Not So Simple Tables in Civil 3D

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AutoCAD supports the core Microsoft (Excel) table object directly these days. Odds are you already know this. It has actually been true for a number of releases. I don’t mean the old Windows OLE technology.  To be specific - if you directly copy and paste a selected range of cells from Excel into AutoCAD, you will get an OLE object result. The same OLE result happens if you paste out of Word and other many other Windows applications too. OLE works, but the reference application controls the appearance (for the most part). If these direct (and specific) references get broken by moving the drawings and sheet references around things will get dicey. Put simply - the direct references in OLE can become problematic. What OLE is - ain’t CAD.

Copy Paste with your Brain Encaged

AutoCAD Multiline text object also supports pasted input from Word, Excel, and other apps. In other words, the MTEXT object recognizes the Microsoft foundation objects and most of the typical formatting capabilities of the same.
It’s safe to say many skilled AutoCAD and Civil 3D folk use those tricks all the time.

AutoCAD will let you format the pasted text to your heart’s content and even let you arrange it into tables, bulleted, and numbered lists. This form of copy paste is a one way street. That can be just what you need.

  1. If you want to maintain your sanity, you maintain all the text and essential formatting outside of AutoCAD and Civil 3D.
  2. There are certainly man-hours involved in the formatting and maintenance of the same.
    We all want to reduce those.
  3. The static nature of the result can be a problem depending on the content involved.

If you need something a bit more dynamic, we must employ other means. The means exist.

Dynamic Tables from Excel

We mean you can take an Excel range of cells and link them into any drawing as a raw AutoCAD table object. If you want to be cute, you may even update the data inside the table cells from either side of this link data connection.

  • If you employ a known relative file structure inside your project, this form of table will stay stable when archived or copied. These dynamic Link Data tables work:
    • In both model and paper space
    • In XREFs – pay attention to XREF typical types and too much nesting
      Less in better
  • If you don’t have structure plan and maintain it, use the copy and paste to MTEXT approach above.

What is Link Data?

If you’ve used Civil 3D for only a little while, you will immediately recognize that Civil 3D Table Styles employ the core AutoCAD table object and a similar technology to extract Civil 3D Feature data and display it via the Feature Table Styles.

We civil and survey folk also have lists, notes, and a ton of project annotative stuff we already keep or could keep in Excel.

  • Excel text type cells will preserve basic paragraph formatting.
  • What if the referenced cell calculates a result? It works.
    In other words, you can both calculate and look up other references and update them over to your table in Civil 3D.

This powerful AutoCAD table capability is called Link Data. You can find these tools in Annotate Ribbon and Table panel in both raw AutoCAD and AutoCAD Civil 3D. All you need is a basic AutoCAD tablestyle and an Excel sheet to make this happen. Just for grins we’ll use the oddly formatted paragraphs in this post as the example.

Create a Link Data Table

The second half of the video produces a list the many basic Codes and Description Keys available in the InstantOn in the Framework. Ok. Maybe not all the codes, but a lot of them to make the point that big lists are possible.

The latest and recently released version for the Legends and Lists AddOn includes the AutoCAD tablestyles and the template employed here. If you are a Release 7 Framework customer the AddOn is free and now available to download from the product download pages.

Tables from Beyond the Link Data

Doesn’t it seem reasonable that if we can reference an Excel sheet, we might be able to create a sheet from data mined from AutoCAD too? You bet, but that’s another important topic list for another time.

Civil 3D Works Better with the Framework

Legends and Lists Posts