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Smart Civil 3D users in recent releases can assemble together Civil 3D Project Templates, Civil 3D Placeholders, and Civil 3D Reference Templates into a powerful working combination. We don’t want to ignore PTSD – Project Template Structure Defaults.

The intersections of these three technologies produce useful and productive interactions that work better than the sum of the elemental parts. The many composite synergies can be tough to get your head around until we do the do.

The Trinity of Synergies in Civil 3D

Maybe you want to go back in time and recall those logical Venn Diagrams by which you were first introduced to the principals of elementary Set Theory in grade school. Back in my day, the powers that be were trying to jam Newtonian New Math into third and fourth graders with teachers as lost as the students. Why are we teaching this?

A Venn Diagram shows all possible logical relations between a finite collection of different sets. Venn diagrams depict elements as points on a plane and sets as regions inside closed curves – usually circles. You remember those three circular region intersections, don’t you? That center intersection looks like a curved equilateral triangle when all things are being equal.

The classic Venn sets intersection is where all three circles are of equal size and radius produces a Reuleaux triangle. The Reuleaux equality is a useful mathematical and mechanical exception. Think motors or maybe your favorite pen. It is not the common resultant rule found in our real-world logical problems by any means. Some pigs are more important than others.

Civil 3D Reference Templates and Project Placeholders

Are Civil 3D Project Templates more significant that Placeholders or Reference Templates? Your perspective will change as you orbit your current Civil 3D implementation. I consider that at the moment for most folks Civil 3D Project Templates are the thing. They are also the easiest component to overlook and ignore. See the recent 5 Things to Consider Before Civil 3D 2020 post.

Reference Template Gotchas

The above post mentions Civil 3D Reference Templates too.  We do need to get the individual parts performing in our projects to get them to work together better.

Reference Templates are Autodesk’s latest response to the Style Management complexity problem. This doesn’t really get them off the hook for the practical need to fix and update the Style Import Tool, but maybe some people hope so.

If you like a simple review of Reference Templates you can see Mark Schnesk’s recent video walk through of the basic concepts on this Civil 3D Reference Templates video page.

Meanwhile it might be nice to share some current Reference Template Tool practical facts. The logical consequences are significant. Let’s just call it…

The Way of Venn

We have to build the Reference Template stack by denial of service. Put another way, each member of the Reference Template stack ONLY contains EXACTLY what elements in the set that you want to come from that drawing. Consider the individual Setting tabs to be useless unless you set the tab Settings in every single member from the bottom up EACH time you make changes. Arrrgh. Ok. It is not quite that bad. I think only one or two of the tabs creates the errant code loop problems, but we must live with the result.

After a Bunch of Testing…

There is a default Reference Template container whether or not Autodesk sorts out the Reference Template Tool issues and provides Tab specifics and details that work consistently. The Reference stack members need specific resource Types to clarify the Tool Tab effects correctly. This is a Layer Standards type; This is a Blocks type; This is a Styles type; This is a Settings type resource, etc.

Autodesk will not listen to me. They are trying to make some big important customer(s) happy. These folks appear to want to mashup all the crap together and then be selective about their garbage collection - errr selection. Recycling is great. Garbage in means garbage out.

The Reference Template Tool in Practice

You want a default Reference Template Container to contain – Layer Standards and States, standard Symbols (blocks), and ACAD style stuff. All the Civil 3D Styles are the code-built Standard ones. Bare bones Drawing Object Settings, etc.

Note in the video above a Framework for Civil 3D supplied NoStyles dwt file is employed as the start point.

The fact that units, the related unit sysvars, and Civil 3D’s core measurement units are usually best set up here is way too easy to miss. Civil 3D lusts to insert itself.

For different templates you may want to INSERT/Explode into this resource added Layers and respective Layer States, maybe other task specific ACAD Style stuff.

In the Reference Template Stack Inside the Container…

  1. At the top of the stack you have a replaceable Civil 3D Drawing Object Settings drawing that sets things up for the task.
    Aka Survey, Design, Sanitary Pipes, Storm Pipes, Road design, Site Design whatever.
  2. Next comes a Core Styles resource.
    This includes the basic LSD (label style defaults) and Object Name Template defaults.
    Maybe this contains Command Settings but for ONLY Core Styles. The great debate is what is included as Core Styles? The functional issue is the Generals collection plus what?
  3. A raw ACAD resource drawing with ONLY added/replaced blocks and/or AutoCAD Style stuff.
    For example this resource is employed to change symbol graphics for a specific client (maybe this moves up or down one based on Core Styles content).
  4. Next the Style collection(s) for the task. This looks like Core Styles with task-specific twists.
  5. Optionally, you can put a Command Settings drawing above this last collection.
    It should obviously contain references to the Core Styles or the Command Settings are in this last Style collection and refer to them or both.

Final Word

Where the reference resources in the Reference Template stack resources come from should probably be controlled by a Civil 3D Profile setting, but it is not. Unlike XREFs, IREFs, and DREFs the references cannot be relative path-based either. You must choose between a shared resource location (either local or network) or a project-based location. During development I’d use a project-based location, but that’s just me.

After all, we want to help empower that synergistic trinity in Civil 3D - Civil 3D Project Templates, Civil 3D Placeholders, and Civil 3D Reference Templates that work together.

We all want to…

Work Smarter Not Harder
Get the Framework for Civil 3D Release 8


The Civil 3D Issues to Chew On Post Series

Savor the Flavors of the Framework for Civil 3D

  • Why Adaptive Standards in Civil 3D allow for more robust customization and better implementation in Civil 3D.

A Trinity of Synergies in Civil 3D

  • The Why, the What and the How of Project Template Structure Defaults in Civil 3D.

Civil 3D Surface Care

  • The plain facts about LandXML-based DREF surfaces and how to employ them in Civil 3D.