AutoCAD Style Updates in Civil 3D

Tags Style, Style Management, CAD Standards, customization, maintenance, template, Reference Template, block, textstyle, Layer Standards

Civil 3D contains numerous details that can come back to bite us when we proactively tackle Civil 3D Style Maintenance and Improvement. We do tend to take for granted the classic AutoCAD Styles. You know that Layer, Block, Textstyle stuff we’ve lived with for all these years. We believe that…

“We already have all of that stuff covered in our current CAD Standards.”

And we do. But is the real problem we face in Civil 3D only a conversion of our past into the present? This is the place where we all start. Our past is unlikely to be where we want to end up.

Proverbial Thoughts

Can we pour new wine into an old wine skin? Sure, then we wonder why Civil 3D becomes a bitter pill. Recycling AutoCAD wineskins usually does not produce acceptable, maintainable, and consistent Civil 3D Style results. Perhaps you beg to differ? Some cannot even see the opportunity they toss into the proverbial dumpster. You know the drill- Penny Wise and Pound Foolish.
Whoa! Jesus and Franklin in the same paragraph?

We can easily make our Civil 3D implementation much more difficult to adapt to changing project demands. Folks don’t want to talk about that. We believe that we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. We can and do quickly learn to avoid those bridges.

AutoCAD Style Update Methods

The most mission critical AutoCAD Styles related to Civil 3D Style maintenance are AutoCAD Layers, Blocks, and Textstyles. These AutoCAD Style resources are regularly referenced and nested inside Civil 3D Styles. Here we’ll focus on the first two.

The critical path information management problem is that all Civil 3D Styles nest these AutoCAD Style resources. There are a great many nests to manage. We face an exponential growth problem that must be managed.

AutoCAD Style Cautions

Failure to systematically manage these integral AutoCAD Style standards and details can significantly complicate Civil 3D Style management and maintenance issues.

The maintenance and upkeep of all the many aspects of AutoCAD Style is best managed outside of the software. The software really does not support or include the tools to perform the required systematic maintenance of AutoCAD Style resources internally.

Attempts to manage these AutoCAD Style resources inside of the software usually only produces a less than acceptable and inconsistent result. Often as not, many more man-hours are invested in that type of effort.

  • A consistent System Management (aka standards) of these referenced AutoCAD Style resources is assumed inside of Civil 3D.
    Civil 3D is built so that the software doesn’t care about the AutoCAD Style garbage you reference into Civil 3D Styles, but you will sooner or later.
  • All AutoCAD Style to Civil 3D Style references are made and maintained only by the unique AutoCAD Style names (Layer name, Block name, Textstyle name, etc.)
  • We can Rename AutoCAD Style references and most of the time the name modifications update the inherited Civil 3D Style references.
    Civil 3D Drawing Object Settings, a Figure Prefix Db, and Description Key Sets (in some cases) are some notable exceptions.
  • The graphics of any AutoCAD Block reference can be updated by changing/updating the graphics in a separate drawing with the same name.
  • The font references of any Textstyle can be redirected to any other font definition.
    You will have more practical success with font replacement when the character spacing is similar in both fonts. The is a family thing.
    Some understanding of font families, True Type, and fonts with complete (and/or appropriate) Unicode character sets is important.

The Productive Benefit of the Power of Names

The fact that we can replace any and all of the referenced AutoCAD Style resources inside Civil 3D is a significant productivity benefit. We can, in effect, adapt the CAD Standards employed in our projects or only deliverables (via Publishing templates) to meet more diverse CAD Standards demands. That adaptive ability is only possible if we recognize those resources should be constructed, stored, and managed from the ground up to make those replacements possible.

In other words, the content itself is somewhat less important than a consistent structure and naming convention of the AutoCAD Style Standards resources.

We should recognize this perspective is backwards from our classic AutoCAD customization viewpoint where the explicit details are often considered more important than the names of the content.

Layers and Layer States

The maintenance and upkeep of all the many aspects of Layer Standards in Civil 3D is best managed outside of the software. The software really does not support or include the tools to perform the required systematic maintenance of complex Layer Systems very well internally.

The Framework for Civil 3D employs a key-based methodology to create and maintain Layer Names and the various dynamic properties of those layers. The Framework employs Layer States help users more easily manage the dynamic properties that are part of the daily production use of any Layer system.

The Framework’s supplied Excel-based Layer Standards Spreadsheet Tools allow you to systematically manage the many potential details. This includes the necessary rename and the potential Layer property state changes that can and do occur in production environments.

  • Typical implementation of Layer Standards and Layer State changes and/or update to new Standards are commonly performed via AutoCAD scripts.
  • Multiple scripts may be chained together via the AutoCAD SCRIPTCALL command and the resultant chained scripts.
  • SCRIPTCALL and scripts may be employed in conjunction with some basic LISP inside the Civil 3D Batch Save Utility to automate, in part or in full, layer standards maintenance updates or complete Layer scheme changes.

Reference Template Tool Layer Details

The newer Reference Template Tool:

  • Does not currently import Layer States
    Layer States may be imported manually from a layer standards resource drawing that includes them.
  • May replace named layer references if those reference drawings include selected layers.
  • Does not check for consistency in the layer references from different referenced resource drawings.
    The tool relies solely on resource stack order and in Civil 3D 2020 Settings selection.
  • The Reference Template Tool may be employed in templates and project drawings created from those templates.

The best practice is to employ separate AutoCAD Standards (.dws) files to maintain the known good for your Layer Standards and Layer State resources outside of Civil 3D. The Framework supplies these AutoCAD Standards (.dws) files in resource libraries along with the integration tools, and the maintenance scripts for multiple NCS Layer Standards variants. Take care to match all the Layer scheme resources employed in a Reference Template stack.

AutoCAD Standards Files

The process to create AutoCAD Standards (.dws) files and new updates in best performed in an Additive fashion. Tests in realistic project drawings with Civil 3D Styles that reference the layer scheme in detail is essential.

Take the time to do a thorough and documented assessment of the preferences and changes you need to make to layers. The Layer Standards Spreadsheet Tools do make it easier to perform a PDCA (Plan|Do|Check|Act) iterative improvement process. The odds are if you don’t work the entire PDCA process you will be unhappy with the result. More repetitions produce better quality-controlled results.

Blocks and Symbols

The graphics of any AutoCAD Block reference can be updated by changing/updating the graphics in a separate drawing with the same name. From a maintenance perspective, it is critical to understand that name of the symbol resource is more important than the specific content included inside the resource.

We may then update templates and drawings with the new graphics with the command line version of the -INSERT command and employ the full path to the drawing file proceeded by an asterisk (*) character. Block replacement may be accomplished either manually, by command, or most commonly via an AutoCAD script.

  • Typical implementation of Block or Symbol Standards changes and/or updates to new Standards are commonly performed via AutoCAD scripts.
  • Multiple scripts may be chained together via the AutoCAD SCRIPTCALL command and chained scripts.
  • SCRIPTCALL and scripts may be employed with the Civil 3D Batch Save Utility to automate, in part or in full, layer standards maintenance updates.
  • May replace named block references if those reference drawings include selected block instances.
  • Does not currently check for consistency in the block references from different referenced resource drawings.
    The tool relies solely on resource stack order and in Civil 3D 2020 Settings selection.
  • The Reference Template Tool may be employed in templates and project drawings created from those templates.

Reference Template Tool Block Details

Block Libraries and Updates

The best practice is to employ separate AutoCAD drawing (.dwg) files to maintain the known good for your block resources outside of Civil 3D. The better separated and more organized the block resource library the better and more consistent the result.

Folders of raw AutoCAD block drawings can be easily imported into AutoCAD Tool Palettes and then refined as Tool palette production tools. How to do this is detailed in the AutoCAD Help.

The Framework for Civil 3D supplies these AutoCAD block and related Civil 3D Point Style resource drawings (.dwg) files in a Symbol Set resource library with the Symbols Maintenance Spreadsheet Tool, and the creation and integration of the maintenance scripts.

The Symbol Exchange Tool employs that Spreadsheet Tool to generate typical scripts to replace set of named blocks with another set from an external folder. Symbol Exchange Tool employs the SCRIPTCALL command as discussed above. The Symbol Exchange Tool and script generation code is supplied in the Symbols Maintenance Spreadsheet Tool in an example Sheet inside the supplied Symbols Maintenance Spreadsheet Tool.

Take the time to do a thorough and documented assessment of the preferences and changes you need to make to blocks. The Symbol Exchange method does make it easier to perform a PDCA (Plan|Do|Check|Act) iterative improvement process. The odds are if you don’t work the entire process you will be unhappy with the result. More PDCA repetitions produce better quality-controlled results.

We have to do the AutoCAD Style loops in Civil 3D or we go loony. The first couple of trips around the Style Maintenance mountain can be rough and tedious. If we Do the Do, the work and man-hours go down significantly.

Release the Power Beyond the 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.

The Elements of Style in Civil 3D

  • The important AutoCAD Style and Civil 3D Style essentials involved in Style maintenance and improvement.

Civil 3D Template and Style Libraries

  • The methods and structures needed to store the source of the known good for Civil 3D Styles.

Civil 3D Template Targets

  • The Classic Civil 3D Template Target or the newer Civil 3D Reference Template Target choices and benefits.

AutoCAD Style Updates in Civil 3D

  • The practics and importance of AutoCAD Layer and Block Style maintenance matters in Civil 3D.

Civil 3D Style Import and That Maintenance Work

  • The Civil 3D Style Import Tool and the vital role the essential tool and Change Management play together.

Civil 3D Classic Template Target Methods

  • A review with details of the classic methods, tools, and processes for the construction of collection targets.

Civil 3D Reference Template Target Method

  • Reference Template Target nuances and those Other Important Style Maintenance Tools in Civil 3D.