Reference Template Settings in 2018.1

Jump Kit

The Framework for Civil 3D
Get More

Templates Only

See The Framework Work
Get More

Become a Member

Master Civil 3D
Get More

Autodesk Civil Videos

Free Civil 3D Training
Get More

Framework Videos

Free Civil 3D Videos
Get More

Autodesk added some new tools to help us better manage Reference Templates in the AutoCAD Civil 3D 2018.1 update. This is great news! The new functionality in the Attach Reference Template box via the new Manage Reference Settings dialog box means we may seriously need to consider a Reference Template Naming Convention. Oh, no! WTMI!

Are You Ready for This?

I know. We probably need another naming convention in AutoCAD Civil 3D like we need an Antifa riot out in front of our offices. I personally want to take a knee.
Why a new Reference Template Naming Convention?

Check Files of Type options in the new Attach Reference Template box in Civil 3D 2018.1. Autodesk added the .DWG type to the tool. You’ll notice that classic AutoCAD .DWS standards files are excluded for use as Reference templates for reasons known and unknown.
Ok. You can employ a DWG version of a DWS, but it’s annoying and short-sighted to ignore the existing AutoCAD Standards Checker technology. Maybe the Civil 3D dev folks want these fundamental ACAD things fixed too?

Yes. The AutoCAD Standards Checker really needs to deal with:

  • The Block table and redefinitions. It does not.
  • The more sophisticated use of Layer State properties. It does not.
    The updated Reference Template tool ignores Layer States too. Arrrgh.

AutoCAD Standards Checker is managed by the AutoCAD core programming group inside Autodesk. The Civil 3D people build a new tool and ignore the tool work done before. This should sound familiar.

Get a Better Grip

Nonetheless Reference Templates settings did get more useful, if we manage the temple reference resources with a plan.
That too should also sound familiar to Civil 3D users.

First, a video from Autodesk’s John Sayre to cover the new Reference Template basics in Civil 3D 2018.1. All of John’s Civil 3D 2018.1 Update videos can be found here.

Basic Reference Template Management in 2018.1


Now that we have a better general idea of how the tools are maybe supposed to work thanks to John, we can address where the rubber hits the road. Odds are you missed the demo trick that John used. He did things completely backwards. A template that works (Autodesk’s example ones don’t) and requires a few specific Style exceptions is easy.

Our goal is to take the new Reference template tool with an updated interface and some glaring limitations and put it to practical use. We can do that!

Attach Reference Template box

The categories of what is attached from each specific Reference template does not show in the main Attach Reference Template box. In effect, Civil 3D users have no easy way to identify what resources are coming from where unless we take some care.

To be clear by the categories term I mean the types of potential resources: AutoCAD Styles and Tables, Property Sets, Civil 3D Settings, and Civil 3D Styles.

We have a couple of fundamental choices:

  • What we NAME the resource templates needs to include the referenced category types.
    The category is then displayed in the Template Name.
  • How we STORE the resource templates could include the referenced category types.
    The category is then displayed in the Saved Path to the resource.

The second choice is a bit more complex and probably too dicey to maintain. Hence the suggestion of a Reference Template Naming Convention.

Manage Reference Settings Box

The new Manage Reference Settings dialog box for each specific Reference template is principally ordered from a Civil 3D Style centric viewpoint. The order of the tabs speaks volumes.
Being human - the Civil 3D programmers think first about their Style management problem as expressed to them by Civil 3D users.  God forbid, they’d ask people who did this sort of stuff for a living.

Oh. That’s right. The Framework for AutoCAD Civil 3D pretty much stands alone.

Programmers who believe code should be built by popular vote and executive committee are like congress members and presidents who believe there are no unforeseen consequences to passed legislation enacted after they leave office. The urge to do something new instead of fixing things is pandemic.

Perhaps the programmers considered that a lot of folks would start with a core AutoCAD template with the core AutoCAD resources loaded from that template. Many folks do.
Block library, Layer scheme, Textstyle and Linetype details would be predetermined a raw ACAD template not by the Reference template stack. A simple and mostly an effective strategy.
Then the programmers chose to hedge their bets because it’s apparent that doesn’t quite solve the Civil 3D Style reference management problem. Civil 3D Styles are connected by named references to AutoCAD Styles. See the post series at the bottom for an in-depth walk through of the issues.

Search for Adaptive Standards for Civil 3D

Put another way, if you start from an empty STB or CTB AutoCAD template the order of the Manage Reference Settings dialog box tabs are basically backwards based on how the core AutoCAD references actually work in Civil 3D.
A Reference template with Other References tab specifics is probably going to be first not second to last in the Attach Reference Template box.

The order of the Reference templates in the Attach Reference Template box matters whether you like it or not. I trust you caught that nuance in John’s video. If not, watch the video again more carefully.

The visible default reference order in the Attach Reference Template box can be complicated by specific Source choices. Huh? Ok. John dodges this.

Civil 3D is going to make some found-that-first Source choices for you. Users can manually adjust the Source order to some extent.
Source order overrides can and do make the reference order a bit confusing.
We’d better have a plan of action.

First Rules for AutoCAD Resources

We want flexible, robust, and adaptive template for AutoCAD Civil 3D. We need to determine the core AutoCAD fundamental resources before the attached references to the Civil 3D Style and Settings specifics. Here are the principal rules…

  • The Reference Templates settings overwrite and redefine the core AutoCAD Tables.
  • Named AutoCAD reference resources included in previously Attached Reference templates will not be overwritten by subsequently loaded Reference
  • Named AutoCAD reference resources and those referenced in Civil 3D Styles NOT included in previously Attached Reference templates will be added by subsequently loaded Reference
  • Here’s a cute one requested by CAD Manager types:
    Named AutoCAD references (layers, blocks, linetypes, and textstyles) may be edited in a drawing.
    However, an update of the Reference template AutoCAD resource will return references to the source condition found in the Resource template drawing(s).
  • If a component exists in more than one attached reference template, the template from which the component is currently being referenced is shown as the default in the Source
    If you want the component to be referenced from another reference template, you can select that reference template from the Source list.

All this simply (or not so simply) means we need to be most careful of the order of the Resource templates and the specific contents of them. Yes. The Framework for Civil 3D provides you with real world tools to help you get a working handle on this stuff. Who knew some Spreadsheet tools could change the game for Civil 3D Standards Developement?

We’ll cover the specific details of a proposed Reference Template Naming Convention and usage in upcoming posts.

Get the Civil 3D Magic Beyond the Code

A Framework customer suggested to me I should share once again the post series on Reference Templates. Maybe the Civil 3D dev folk read some of them. You tell me…

Reference Templates in Civil 3D