Civil 3D Reference Templates Made Easy

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Someone asked how can we to get a start employing Reference Templates in our civil engineering and survey projects in Civil 3D. What the heck. We have XREFs and DREFs. What’s not to like about Civil 3D TREFs? I prefer the TREF shorthand. Maybe it could be REFT so as not to confuse the unwary. REFT just looks like someone misspelled LEFT. Not so hot.

As long-time Civil 3D users it is conceptually easy to get our head around the idea that reference-based Civil 3D Style, Set, and Label Style resources should be easier to maintain. In the long-run TREFs should allow us to be more flexible and adaptive with our drawings in projects too.

It's True…It’s True

Like anything new in Civil 3D we have both new skills and workflows to learn to employ.
You should check out the Style Maintenance Handbook posts. What’s not to like about head-scratching, deep content about Civil 3D Style improvement and Style maintenance mechanics?
Register to learn more. There are entire sections on all kinds of templates and Reference Templates in Civil 3D.

The Civil 3D TREF Made Simple

If you have a classic Civil 3D Template target that works, you are good to go with a simple TREF implementation. Everyone who employs Civil 3D today has one of those.
You can and should test this basic implementation in a copy of a recent Civil 3D project of your own.

Join the TREF Revolution

The latest and greatest Framework for Civil 3D 2020 Release 8 ships with Civil 3D projects in both STB and CTB that employ this basic single file TREF method. A Civil 3D that works out of the box? Imagine that.


Single File Reference Template Rules

Don’t trust the practical results of this single-file TREF implementation in any release of Civil 3D older than 2018.3. Civil 3D 2019.2+ releases perform much better.

  • You cannot employ the template you started a project drawing from as the single-file Reference Template.
    No circular references allowed.
    We know all about that self-referencing thing with XREFs and DREFs.
    You can use the same template with a different name and probably a different location for sanity’s sake.
  • No release of Civil 3D supports relative paths in the Reference Template Tool. Bummer.
    We can hope Autodesk will fix this real soon now.
    If they do, the update in projects to project drawings should not be too painful.
    If they don’t, no biggy. See below.
  • We get to choose thoughtfully whether to locate the TREF inside the project or in a shared resource location either on the local computer or the network.
    We must live with the results and the consequences.
  • To upgrade project drawings faster you can employ the Insert/Explode method to push the existing drawings into a new Reference Template Target with the new single-file TREF attached.
    You can use the Civil 3D Batch Save Utility with crafted scripts and lisp to do the whole, or parts, of a project.
    No sweat except the need to test ad nausea.

The Single File TREF Step By Step

There is intentionally no messing with the Reference Template Tool Settings specifics required with this method. What is in the assigned by the contents of the single-file TREF is what you get.

The Setup

  1. Copy your classic Civil 3D template to a project-based or separate shared location.
  2. Rename the template to something generic.
    If Autodesk implements relative paths into the Reference Template Tool, we will have less project update work to do next time.

For Each New or Existing Project Drawing

  1. Open a drawing with your classic Civil 3D template or an existing Project drawing
  2. Use Civil 3D PurgeStyles to remove all the unused Styles in the drawing.
    Run PurgeStyles three times to rid the drawing of hanging chads.
    If this is a real project drawing, none of the Styles in-use will be affected.
  3. Open the Reference Template Tool
  4. In the Reference Template Tool dialog box
    Add the renamed generic template
  5. Update the Reference Template Tool
  6. Check the Styles in the current drawing.
    In an existing project drawing you may need to reassign local Styles to the new shared Styles from the reference template resource (or not).
  7. Save the drawing

The Civil 3D Settings

Before the Purge Style process above you may want to blow off all the current Civil 3D Settings by a Style Import of the Settings from a resource file without any Style assignments. Your new generic TREF has all the right Settings details?

Why Oh Why

The result of this TREF work is a single-file project-based template you can more easily manage and improve without messing with the original classic template target. If you stomp of the generic template, you can easily replace it with backups. We all know how to do that?

In time a collection of edited, project-based TREF resource template targets should produce better and more task specific classic template target collections. No one said the Pipes group can’t use a separate generic TREF? No one said you couldn’t use different TREFs to automate publishing better to different project requirements?

We can get better production results even from simple TREFs without undue effort or major training and implementation efforts.

Does TREF mean Template Reference or Target Reference? Maybe the point is where we point to.

Join the TREF Revolution

The Framework for Civil 3D supplies with Reference Template targets that support multiple reference template resources. The example projects employ the tools, structures, and workflows outlined in the video. TREFs work and pay dividends.

Work Smarter Not Harder
Get the Framework for Civil 3D 2020 Release 8


Reference Template TREF Posts Series

Civil 3D Reference Template Target Method

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

Civil 3D Reference Templates Made Easy

  • A step-by-step how to on Reference Template (TREF) implementation in a working project - with video.

Back to the Future in Civil 3D 2020

  • The power of Adaptive Standards coupled with Reference Templates (TREF) and managed Style libraries in Civil 3D - with video.

Civil 3D 2020 TREF Root Template

  • The simple step-by-step nuance of Root Template construction for use with Reference Templates (TREF) in Civil 3D - with video.

Together We Do Work to Improve Civil 3D

  • A simple workflow to tweak Linetype Layer assignments with Layer States in Civil 3D