So maybe Autodesk will grant me a wish?

I want the ability to change the Reference Feature for ALL Feature Labels and Sets in Civil 3D. This will require I'm also able to locate a replace these Label References with reasonable ease. Something that I think should have been fixed in the first place.

Please Send Me Back to the Future

Next time...I want share with you what I shared with Autodesk already...

My even BIGGER and More Important Label Wish for the Next Release