Alignment Based Point Groups

Tags point group, Point Label Style, annotation, View Frame, ViewFrame, alignment, publish on demand, reports

What the heck is an Alignment based Point Group? What? You’ve never had to produce Plan and Profile sheets? Aren’t there lots of points you have to label and or symbolize relative to those View Frames slapped down along an Alignment? Sure View based Styles and Label Styles help a lot.

The Long and Winding Road

You know that’s not enough. You’ve all face this problem – a ton of data strung out along a long and winding road. People. We are often talkin’ man-hours of effort. Customers do ask about this “problem” frequently. Can this work be automated inside of AutoCAD Civil 3D? Of course.

Maybe you even wish that Autodesk would one day allow you to relate or reference an Alignment (or better yet a View Frame) in a Point Group definition. Don’t hold your breath. Did the Civil 3D programmers already solve the problem? Maybe we’re not paying attention? Maybe they may not recognize that either. Should Tool Builders be Tool Users? Better Tool Users are certainly Builders and Makers who employ many tools.

iPOD - Intelligent Publish on Demand

This is a Publish on Demand problem. This exactly like what we talked about recently in an Annotative Profiles post. What we need is there in the Civil 3D model. That is true whether we have the problem in Survey or Design documentation. Whether our points be survey data or corridor output makes little difference.

Yes. Our Production Solution products include specialized Corridor output Code Sets and matched Description Key Sets for that sort of thing. Faster, cleaner, and more consistent is better.

As of this posting this method works in all recent versions of AutoCAD Civil 3D 2016 to 2014. It should work in even older versions. I feel your pain.

The only way to learn the following skill is to actually do it and do it a few times. Sorry. The important skills in Civil 3D and life are like that.

What’s Up?

We need to yank the data out from the Civil 3D model in the form we need and put something back in in the correct form and do that in a managed and systematic way.

We certainly need an Alignment related to the View Frames whether we employ the actual Frames or not. Does this annotative Alignment need to be the final design alignment? Nope. If we do this systematically, we can always update things later too. Good to keep the systematic in mind. We use a spreadsheet in the process to sort and keep things documented. Keep the spreadsheet safe.

Civil 3D Survey Db Reality

Your can do this with COGO points, but you are far better off with an external Survey Db and Survey points. Come on, Dude? You don’t realize you can toss any point file into a Survey Db and manage the data better. COGO points are for newbies and old school numbskulls. I haven’t put a Point Group in a surface definition over for half a decade for example. Have you?

The Point of Groups

We do not be assign Point Style and Point Label Styles with our Description Key Set. All the Point Labels for our Alignment managed labels we’ll do with Point Groups. It is possible to mix the methods. If you do that things may become much more confusing particularly if others follow you down the road later on.

We all recognize that Point Groups definition employ Boolean logic. The solution will require we tweak the standardized AND OR logic of the Point Group definitions. This database query (set theory) stuff gets complicated, but we can handle it particularly if it saves us hours or days of work.
Civil 3D doesn’t do this naturally in the Point Group definition box, but the needed query creation and modification tools are in there.

The Matter of Detail

It needs to be said that for a host of reasons publishing your Symbols separately from your point Labels is the preferred and more managed way to do things in Civil 3D. If you need to dumb down to AutoCAD or Export to DGN this is a must. That said.

Get Set Up

As usual if you focus your continuous improvements in this part of the processes, consistent results get easier faster.

  1. Use a suitable template perhaps with limited Styles and some pertinent details
    We recommend to Production Solution customers that they thin down and delete Styles for such a template.
  2. Toolspace>>Settings>>Points>>Description Key Sets
    Set the Description Set Priority to a suitable Description Key Set – All default Styles
    Optionally you can always Drag and Drop in the single DKS you need.
  3. You have some Point Group definitions that provide the Description code lists you want to label
    Our Production Solution products supply many Point Group definitions based on our huge list of standard Survey Codes in external text formats.
    Yes, These are integrated with the supplied Figure Dbs too.
    You can Drag and Drop Point Group definitions from one drawing to another in Civil 3D 2014+
  4. Toolspace>>Survey>>Open the Survey Db
  5. Insert the points you want to document into the drawing
    This may be all of them
    Survey Points (or an import source) Right Click>>Points>>Insert into Drawing
    or the limited results of one or more Survey Queries
  6. Update the point groups
    If you display the points as <none>, Civil 3D doesn’t waste time and energy on it. We need only the point data.
    Pictures? We don’t need no stinkin’ pictures.
    One assumes you’ve already QA’d the data.
    Hey. If you work from the Survey Db you can even continue the QA and edit process using the Point Labels.

Produce, Tune, and Ready the Offset Report

Remember Point Group definitions require comma separated values – like a csv file.
We take a generic Civil 3D report on the data we need and massage it into a useful form to reuse for our Alignment based Point Group definitions.
We want csv based lists of Point Numbers.

  1. Prospector>>Data References>>Alignment
    Data reference in the Alignment
    The external source helps us repeat the processes when we need to
    We’re using this Alignment as an annotative Design Control Manager.
  2. Toolspace>>Toolbox>>Reports Manager>>Points>>Station Offset to Points
    This produces a Station Offset report for any Alignment in generic HTML
    The data we need produced in a form we can massage.
  3. Select only the Table contents in your browser
  4. Paste Special as Unicode into a blank Excel spreadsheet sheet
    You will get columns of values
  5. Find and Replace all the “’” characters in the columns
    In metric you are obviously replacing something else.
  6. Sort on the Offset column
    We want all the negatives and positives separated
    What to do about the zeros and near zero offsets?
    Pick a side or you can also handle them separately
    You may also limit the list(s) in other ways if necessary
    Note that you could chop lists into Station Ranges too.
    If you employ View based Point Labels Styles and View Frames, you probably don’t have to do that.
  7. Select only Point Number column of cells for the Negatives
  8. Make a new Sheet
  9. Into the new Sheet Paste Special rotated from rows to columns
    Yes. This is a nifty paste tool in Excel.
    The negative points are now arrayed in a single row
  10. Repeat the entire process for the Positives
  11. Rename the Sheets appropriately
  12. Save each sheet out separately to a csv format file
    We need the data in comma separated lists
    Keep the files with the Alignment reference or with the Survey Db
    Save the spreadsheet in the same place.

Build the Negative and Positive Point Groups

We need two separator Point Groups. This is a classic divide and conquer strategy. Think about what you name the Point Groups carefully. They are related to a named Alignment. Maybe you want that in the Point Group name? Here we use Negative and Positive. Left and Right work equally as well and that might make more sense.

  1. Open the exported csv files in a ASCII text editor like Notepad (God Forbid)
    I tencd prefer Notepad++ as my ASCII editor. There are other good ones.
  2. Make the Negative csv current
  3. Select the single line contents in the Negative CSV
    The row method works.
  4. In Civil 3D
    Toolspace>>Prospector>>Point Group>>Right click>>New
    We need to create a Point Group named Negative
  5. Name the Point Group Negative
  6. Include tab>>Point Numbers
    Paste in the negative list from the csv textfile
    This will be a big list that will NEVER display on the Include tab
    Don’t panic!
  7. Check the Point List tab for the Point Group
    You should have a list of Negative points
    Are all the points in there?
  8. Repeat the process and build the Positive Point Group

Build the other Offset based Point Groups

Each Point Group will include either the Negative or Positive Point Group. Note that we cannot Exclude an named Point Group. We can only Include Point Groups in the definition of another Point Group. This means we will always get an AND clause in the Query Builder tab for that secondary Point Group.

For a single Description value the Point Group definition is easy.
For example: A Flowline Negative for all “FL” points includes the Negative Point Group on the Point Group tab AND the single Description “FL*” on the Include tab>>with raw Description matching.
Remember to check the resolved Point List.

Most of the time we actually have a more complex list of values we want to assign specific Point Label Style to.
For example we want FL, BOW, and TOC and their variation points labeled the same.

The trick is to recognize the method by which Civil 3D adds query logic to the Point Group definition.
Includes go in first as ANDs. Civil 3D will make the Description list a series of OR statements for each Description value (e.g. OR “FL*, OR “BOW*”, etc). These statements will follow our first AND from the included Point Group.

Technically, the issue is how we order and group the logic within the query.

We want all the Negative points AND the only the points with descriptions that match our Description List. We want this group AND anything in this list. The second part is a grouping in the logic.

  1. Create a new Point Group – Call it CURB Negative
  2. Point Group tab check the Negative Point Group
    This includes the point group at the top of the query
  3. Exclude tab>>with raw descriptions matching Paste in the copied comma separated list of Description to match.
    This instruction appears backwards. Why are we excluding the list? We are NOT going to use that. See more in this blog about the Power of NOT in queries here.
    We know beforehand that we will edit the query in the Query Builder.
    Exclude gets us to a better initial order and grouping to work from.  
    We have less to change.
  4. Query Builder tab>>Modify the query
    When you check the modify query checkbox here you are telling Civil 3D to ignore changes on any other tabs. Civil 3D will rely ONLY on what you mean and state formally here.
    You should have a query that starts with the Negative Point Group AND
    a NOT and a bunch of ORs in the Set Operator column
    If not, start over.
  5. In the Set Operator column – All changes are made here
  6. Remove the first AND - make it NOTHING from the dropdown list
  7. Change the NOT (before the list of ORs) to an AND from the dropdown list
    The resultant Set Operator column has one AND and a following group of OR’s
  8. Check the Point List
    Should have members of the Negative group with ONLY raw descriptions matching FL* or BOW* or TOC*
  9. OK out to Save the Point Group
  10. Test it by assigning a label style to the Point Group. Ta da!
  11. You can copy the Point Group, rename it, and edit the Point Group name on the Query Builder Value column to make a CURB Positive.
    Remember to Check the Point List
  12. Repeat until you have all the Point Groups needed for your Plan and Profile labels related to an Alignment

 Boots on the Ground

At this point you assign Point Label Styles to the appropriate Point Groups and reorder the Point Group display order as necessary. View based Point Label Styles will produce consistent labels related to the View Frame group. You will still have some labels to sort out. Often you can rotate simple ones to typical and consistent rotation values with relative ease. Select and use the Properties box to put in Label Rotation values. You do the same for Symbols (from the Point Style) using the Marker Rotation.

We already pointed out that if you employ Survey point data you can even update point particulars and add note like description details to the points. Your Point Label style can break up long descriptions into multi-line notes by limiting the display width in the specific component in the Label Style. Don’t forget to do this for the Label Style's Dragged State component too.  Your changes made in the Survey Db remain tied to the point data itself and are stored away externally to boot. Maybe you want the added values in a separate copied Survey Db?

Remember COGO points can become input sources in a Survey Db. You can add label points (some with codes that produce annotative symbols) to keep annotation and your audit trail intact. Certainly, reducing the number of sources of annotation simplifies consistency issues in any project be it survey or design.

What the heck you may even have to produce site plans in larger projects based on the same basic idea.

Are We There Yet?

The Alignment Management posts: a study guide to Read and Test in AutoCAD Civil 3D.

Civil 3D Alignment | Civil 3D Alignment Types | An Alignment in Civil 3D | Baseline Civil 3D Alignments | The Alignment End View in Civil 3D | Annotative Profiles in Civil 3D | Civil 3D Horizontal Control | Alignment Based Point Groups

Alignment Video posts: (see the Deliverables course in the Members section)

Civil 3D Alignment Matters - An Overview | Civil 3D Best Fits are Fast and Better | Civil 3D Best Fit Segment Tools