Our work stays the same and the work changes. These facts are certainly true for Style maintenance and improvement tasks in Civil 3D. It is fair to say that almost everyone who employs Civil 3D has issues with maintaining Style consistency inside the projects. People mess with the stuff. This can be a good thing and a bad thing.
Those that claim to have conquered this beast in Civil 3D are maybe lying to themselves and others. This isn’t their fault. Style in Civil 3D has a nearly infinite range of potential property possibilities. Civil 3D is notoriously short on truly functional tools to perform Style maintenance and improvement tasks.
This does not mean that we cannot do a good job of the systematic Style maintenance and improvement. Thereby we can manage the consistency of Style in our project work well. In the earlier The Elements of Style in Civil 3D post we touched on the important style essentials involved.
In the previous Civil 3D Template and Style Libraries post we discuss the imperative need for separate collections of the known good. We cover some common Style collection (library) structures. We bemoan the inherent weakness of the classic Civil 3D template as the single source for our known good.
Once we have our Style collections organized and put together, we need to implement them into our project drawings and workflows.
We need to answer the why and the how the template forms of Working and Publishing templates come into being and are then maintained.
- Template creation produces much more affirming feedback and is more fun.
- The maintenance is where the rubber hits the road.
This is the real work where the fruits of our skilled labor and management abilities are truly made manifest.
We are pretty much stuck with forms and flavors of Civil 3D templates. We have implementation choices for these templates. Let’s call them…
Civil 3D Template Style Collection Targets
A Template Style Collection Target is a management benchmark or maybe the midpoint in our Civil 3D implementation process. The target is neither the template creation end goal nor the source of the known good. This is not an exercise in semantics. A Template Style Collection Target allows us the travel downriver to more productive projects in Civil 3D. However, the critical path issues we face are not linear. The process work should be more like the classic water cycle diagram and less like a river.
The Loop Dichotomy
In practice (here we mean daily production), we must somehow produce and maintain systematic feedback loops to successfully manage, maintain, and improve our known good resources. By this I mean that you should employ something like the classic PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) change management process. Your choice of change management terminology may be different.
For understandable reasons, all of us fail to either create the initial feedback loops and/or actively maintain them. The latter being the most common fault. Simply put, the pressure of project deadlines overwhelms our personal and corporate management discipline.
- We all procrastinate to deliver the immediate.
- We all tend to make linear the required circular loop(s) that a systematic management processes requires.
That said, since the Civil 3D 2017 release there have been at least two methods to maintain and manage Styles and Label Styles in templates.
Classic Template Target Method
The Classic Template Target Method to date is the most common template maintenance methodology is use. Many people consider this template target to be their known good and their Style management end goal.
Until the Civil 3D 2017 release this was the only possible method to employ. There are number of different ways to employ the Classic Template Target Method. The generalities, but not the totalities are outlined below.
The Classic Template Target Method relies significantly upon the individual Civil 3D user being accountable to consistently follow a consistent update/upgrade process based on the overwrite of named Styles from a known good drawing resource. Any changes to the template must be systematically applied to project drawings begun with earlier versions of a template.
Project and publication drawings inherit a Style and Settings collection from a Civil 3D template (.dwt) file on creation.
- Additions and Changes to Styles, Label Styles, Settings, and other resources are specific to each individual drawing.
- Updates are a manual upgrade process that is linked to a unique Name ID which is based only on the Style and Label Style name.
This is an exact, case-sensitive string of characters.
- When changes are required for edits to Styles and Label Styles they should be tracked and differentiated by changing the Style Name of the resource
The Framework typically employ suffixes to differentiate the names of changed styles.
Review The Civil 3D Simple Style Rules here.
- Styles to be updated or modified should also be copied to a separate resource drawing at an agreed upon location.
- It is usually a good idea to update templates and resources on a quarterly or bi-annual basis.
Too frequent changes are problematic for on-going work.
Too infrequent changes usually cause us to forget the order and detail of the update process
The known good drawing resource must be maintained and updated separately from other Style resources for the practical reasons listed above.
In practice, Civil 3D Templates maintained via the Classic Template Target Method are generally best created and maintained by Additive methods and processes. In other words, collections of tested Styles are assembled together after development and after mandatory testing with live Civil 3D data behind.
The biggest complaint about the Classic Template Target Method is the amount of manual detail work required to keep a set of standards consistent. Updates are difficult and tedious without the additional tools like the Batch Save Utility and/or 3rd party software code.
The Style Import Tool in Civil 3D does not currently support the checking, import, and maintenance all the included Styles and Sets. What is supported in the Style Import Tool may vary by both the Civil 3D release and Update version.
These practical realities increase the manual updates, details, and testing man-hours for Civil 3D templates and project drawings maintained via the Classic Template Target Method.
Reference Template Target Method
Project and publication drawings inherit one or more referenced Style and Settings collections and/or AutoCAD Style resource drawings from a Civil 3D template (.dwt) file on creation. In other words, project drawings inherit references to Style collections via a Civil 3D template.
You can update the included named references (both for raw AutoCAD and Civil 3D Styles) in this form of template and thereby update all the Style references in all project drawings. Civil 3D will allow us to preserve Style edits specific to a drawing. Identification of these differences in practice is manual and therefore problematic.
The Reference Template Tool will allow you to edit the paths and/or resource names in a reference stack after the fact. You must double click in the Saved Path box in the interface. From there you can also browse to a new path location and a replacement resource file. None-the-less, the resource paths and names are important considerations.
Civil 3D Reference Template resources maintained via the Reference Template Target Method are also best created and maintained by Additive methods and processes. In other words, collections of tested Styles are assembled together after development and after mandatory testing with live Civil 3D data behind.
The Reference Template Tool and Versions
The Reference Template Tool and the included prioritized stack of Reference drawing resources maintains the Civil 3D Styles, Settings, and most AutoCAD Style resources.
- Civil 3D 2017 supports a single file reference resource.
Civil 3D 2018+ supports a prioritized stack of multiple references to both Civil 3D and AutoCAD resources.
- The path and name to all included Reference Template drawing resources is fixed.
In other words, a relative file path to the included named resource drawings is not supported.
- Typically, all the included Styles reference one or more Style collection drawings in the stack.
The Reference Template Tool in Practice
Theoretically, all the resources in a Reference Template (.dwt) could be referenced in. Practically, it is important to recognize that the Reference template target (.dwt) itself should contain:
- Units and optional Coordinate System setup
- Civil 3D code-constructed Standard Styles
- Layer Standards and Layer States resources
- Base AutoCAD Styles - Shared Block libraries, Shared Textstyles, and other AutoCAD Style resources – Dimstyles etc
In effect, the container Reference Template (dwt) file is an acad dwt file in the appropriate STB or CTB publish system with some Civil 3D base specifics set up.
The included reference drawing resources should only contain the specific resources you want to add. The Setting tabs in the Reference Template Tool currently may produce inconsistent results when mixed selections of content are employed. Updates to the Reference Template Tool code in Civil 3D 2020 fixed some, if not most, Settings and selection related problems.
Manage Collections of Reference Template Targets
A flexible and adaptive Reference Template stack inside the container (dwt) file should include in order:
- A replaceable drawing the sets only the Civil 3D Drawing Object Settings
This allows us to more easily customize different Object Settings versions for different tasks.
- A Core Styles drawing that only includes core Civil 3D Styles, Settings, Sets, and Label Style Defaults
This drawing’s ACAD Style resources are matched to the container’s CAD Standards but may add additional resources
- A block overwrite drawing to replace block defintions if necessary
- One or more Style collection and Settings drawings to add task-based Style resources.
In its simplest form the Reference Template stack would include:
- A single Styles drawing that includes Civil 3D Drawing Object Settings, all Civil 3D Styles, Settings, and Label Style Defaults
This drawing’s AutoCAD Style resources are matched to the container’s CAD Standards but may add additional resources
The Reference Template Tool and Updates
You can control whether or not Civil 3D updates Reference Template resources automatically or not.
The AeccRefTemplateAutoUpdate variable can be set to one of two choices:
- 0: Turns off automatic updates.
Notifications are displayed to alert you when styles need to be updated.
- 1: Turns on automatic updates of styles from reference templates.
This is the default setting.
- The Off option is particularly useful when you know you temporarily do not want project drawings to update to the references.
Detaching a Reference resource from the Reference Template stack that contains Civil 3D Styles will not remove Styles in-use. The in-use Style property definitions become localized.
Detaching a Reference resource from the Reference Template stack that contains Civil 3D Styles will not remove all the nested Civil 3D Style references from a drawing.
- Employ the Purge Styles Tool after detaching a Reference Template stack resource that includes Civil 3D Styles.
- An AutoCAD Purge of those AutoCAD Style references is also usually a good idea.
Replacing the Reference resource in the Reference Template stack and applying the appropriate Tool Settings after the performance of the above cleanup maintenance will update the local Styles to available referenced Styles by name. Take care to check the Settings for all replaced Reference Template stack members.
Reference Template Targets:
- Seem to be less man-hour intensive to maintain
If you are good at maintenance already, the process for these targets is probably going to be less work in the end.
- Appear to produce fewer Style update problems in practice
The use of references means the Style definitions are read directly from that resource.
- The resource(s) can be more easily validated and maintained separately.
- The bad news is that currently all the named resources and the paths are fixed.
Where you attach the explicit named references from is important and can make future updates to project drawings more difficult.
- The specifics of resource stack order and tool Settings are a bit difficult to document, edit, and maintain.
Release the Power Beyond the Civil 3D Code
Get the Framework for Civil 3D Release 8
The Civil 3D Style Maintenance Handbook Post Series
Updates, additions, and fixes to the posts in this series are on-going.