Floaties for Civil 3D Point Labels

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July always reminds me of first steps, moonwalks, and moonlight minds. This makes spatial sense. This month we appear to be on sort of an Export points from AutoCAD Civil 3D bender.
In each Export post I keep meaning to put in the following moonstep but always seem to simply run out of room. So with a savage terrier dog draped across my toes in a state of fan-cooled repose, let’s get the weird backwards thing over with all on its own.

The Cool Pool

You have and/or had kids and access to the cool waters you know all about floaties. Floaties deal with the common Mother-fear and sometimes Child-terror of drowning. To be honest I was never really clear whether floaties worked. Me and my kids were drown-proofed before we could walk. Nope. We never had a pool. It was a family thing that got done. Ok. I did spend my early childhood literally living on the beach.

A grandma-aged friend talked to my then adolescent mom… and I quote,
“Toss the child in. Babies float.”

I’m told she snatched me from my mother’s arms, walked to the edge of the pool, and tossed mini me in. By the time my own kids were born this state of wacko was a bit more normal, but handled by my wife in a gentler, systematic fashion that encourages parent-child trust-bounding. I’m afraid that over- hyphenated change-of-state is somewhat too instructive about my generation in too many respects.

The Point Label Challenge

“For our client we need our Point Labels all put on different TEXT layers for each utility. They want the labels as text objects too. Civil 3D appears to have no way to do this easily. Can you help?”

Wait a minute. This is easy. Programmers to the rescue. Here would be the pat Autodesk answer:

“Civil 3D Description Keys allow you to assign Label Styles to individual Keys.
Just use a Description Key Set with the “right” Label Styles assigned.”  

The real world issue is that the “right” we are talking about is rarely that simple. This method is often too specific and comes with a couple of potential nasty backside man-hour issues. I know you’ve discovered that.

Intelligent Publish on demand in Civil 3D is all about the planning, the details, and the execution of the process. That means we better take our point label publication process and details apart and examine the issues from a couple of perspectives. We want to develop a plan for better results in less time.

Child Label Styles

The employment of Child Label Styles is probably important to mention with this method.

The Framework for AutoCAD Civil 3D has many of variations of Point Label Styles. We supply a rich selection of geometric variants. You can chose to label different types of points each with a different look and feel and/or different types of content to improve plan readability and data identification. For example: you might want roadway flowline elevations to be really clear and easy to identify.

For the utility problem you need specific a Label Style with the specific referenced layer for each utility.
You can create a Child Style of any Label Style easily enough for each from any Civil 3D Label Style pick list box.

  • That is definitely better than a different parent Label Style for each utility if you need to employ multiple Label Style geometry variations.
    The odds are you will need to do that. (see below).
  • You only need to create the Utility Child Label Styles in the publication drawings for the Label Styles geometry variations you actually use.
  • No matter what you end up with more Label Styles to manage.
    How many Label Styles do you want to deal with?

When we employ an explicit Description Key you assign a Label Style Override on each of the points. Label Style is individualized to each point. That alone creates publication and maintenance issues. Most people who use Civil 3D are aware of the following:

  • You have a water meter Desc Key but you have water meters on different sides of the road
    Label Rotation Properties changes can perhaps fix that problem.
    Point Groups built perhaps from our famous Alignment Based Point Groups method
    might help build these Point Group selectors.
    Yes. We still need a way to gather up and easily select the specific groups of points.
  • Physical utility locations in the real world tend to collect together in close proximity to one another. We get the clutter of chaos.
    Label Readability because of label overwrites then becomes the issue.
    You can end up performing lots of manual Dragged State Label changes
    Or you can manually change the assigned Label Style itself after the Description Keys are Applied
    Those manual Style changes of course disappear if Description Keys must be Applied again.
    No matter what you have both manual and automatic update maintenance issues.
    Some amount of that is unavoidable, but we need to reduce the problem to a manageable scale.
  • Point Group Label Style assignment is lost.
    Remember that you can still employ Point Groups to select the masses of points to make systematic Point Label Property changes easier.

Focus on the Results

We can simply get lost in Civil 3D’s ability to do too many things at once and miss the point of the real end game. We could just employ the Framework’s generic Point Label Style variations and publish an easily crafted result for the customer. We get regular deliverable publication and they get what they need. Usually this dualistic approach takes a lot less time.

In brief - We can employ the fact that Labels assigned to our old AutoCAD friend Layer 0 float to the Layer of the parent Feature Style in Civil 3D. Then we export the Civil 3D Point Labels and rename the layers. KISS.

Create and Employ Label Style Floaties

Hopefully, you’ve made some choices about the format of your preferred Label Style geometry. That means only we need to make some basic Label Style parental decisions.

  1. Into a separate drawing made from a NoStyles template Import those Point Label Styles both parents and children.
  2. Rename the Parent Styles with an “FL” or a “0” at the end.
    This new STYLE name makes those parents new and different Parents from Civil 3D’s perspective.
    There are managed reasons not to rename the parents too. See the end of the post.
  3. In the General tab of the Label Style
    Edit only the assigned Layer property of all the Parents and their children to Layer 0.
    Now the Labels these Label Styles generate will end up on the Layer assigned to the Points themselves.
    If we really want utility Layer routed UTIL parents, it is the same process with different names and different Layer assignments..
  4. Import the new children and parents into your publication drawing
    Or better yet you can make a publication template that contains them.
  5. Import in your publication Point Groups.
    You do have those? You do know how to move Point Groups around? See this post.
    Alignment Based Point Groups are way cool for this.
    Register and watch the Civil 3D training videos for Deliverables.
  6. Employ a Description Key Set that assigns root level utility Layers to all the Keys.
    For example: UTSD, UTWR, UTSS, etc.
    Of course we supply a host of Description Key Sets.
    No symbols get assigned in this DescKeySet.
    No Label Styles assigned get to points so you can get back the both default Point Group Point Style and Point Label Style assignments.
  7. Arrange the Labels
    Any of the tricky methods of Label Property changes mentioned above work
    Deal the with points in Point Groups as much as possible.
  8. When done export the Labels using the –EXPORTTOAUTOCAD method discussed in this post.
    This command has been renamed from -AECEXPORTTOAUTOCAD used in older releases.
  9. PURGE everything
  10. RENAME to root Layers that hold the MTEXT labels to *-TEXT or *-LABL as required

If you are paying attention, you’ll note that the changes to the Labels are ONLY a different Style definition. The classic Insert Explode method works to do the change from a regular point label publication drawing. In that case even the different Label Style names remain the same. We have to be prepared to manage that.
What? Just think backwards through the process as outlined.
The names have been changed in this post only to protect the ignorant.

Publish on Demand is Way Cool

The Floaties Label Style method is easier. It is also much easier to replicate time and time again which is the real point for most of us in Civil 3D Land. Even crafting results to a client with different Layer assignment requirements is easier.

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

It seems that Floaties can save you work even if you are a good swimmer. Who would have thought?

Get the Framework for AutoCAD Civil 3D

Ok. Maybe Label Style collections of floaties would be a useful thing to include in the future.