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Autodesk purchased the ProjectExplorer for Civil 3D product back in mid-April. I said at that time this would/could be one of the best things Autodesk has done for Civil 3D in quite a while. The product went up somewhere into orbit and it just splashed down.

The new Autodesk Project Explorer for Civil 3D extension hit the street for AEC Collection and Enterprise customers earlier this week along with the Autodesk Civil 3D 2021.1 Update. Someday real soon now maybe you can buy a copy of Project Explorer if you have a standalone Civil 3D?

The new Project Explorer extension installs and runs in both Civil 3D 2021 and Civil 3D 2020.
If you can, just install and use it.

Project Explorer for Civil 3D


Intro to Project Explorer Video Playlist

You can use the list control in the viewer to play any of the videos in the playlist.

The Project Explorer install is separate from any Civil 3D release or Update install at this point. The Civil 3D on-line help files include a decent set of helpful Quick Start and other detailed help for Project Explorer.

You can now find the Project Explorer help file links for both Civil 3D 2021 and 2020 on our Autodesk Online Help page.

More Than a Toolbox Replacement

If you use it, PE (Project Explorer) will change how you work in and publish content in and from Civil 3D for the better. The reduction of Civil 3D user mandatory clicks and picks alone is worth the price of admission. Put another way, there are some things that may take you a half a dozen clicks in Civil 3D that PE delivers in a click or Right Click.

I’m not alone when I say PE will change how we think about Civil 3D too.
Now we get to see in PE far more clearly how all the many pieces are parts of the Civil 3D Features and Object Model work and are connected together much more clearly.

I expect PE will change how we train people in Civil 3D from today forward.
Sorry. That means you will need PE retraining too. So?
Can a PE relearn to use PE? Eheh.

Some Autodesk folk you already know just scratch the surface of PE here…


The Autodesk Project Explorer Rollout Webinar

PE is not a new product although it is new for Autodesk. The PE depth and attention to the productive details is significant and most of all useful. PE in it’s first Autodesk release so it is still a bit limited by it’s pre-existing dependence on the public Civil 3D API.

PE does a lot and carries a big stick, but now everyone will ask…

Please make PE do this…

I’d hate to be the Autodesk person in-charge of the PE Wish List.
That fact alone should tell us the PE potential and impact on our production work in Civil 3D is both immediate and significant.

Our Civil 3D Wishes

PE already delivers on many outstanding significant Civil 3D Wish List items.

PE is the Corridor design builder’s dream with integrated access to all the many parts and pieces in one place. Simply reducing the number of clicks to get to the many vital Corridor part properties in a major time saver.

The PE managed display and edit capabilities reduce the maintenance time (renaming issues for example) that help us manage Complex Corridors better to produce more managed and adaptive production design solutions quicker.

Put that another way - Site Design Grading and Roadway Design Corridors just got a whole lot easier to create, edit, maintain.

PE will be a hit with the Feature Lines Only crowd as well. PE provides much better visibility of the Feature Line data and the Feature Line data relationships to everything else involved in a grading design problem.

Gravity Pipes design and reporting is much better in PE. PE features a wide array of tools for reviewing and editing pipe networks and includes built-in a multiple part swap tool and pipe run editor tools. Awesome.

Project Explorer Key Features

I added some of thoughts and comments based on a solid month with the final Project Explorer Beta. I also included some hints and suggestions for you CAD Manager folks that should make Project Explorer a bit easier for you and your Civil 3D users to put to work back at the shack.

The Project Explorer Interface

Project Explorer features a tabbed, iconized user interface divided into categories: Alignments, Assemblies Corridors, Point Groups, Surfaces, Feature Lines, Parcels, Pipe Networks, Sample Line Groups, and AutoCAD Blocks. Note the focus on the key Civil 3D design Features.

PE Preferences options allow users to choose which Civil 3D categories (Features) to display. Changing the interface categories displayed quickly reduces the clutter and help focus the user work and attention to the correct sets of details displayed in PE. The PE interface became a familiar friend faster than I expected. There’s a lot in there.

PE Preferences can be exported and imported from the saved external .xmpp files. A CAD Manager can easily standardize these for Civil 3D users pretty quickly. If you or they mess up, there is a Reset button to bail us out.

Each Civil 3D Feature tab includes a wide range of information in both tabular and graphical formats. Content can be easily filtered, configured, and reviewed by the user. The PE interface is adaptive and managed by saved Style Templates and those saved Preferences.

You probably want to add standard Project-based or network-based locations for these Style Templates and Preference settings.

Note - Currently, there is no support for Pressure Pipe Networks.
Feature Lines must be in a named Site (not None) to be displayed and edited in PE. This includes extracted Corridor Feature Lines and Feature Line based Baselines.
That is a bit annoying until you just get over it.

See and Search Differently

The PE interface includes a standard set of varied PE windows arrangements. These can be applied by Feature category. You want only a simple list of Feature Lines but more detailed set of windows for Alignments. Whatever you windows arrangement you decide on, it is quick and easy to change your mind to meet the task needs of the moment. Do what works and makes sense to you.

The PE interface also supports important Search by Name functionality. You can quickly find everything in every PE Feature category that contains the string “EG”. This helps users both get to the stuff quicker and encourages better and more consistent Civil 3D naming conventions.

See What You Can and Want to Change

The Names and Descriptions of Civil 3D Features are easier to update too in PE.

Clearly visible Civil 3D Feature parameters and values (shown in magenta) can be edited directly from the PE windows. Did I mention you can tweak what almost everything you see in the windows and save it as a Style Template?

Zoom To Support for Profiles in Profile Views

By default in the PE interface you can immediately and separately display interactive Alignment and Profile data and/or Feature Line Plan and Profile information in PE.
In PE via Right Click menus you can Zoom To a Profile in a Profile View. At last!
The native Civil 3D Toolspace still does not support this Wish List functionality.

The PR Ctrl Key magic , Zoom To, and Pan To functionality takes a bit of getting used to, but delivers important feedback Civil 3D doesn’t provide by any other means as quickly if at all.

Righteous Right Click Support

There are many more specific Right Click menus In PE than you will probably expect to find. If you can’t see a way to do something in PE, Right Click is always your friend. This familiar Civil 3D interface vehicle makes learning to get ‘er done in PE quick to pick up.

Civil 3D Reports Heaven

Geometric reports can be exported to a range of popular file formats including Excel spreadsheets and PDF files. Did I mention that externalized Style Templates make it easy to standardized the outputs in multiple forms including additional text based reports, csv, AutoCAD tables, and even dumbed down and flattened raw ACAD dwg output.

The Civil 3D data behind is deep and wide and there are often lots of potentials ways we want that displayed, arranged, and formatted. The PE report engine capabilities are rich, deep, and robust. They make getting to and displaying exactly what you want or the other folks need reasonably easy. Remember to work at building a library of exported report Style Templates to cut down on the setup work.

When in doubt a report on the current PE window arrangements and details is a piece of cake.

Object Sets Persist

PE Object Sets can hold persistent object selections for export to those geometric reports, tables or other AutoCAD drawings. Updates can be applied to exported documents when subsequent design changes are applied in Civil 3D.

By drawing PE will keep an audit trail of the Object Sets processed from that drawing.
Did I remember to send the stake out data to the survey crew yesterday PM?

Maybe we now want to consider that PE Reports drawings (templates) are an important new project drawing type to include your Civil 3D Project Templates.
You do have and employ one or more than one of those don’t you? Just saying.

Style Managed

PE is entirely managed by Style driven templates. Who would have thought?

Both the PE interface itself and the published output can be managed separately to maximize the usefulness of Civil 3D data for Civil 3D users and all those important and picky others. A structured library of these resources helps everyone.

That Style driven template approach can ensure that reports, AutoCAD tables, and other forms of published output can be easily configured to the requirements of each user, project, or organization.
Did you say you want that By Project Manager?

Positive and Productive QAQC Feedback

PE displays a range of warning tooltips for areas of the design which might not meet specified rules or design standards, or objects which may require further scrutiny.
For example, pipes might be too long or short, or too deep or shallow; and profiles might have start/end stations which fall slightly beyond the station range of their host alignments. These scenarios, and many others, are far easier to spot in the Project Explorer window.

Civil 3D Features with warnings are displayed in yellow. Tooltips explain why.
Civil 3D Features with significant errors are displayed in red in PE.
Your managed QAQC processes just got easier in Civil 3D.
Thank you Autodesk.

Project Explorer makes Civil 3D work better.
I like that.
PE even makes the Framework for Civil 3D look and work better.
You’ll like that too.

Make Civil 3D Work Better
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