Recorded Line Work in Civil 3D

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Far be it for me to instruct surveyors and civil engineers about the vagaries of properties recorded and found. That would be like instructing my childhood chicken farmer neighbor on the art of sucking eggs. Speaking of fertile eggs and chicken farming, I still have one question,

Am I planting them too deep or too far apart?

There are classic CAD means; methods in other external software; and there are some new approaches, tools, and workflows available in AutoCAD Civil 3D to the classic Survey problems. This is the second installment of an essential Civil 3D tool review and primer on that. Approaches to consider if you like.

Recall the question:

“How many Survey Dbs are there in a project?’

For the sake of reason and readability I put the wonders of The Civil 3D Survey One and Many in another post. What does that Chance card say? Do not pass Go. Go directly to jail.

The Multiple Editors

There is a decent COGO Editor in the Survey Ribbon. This has been upgraded twice in 2016+ with a new Traverse Editor available in the Toolbox with subscription 2016 Productivity Pack 3 installed. In Civil 3D 2017 it’s the V1 Enhancement. Autodesk never publically clarified that the TE code now runs the CE even in 2017. Use the Traverse Editor so as not to be confused by potential input differences. From a new user perspective the Traverse Editor is an upgrade to the COGO editor.

Because you edit in memory and not on real screen objects the common Editor interface takes getting used to. It drives CAD people a bit crazy at first. Practice makes life better. I’ve included videos from others that cover the essentials. More videos on Survey in Civil 3D. If you register and become a Member, there are more videos, in-depth training courses, and tons of Civil 3D documentation and help.
Lots of public Civil video training here.

COGO Editor Essentials

By Steve Mizsak from the CAD Technology Center on YouTube

Editor Tips

  • Important point – get set up and immediately SAVE the external file.
  • If you employ points, remember set your current Point Number and use a known range of points
  • Both editors are now pretty flexible about data entry – odds are it is not exactly what you are used to and expect. Read the help.
    You will find a faster input method.
  • The Editors are very much like Survey Figure Editor – What you see on the screen is a temporary illusion. Get over it. Zoom to a Selection of entries is often your best bet.
  • The saved external files create good audit trails and reusable data for different tasks - some of which come up again later in projects. The files may be are important than you believe.
  • You must manage the external file storage structure. Random storage wastes a ton of time.
    The complexity of the structure relates directly to the type and scope of project.
    One size does not fit all.
  • Editors can be and are faster and better than CAD drawing data because they are DATA.
    For example: Build Figures with them.
    Figures can become Parcels or Alignments or Feature Lines and other things…but sometimes you have to go back to the beginning.
  • Points may move and/or adjust – Editor externalized file data connections do reconnect.

It is stupid that importing the external files creates ACAD polylines not your Civil 3D segments type of choice. It is annoying you cannot load geometry from any Civil 3D linear Feature.
I suspect we’d all find those capabilities much more useful, but it would be less CAD like.

The Improved Traverse Editor

By Wes Newman of Autodesk from Jeff Bartels YouTube Channel.
There is also a new Traverse Adjustment tool that works in this context - outside of the Survey Toolspace. See the link above.

Now for some tools that are deeper and farther apart.

Civil 3D Transparent Commands

There’s a good reason that the Transparent command toolbar is the only old school interface toolbar that loads by default in Civil 3D. Simply said – if you have the need to access geometrics relationships in a civil or survey context the Transparent commands with a bit of practice are invaluable. We all forget and return to our ACAD habits.  I too find myself being guilty of forgetting about the many hidden wonders of the Civil 3D Transparent commands. Maybe you want to print the following and display it somewhere always visible to you.

Be sure to read carefully the sections in the Civil 3D help on:

  • Transparent Command Settings (you can change how they work and accept values)
    OMG! We can make them Feature specific?
  • Entering Elevation for a Transparent Command (there are really useful tricks buried away there)
  • Point Filters work with Transparent commands

The usage pattern of one command within another command arguable takes some getting used too. This is especially true when the Transparent command requires setup. Your available options are not always intuitive or obvious. You must do the do to do more.

Use It or Lose it

I employ the D’s (commands that end in Distance), the P’s (commands for profiles), SO, PO, and SS constantly. The E’s (transparent Elevation changes) can be consequential. The more you employ the Civil 3D Transparent commands the more functional and important they become in your daily work. The Transparent commands effectively replace many old school commands available elsewhere in the Civil 3D Ribbons. Many even work with AutoCAD commands.

LDT in Civil 3D

Arguably most of these Civil 3D Ribbon commands found in the Home>>Draw panel are things we used to employ in the days of Land Desktop. There are familiar holdovers from yesteryear. They work. They produce AutoCAD primitives in a civil/survey context. Civil 3D did add improved flavors of Best Fit Lines, Curves, and Parabolas to this mix.

The CAD Tools in Civil 3D are fine to employ. However, if you are using them regularly to produce geometry to create Civil 3D Features you should consider learning a change of method. What originally appears slower may actually be faster and better.

99% of all of this functionality is replaced by other Civil 3D method and practice that builds better initial data behind with less time and less work.
For example: many Civil 3D Features allow you to natively manage and deal with disconnected segments with different directions as part of the creation and edit process. That makes the construction of geometries depend on other geometries much easier to pull off. This isn’t really possible with CAD methods and primitives alone.

If you do Alignment and Parcel work you have to learn to employ Layout tools, their data behind rules, and the Transparent commands which in itself takes time. That is time well spent.

Get a Grip

Civil 3D embraces varying degrees of AutoCAD grip edit functionality in the Features. This can vary a lot by Feature which can be frustrating if not downright confusing. Sometimes Civil 3D grip methods are feature rich and evolved. A grip edit is basically the only easy way to get things done. Other times not so much.

The take away is that you have to know the Features and look for and actively explore these capabilities. Practice in non-work projects to extend and improve your competency.

ASCII Editor

If you want to use Civil 3D and particularly Survey in Civil 3D, find and use a good ASCII Editor.

Windows Notepad is actually barely usable from a survey or civil engineering perspective these days. Actually, Notepad is usable, but you may not fully recognize what you are missing. Notepad was always dumb. We could argue it’s gotten dumber in recent versions of Windows. Everyone’s got it, so Civil 3D employs it by default on install. I believe you should fix that.

Civil 3D employs a cornucopia of different file types in multiple textual languages these days. This list is going to keep growing. Certainly good XML support, CSV support, and powerful search and replace functionality are must haves.

I recommend Notepad ++. This is open source, well supported, continuously developed, and employed by a large community of users. Notepad++ is also a programming editor which is perhaps overkill, but sometimes that functionality is a life savior.

All of our ever expanding Excel-based Framework Spreadsheet Tools for customizing, maintaining, and documenting the Framework for Civil were built and documented to employ Notepad++.

Of course, there are other great ASCII editor options. Use one.

Next time: We talk about the farther arts of recorded linework – aka Figures. The complex relationship of Survey Features to the other Civil 3D Features and why the matter so much to civil engineering and survey folk alike.

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