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To Format in Civil 3D Description Keys

Tags Description Key, Description Key Set, Format, spreadsheet


Most folks employ a simple form of codes in the Format column of their Description Keys. There’s no problem with that, but you may be missing some very useful functionality built into AutoCAD Civil 3D’s Description Keys Sets and Label Style power tools. Inside Civil 3D there is the simple and then there is the sophisticated. Is it possible that both are possible at the same time?

The Point of the Dance

There is nothing dull about points and point data in Civil 3D. Most folks get by with a bare minimum to get work out the door.
Let’s call it the “Thank God that worked” approach.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but after a while, it’s time we got more productive.

Get Ready to Foment

Civil 3D is a diva.
She’s a great performer able to sing, dance, and play in the band all at the same time. However, we must be the director or she can drive you downright nuts. You copy? Read the posts. OK. Now you get the idea of the Point Director method, but the details can be a challenging?

Survey the Scene

I think of the Format column In Description Key Sets (plural on purpose, folks) as the lyric generator or teleprompter inside AutoCAD Civil 3D. You can use it act like a mindless political hack (an all too common practice), a bad actor, or deliver powerful messages, inspiration, and vital information in innovative ways.

Put that another way.” Ok. Watson. Be more productive.

What you have to say when you make a point should have substance. Like I said, Format can be simple or sophisticated. To believe you understand Format without employing Survey in Civil 3D in your entire design process is simple-minded.

Two is Designed to be More Than One

The Production Solution products all supply 3 standard versions of Format values in the supplied Description Key Set tools:

  • Core - comparative formats so you can Match the meaning of Keys
  • Basic – to create basic and/or standard abbreviated labels
    We do different things for line codes and point codes in there
    Did you notice? You’re welcome.
  • Pass and Check– used for debugging and point QA
    The differences there being about Point Styles and Point Groups and not Format necessarily.

All these more than basic productivity tools are built into our Production Solutions. We even supply the Civil 3D documentation and customization Spreadsheet Tools to manage the 2000+ Codes and all that related stuff. I bet your survey codes are in there? If not, match them.
There it is again. Format at work somehow allowing the old school past to coexist with a model-based future.

For Format there’s more in there, as I say - By Design. As an example and because it is a useful one if you do corridor design and documentation…

Format Translates

The Format column can do a lot more. This deserves some clarification. Funny how a simple string interpreter (which is what the Format column is) can do so much? Then maybe it hits you?
Oh. Yeah.
I’m reading output from a string interpreter in this post right now. It’s HMTL. Five even.”

Point made, I hope. I digress.

We supply Corridor point output Description Key Sets that will automatically translate the “stock” Civil 3D subassembly point codes into a set of shorter standardized abbreviations. This makes a really nice way to produce plan annotative labels of corridor designs. Is that detail innovative?
We even supply the reverse Translator Description Key Set. Yes. That need does comes up in the real world and can be used in Plan & Profile and Sections documentation. Can you say “projected points”? There are obscure but sometimes useful Best Fit Alignment and Best Fit Profile design scenarios too.
So, why not supply you real world C3D power tools?

You already know that repetitive in’s and out’s produce new things. I digress.

Format Separates

Given your choice of delimiter (and Yes. You may change the delimiter too) Format works on chunks. That means those weird $0, $1, $2, etc. These might look familiar to you or they might not? How many chucks can there be? Think digits. No. Most people can’t tie strings together with their toes. Just remember
Hands up” when you shoot and edit point properties.

String Position is very important to Format. If you make simple TREEs you get the basics when coupled to Description Key Parameters.

What about your Labels? What about Construction Notes? Revision tracking? Keynotes? Detail callouts? Simple stuff like Street names? Huh? I freely admit that it is easy to get lost and miss the picture in the forest of trees. Do you think like a CAD dude or a Data dude?

Anything with a location can be documented and stored as DATA in a Survey Db. It can then be updated like a data reference from the Survey Db. Yep. Format matters.

Format plays a vital role along with key Properties of the Point Label Style.

Put another way. If you want multi-line labels your Point Label Style has to have scale sensitive Properties in place. I say “scale sensitive” because these Properties are related to computed font character of the Style in use, the geometric structure of the label components, etc. Some minor Style adjustment is necessary if the annotative scales changes too much. A small maintenance price to pay for a lot of annotative plan set power.

OK. You’ve chunked your description text content based on your delimiter. Space characters work for me, but sometimes that typical space delimiter is a real world pain in the…
Content may matter more than our preferred habit. Get over it.
Hmmmm? Keep those special points in another Survey Network? Maybe another Db. Oh. Never mind.
What? You need a legend or a table from them? No problem.
The Production Solutions and Civil 3D do that. If you get Legends and Lists the lights will go on. See the video. Again. I digress.

Our Release 6 products include Label Styles that do this Label magic in Civil 3D. We supply lots of Description Key Sets that now employ more complex Format chunk codes.
Civil 3D users are ready for it.
I mean the improved productivity.

Civil 3D Multi-line Label Style Property(s)

The Text maximum width properties have been there for a long time, but remain somewhat squirrelled away in the Civil 3D Label Styles interface on the Summary tab.

What that means to me is Autodesk reserves to right to change them in the Civil 3D object model without notice. They probably won’t. They do deal with an all too common customer objection to Label Style behavior.

I digress.

I will trust you’ve read and understand the Civil 3D Label Style Hierarchy Rules? You do manage Label Style changes to Height and other such property values from the proper Top down position(s) in the Settings tree Label Styles in Civil 3D? Search and you will find answers.

Civil 3D pros love LSD (Label Style Defaults)

Speaking of dance and top down, you don’t want to do an Isadora Duncan? “Who?” Ok. That’s an obscure reference. It’s simply a caution not to run wild with your new found skills and now uncommon talent.

Just like Label Style text Height properties the “multiline property” or technically the Text maximum width property must be changed in at least two places.
Once for the Component and another time for the Dragged state. You probably do want to do that?

Do these properties apply to all Label Styles?

You can guess the scary answer to that question. Should you build a default value for the Text maximum width property into every Label Style? Hmmm? Frankly, I think that most of the time it doesn’t matter. Which is maybe why the property is squirrelled away. When it DOES matter, you understand the nuance a bit better.

“Nuff Said”