Compound Interest Labels in Civil 3D

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There are uncomfortable and unexpected truths squirrelled away in the simplest tasks in AutoCAD Civil 3D. Our CAD to model-based transition means some basic tasks are fundamentally different and seemingly more complex for no apparent reason. Yet a planned complexity can provide us with more bang for the buck and less work in the end. As I pointed out in a previous post, in Civil 3D the dualistic replaceable and dynamic (data driven) nature of Labels is important.

How do you plan for rules and behaviors that you don’t expect?

“I just want to label my lines and curves.”

“Ok. What kind of lines and curves?”

“I want to label my parcel boundary.”

“Easy enough. But you did not answer the question. Did you convert the linework into Parcels and parcel segments? Are one or more of the segments in the resolved Parcels segments from an Alignment or maybe even a Survey Figure? Is the linework just raw AutoCAD primitives – lines and arcs?”

Huh? They’re AutoCAD lines. Why does that other stuff matter? I don’t use that.

“Why not?” Our desire to get things done immediately can interfere with our opportunity to get things done better and faster in the end. We need to consider the economic principal of delayed gratification.

Label Consternations

What are the differences between the plethora of Line and Curve Labels in AutoCAD Civil 3D?
Let’s segment out the issues. (grin). Yes. Segment is a key word in Civil 3D.
There are:

  • Civil 3D Feature Label Styles like Alignment, Parcel, and Figure versions
    • Work on the collected and/or individual segments
    • Segments and their labels have types like line, curve and spiral
    • Segments and their Labels recognize the behaviors and rules
      of the specific Civil 3D Features
      Therefore there are kinds of segments defined by the behaviors and rules
  • General or the generic Line and Curve labels
    • Read and display only the AutoCAD primitive geometry data
    • Ignore behaviors and rules of the Civil 3D Feature

Each Feature’s segment labels potentially gives us access to the specific “exposed” and often resolved Feature segment data, but we aren’t locked in to that. Sometimes the specific Civil Feature data, behavior, and rules is important and sometimes it is not.
We choose. We can go vanilla and employ Civil 3D’s General Line and Curve labels.

Choose Wisely

While we can use the different Label Styles interchangeably (replaceable) the Labels are not the same thing (dynamic). It is important to understand the differences in the data behind here. Become a Member and learn about Civil 3D Parcels, Civil 3D Alignments, etc. in depth and in detail.

Our more competent and skilled use of Civil 3D Features works in our projects like the financial principals of compound interest.
We choose to borrow or invest. Without an educated plan the scales may not balance in your favor. The experience, you probably know by now, can be painful. It need not be.

What Feature’s Label is it Anyway?

“Please explain why I get this big list of Line or Curve label styles when I modify the Label Properties of a Line (or Curve) Label on many different Civil 3D Features?”

We get to choose. Civil 3D assumes you know what you are doing. Civil 3D also assumes you have a naming convention for Label Styles. They told you that?

“Does that mean you can slap a Parcel Line segment label on a tangent segment of an Alignment?”

No. For Line & Curve labels you always get the choice of the current Feature’s Line or Curve Label Styles and the General (generic) Line and Curve Label Styles.
You can’t switch an Alignment’s Labels to a Parcel’s Label Style.

Ah rats! In Civil 3D, such ability is currently an act of indecent exposure. Sorry for the inside joke. I could resist.

“Dave? Do our Civil 3D Label Styles Do That?”

You can have different specific segment Label Styles that look the same.
The Production Solution products Label Style collections consistently do.

Right Click is Your Friend

Many people discover the core Civil 3D Right click menu’s Select Similar command often works great as a Label selection tool.
You can select (collect) Feature labels and modify them to refer to a Label Style for the Feature or a General one in the Properties box.

“Does the Select Similar command sort by the assigned Style for Labels?”

Not exactly.

You’d better pay attention.

  • You may not currently see other labels that get selected that you did not recognize as being “similar”.
  • We already pointed out that what you believe is similar isn’t. Type can matter.
  • A Label Properties pick from any Ribbon tool is the same action for any selected Labels.

Unfortunately, we also get a bit stuck with the limitations of list boxes inside the AutoCAD Properties box too.

All the different types of assignable Label Styles for a Feature with Label Styles are presented in the same Property box list selection interface. This Property box interface has evolved in small but important ways over the releases of AutoCAD and AutoCAD Civil 3D. In general this has gotten better. All is not lost. See the upcoming post.

No doubt you’ve noticed that Civil 3D:

  • The Names of the Label Styles have a big effect on the Property box list order and therefore whether or not you get what you want and expect
  • Cares about vector direction even when you do not
  • Must have access to the ACAD primitives or the Civil 3D Feature segments to generate Labels – its’s dynamic.
    A layer Freeze can therefore be your unseen enemy when it used to be your friend
  • Requires that you manage the data behind whether you like it, understand it, know how to do it, or not

People complain about the nuance and complexity of AutoCAD Civil 3D annotation. It’s understandable, but the annotative work is often mission critical to our performance and directly on the critical path of the delivery of our project.

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Next time – How we can deal with Label Style changes even more collectively in AutoCAD Civil 3D. Yes. I intentionally did not talk about how you put the labels down in the first place.

“It is always easier to edit than create.”


Civil 3D Label Style Management posts

All these newer posts contain updated content.