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I am on a mission for the adoption of Reference Template (TREF) technology in your working civil engineering and survey projects in Civil 3D. Some could call it a rant. We need to think about the Civil 3D template and Civil 3D Style problems differently. I argue we need new language like the TREF and Target shorthands to talk about the substantive issues of how to define, manage, and apply the Known Good.

Put another way:
What the Known Good is; Where it came from; How it got there; and How and Where we go to fix and improve it are the questions, we must know the answers to.

Manage by Reference Makes Sense

The current implementation of the Reference Template Tool and current potential workflows and usage methods are not perfect. Currently for example, the Reference Template Tool commands cannot be scripted. We learn how to work through limitations for a living.

This Reference Template Tool tech is the best shot we have as Civil 3D CAD Managers and Civil 3D Users to escape the on-going maintenance and Style consistency challenges and significant expense that we all know and live with in our daily production project work.

Standards or Adaptive Standards That is the Question

In the old school CAD world, we tend to focus on CAD Standards as we search for more consistency and quality of results. CAD Standards are indeed useful, but they don’t get us to a more productive the future by themselves.

The Framework for Civil 3D supplies Adaptive Standards which means our users can employ a range of interchangeable Layer Standards (as one example) out of the box.

This concept of adaptive evolutionary standards capability is a central goal and what the Framework for Civil 3D is all about. Get the deliverables done and out the door with the least amount of hassle and the most flexible publish on demand potential. To accomplish that without code to sell and maintain at an affordable price is pretty slick. The most important thing…

We can then focus on the important project human decisions and QAQC.

Civil 3D Project Templates

The usefulness of the Civil 3D Project Template is easy to overlook because we tend to focus first and only on the Data Shortcuts and DREF capabilities of a Civil 3D Project Template. The powerful synergy of Civil 3D Project Templates, Civil 3D Placeholders, and Civil 3D Reference Templates working together in a planned structure is not so obvious.

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 more than a couple of times.


We can assemble Civil 3D Project Templates, Civil 3D Placeholders, and Civil 3D Reference Templates into a powerful working combination. To be tongue and cheek about it - we don’t want to ignore PTSD (Project Template Structure Defaults).

What does that cure for Civil 3D PTSD look like?


Civil 3D Reference Templates and Project Placeholders

As I said earlier, to Do the Do is not a one-time workflow. Maybe that process is going in circles like a 4th of July carnival ride until you are ready to puke. It is easy to get why we try to dodge the bullet.

People Manage Change and Manage To Change

Well-practiced Change Management is a people skill.

“We know others think differently. Do we behave like they do?”

What is interesting and often over-looked is the fact that there are both personal and corporate versions and aspects of Change Management skills. Let’s clarify accurately what I mean.

Change Management is always related to the measurable improvement of decision-making skill or in other words - the measurable improvement of specialized critical thinking skill that produces results.

The One

On the individual level as a user, because we talk about management, we can abdicate our personal accountability to participate in the process itself. At the practical level we nod our heads, but we wait for others to discover solutions and fix the problems that confront us. This lack of action is an action.

The Many

On the corporate level as a manager, because we are talking about user productivity, we can abdicate our management accountabilities to provide reasonable and understandable direction, systems, and structures to effectively execute the necessary details and provide the positive feedback loops required. This absence of leadership is not management.


There is no mysterious rocket science to a participatory and functional Change Management process. We pay and reward people to perform reasonable and simple PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) loops or we don’t. You know the drill.


A short-term pain for the long-term gain. If the military can so this in life and death situations with 18-year olds, we can learn to do and reward the work as educated design professionals.

The substantive stuff of how to define, manage, and apply the Known Good might be easier to find than you think.

Innovation Beyond the Code
Get the Framework for Civil 3D Release 8