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We use Autodesk Civil 3D. We are dependent on the software to get our project work done and to execute our production work and deliverables. Beyond those obvious ones, the number of formal data Dependencies inside Civil 3D and our civil engineering and survey projects appear to do nothing but increase. Dependencies are trending and tend to explode.

Maybe you noticed. Maybe you didn’t. Code-based dependencies are a significant, growing concern in modern software. Now there are even security checking data dependency apps for that. Maybe you don’t realize that many of our mutual social media privacy concerns are directly related to dependency. That’s a beast of a discussion for another day.

We Manage the Dependencies or They Manage Us

Dependencies in Civil 3D are good news until they aren’t.
Most, if not all, production Civil 3D workflows are dependency based. Civil 3D Features that talk to other Features is a major part of the powerful magic that makes Civil 3D work better and faster. Don’t we call that the Civil 3D Dynamic Model?

We learned the Civil 3D skills and workflows to manage that drawing level set of dependencies. When to use and/or end a dependency or not, is an important Civil 3D user skill. Many Civil 3D Features include special dependency (reference) related properties to help us manage dependency behavior in detail. For example: dynamic or static data dependencies in View Features. We ignore the details at our own peril.

Who Manages Dependency

A Managed Dynamic Model is a mission critical Civil 3D user accountability.
The Managed Dynamic Model is practically all about how users manage the dependencies for better or worse. We should work at some form of systematic plan to accomplish that.

We recognize that our management attack plan pretty much hangs on what I call The Power of Names. Simply put, when you plan and manage the names and the structures of the dependencies in our drawings the entire process becomes much easier to execute in practice.
Civil 3D doesn’t care. You don’t have to do that either. You get what you do whether you like that result or not. Denial is a wonderful thing.

Dependencies Creep Around the Project

The dependencies creep and leap beyond a particular drawing into entire projects of drawings. Project Data Reference (DREF) and Data Shortcut mechanics come to mind. Managing the dependencies in the DREFs is more than essential. DREF Naming conventions and consistent DREF structures make the management much easier.
See the Civil 3D Projects and Setup video page for the essentials to create, manage, and maintain better DREF structures in Civil 3D Projects.

More Dependency in Our Future

Autodesk’s current leap to Civil 3D Collaboration in the BIM 360 cloud should clarify to all how ubiquitous project dependencies have become. Porting a Civil 3D project to the BIM 360 Cloud provides great instruction about the webs we weave in Civil 3D.

The Autodesk/ESRI partnership and the Autodesk Connector for ArcGIS certainly means many new sets of dependencies to create, manage, and maintain for many civil engineers and survey folks.

The managed nuances of dependencies of more software interoperability clearly matter.

How to Avoid Civil 3D Co-Dependency

We can build good behaviors into our workflows to save us from the curses of Civil 3D co-dependency. What are these dependency curses? You know them well. Most of our Civil 3D whines and complaints center around them:

  • Civil 3D projects that are chaotic - Civil 3D Models tend to become spaghetti
  • Drawings and projects that require the user who did the work
  • Drawings and projects that cannot be easily upgraded
  • Project performance issues for design and publish tasks
  • CAD Standards inconsistencies
  • Lack of deliverable flexibility
  • Pick your poison

We can do something about that. See these three recent posts on DREF dependencies:

Dependencies in Civil 3D are good news until they aren’t. We want to preserve Civil 3D data behind dependencies. The time comes when we don’t. We need to know the answer to the Why, When, and How.

Identify Change of State Benchmarks

I’ve posted before about how Civil 3D user identified benchmarks based on when drawings and models change State are the key to playing the dependency game well in Civil 3D drawing and our project models.

Revisit Your Heuristics

Our design, survey, and QAQC heuristics (Rules of Thumb) do not, and cannot, always translate well into procedural programmer speak and the resultant code. Heuristics are general and specific rules and methods we discover and pass around to help us make common decisions quicker.
See the How to See More in Civil 3D Tools post for more about why understanding the importance of the relationship of heuristics and identified benchmarks matters.

Civil 3D user identified benchmarks and our heuristics coupled with the capabilities and nuances of the Civil 3D Object Model help define the boundaries for our managed dependencies in Civil 3D. More about the Civil 3D Object Model nuances are coming in a follow up post. Meanwhile…

Most design and survey folks get this basic Surfaces example…
Employing file-based point file references in surfaces (in lieu of Point Groups) and exported XML based surfaces are a classic dependency reduction examples. Note that the removal of the different dependencies should occur at different benchmarks in the surface delivery workflow. When a surface is ready to be employed in the larger project model, we typically want to prune the dependencies to favor more static sources.
See the Surface Data References and Civil 3D post above for the details.


Manage the Synergies of Project Dependency

We can see in the video that it is not rocket science to create, manage, and maintain a functional and very practical synergy of the many types of Civil 3D dependencies in our projects. A clear-headed review of a few recent projects should produce a reasonable list of things to work on. Do the do.

Beyond the Data to the Work and the Deliverables

We can all probably agree that one of the best and worst things about Civil 3D production work is Civil 3D’s dependency on Style. Civil 3D Style dependency is a challenge that Reference Templates (TREF) coupled with Civil 3D Project Templates and Placeholders can help us simplify, manage, and maintain. A mastery of dependency management in Civil 3D allows us more adaptability - a more robust production solution for our project work.

A Managed System for Civil 3D is a fact of life.

The Managed System for Civil 3D
Get the Framework for Civil 3D Release 8


Civil 3D Dependency and References Posts

Those Vital Civil 3D User DREF Skills

  • How to learn to improve our mission critical Civil 3D Data Reference skills individually and corporately

Civil 3D Object Model Nuances

  • Answers the most important Civil 3D User questions about How, When and Why for the many references we employ in Civil 3D

Manage Civil 3D Dependencies

  • Let's address what we can and need to do about all those references and dependencies we employ in Civil 3D

Civil 3D Styleless Data References

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

How To Be Ready When Civil 3D Changes

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