Cycle the Focus Skill in Civil 3D

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You could argue that all of the consideration of workflows in Civil 3D is merely a result of the considerable depth of function built into the software. Civil 3D does have a virtual feast of inherent capability for civil engineers and surveyors.

You could also argue that this attention is unwarranted. The emphasis is only necessary because of the strange mix of old and new interface design mashed up in AutoCAD Civil 3D. Both are true. Regardless of that, our productivity in the software is what we get paid for. That remains our responsibility.

It is easy to forget that simple, and not so obvious, things may make the Civil 3D interface a user challenge. The current screen in our current drawing tends to dominate our focus. In training, I like to remind folks to ask,

Who’s Data Behind Are You Watching?

Our expectation can be our downfall.
Inside Civil 3D, we have to remember to consciously adjust and readjust our focus.
Watch yourself work.
All skilled Civil 3D users change their focus of attention unconsciously.
Sadly, we usually have to learn this experientially – the hard way.
A new Civil 3D user simply doesn’t know where to look when - or worse they focus on the wrong things.
I see this all the time in Civil 3D training. None of us are immune. I stumble over this myself.

What went wrong?
You looked in the wrong place.

Civil 3D Driver Training

The classic defensive driving cycle we all learned in Driver’s Ed works:

Window>> Review Mirror>> Side Mirror>> Speedometer>> Window

In Civil 3D, we would replace that basic pattern in the defensive driving metaphor with:

Screen>>Ribbon>>Command Line>>Toolspace>>Screen

I’d argue the Screen is often far less important than we expect.
This Focus Cycle pattern works even better most of the time as far as the data behind is concerned:

Toolspace >>Ribbon>>Command Line>> Screen>> Toolspace

You get the point.
These basic Focus Cycle patterns will help you avoid many self-inflicted and idiot operator accidents.

Cycle Focus or Lose It

To be really productive in Civil 3D we need to be – CAD Pilots. In the sky things come at you from front and back and side to side but also from top and bottom as well. The Civil 3D interface may tell you there’s a problem, but you have to know when and where to look. It is our responsibility to manage the focal point of our attention.

“The command line is asking you to pick a point.”

More than half the battle with a new Civil 3D release or an update is to identify the new focus patterns and subtle changes to the old ones. Call me dumb. Like I said - I still neglect do change my focus if I haven’t done a task in Civil 3D for a while or I am learning something new.

Work the Task to Space

Complex model-based software is really more like piloting a high performance aircraft than a car. Different interface elements on the instrument panel become critically important to introduce into the basic Civil 3D Focus Cycle at different times.
Landings require different information and controls than takeoffs.

Corridor design requires different tools than Parcel construction.
Survey point or Figure QAQC and the familiar Civil 3D Surface building tasks are best done with different sets of interface tools.

The software interface attempts to steer us with Civil 3D Feature-based Ribbon Tools. This programmed help can be a distraction, like an alert on your phone.

In Civil 3D we must deal with lots of different data behind Buckets“What’s a Bucket?”

A key point from that post - How fast you learn Civil 3D is a non-linear function of how quickly you can learn to identify how to get to specific Buckets and the specific mini-buckets in the interface. This is a pattern recognition and physical habit of usage challenge.

What we pay attention to must change.
Getting control and managing that is part of what workspaces are in there for by the way.

Focus Cycles a Learnable Skill to Practice

As Civil 3D users, we are accountable to control the WTMI (Way Too Much Information) and our Focus Cycle problem appropriately. Which brings us too…

The Most Important Civil 3D Training Tip

Read a different part of the Civil 3D Help file(s) for 1-5 minutes a day every day.

It doesn’t matter what you read.
It doesn’t matter if you understand it.
That may be impossible…at the moment.

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