Style Import and the practice of Civil 3D Style Maintenance and Improvement requires the examination of the tools inside the software and the multiple methods we can employ together to assemble and validate Style collections into well-integrated Civil 3D template targets. We want to know how to combine and improve collected Style Tools to create Civil 3D user production and/or publication environments.
The Civil 3D Template Targets post states that we should consider a Template Style Collection Target is a management benchmark or a waypoint in our Civil 3D implementation process. The target is neither the template creation end goal nor the source of the known good. Please, review the post to understand this more productive perspective on Civil 3D templates.
More Tools to Reach a Target
Civil 3D Style Maintenance and Improvement requires a thorough knowledge of the many available tools both inside and outside of the AutoCAD and the Civil 3D software. Some of the more useful and powerful maintenance and improvement tools are not inside the software interfaces at all.
We must look and think beyond the code. We must employ ordered and systematic workflows and processes to be consistent and successful. From our perspective here, a workflow can be considered as an ordered set of separate processes.
The Change Management Tool Matters
We tend to initially consider Style Maintenance and Improvement to be a linear form of work - We need to get from A to B. The better results come from formal and repetitive loops of a known and effective workflow. Real continuous development and improvement comes from a practical application of one form or another of change management.
Styles must be fixed and improved. Hopefully, our users help us create new more useful Style tools. We need a Known Good and we need to improve that target for the production folk that do the work. We must somehow produce and maintain systematic feedback loops that our users actually use to successfully manage, maintain, and improve our known good resources.
We should employ the classic PDCA (Plan|Do|Check|Act) change management process. Your choice of change management terms may be different. We create a Plan. We execute and Do it. We test and Check the results. We Act to fix the problems discovered. This leads to a new Plan ad nauseum.
The repetition that is PDCA does tend to make us a bit dizzy and sick. Therefore, we take shortcuts like mixing Plan and Check or Do and Act together. If you find yourself doing this, the likely problem is you are trying to do too much with too many different Styles at the same time. We must manage the complexity and numbers problem that is inherent in Civil 3D.
The more refined and focused your Plan is on discrete, smaller collections of Styles, the better the typical results.
The Framework for Civil 3D is designed and built to help you with all the necessary and functional Civil 3D resources and implementation tools instead of starting from scratch. You focus on what matters to you and get work out the door while you do the do.
The Civil 3D Style Import Tool
Whether we employ classic Civil 3D Template targets or newer Reference Template targets the Civil 3D Style Import Tool will play a role in some of our processes.
Style properties can only be substantively checked for consistency with the Civil 3D Style Import Tool. The Style Import Tool currently validates most but does not actually check all potential Style and Set resources and conflicts between the current drawing and a resource drawing.
Unfortunately, the Style collections affected may also vary by the Civil 3D release and/or specific Update.
Style Import Tool Limitations
The common problematic resources:
- Description Key Sets
- Design Criteria Styles
- New Styles in the Generals Style collection
- Part Lists and Sets for Pipes and Pressure Pipes
- New Styles released in Updates
- Settings for any of the above
Most of the Style Import Tool’s Style and Settings limitations are easily noted by their absence in the interface. They are not visible.
How do we see what’s not there?
It helps significantly to remember to set up and expand the current drawing’s Toolspace>>Settings tree branch for the Styles to be checked before opening the Style Import Tool. This practice also tends to remind us to check and review for what is not there.
The Civil 3D Styles and Sets that the Style Import Tool does currently validate and can import are significant in number. These represent the bulk of the potential Styles to maintain and improve.
From Parts is the Best Practice
We are best served by the Style Import Tool when we focus the attention the use of the Tool to specific smaller and more manageable collections of Styles and Settings. This empirical reality again argues for the systematic and structured separation of Style collection resources. We maintain the parts and consider the additive assembly of those parts to be a separate process in the overall Style maintenance and improvement workflow.
Style Import Tool
The Style Import Tool is very useful for Style property validation testing. In such a testing scenario, no Styles or Settings are actually imported. We employ the Tool to check and identify differences between the current and a known good resource drawing or vice versa.
It helps to remember to test in both directions. The more you take the time to test in both directions, the more consistent your Style Tool end results will be. The work habit of reversal of sources helps us identify more errors and problems.
Potential Styles and Settings can potentially updated, added, or removed from a drawing by use of the Style Import Tool and the overwrite option.
The Style Import Tool:
- Assumes that the Civil 3D user who employs the tool knows the file resource location of the known good resource
- Displays Styles to Update, Styles to Add, and Styles to Remove after the comparison
- Settings testing and import is an all or nothing choice based on the Import Settings checkbox
A Settings import may include the automatic import of any referenced Styles in all the Settings in the external resource drawing.
- During the additive assembly process for resource collections, we do not typically want to check the Import Settings checkbox.
Style Import Tool Use
An understanding of the use and results of the Style Import Tool selection checkboxes is mandatory for the proper employment of Tool. You typically want to clear all checkboxes and then check where your current test or import update is focused. In other words, you should have a plan and know why you are employing the Tool checkboxes specifically.
The understanding, use, and application effect of the Import Settings checkbox in the Style Import dialog box is vital. For example: we can employ the import of Settings checkbox to remove all the custom Settings from a current drawing, but we must have that resource that we know has no custom Settings available in it.
In practice, we should only employ the Style Import Tool in import mode to update, add, and remove identified Styles and related Settings into a known target.
The Upcoming Target Assembly Methods
In practice, it is often faster to employ Insert/Explore method and the Drag and Drop By Selection method to import tested and identified Styles into a target rather than employ the Style Import Tool itself. In practice, some combination of all the above methods including Style Import is usually employed to assemble a classic Template Style Collection Target.
The newer Reference Template method and a Reference Template Target dodges some of the details of the above methods but does not preclude the testing and validation to get to an acceptable target result.
We’ll cover those Target Assembly methods in detail next time…
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.