Group Labels with Reference in Civil 3D

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What is the economic value of a blog post about something outwardly arcane in AutoCAD Civil 3D? This question sometimes haunts me and all of us who are committed publically to making your Civil 3D workday a bit easier. What’s a 1000 words worth? We deliver. You have to pay attention. Lord knows, I am aware of how hard that is to do.

An updated version of this post with video can be found in the Civil 3D Alignment Reference Group Labels post.


Once upon a time we had them. Life and the burden of surface annotation was easier. Those pesty question marks when references got broken were perceived as a Civil 3D user problem. Evil! The wizards of Manchester took them away. Actually, for Group Labels with References they just took away the ability of the user to assign references in the interface. Arrrgh. Referenced Surface labels got the eternal axe. I consider that the worst Civil 3D site design impoverishment ever. Bad robot.


I hear tell you may have missed this. I did not but I must admit we forgot to put the Group Label Reference Style collections back into Release 6. Dooh. Thank you for continuous improvement and my current slavery to a new and improved Release 7 Framework for AutoCAD Civil 3D. Is an AddOn for Release 6 is in order too? Hmmm.

Quietly and perhaps by popular demand, Alignment Group Labels that employ references to Surfaces and other Features returned in greater glory albeit with an easier Property box approach to the reference assignment in Civil 3D 2015+.
Yes. Group Labels that Reference work to label XREFs and obviously for DREFs.

OK. We’d all probably agree that it would be nice and much more consistent if you could manage the reference assignments in the Alignment Labels box. That would make sense. That is too much programming work.
Forget about it, Autodesk.
Read my lips – “Every linear Feature in Civil 3D needs Group Labels.”

Stop in the Name of Love

“What the heck are you talking about?”

Really? Suppose you want to label flow lines in your roadway plan, ditch center line elevations, or the top or bottom of bank. Heck. Let’s get physical. Suppose you want to evaluate grades across an existing site to figure out how to terrace the latest topo beast. Create an Alignment. Apply a Label Set. Grab the labels. Point them to a surface. Did I say references to multiple surfaces? Good God, man! You use spot elevation surface labels? Are you mad? What if the surface disappears? Remember the last time Bob hit the delete key to get rid of your DREF surface…
I guess that maybe you missed a hidden QAQC point of our Topo Grids AddOn and video.

Better Feedback - Better Design

Yes. You can switch the reference from surface to surface as your design develops. Heck yeah. Did I mention earlier references to multiple surfaces? Faster dirty design profiles too. Let’s get linear. They work with Offset Alignments and Widenings. They work with the Alignment output from Corridor models.

In another recent post somewhere another Civil 3D expert asked,
“What could you do with a reference corridor in AutoCAD Civil 3D 2017?”

Now you know

OK. So in addition to my Design Control Manager Alignments, now I have collections of annotative Alignments in my project. What? You didn’t have these before? How many types of Alignments are there?
Ah! You know one reason why Autodesk added folder capabilities to data referenced Features in Civil 3D 2017. The castle of Chaos built by Autodesk and assembled by you must be managed. Don’t forget, Jack. In 2017 you can’t go back.

A Reference Group Label style can be Object related and/or even View based for Plan and Profile publication. It’s another not-so-obvious thing about anchors in Label Styles. They can be a form of constraint. This can be removed. I’ve said before that the geometric structure of Label Style components is never something to take lightly.

Of course, you can go the Alignment Based Point Group route for corridor output too. There’s a few important points to that. Eh eh. That annotation may be stationed to the design alignment.
 I like combinations of Point Labels and Group Reference Labels as that together can reduce your production publication man-hours and annotation maintenance tasks.
You do have a plan and a regular publication workflow process for deliverables? You are working on publish on demand. Your IPOD is getting better?

Me? I just want to continue to whine that we shouldn’t have to extract other extra Civil 3D Features from a corridor model to annotate it. Dumb.

It’s a Matter of Style and LSD

A Reference Group Label does require the appropriate Group Label Styles with the suitable Reference components.
Before we go off half-cocked and make Style management nightmares for ourselves, we must remember the effect of LSD (Label Style Defaults) on our Label Styles.
We want to manage Label component heights by Group Label type. At least I do, so I’m not bashing away at a bunch of parents and their managed hordes of children.
It’s the sad part of the Civil 3D the facts of life. There are too many kinds of Label Styles without parent-level Label Style Defaults.

Most people, in general, want Major Station Labels to be bigger. Maybe the thoughtful use of Minor Station Labels works better in your annotation height management plan? This only requires the trick of employing NoPlot Major Stations at huge increments to make the Minor Station labels work well. Say what? Ok. It’s not exactly obvious unless you think about it and then do it.

To Do the Do Makes Us Better – or Not

Most people also want a few Horizontal Geometry Point Label Styles with Reference Surface components which are handy for flowline in curb returns in combination with the Reference Group Label incrementals on Minor Stations. Flowline heaven.

“Dave? Can our Civil 3D Styles and Templates do that?”

Good Style Makes All the Difference

The Civil 3D Label posts

Civil 3D Label Style Practice
Compound Interest Labels in Civil 3D
Label Trickery in Civil 3D
Civil 3D Alignment Reference Group Labels