5 Things to Consider Before Civil 3D 2020

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What makes me shudder are the rash of upcoming vision metaphors for anything related to 2020. Want to bet Autodesk marketing does it? Can you imagine the 2020 political campaign ads? Want to count the blind leading the blind allegories? If they get us focused on the count, we won’t notice how they play Three Card Monte. Hardly anyone will be able to resist. Eheh.

We are soon to be bombarded with new AutoCAD 2020 features and benefits. Soon to follow will be the Civil 3D 2020 and Infraworks 2020 goodies. We may all have reasons to swoon real soon. Sorry, a notable 202 years after Jane Austen’s death, I had to use the swoon word. Are you all atwitter? Ah, the romance...

Five Things to Consider Before Civil 3D 2020

To upgrade or not? This is not the question we have to answer. A vote for the Autodesk 2020 release theme song…

“One way or another, I'm gonna find ya. I'm gonna get ya, get ya, get ya, get ya” - Blondie

Go ahead. Try to get that lyric chant out of your head.

Style is a Commodity Not an Ego Trip

The entire concept of my Style is better than your Style is summed up by Blondie’s lyric. Yes, the one line is fundamentally the entire lyric of the song. More than creepy if you ask me. This ode to Punk made Pop, most say created New Wave. Yuck. Did we endure a decade of that?
My Style is better than your Style is so old school. We endured a decade of that.

Back in the day I, and a couple of others who don’t want the blame, introduced the Simple Style Rules. These were spawned by reality of the Power of Names (the namespace) that underlies the fundamentals of object-oriented programming and Style as we know it.

The purpose of the Simple Style Rules is not to own the Styles but to take accountability for them when we change them. The point of Style accountability (not ownership) is only to make a better method of maintenance of Style libraries possible.

We cannot really own or possess a collection of properties generated by code and maintained inside an object model massaged by others.

Yep. We maintain and sell one of the largest sets of Civil 3D Style libraries on the planet? The content is an important and marketable thing. Styles are only useful if they are employed, maintained and improved.

On occasion new customers who own code that allows them to automatically change all the Style name suffixes have done so to Framework Style collections. Possession is nine tenths of the law. Fine by me. But anything renamed you are now condemned and accountable to maintain. Trust me. You probably don’t want that. What’s the difference between Styles with different suffixes? Oh. Bother.

The message is don’t get punked. It won’t rock your world.

Corridor Design Rocks

We all complained, and/or still complain, that Autodesk invested too much time in Civil 3D Corridor design tools over the years and not enough in more classic site design tools. Let’s just call that Feature Line based grading. Silly me said in the beginning why can’t we have Assemblies in grading objects. Made sense to me, but not to the powers that be.

The newer Corridors from Feature Lines and DREF Corridors in more recent Civil 3D releases can radically change how fast we can develop site design solutions with Corridors. The advantage of managed horizontal, vertical, and cross section control over unmanaged collections of Feature Lines is indescribable until to do it a lot. The experiential reality cannot be ignored. That is something to consider?

The art and the Civil 3D skills of learning to manage Multi-Baseline Corridors (I prefer the term Complex Corridors) with ordered sets of replaceable parts, pays significant production design benefits. It speaks to the essence of iterative and continuously-improved design practice.

You must embrace the discipline of structured Data Shortcut management and separation. That there is more than a mouthful. Success takes a plan and a managed process – aka workflow. Yes. Autodesk could still make some important improvements to Region management tools in the Corridor Property manager, but the functional guts of the processes work.

Corridor-based location annotation is possible and much easier to produce and maintain these days. The concept of employing Survey Dbs to solve design annotation problems is a game changer. The Corridor Station Points series of posts and the earlier Alignment Based Point Groups series show what can be done. ‘Nuff said.

The New Basemap

We’ve spent more than a couple of decades in AutoCAD and Civil 3D Land practically bound to the XREF-based basemap. Everyone employs the concept in one form or another. It isn’t going anywhere either.

The over simplified justification is that this XREF basemap device somehow ensures that what we publish is up to date. This doesn’t actually jive with the way most project processes work, but never mind. It is what we do?

The empirical evidence says this XREF (can I add DREF) basemap device comes at a considerable price in both publishing performance at project deadline and consistency issues from the detailed user plot-time accountabilities and required skills.

Sadly, the second problem is the more practically problematic of the two. Wasn’t XREF tech and the basemap supposed to reduce the complexity?

Both the level of annotative detail and the reported diversity of that published annotation in civil engineering and survey projects also continues to do nothing but increase. I could argue these couplings lead in part to what I call the BIM Resistance Effect. To put it bluntly in construction speak –

“We ain’t. We ain’t paid to paint.”

If we empirically examine our QAQC processes, most of the basemap is a published and approved result long before deadline day. Why not pre-print all or part in DWF form? Technically, we replace complex XREF and DREF structures with print optimized IREFs. This rocket science significantly reduces both the performance problems and the immediate user plot-time complexity. I’ve had truly staggering performance numbers reported back to me recently by those who took this road less travelled.

Why more people don’t do this is beyond me. Try it. You’ll like it.

Reference Templates

If Style is no longer the ego trip, Style consistency and management issues remain a major Civil 3D production issue. By now you have that all worked out? I consider that the best thing about Reference Templates is that the tool may actually kill off for good the One Template to Rule Them Civil 3D myth.

That sounds counter-intuitive. Aren’t Reference Templates there to allow you to have one template? That’s perhaps the pitch, but not the practice. Once you figure out how to manage Styles, Settings, and other resources with one that works, the gloves tend to come off.

Reference Templates that manage task-based templates and/or publish specific templates will sneak their way into your production process. KISS. Less is more?

I hear tell Autodesk has updates to the Reference Template Tools planned for the Civil 3D 2020 release. I hope they read my wish list, but don’t count on it. Anything is better than the mess we had before, and the problems that many folks still struggle with each and every day.

A Reference Template Tool based templates solution is worth serious consideration, don’t you think?

Project Templates

Like most people my early focus about Civil 3D Project Templates was initially mostly about the project’s Data Shortcut structure and those project construction and Civil 3D functional considerations. DREF management is a mission critical and vital critical path subject in Civil 3D. One day a light came on. I did a series of Project Setup posts with videos to try to get to the heart of the matter.

The built-in flexibility of Civil 3D Project Template structure is the Civil 3D project blessing and the curse. There is simply too much potential benefit in consistent project structures, resources, and the many forms of placeholder tools to continue to ignore PTSD - Project Template Structure Defaults.

We can also now think about project structure beyond the confines of what structures the Civil 3D software requires to function. We can add all that other real-world stuff we have to manage to get a project out the door. There is a lot of that. If we let it, Civil 3D can be much kinder to work with.

The best news about Autodesk BIM 360 cloud products is they force Autodesk to recognize the challenge of those considerations in the long run. Does your sense of information order matter? Don’t others who have other diverse project responsibilities think about that order differently? Got to chew on that.

A continuously developed set of Civil 3D Project Templates may be the most productive thing you could do this year in Civil 3D to improve your project throughput.

Let’s not forget. Why wait?

Release the Power Beyond the Code
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“One way or another…”