Better Point Group Maintenance

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Point Groups coupled with Description Key Sets provide us with a powerful environment to manage, display and annotate COGO point data in AutoCAD Civil 3D.

Remember - YOU Rule the Points

 Point Display Representations

Prior to AU 2011 I wrote a post about another way to think about Point Display management in Civil 3D. You might have missed the blockbuster with all the excitement going on back then.
Think like a movie Director.
You should check out the Rule the Points post.

Manage Your Point Performance

We need to remember to keep Point Features as separate from other Civil 3D Features as much as humanly possible. This is a performance, data maintenance, workflow, and project structure issue.
Civil 3D is notoriously slow and piggy about selecting points and generating lots changes to points and labels. This isn't very intuitive or what we expect either.

The pointy things work differently than they did in AutoCAD, Map, Land Desktop and Microstation. 
Luckily the work is easy to do.
Keep your Point Features in separate drawings and employ a new strategy to add Point Feature data to Surface Features in particular. I've posted on a variety of strategies to attack that....just search for "surfaces" in the search box above on the blog page.

Survey the Whole Field

Survey Import Point Data

You should also employ Civil 3D Survey functionality. Survey helps us manage all Points data better - even simple PNEZD files and the like. Because the old school Point Import command works and it is more familiar, doesn't always make it the best solution.

Point Group Maintenance

Civil 3D Point Group maintenance also is tricky. Why? Points Groups and Description Key Sets working together do more in AutoCAD Civil 3D. See that post.
As to the Point Group half: 
Point Groups are NOT a Civil 3D Style or a Set.
A Point Group is "data" (actually a data filter) in the current Civil 3D object model.
This is WHY the Point Group "Collector" is located on the Prospector tab of the Toolspace.
Point Group definitions are therefore drawing specific.

InstantOn Basic Point Groups

You can build in default set of basic Point Groups into your templates. Our InstantOn Basic templates have them of course. Everyone needs a "NoShow" Point Group at some point and other some basic ways to collect points and groups of points in an appropriate display order.
This gets us by part of the problem. But "Default" Point Groups far from solve even half the real world challenges we face. Standard collection processes and well-collected survey data, can't get around the fact that this stuff differs a lot from job to job. The real world is complex and often chaotic.
What we need to annotate will vary for sheet to sheet in a plan set too. We must be more able to "Publish on Demand".
We need more flexible ways to manage the rapid construction of Point Groups.

Can We Externalize Point Groups?

The ability to store the Point Group definitions in some external file format and move them around has been one of my AutoCAD Civil 3D wish list items forever. I know am not alone. Until that happens (and don't hold your breath), we are not stuck.

We can to do the Point Group maintenance work ourselves without push buttons helping us out.
Raw text tiles built in a thoughtful and structured way can and do work reasonably well.

What an External Point Group Format File Needs

What do we need? What can we practically maintain about Point Groups this way? The key (pun intended) issues appear to me to be:

  1. Point Groups NAMES because that standardizes how everyone sees, deals with, and talks about them on a daily basis.
  2. The specific Point Group Query definitions that filter and produce the consistent meaning of the NAMES.

There are most certainly different TYPES of query definitions possible. It makes sense to employ the Point Group Properties tabs Names as a basic part of the framework for the file format.

Point Group Property Tabs

There are limitations. Some of these tabs and some fields in tabs we'll also have to avoid all together for practical usability reasons.
We are restrained by what a user can practically manually Copy and Paste into the specific Point Group Property tab fields. Checkboxes don't fit the bill.  
We can only Copy and Paste to and from the text fields in the tabs.
The text field boxes used in Civil 3D today will also truncate pastes of strings containing more than 1024 characters. Ouch.

Get and Set from Information

On the Information tab we get and set the Point Group Name and the all important Description that provides us with some basic Audit capability. Yes, we could even document the default Point Style and/or Point Label Style from here. We do in InstantOn Basic.

Point Group Info Tab

The In and The Out

The Include and Exclude tabs are the functional heart of the Point Group query definitions that a user can get and set. Basically, we've got five ways to put points in or keep them out of our Point Groups. By Number, By Raw description, and By Full description (Format) are the most used. By Elevation and By Name tend to be employed less often. That's really pretty simple. We're all used to these classic Point Group definition methods too.

In our InstantOn Basic product we supply an Point Groups External file that employs a format that users appear to understand, like, and will employ. Here is the IOB basic format definition that is documented in detail in the supplied text file:

!    Format Explanation
! Name - Point Group Name
! Description - may be multiple lines
!  Include - followed by list type and list string
! Number - Match list values  
! Raw - Description Match list string
!  Full - Description Match list string
!  Exclude - followed by list type and list string
! Number - Match list values  
! Raw - Description Match list string
!  Full - Description Match list string

Below is partial image of a section of that supplied file. These are additional (optional) Point Groups we supply along with our InstantOn Basic product right out of the box.

Note that this section of the file employs double digit line codes from a supplied IOB Description Key Set.
InstantOn Basic is a fully integrated product afterall.
The Point Group definitions will automatically sort lefts and rights and separate different kinds of typical roadway cross section survey points by RAW survey descriptions into appropriate Point Groups so the points can be annotated differently. Sounds like less work to me.

The IOB External Point Groups File

I trust the why and how of externalizing your Point Group definitions now makes more sense.
More productivity in Civil 3D really can be as simple and inexpense as InstantOn.
What are you waiting for?

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