A Civil 3D Root Reference Template

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Let’s be frank. To some degree the new AutoCAD Civil 3D 2017 Reference Template tool is a way for Autodesk to dodge some of the recurring maintenance issues (problems) of the Style Import Tool.
Put another way – instead of reporting and potentially resolving Style property conflicts between different versions of two Civil 3D object models in two different drawings, you may now simply point to a known good. If that known good is bad, it’s your fault not theirs. In any case, the good news is the issue gets fixed.

Tag! You Are It

Previously we discussed the new AutoCAD Civil 3D 2017 Reference Template tool. We covered some important issues and concepts that concern us if we want to employ Reference Templates productively. We even covered the potentially necessary and somewhat nasty maintenance work we sooner or later have to get done to make them work. See the series of posts below.

Reference Templates in Civil 3D

Civil3D Root Template

There’s a new name to remember. For Reference Templates we require a new container – a core collector if you will. That collector of collectors notion should sound pretty familiar to Civil 3D users.

A Root Template is a purpose built tool. Be not deceived. A Root Template is definitely not the one template to rule them of Autodesk myth. What is in a Root Template? A good way to look at this is pretty fundamental:

A Root Template contains the things that will abide - What will not change.

Put another way – A Root Template contains what resources you need to have to faithfully support the Style collections you employ.

That also means if you change a Root Template you can change almost everything fundamental.
That magic is only possible, if and only if, your Civil 3D users will be accountable to know that and they do know how to do accomplish the fact in practice. This is a learnable, very valuable, and testable a skill in Civil 3D. You must do the learn and burn - build and test user skill. I said the following last time…

“If you and your users don’t want to be accountable to manage a collection of templates, then you already have your ditch and they their shovels.”

No one is required to use all the tools in AutoCAD Civil 3D. If the old methods of Style Management work for you, great. The last thing I would wish on you is to see you create one of those infamous Nine rings made for mortal kings from the Lord of the Rings. We know how that ended up – something about “in the darkness bind them”.

What do I mean by that warning?

Civil 3D employs the concepts and rules of Style abstraction (reference by name) at a much deeper level than AutoCAD. Demonstrably, some Civil 3D users already have problems with that. If they still employ the AutoCAD Layer Manager a lot in Civil 3D this is a sure sign. Where something that is visible (or invisible) is coming from in Civil 3D can be hard for people to identify. Styles reference Styles and those may reference other Styles.  For a good reason this indeed reads like the biblical begats.

The use of a Reference Template Stack can make the “where did that come from” problem worse not better. We all painfully learn from experience that a single extra space character in a Style or Feature name can drive you crazy.

Reference Templates are About Management

Personally, I think you should initially make your Civil 3D users build the production Reference Template Stack they employ for a period of time. The Reference Template Stack is a new thing.
We must do the do a few times to understand it.

In other words to start a new project drawing:

  1. Open the “right” Root Template
  2. Attach the “right” Style collection Reference Templates for the task at hand
    People identify where things come from
    Hopefully, they will also now tell you what really should be in there.
  3. Import the “right” Settings from the “right” Settings Template(s)
    People identify why behavior in the software changes

After a few months you’ll have some proven and productive task-based templates with the “right” stuff with project-based results that have been tested with them. Style purged copies of these provide you with results to validate against. This seems a bit backwards from the “control” you hope to accomplish by employing Reference Templates in the first place. We want everyone to get the Ah-Ha moment.

You and your users do follow the Simple Style Rules? Style maintenance basics don’t ever go away.
Register and get more implementation help.

Fail Forward not Backward

You want every Civil 3D user to help the effort of template and style development not fight it. Yes. They are going to cheat and make their own quickie versions of Root Templates - which is exactly what you want and need for a better managed Civil 3D in your organization.

Intelligent Publish On Demand

A Publishing template(s) is a different beast entirely. These represent the organization publically.
I’ve said it before. Someone must be accountable for that iPOD in every project. The subject of the difference between production or working templates and publishing templates I have covered elsewhere and won’t belabor here.

A Root Template Content List

I did not expect to end up with this minimalist list.

I did not initially expect to need to do the Settings in this somewhat upside down fashion. It would help if the new Reference Template Tool had one stack for Styles and another separate stack for Settings, but I won’t hold my breath. God forbid, Autodesk “fixes” things and imports Settings automatically in the future.

AutoCAD Styles

All of these are in the Root Template to support the other Civil 3D Style resources that follow:

  • Textstyles and font references
    This may include textstyle references in linetypes below
  • Core block graphics
    This includes some blocks built into the core Civil 3D code
  • Layer System and Layer State tools
    These are directly referenced by the Style Collection
    Use a different Layer System employ a Layer modified Style Collection
  • Maybe a linetype or two

Remember that Civil 3D Styles only care about two things in regards to AutoCAD Styles – what is the reference name and can it be found.

  • Don’t sweat it that your Style collections may load more AutoCAD Styles here.
  • Don’t forget to check back now and then to compare the differences and adjust things.

Root Template Civil 3D Settings

Civil 3D will not allow you to Import Object Layer Settings and other Settings found in the Toolspace>>Settings>>Drawing Settings. These must be built into a Root Template.

You need at least a Design Root Template and a Survey Root Template for the above reason. The optional System others listed below are variations of the two above. No big deal.

  • Object Settings – choose:
    • Design Settings Root Template
    • Survey Settings Root Template
    • Other Optional System Settings Root Template(s)
  • Feature Settings
    • Appropriate Feature Style properties- for example Surface Automatic Rebuild
      These can be included in the Settings template(s)
    • These include no Style references
  • Label Style Defaults
    • For example:
      Typical text height variations based on the kind of Feature Label and Label Type
      These can be included in the Settings template(s)
    • These include no Style references

Civil 3D Styles in the Root Template

  • The Standard ones (built by Civil 3D code)
    if you want maximum flexibility and Style transparency

Say what?
This suggestion may give some of you a pause. The whole management point of a Reference Template Stack is to trust in the stack (the known good) not a Root Template. I believe it is best not to confuse the issue at all.

“Can we make the Root Template include all the Settings?”

Of course. You will be stuck with the required Style References and that detail in a Root Template. This means you are enforcing the Settings up front. This initially appears to be easier to manage and maintain. It appears simpler – you don’t have Settings Templates and your users have fewer choices and fewer chances to confuse things.

There and Back Again

The back side problem is the choice of where to draw the lines on the Styles included in a Root Template. Does that require another Reference Template Stack that you have to maintain? Yes. So, it appears to me you end up with another new thing - Settings Templates anyway.

Get the Magic of the Framework for Civil 3D

Next time: Civil 3D Settings Templates in detail.