To STB or CTB That Is the Question

Tags STB, CTB, CAD Standards, publish on demand, implementation, Layer Standards

These days the Framework for Civil 3D products are STB and CTB agnostic. Civil 3D doesn’t care. Why should the Framework? That was the big deal when Release 7 of the Framework first came out. If we make reasonable concessions to a governing set of Layer Property rules and continue to pay extra careful attention to the details, we can publish in either publishing method.

Because this almost mythical capability is now included in most Framework products, does not mean all things are equal between CTB and STB. Far from it.

STB is Much Easier and More Productive to Employ

This is true…unless you use CTB.

To use CTB you have to worry about the color of everything in Civil 3D all the time. So, you do. This starts when you open the first drawing and never, ever ends. Most CTB users have worked this way for years. Can I say it? Decades. The obsessive compulsion disorder that CTB usage develops in every user and every organization is unavoidable. If you choose to employ CTB, all publishing is based on COLOR by definition. We consciously and unconsciously think about the color of things every minute of every day. This reality is logical, emotional, and far more personal than we want to admit.

Then someone like me, an STB user, comes along and tells you that STB doesn’t care about color at all.
Say What?

Color Does Not Matter

If you use CTB, your eyes still tell your brain this means you will not and cannot really publish anything. I’ve gone and opened to damned doors to chaos or the Seventh Level of Hell. Color always matters. If I screw up the colors, my gut is screaming at me that I will spend tons of time straightening the mess out. You start to sweat. Your hands begin to tremble.

In CTB Land the identification of all things Civil 3D or ACAD is based on how we see their color. You can tell yourself that major contours can be any color, but your well-established, internal mental maps of how to get work done say something different. Some people become physically sick. Many are prone to bouts of irrational anger about inconsequential things. Denial is a wonderful thing.

CTB withdrawal takes six to eight weeks of abstinence like almost every other human mental addiction that is habit based. During this CTB recovery period you should dutifully print something you created in your work in STB every day. Plotting more often shortens the recovery period. DWF works, but you probably don’t do that either.

Remember you must retrain your brain to see the world differently. Some people take longer than others to fully recover. People’s brains are wired differently whether we like it or not.

Color Does Matter

STB says that COLOR is much more useful in model-based software like Civil 3D for many other more mission critical identification and meaningful tasks like QAQC and a host of other process workflow tasks. My intermediate design surfaces are purple and brown and my finished corridor surface is a shade of blue. I can pull this off in CTB by using other shades of colors, but that misses the point.

Civil 3D doesn’t care.

STB is Smarter than CTB By Definition

STB has more properties than CTB – aka it adds the named Plotstyle property. It is harder to convert to publish up to STB than it is to convert to publish down to CTB. Good news for STB folks, and not so much for the CTB folks trying to escape fate.

The Concept of STB is Super Simple

Everyone can understand there is some basic difference between a Plotstyle property called Medium and another called Thin. Medium Screened and Thin Screened make sense instantly too. The names are unquestionably faster and simpler to understand than converting the yellow you see on the screen to .25mm or red to .35mm in your head. The most important point is that there are no mental gymnastics required.

Mental Gymnastics Matter

But now in STB Land red things might be Thin not Medium.
Oh No. That is so wrong and confusing. STB is much too complicated.
The illusion of confusion exists only because we see it from our CTB-based perspective. Why must red be Medium in the first place?

The red is obvious if you use CTB. If you employ STB, other more important things make the determination for the purpose of red. Color leaves the static and becomes dynamic. This is more useful, but it might be terrifying.

Civil 3D doesn’t care.

Based on watching lots of organizations go through CTB withdrawal into regular STB usage, I have yet to ever have anyone say they would like to return to CTB-based publishing. Almost everyone laughs when asked. There are well-established productivity reasons and metrics why all the National and International standards are all fundamentally named plotstyle based.

CTB users don’t care. What they know is simple. They do the human thing. They stick with and pet their black familiars.

Why Organizations Fail?

A common issue/excuse is the organization’s existing CTB-dependent resources. For example: We have folders and folders of detail drawings that are all done in CTB. Converting them is too much work.
Don’t convert anything until you have to. The detail sheets can still be CTB. Only details used on other sheets must be converted.

Lucky, CTB to STB conversion is easy once you have practice at the process. Staff need practice. Lots of this type of conversion can be semi or fully automated if the resources were consistently built in the first place. You know and determine the color to plotstyle match. If you convert these resource things now and over time, you can do either or both STB and CTB. That almost always in a competitive advantage.

Let’s quote the Bard and his three famous progressive feminists…

“Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.
Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined.
Harpier cries 'Tis time, 'tis time.

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
Open, locks,
Whoever knocks!”

Enter Macbeth

Macbeth Act 1 Scene 1

The most common tragedy is to simply refuse to acknowledge a better way of doing familiar things.

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