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Our Special Friends have Character

Tags textstyle, special characters, font, NCS, linetype, symbol, Symbol Set

In the previous post we talked about the National CAD Standard (NCS) and International Standards Organization (ISO) recommendations about font faces in our plan sets. Read it.

In larger projects we also might have multiple CAD apps producing the work. Font agreement can significantly reduce special character translation issues. If you have to accomplish any form of conversion process these special character disassociations can be really nasty to fix.
If you have to work with BIM projects and Revit users, you’ve perhaps learned this the hard way or maybe you haven’t?

The NCS, the ISO, and a lot of “modernized” standards including the emerging BIM ones advocate employing ONLY True Type fonts. The specific font families in the NCS and ISO were chosen for their readability in ½ sized output and their support for the special characters used in plan sets across all of the AEC disciplines. Find out more here.

Specifically these standards explicitly restrict the font families employed in plan set publication to:

  • Arial
  • Arial Black
  • Lucinda Sans
  • Symbols

Lucinda Console is recommended when a mono-spaced font is required in tables.

It can be argued that the Times New Roman family could agreeably be included in this list as it is widely used. The font also supports the same Unicode character map as Arial. However, this font includes serifs. It is therefore more subject to readability issues when reduced. Hence why it is not included in the published recommended font standards.

It should also be noted that Lucinda Sans (may be employed for titles) is a shortened Unicode character set. It does not support the same character map for special characters.

The Windows Symbols font is neither a Unicode font nor is it a True Type font. Therefore, Symbols subject to character map translation issues. However, the Symbols font is omnipresent on Windows operating systems. Using character references from it doesn’t usually run you into trouble. To handle common civil/survey special characters the use of Symbols is not required.

Italic variants of the families are allowed. These are often employed for the differentiation between existing and proposed conditions in plan set annotation.

  • Typically 11 or 22 degree slants on the fonts are recommended.
  • The 11 degree standards appears to be more widely accepted. It provides differentiation without greatly increasing character spacing.

It’s recommended that you employ the Arial True Type font for general plan annotation. This is a multi-alphabet Unicode font that employs a standardized international character map. All the letters, symbols, special characters, etc are resolved the same way with the same codes. The typical special characters are in there.

Special CAD Characters in Unicode




Unicode Subrange




General Punctuation



plus minus

Mathematical Operators


almost equals

Mathematical Operators


not equal

Mathematical Operators



Mathematical Operators


less than or equal

Mathematical Operators


greater than or equal

Mathematical Operators


Delta increment

Mathematical Operators





You can copy these from the Character Map application in Windows>>Accessories>>System Tools. A standard piece of text that includes these special characters is convenient way to standardize the resource for your users. Cut down on the doubt and hassle.

This is not the familiar way we learned in AutoCAD 101 by using the ACAD centric shx specific rule of %%d etc. Yep it is faster and easier initially to use the historic and familiar simplex, romans, romand or whatever because you know where get the character quickly. There’s a character map darkside.

Our Hidden Nasties

One of the practical reasons organizations and users fight Font compliance aside from preference is the presence of historic fonts inside their existing resources.

  • Existing block libraries are full of old textstyle definitions that take work to remove.
    • This is one significant reason why we constructed our Symbol Set and Blocks Only products.
    • The in-depth base graphic support these products supply do allow you to quickly replicate graphic CAD standards easily with consistent and compliant results.
    • Hey. We even supply the graphics in published form so you can see.
      Imagine that.
    • Custom linetypes that commonly contain text can also be an issue.
      • A custom linetype can reference textstyles.
      • This is the most common reason you receive linetype load errors in AutoCAD.
      • We provide clear and standardized linetype definitions with InstantOn products.
      • NCS and DOT linetypes are supplied. We supply linetype prototypes to help you consistently construct the unique variations that are sometimes required.
      • We provide both in-depth documentation inside the resources files themselves and graphic visualization drawings come with the Production Solution products.
    • Typical line types and line styles that often include vendor font specific special characters that are really formatted arrangements of standard text characters.
      • BL (boundary line)
      • PL (property line)
      • CL (center line)
      • SL (section line)
      • FL (flowline)
      • WL (waterline)
      • Should be replaced by text positioned in standard blocks/cells that do not include special character references.
      • Our Jump Kit product Style library even includes Alignment Group Label styles that can replace and actually reduce linetype conversion issues. They provide font compliance as well.
    • Symbol Legends are a pain in the tail in AutoCAD Civil 3D.
      • Our Legends and Lists AddOn reduces the pain significantly and even allows you to do more.

I do recommend that you watch the Legends AddOn video. This short video demonstrates a use of the robust Survey capabilities of AutoCAD Civil 3D in an innovative way. Many people find the techniques shown there are useful for many other things.

“I didn’t realize Civil 3D could do that!”