Civil 3D Layer Standards and Magical Thinking

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The Framework for Civil 3D out of the box supports multiple Layer Standards with adaptive conversion. The NCS 6.0, NCS 6.0 AIA and older NCS 5.0 flavors are supplied for example. Why would anyone want to do that? Everyone one knows one Layer Standard is nasty enough to maintain and employ. The common misconception of a Layer Standard at times sounds something like this…

”Oh, No. Someone wants to change a property of a Layer for some odd reason.”

True. This tends to happen more often to folks who still employ old school CTB output and are therefore paranoid about Layer color properties.

The State of the Layers

Most folks see their Layer Standard as a single State of the Layers. Most of these folks spend hours of their workweek in the AutoCAD Layer Manager command (or their LISP versions of the same) trying to stay semi-sane while they drive themselves crazy. CAD people are visual people. We love our habits. It’s what we do.

Let’s put this form of magical thinking to rest. The single state Layer Standard died a cruel death many years ago in AutoCAD Land. In Civil 3D Land, it probably should not exist at all.

In the real world this old school CAD primitive concept and the practical applications of the same barely functions. Ok. Maybe the single state of Layers idea works for a standard Detail drawing with a dozen layers that never change by design. Something we might poorly teach to ACAD newbies in an AutoCAD 101 class.

You Employ the Layer Manager All the Time to Do What?

You never noticed? There is nothing static about the properties of a Layer – never mind when we consider the potential properties of 2500 Layers used to model civil engineering and survey projects in a goodly number of civil design specialties. Scale and complexity matter in information management and the real world of projects.


Adaptive Layer Standards in the Framework

Southern California flood control is nothing like New Orleans flood control. The project design heuristics are totally different by necessity. Yes. It flows downhill. We must think about a similar sounding problem totally differently. Somehow, we must model the solution and publish that to the folks who must build it. Those people have entirely different heuristics. They have separate design, logistics, and process problems to solve. You get that.

If we want consistency we can validate – a standard, we have much the same thought problem expressed above. Our Layer Standard heuristics must be updated to deal with Civil 3D model-based realities and the new capabilities and opportunities that those challenges can produce.

We chose to make mountains out of mole hills or move mountains.
I believe the second approach is what we all do for a living in Civil 3D Land. Eheh.

Layer Standards Are Sets of Layer States

For reasons I understand, new Framework customers are sometimes befuddled why we employ Layer States at all. The use of Layer States may be unfamiliar. You don’t know what you don’t know.

All Framework for Civil 3D products include Sets of Layer States that resolve at will (or on demand) 95%+ of the common changes to Layer properties which we must to employ to get work done and also produce consistent deliverables. I must trust you get it that these are not the same problem.

We somehow manage do this in both STB and CTB output scenarios and in multiple flavors of Layer Standards. We do this across Civil 3D Style library collections that number in the thousands.

“Who cares. I don’t use no stinkin’ Layer States.”

Layer States and XREFs

What you don’t know can kill you.

A customer asked about the common problem with the “wrong” Layer State being displayed in an XREF.
Technically, there is no such thing as “wrong” layer properties in the Civil 3D project-based environment where Layers in multiple drawings must be displayed differently all in time to produce separate Sheets in a deliverable Plan Set.

  • Layers States in XREFs can be enabled in the Layer States Manager (LM).
  • A Layer State from an XREF can be selectively applied into a Viewport.
  • The Applied Layer State changes only those XREF layer property states in that Viewport.
  • There are weird and atypical sets of AutoCAD system variables that may break this.
    Don’t do that.

Can you say, “No brainer?”

There are even better solutions to this publication problem, but DWF publication mechanics has already been the topic of other posts.

Case in Point

You can work for a week in Civil 3D managed by the Framework’s managed system and never employ the Layer Manager except to check things. You will find yourself doing that out of habit.
No way. Yes way.
I have certainly trained people for a week and never once used the LA tool.
Apply the appropriate and well-designed Civil 3D Styles and Civil 3D will easily handle all the CAD Standard layer crud for you.
A well-designed and managed Set of Layer States handles the nuances.
Kind of fun to watch the student faces when you tell them…

“We learned advanced Corridor design (or Survey field to finish etc) and publication in Civil 3D over the last few days. Never once did I ask you to use the Layer Manager command.
Do you miss it?
How many of you cheated and peeked?”

Everyone does. We are creatures of habit and ritual.

We may have a few customers who would probably vote to have the Layer Manager removed from the Civil 3D Ribbon to make way for other more important tools.

Only Managed Sets of Layer States can deliver on the consistency promises implied in the words
Layer Standard.

Dynamic Models Depend on Dynamic Namespaces

The Power of Names means that no matter what we want or expect in and from Civil 3D, we end up with a Managed System of Naming Rules or we do not.
We all know how that second option turns out.

Civil 3D names must be managed in a systematic and structured way or chaos and user confusion results. The Framework for Civil 3D is fundamentally based on this fundamental object-oriented programming principal.
The principal is central and fundamental to how Civil 3D accomplishes anything in code.

In programming speak, the Power of Names concept and practical reality of its execution is formerly called a namespace.

For our purposes…

A Namespace Defines a Managed Uniqueness of Names

The illusion of our historical CAD preferences and perception of CAD Standards can be a trap here. Civil 3D Features are not CAD primitives even if we can reduce them to that.  We must ask,

“Do our Naming Rules work with the way Civil 3D works?”

Information management and what we call the Data Behind in Civil 3D always favors Management By Style. You can try to make the Layers management tools work. This is sort of like trying to drive a car with a buggy whip. Ok. Maybe its not that bad, but it still hurts to watch people try.

Civil 3D employs the AutoCAD serfs like robotic factory workers. Point at them by name and shoot.

Sets of Layer States and scary terms like Dynamic Namespaces sound chaotic. If we learn to manage the dynamic, the result can be liberating. As I recall, the point of Civil 3D was to deliver us from the tedium and silliness of raw AutoCAD in the first place. Just sayin’.

We see namespace expressed to us in Civil 3D every day. The Civil 3D commands must have unique names that are different from AutoCAD and AutoCAD Map 3D commands. Civil 3D Features must have unique names too. Dooh.

If you missed it, read the recent Subassemblies or PKTs in Civil 3D post. Our Names for Codes matter as much as anything else in Civil 3D. The little foxes steal our days, our productivity, and our profits. Unlike death and taxes, these foxes are avoidable. Hoorah!

The Civil 3D Namespace lists are huge, somewhat overwhelming, and yet central to Civil 3D user’s ability to employ the software successfully.

We work to fix that.

Dynamic and Adaptive Standards in Autodesk Civil 3D

What we do to help make the impossible possible.

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  • We publish Open Standards for Civil 3D that include documented, pertinent details our Civil 3D Style naming conventions that address the complexity of real-world productivity issues that effect Civil 3D users and the benefits and challenges of Style Choice inside the Civil 3D interface.
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    We’re consistent. We publicly document how, when, where and why those rules work.
  • We publish an Open and rich set of Standard Keys that work in civil engineering, survey, infrastructure design and GIS contexts. The Keys work in cross-platform and interoperability contexts too.
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Better Layer Standards in Civil 3D Are Managed Sets of Layer States

No matter what you want to name them…
Dynamic Layer properties collected into states are your productive friend not your enemy in Civil 3D.

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