Civil 3D TREF Styles and Local Styles

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Some say Civil 3D creates for us all a struggle between Style management and Style choice.

This statement is a false dichotomy. It’s a straw man argument based on the pretense that more technical control over the details of work correlates to, or is, the same thing as: better management; improved production workflows; and more profitable results.

The One Civil 3D Template to Rule Them mantra fails not because we have technical problems that are impossible to overcome. Rather, we have human ones. The software does what it does. People respond differently.

Can You Say Pareto Principal?

In popular speak we call this the 80 20 Rule. The real name is the principal of the Utility of Preference. Funny how what we are talking about here definitely relates to preference and principals.

The top 20% of production Civil 3D folks tend to be creative and inventive tool users. Most of them love to tinker too. Comes with the territory. Civil engineering and survey organizations that employ Civil 3D systematically reward them for applying these adaptive, creative, and learning skills for good reason. The extra effort gets the production work done and delivered even when the software doesn’t quite work the way we want or expect it to.

I Did It My Way

There’s good news and bad news expressed in this famous tune.

We’ve identified that creative problem solving is a significant competitive advantage in a world where our software production environment is constantly evolving. The Civil 3D Updates and Object Model Changes post and the links inside may help you recognize how this is, or is not, a problem in Civil 3D.

The top 20% of that top 20% of Civil 3D folk recognize that not invented here is also often a serious hurdle that entails serious and self-disciplined efforts to overcome. Put bluntly – My way or the highway works until it doesn’t. None of us want to discover this late in the game. We do that all too often.

The continuous development Framework for Civil 3D, the curated website resources, and content on this website represents our small and sustained effort to help with these mission critical matters.

Register, Login, and Explore.

By hook or crook my Civil 3D Standards work with lots of kind of customers shows to me that consistent, adaptive, and robust solutions work better for Civil 3D production if we can find, develop, and implement them. By crook I mean the classic shepherd’s crook employed to manage the herd not the evil kind. Speaking of guidance…

I received a few of comments, questions, and concerns about Referenced Styles and Local Styles in Civil 3D.

Reference Templates and Local Civil 3D Styles

Civil 3D Reference Templates (TREFs) and those shared Style collections are not mutually exclusive from the employment of Local Civil 3D Styles in project drawings. That sounds radical coming from me.

From the get-go I have been a big TREF advocate. The readers of this blog are encouraged to get their heads around Civil 3D TREF implementation, workflows, and mechanics. The Civil 3D Reference Templates Made Easy will get you to the Style Maintenance Handbook posts, videos, and links that cover TREFs, Civil 3D template mechanics and related topics in detail.
Free Site membership gets you to more about that and much more.

The Benefits of the Known Good

The Civil 3D TREF allows us to better manage and maintain the sources of Known Good Style collections in our project drawings. The Style collection consistency this creates in our projects is well worth the small extra effort and drawing load overhead.

The use of Civil 3D TREFs reduces your direct and indirect management and maintenance man-hours and costs.

If you believe your Known Good is a Civil 3D template. TREF implementation will quickly school you differently.

If we want to do the TREF work, we can maintain multiple sources of the Known Good. That delivers more flexibility and choice along with robust consistency. In effect, the best implementation of TREFs allow us to:

  • Better address the diverse Style and resource needs for more types of projects
  • Deliver better results to more different clients with disparate Civil 3D Standards needs
  • Work the Same and Publish on Demand

The Framework for Civil 3D delivers on these fruitful promises in real world production environments.

There Are No Magic Buttons

You use Civil 3D. You get that.

Will Local Civil 3D Styles continue to matter in our Civil 3D projects?

I believe so for several reasons.

Technically, TREFs don’t handle all the Civil 3D managed resources that we need. Civil 3D project functionality can depend on some of these pieces. Point Group definitions, Description Key Sets, and Design Criteria Styles come to mind. Can we mention Drawing Object Settings? What about other Civil 3D Settings?
We certainly don’t need or even want those particulars to be the same in every project drawing for example.

There are certainly some scale dependent Feature Styles whose components need Style adjustments to deliver better readable published results. Depression marks in Surface Contour Styles come to mind. How many Style variations do we want or need to maintain?

Multiple TREF templates and/or a more complex TREF reference stack allows us to deal with some of these things. However, we must balance the cost to maintain of levels complexity especially when the specialized tools are not employed all that often. The use of auxiliary Local Style collections works. Funny thing. We built the Jump Kit Library collections with exactly that in mind.

No Known Good Style collection can deliver everything we need to get the work done in every project circumstance. Hopefully, our corporate consistent Known Good can also be improved by those creative problem-solving individuals that we talked about earlier. The more of those folks at work the better.

Mind You

  • The need to change and improve the tools you employ is not ever going to disappear.
  • If the need to improve isn’t well fed, those creative problem-solving folks will probably go elsewhere.

It seems to me that a managed system for our use of Local Civil 3D Styles is as important as when you employ classic Civil 3D Templates. Civil 3D Reference Templates require Civil 3D user accountability and management responsibility and support.

Ways and Means and the Style Rules Matter

See The Civil 3D Simple Style Rules post and The Civil 3D Hierarchy Rules post.

To date in Civil 3D there is no easy way to easily identify or find Local Styles in any drawing with an attached TREF stack. That tool with the complementary Replace tool, is high on my Civil 3D Wish List.

That short-coming probably means it would be a good idea to have a separate project folder and style collections to hold Local Styles.
Improved Style Tools can be easily moved to the appropriate TREF resource if you want to make it so.

Seek and You May Find

Life with TREFs makes daily work and maintenance in Civil 3D Land easier.

It is relatively easy to rid a drawing of Local Styles and experiments that are not in use with repetitive PurgeStyles and a TREF Update. The PurgeStyles trick can make the search for Local Styles in use easier too.

Civil 3D Style Truth and Consequences

Why do some of my Civil 3D Styles blow up or fail when used in Reference Templates?

Typically, we have this problem most often with Label Styles and related Sets.
It happens to me. It happens to you.

Autodesk can disingenuous about changing their Civil 3D Object Model. Failures then become our fault.

Most of our existing Style collections in our Civil 3D Templates have evolved over many releases of Civil 3D. In other words, the Civil 3D Object Model that defines the Style may have changed more than a few times since someone initially built it. Sometimes the hanging chads take a while to come to light.

The Civil 3D Object Model for all types of Label Styles is unquestionably not consistent. Label Style structures, properties, and behaviors do vary. This drives you nuts. This drives me nuts. I try to keep book. I get paid to do this stuff for a living not a side job.

You may discover that old parent Label Styles may suddenly produce wayward or fallen child Styles in a Civil 3D Update or new release. Often the children were added in a later version. This happens with classic Civil 3D templates and TREF stack references alike.

The Civil 3D TREF tools do go through more recent updates and code changes. There are more checks in the TREF code. Our new wine in old wineskins can become problematic.

  • The Label Style failures can happen even when the Update didn’t publicly appear to affect the specific type of Label Style collection directly.
  • Children of child Styles are more prone such failures.
  • The both the geometry structure of the Label Style components and the related resolution priority of the components stored in the Label Style properties should make sense and be consistent.

Anyone can easily afford to get a copy of Templates Only to get a peek at how we’ve learned the hard way to create, edit, and maintain Style and Label Style collection resources that update and upgrade well in both classic Civil 3D Templates and Reference Template implementations.

Our Jump Kit customers count on the fact that we take to time to deal with this silliness and manage to do it well for multiple releases for Civil 3D.

The Freedom to Work in Civil 3D
Get the Framework for Civil 3D Release 8


Civil 3D Data References and the Object Model Posts

How To Be Ready When Civil 3D Changes

  • Proactive and practical steps to take to make Civil 3D Upgrades and Updates easier

Civil 3D Updates and Object Model Changes

  • How Changes to the Object Model effect Label Styles and Civil 3D Upgrades and Civil 3D Updates

Civil 3D Styleless Data References

  • Why and How Styleless Data References make Civil 3D work better and reduce Upgrade and Update hassles

Civil 3D Styleless DREF Mechanics

  • The Civil 3D Styleless Data References workflow mechanics in detail and the benefits of its usage in Civil 3D projects

Surface Data References and Civil 3D

  • Civil 3D Surface mechanics and methods for better project Data References in detail

Civil 3D TREF Styles and Local Styles

  • Both Reference Template Style collections and Local Styles work together in Civil 3D projects and maintenance