Match My Legend

Tags customization, block, symbol, Symbol Set, AddOn, legend

I planned a video blog post on Nonlinear Corridors. However, I’ve been silenced by a nasty summer cold and a severe case of laryngitis. I should make a TV commercial. Recording that nonlinear video post will have to wait a bit.

Symbols Can Go Nonlinear Elsewhere

People do ask me,

“How do I customize the blocks in the Production Solution products? I don’t like this or that.”

If it’s one or two blocks,

  • Edit them in the templates
  • Wblock out the edited blocks to a resource folder
    • You’ll need them later for updates

Create Multiple Sets as Easy as One

You might want to make many graphic changes.
The Production Solutions are designed to allow you to do this – a Standard to Build Standards from.

By now you know we supply a ton of Symbols in the Symbol Set. You’d be very hard pressed to find graphics and standardized graphic prototypes we don’t supply. We added more Erosion control symbology in 2015 for example. If you want hexagonal meters no problem and on and on it goes. Lots of drag and drop options are supplied.
You can see the Symbol Set pictures here.

Actually, maybe what our Symbol Set blocks look like isn’t the mission critical issue anyway?
Let me explain. It’s a matter of perspective not preference.

The Concept is Upside Down

Our Symbol Set technology is based on the Power of Names -Named Reference that is a fundamental reality in all AutoCAD/Autodesk based products. You could argue this is fundamental to modern software. The Internet in all it’s many forms relies on the principals applied in the following process.

This is probably the opposite perspective that most AutoCAD folks approach the customization problem from – in our daily user experience the names must be unique. You know the message – “blah blah name already in use”.

We advocate...
Keep the names the same and replace the graphics underneath.

Productivity Not Promises

Well you’re going to need a symbol legend result anyway. So we can kill multiple birds at once.
Hey? Isn’t that nonlinear thinking?
You betcha. Innovative too.
More output than input is exactly what we like.

All the standard InstantOn symbols are in the supplied Legends and Lists AddOn examples too.
The AddOn is available to InstantOn customers in multiple releases of AutoCAD Civil 3D -2012-2015.

More Skill = Less Work

Our Legends and Lists AddOn supplies simple Excel tools to make the process work. True. You do have to know Civil 3D fundamentals and a bit of Survey in C3D to make it work. Anyone can learn…watch a video on me…See the AddOn videos.

You do have to know how to copy Excel formulas around. True. You do have to know an ASCII editor like Notepad++.  The stock Windows notepad won’t cut it.

Custom Symbols in Civil 3D - How It Is Done

Make Lists

1) Create a list of all the blocks you use – from drawings that you actually plot from real projects

  • Use –INSERT>>? To display a list of all the blocks in the ACAD text window
  • Copy paste the listing into an ASCII file and clean it up – only block names in quotes allowed
  • Create a worksheet in Excel that generates a prototype script to wblock them all out to a folder
  • Copy the calculated cells into another ASCII file – this will not generate a functional script
  • Search and replace to get a functional AutoCAD Script
  • The Quote (“) characters must be moved around

2) You already have a folder of standard blocks – I bet this is not the same as the above.

  • Resolve the conflicts, omissions, etc. and have ONE folder of block drawings.

3) Create an ASCII version of the directory listing

  • Print to file from the command line in Windows works
  • There are free tools
  • This is practice for doing making directory lists later

Make Sets

This folder of blocks is your existing Symbol Set.

  • You don’t care about the block names
  • You don’t care about the graphic content of these blocks – Keep your hands off
  • You will need graphics in Civil 3D that you DO NOT HAVE in a block list from a ACAD legacy application

4) Repeat this process using one of the supplied InstantOn templates

  • The resultant ASCII list is pretty much what you have to match your list to.

Since you are practicing…

  • Repeat this process for significant clients who REQUIRE standardized graphic output and maybe even specific block/cell names
  • You can work in Production Solution Names, publish and then rename to anyone’s name list

Minimal Windows and Office Skills Required

No ACAD or Civil 3D skills are required to perform the next step.
The skills:

  • Only basic Windows Explorer skills
  • Ability to visually match pictures
  • Keep accurate book in your spreadsheet while you do the matching

5) Create your NEW Symbol Set in Windows Explorer

  • Create a folder for New blocks
  • Optionally create folders for client’s symbols

6) In OUR Symbol Set find the blocks that exactly/closely match your existing graphic content

  • Drag and drop matching symbols from the library to YOUR NEW SS folder
  • Note down
    • Old to NEW block name and graphic changes in the list
    • Missing NEW blocks  - Can you find a generic prototype in the ASYM folder
    • Remove Duplicate old blocks
    • Etc

7) In raw AutoCAD (not Civil 3D) modify the NEW blocks

  • Use the block PROTO.dwg we supply at the root of the Symbol Set
  • Use ONLY supplied textstyles – no Annotative textstyles are necessary
  • Every graphic thing (primitive) on Layer 0
  • Force graphics by plotstyle as needed.
  • Invisible Ink works great for masking solid fills

8) Create Missing blocks for YOURS and/or Client lists

  • The ASYM folder in our supplied Symbol Set includes prototype graphics
  • Use the NCS like naming rules for Missing blocks
  • Create symbols in a one generic unit format
  • See rules in the step above

Now you have matched and completed list(s) of the symbols with the Names you will use connected by drawings in a Symbol Set folder to the “right” graphics.

9) Create an INSERT script formula column in the spreadsheet

– we supply that formula in our spreadsheet tools supplied in InstantOn.

  • Copy the column
  • Paste to an ASCII file
  • Clean up as before – you are rearranging Quote Characters again

If you employ the Legend builder script and method it will generate a points file to location the symbols as COGO points for you to wrap a Civil 3D Points table around.

  • This is a good QAQC test to make sure you got it all right
  • Now you have a Legend

10) Create a template with the new symbols.

  • Create a drawing from the NoStyles template
  • Run the script in AutoCAD to insert the symbols
    • If you’re cute you can build the ERASE ALL into the script
  • Erase the inserted blocks (or C3D COGO point objects)– you don’t need them

By Now you also recognize that you have a list of symbols that are not in the Legend but you KNOW you need in the template.

11) Insert that list

– this is the only way to change the look and feel of some “built-in” Civil 3D blocks/markers

  • INSERT EXPLODED either stock IOB template
  • Symbols you did not replace remain the same
  • Carefully check the Styles collection for blown and broken label Styles – assume this ALWAYS happens
  • Mostly this happens with new Label Styles added in the release you are working in.
  • You can use Style Import and Drag and drop to fix broken Styles
  • All Design Criteria Styles usually need to be redone – includes Grading ones
  • Description Key Sets may need to be manually added back in in some releases

12) In Drawing Settings - Reset the Design (Proposed) or Survey (Existing) Object Settings

The Layer values are supplied in the documentation or from the templates themselves.

  • You won’t get everything perfect the first time through.
  • That leaves you something to improve upon
  • It’s a 12 step program after all

If this seems like a lot of work for something that seems simple on the surface, you’re correct.

  • First, the process only seems complex because you haven’t done it.
  • Second it’s a manufacturing process that constructs assemblies of reusable parts.
  • Experientially there is also nuance in the process.
  • The results are often extra ordinary...

Freedom to do more in Civil 3D

Is this a publishing template? Or a working production template?

Do you recognize that you also built a Tool Palette constructor at the same time as a Legend and a brand new customized set of templates?

“Totally Nonlinear, dude.”

To Do is To Believe