Civil 3D Description Key Set Simplicity

Tags tuple, not keys, BESTWay, points, figures, Survey Codes, Description Key Set, customization, spreadsheet

There are all kinds of useful videos, help docs, and even products out there in Civil 3D Land to help us pull-off all the many powerful things with Civil 3D Description Keys and Civil 3D Description Key Sets. I’ve been known to take part in all the blather. People sometimes ask what to do first.

Odds are whatever Description Key Set customization you have today is already too complicated. Simplicity helps us manage to build a more effective complexity. Say what?

The Art of Civil 3D Customization is
About Better Separation of Powers

We are all the self-made victims of our own history. Maybe you can say, “LDT”? We expect things to be and remain the same. It is a human thing to do. Human expectation lust drives us to get to our perceived end result as fast as possible. We want to get to the good stuff faster. Therefore, we all tend to skip over incremental baby steps because we believe we understand all the ramifications.

Let’s Play Chicken

If we’re lucky or blessed, the oncoming bus or truck misses us by a whisker. The ultimate Ah Ha moment. Sadly, we forget that maybe we could be driving the bus instead of standing on the curb sucking on our heart and saying Hail Mary’s. It might appear like it, but we don’t have a Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road problem.

Incremental Description Key Set Development is Exemplary

People sometimes ask what to do first. OK. Mostly, they don’t. Description Key Sets are so old school familiar that we already know all there is to know about them?

I tell folks to build all DescKeySets from an external sheet(s) in an Excel Spreadsheet file.
Whether we like it or not, the external documentation is more important and a more effective tool than the DescKeySets in any given Civil 3D drawing or Civil 3D template. The external approach is the only way to manage the one and/or the many.

Excuse me while…

I Rant about the Civil 3D Wish List

Ok. The sad fact that Civil 3D still today doesn’t have a simple DescKeySet load and update tool to let us build and update DescKeySets from simple external .csv and/or.xls files is Dumb - with a capital D. Incorrect expectations and assumptions about the work of others always demands more needless and silly work. End of rant.

The First Description Key Set

The first Description Key Set (DescKeySet) sheet you need to create contains ONLY your ordered list of Codes and nothing else. Nothing else!
NO other property values are set in the Desc Key Set to do anything.
Why?

The DescKeySet is obviously an ASCII sort-ordered list of Codes – Yes. It is a tuple.
This tuple-based processing and mechanics is hard-wired into Civil 3D point resolution.
See the Civil 3D Codes, Not Tools, and Tuples post.
But Civil 3D allows you to have a multiple priority-ordered list of DescKeySets.
That fact of multiplicity changes how you think about the Codes and manage them or not.

Should this one DescKeySet be more than one?
This is not a silly question.
When there can be only one list, we tend to toss in everything including the sink.
Time to give the famous 80 20 Rule an applied workout.
Odds are you have multiple flavored results of the Utility of Preference principal mixed together.

From the sheets construct the named DescKeySets with ONLY the Codes.
The DescKeySets will resolve the Codes to the Codes and Points will end up on the CURRENT layer.
These DescKeySets also form the Copy from roots to construct more involved DescKeySets.

Yep. You will need a DescKeySet naming convention probably a little more involved than
“Bob’s Good One”.

The Framework employs a functional DescKeySet naming convention available in the public domain.
See the Framework Standards page. The most important fact is users must be able to identity from the name both what the DescKeySet does and what is applied in the properties of the DescKeySet.

The Second Set of DescKeySets

I suggest that you next create a Comparative Format column in each of the external sheets.
This DescKey Format column includes the meaning of the Code.
In practice inside Civil 3D, a DescKeySet built this way will translate the Raw Code to a full-blown Description of each Code. No abbreviations allowed.
Duplicates may appear in DescKeySets based on the specific or generic 80 20 Rule that applies.
Sometimes a TC is also TOC.

Odds are you should take the time to clarify more exactly and more consistently those Code meanings. Some apparently silly stuff like the kind of utility a Code refers to should come up. This makes Layer assignment and other Style assignment decisions easier later.

From the sheets construct the named DescKeySets with ONLY the Format column and the Code.
The DescKeySets will resolve the Codes to the Comparative Format and Points will end up on the CURRENT layer.

These DescKeySets help users check, identify and correct the field Codes collected mean what is expected.
Point Group based Point Label Style assignment(s) control the label contents displayed.
Sometimes the painfully obvious is exactly what we need.

The Third Set of DescKeySets

I suggest that you add one or more ABV Format column(s) in each of the external sheets.
This DescKey Format column includes the abbreviated meaning of the Code.

From the sheets construct the named DescKeySets with ONLY an ABV Format column and the Code.
The DescKeySets will resolve the Codes to the ABV Format and Points will end up on the CURRENT layer.

These ABV DescKeySets help users check, identify and correct the field Codes collected mean what is expected.
Point Group based Point Label Style assignment(s) control the label contents displayed.

Time for a Code Revision Loop

Both content and the order of the Codes themselves matter a lot. If your Codes all end in * and/or your Format columns all contain $*, this is a sure signal you might benefit from some updates.

Just making the ABV Format columns and DescKeySets might make the lights go on.
You can employ the Format column in Civil 3D DescKeys to perform some very artful magic and automate your annotation a lot better.

Read the infamous Civil 3D Description Keys Do Format post for more Format column magic and details.

Add NewCode columns to your sheets so you can keep track of the Code edits and changes.
An added Code Translation Format column also helps a lot.
With both Code and NewCode columns you can employ that specialized Format column to create translation DescKeySets to change Codes from old to new and vice versa.

Changes are great and the past usually comes back around.

See the NOT Keys in Civil 3D post.
See the related BESTWay Figures in Civil 3D post
The mission critical AutoCAD fundamentals covered in the Match Point in Civil 3D post for details and help.

Needless to say, the Framework for Civil 3D available in multiple flavors and in many releases of Civil 3D contains all the Spreadsheet Tools. The supplied resources include detailed, real-world example results.
It is easier to edit than to create.

The Templates Only trial product contains advanced DescKeySets that contain the results of the process outlined above. Maybe we should call Templates Only -
The Civil 3D Cheat Sheet.

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Related Survey Codes and Description Key Set Posts

Civil 3D Codes, Not Tools, and Tuples

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Civil 3D Description Key Set Simplicity

  • How to rethink and retool Description Key Sets for better Civil 3D performance and productivity