Blatant Flatulent Software Keys

Tags standards, standard keys, Layer Standards, Layer Manager

We’ve talked about the development and use of Standard Keys for layers – Layer Standard Keys if you prefer. The management concept of Standard Keys is important to other things in AutoCAD Civil 3D. The Production Solutions employ the same Standard Keys for symbols for example. This significantly reduces daily user confusion; increases personal and organizational productivity; and allows for more managed customization and publishing with less work. Now you know…

Name It and Claim It

We have a lot of complexity to manage in our Civil 3D templates and Civil 3D Styles for civil engineering, survey, and governmental agency applications. Model-based software of any ilk initiates this complexity on the back-end to reduce the complexities on the user front-end.
Does this mean we must work out our glutes to put on a pretty face?

Out here is the real world, we’ve all discovered by now that someone has to do the complexity management work. Autodesk, and other software vendors, avoid this standards work like the plague. We get nebulous examples not solutions. They want no contact with your particular breed of flea, unless you pay them handsomely for the customization work and promise to let them do it quietly and specifically.
Why? We all understand that Mission Creep (or project scope creep) can be really expensive and/or profitable. Civil 3D customization can be a Money Pit.

The Black Death of Standards By Preference

You can build your own Standard Key system from scratch or you can build on the work of others who have done it before. Hence why we employ the AIA NCS recommendations and rules – We endeavor to be lazy and not reinvent the wheel.

“Are there useful civil and survey Major Keys and Minor Keys in the NCS?”

I answer the question this way, “Some. Why should there be many?”

The AIA is going to build their Keys around their Discipline Keys - what they do. Previously, we talked about Discipline Keys. To review – I contend that we need to see that practical Standard Keys come in three basic flavors:

  1. Discipline Keys – these are about the SYSTEMS we survey and design
  2. Software Keys – these are imposed on us by the software systems we use
  3. Organizational Keys – these are social, organizational, and political

We NEED to pay attention to the difference or we may make work for ourselves and others. That is not the goals of standards.

Software and Beyond

The System of software you employ DOES make a difference in your Standard Keys. Remember that Standard Keys reflect how you talk about the work you do and the typical workflow mechanics you employ to create and edit the Systems, Structures, and Parts you have to deal with.

You ALREADY have a set of Standard Keys firmly embedded in place if you employ any software.
(There are 3 puns intentional puns in this sentence. Don’t miss them: firm, bed, and in place.)

Unquestionably, AutoCAD Civil 3D forces you to rethink and retool your successful, historical Keys. You have suddenly a lot more potential back-end stuff to deal with. The numbers keep growing as Civil 3D attempts to mature in ways you may not or cannot expect.

We could blame this on the NCS Layer Standard that was deployed with AutoCAD Civil 3D.
Some people do.

Razor? What Razor?

This is like blaming global warming or climate change on methane produced by cows. Cow poop is relatively easy to study; potentially easy to tax; suitably stinky but not effectual for much else in this specific regard.
It seems according to a recent study of this type that chickens and pigs produce less methane, so they must be better to eat? William would shudder and not because he lived in the Little Ice Age.
No one bothers to consider that by in large chickens and pigs compete with humans for the same vegetative proteins and carbs. Cows don’t. Max Smart says, “Missed by that much.
The arctic tundra holds a lot of methane. For the most part it is a frozen bog. The bottom of the deep ocean holds much more. It isn’t the largest carbon sink on Earth because there are more fish than cows folks. Remember Occam’s Razor!

In Reality

You get more preference when you have more Style (and more abstraction). You get more detail when you can survey, design, and document more complex systems.
We want more preference because it make sense in light of the work we do in a new way.

Here’s a real world Software Key example:
If you design citywide sanitary or water systems, the odds are you employ applications that aren’t CAD that do output CAD stuff. Do your keys and layers reflect what they output? Of course. Can you change the specifics of the output to make your Keys more modern practical? Maybe and maybe not without a lot of effort and expense.

You live with the Software Keys your system produces or you change software systems.
We have Keys when we suck in. We have Keys when we publish out as well.

Some Things to Consider

Civil 3D has some internal problems of its own in this regard. This is very much like Microstation’s initial problems with named levels which made NCS compliance somewhat difficult for their CAD software for a while. “Why would anyone want that?”

(You might also want to read this related post about Layer Filters and Civil 3D.)

The current interface for AutoCAD Civil 3D is really not so great about making Style changes easy when you have many Style choices.
We all know the interface boxes suck - No search no filtering. No way to manage much of anything.
Who knew the simple combo list box in the AutoCAD Property box could become an issue?

I didn’t bring this annoyance up just to rant about AutoCAD Civil 3D’s shortcomings, but to demonstrate that it can be difficult for us as daily users to recognize why we make our Key name choices. We may have Software Keys built in that are meaningless now and tomorrow have Keys that suddenly become much more meaningful.

Search in this blog for View Major Key for example. If you use Civil 3D you probably want VIEW to be one of your Major Keys - Things get simpler and really do make more sense.

This Standard Keys and Software key thing obviously isn’t confined to Layers and Layer Standards. Do you still employ 8 character block names? Do you employ a set of rules to name them? Probably not.
If you didn’t notice, the walls between design and visualization are coming crashing down around us. You might have hundreds more of these beasties to deal with if the boss catches wind.

Or You Won’t

Real soon now we’ll bite off Organizational Keys which can be the real Standards hornet’s nest. It gives me a People Skills buzz just thinking about it.

On Standards and Keys in Civil 3D