The States in Civil 3D

Tags Layer Standards, CAD Standards, Adaptive, Adoption, layer state, layer filter, video, NCS, standard keys

The art of production and publication Civil 3D Standards is all about the construction and maintenance of managed, known, and current States. There is no singularity in Civil 3D Standards. After all, we are talking about sets of sets of variable properties that must work together at known and identifiable points in time to produce consistent repeatable results.

I admit to an experiential bias. I build and maintain the Framework for Civil 3D – an engine and resources tool chest from which others build their Autodesk Civil 3D Standards. My economic survival depends on the capability of the Framework Jump Kit products to make it so for Civil 3D organizations and users.

When we identify and recognize the importance of the primacy of States in Standards Development, our perspectives on the nature of our problems and the available effective solutions are significantly altered.

There can be only one is exactly as crazy as it sounds. There’s a bumper music track in there somewhere.

The States of Adoption and Adaption

Both our Adoption and Adaption have current States and the differences between these two matters.

The thornier issues behind the challenges to production and publication Civil 3D Standards are about people and their habitual behaviors. We want to blame our Standards problems on ever-changing software and a somewhat dubious assertion of an innate human resistance to technology.

Frankly, many users in Civil 3D Land are tool user freaks or geeks depending on who you talk to.

Then there are all the nasty details to manage.
Those property details we want to remain the same. I call this…

The Permanence of Property Bias

Sorry, that sounds like a term out of a sociologist’s PhD thesis or a term that an investment real estate broker would use. Experts all do the same strange thing with words and phrases, don’t they?

The more robust, flexible, and advanced the software, the more Transient is the Nature of Property.

What I mean by Properties here are and the many things we can set for a layer, an STB plotstyle, a CTB color, a Style, ad nauseum.
I should say ad infinitum – That WTMI is the real-world Civil 3D Standards issue.

Our Permanence of Property Bias is an illusion of repetitive circumstance - a construct of our own experience.

The human brain is notably adept at constructing these frames. We are hardwired to do it. Adaption to a new set of repetitive circumstances (frames) is something we also do well. It may take a bit for us to internally overwrite one Property Bias with a new one.

You might prefer to drive a Chevy, but somehow you can also easily drive a Ford or a Honda.

We can become comfortable with more than one form of Permanence.

The point is we either proactively manage this human reality or we are enslaved by it.

Get Real

A set of themed colored Civil 3D Surface contour Styles is be a good example. Sometimes it really helps to see a visible difference between Surface A and Surface B to identify grading problems or to decide which surfaces to paste together. Other times we may want to publish them together in the same Style. We happily embrace both sets of Permanence.

Productive software users need managed, consistent, and known current States.

Practically, in both AutoCAD and Civil 3D CTB and STB standards are different known States. As long as they are consistent and can be employed managed by trained users they are both effective. The technical fact the STB has more properties than CTB points to the fact that more choice isn’t often compatible with an existing Permanence of Property bias.

The Layer State

I had a Framework customer call the other day with some questions about the NCS Layer System and it’s relationship to the Framework Style tools. He also some complaints about the number of layers too.
I informed him that for his purposes the Civil 3D Styles don’t care about Layer properties.
These are both independent and dynamic.
I suggested that he just change the supplied Layer States.
He responded, “What is a Layer State?”

All the properties of Layers in AutoCAD are dynamic. We know this. We all learned to use the Layer Manager tool to tweak properties around to get the job done.

The amount of user time spent in the use of the Layer Manager tool is often staggering. Better and more adaptive systems avoid and reduce this man-hour problem.

I like to point out that the Layer Manager’s name is partly a misnomer. While the LA tool does manage dwg Layers, the AutoCAD tool itself is not actually very well-managed.

How do you quickly update the displayed XREF Layers in a Layout Viewport to print properly?

Back in the day, Autodesk discovered it was more profitable to make this standards management problem a user responsibility. Layer States were added to the mix to help us standardize the states of lots of Layer properties.

  • Layer States and the LM tool help us automate and truly manage the whole Layer thing so these things can become a consistent, known current State.
  • The saved external results of Layer States are portable and manageable.
  • If we mess things up, we have Layer Standards files and the Standards Checker to get us back to a past consistent, known current State.
  • We have Layer Filters that allow us to sort and reduce the detail and complexity in LA.
    Layer Filters also allow us to QA and validate consistency within a Layer system.

A quick video is in order…

Layer States and Filters in Civil 3D

Autodesk marketing would trumpet the benefits of the level of detailed management in the tools. The somewhat terrifying reality is the collected properties are truly dynamic. WTMI. Autodesk says they are customizable.

Thank God. We can externalize the management and building of the Layer system. The system must manage a set of States. No single set of properties will solve all the production work and publication problems.

The State is Only Current

The Framework for Civil 3D employs Key and Pattern Rules which creates and allows for a managed system. We include powerful Layer Standards Spreadsheet Tools that allow you to change the Keys, the Pattern, and the even the Rules to create a managed system in your own image.
For most this is often unnecessary.

We just need the consistent, known current States that allow us the freedom to work without hassling all the picky little details. Our users can then enjoy a comfortable set of Permanence of Property States.

That Transient Nature of Properties is manageable with the Framework for Civil 3D. It was built from the ground up with that exact problem and real-world production benefit in mind.

The Keys to Filtering Layers

Once upon a time a list of Key-based Property Layer Filters in the classic .LFT (lift) format shipped with the Framework. We still employ Layer Filters as consistency and quality control checks. You can download an example Civilized NCS Keys .LFT file here.

Given you have a Spreadsheet Tool with a list of Keys, Key-based Property Filters are ridiculously easy to build. Our Open NCS Keys lists are downloadable too. Sadly, external Layer Filter .LFT files still only work in Civil 3D and not AutoCAD.

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