The Quirky Object Lust of the Civil 3D Section Editor

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This is one of those AutoCAD Civil 3D 2012 and 2013 subtle changes behind the scene things I’ve meant to post about for quite a while. I just keep forgetting to do it. Dooh!  Maybe I hope it will go away.

Section Editor Quirk

If you do a lot of corridor section editing maybe you already caught this one, but maybe not. Certainly if you use InstantOn Basic from an older release and employ it in the later releases, it might annoy and perhaps befuddle you. It's a matter of

The Section Editor in 2012 and 2013 won’t display View oriented labels in section viewports.
I consider this a bug for consistency reasons. 
Maybe it will go away in an upcoming Service Pack, but probably not.
It did not go away in AutoCAD Civil 3D 2012 SP 2.1.
This kind of thing tends to get shoved down in the priority pile and hang around for a while.
Civil 3D 2012 changed some of the behind the scenes operational mechanics of the Section Editor for better performance - a really good thing.

We can live with this quirky Object Lust comfortably, but ya gotta know or maybe go a little crazy. It is inconsistent software behavior in the context of the rest of Civil 3D.

Inconsistency is the nemesis of user productivity.

Section Editor 2012 with labels

As we can see in the 2012+ Section Editor the Object Oriented labels at key points on this superelevated roadway median Assembly generate just fine.
What labels we get are controlled by the current Code Set property which is set in the View and Edit options of the Section Editor. In your templates you probably want to build a default choice of Code Set into the Command Settings. As we’ll discover, having a choice of VE Code Set Styles available to your users might also be worth doing.

Section Editor 2012 No Labels

Here’s the same exact Section Editor shot with View Oriented labels at the same exact key points. See. No Labels.

“What? Wait a minute. What’s the Orientation of a label in the first place?”

Orientation Reference

Labels in AutoCAD Civil 3D have only three orientations that they can be generated in. In fact all annotative objects in Civil 3D have the Orientation Reference property for maybe not so obvious reasons. The Orientation Reference property choice appears on the General  tab in the Label Style Editor. Object, View, and World Coordinate System are our potential choices.

Here’s what the help file says. Note that these simplified explanations sort of avoid some of the potential subtleties that can and do occur. I added remarks for emphasis.


Rotates labels relative to the zero direction of the object. You can determine the zero direction of the object based on its start and end points. (This is a vector direction) If the object vector changes at the anchor point on the label, the orientation updates automatically. (Read how this factoid can be disorienting in the next post) This is the default setting.


Forces labels to realign to a screen-view orientation in both model and layout views. Always assumes the zero angle is horizontal, regardless of UCS or Dview twist. If the view changes, the label orientation updates with it.

World Coordinate System

Adjusts the labels with respect to the angle between the current view and world view. Changing the view or current UCS does not affect label rotation with respect to the world coordinate system.

The Orientation Reference Label Property

View Oriented labels make a ton of sense for labels that display in the Civil 3D View Features : Profile Views, Section Views, Mass Haul Views, Superelevation Views, and the new Cant Views in 2013.

Unfortunately, as we see above View Oriented labels will not generate in the Section Editor. You simply have to make sure to employ an Object Oriented label for a label to show up. Hence in InstantOn Basic we supply specific named Object Oriented labels for inclusion in Code Sets for use in the Section Editor.

“Hey Dude? What About the Weird Label Rotations?”

More Section Editor Quirks Next Time