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There are uncomfortable and unexpected truths squirrelled away in the simplest annotative tasks in Autodesk Civil 3D. Model-based software means some basic tasks are fundamentally different and more complex for seemingly no apparent reason. There is a reason as we shall see.

Indeed, some planned and managed complexity can provide us with more bang for the buck and considerably less work in the end. The dualistic Replaceable and Dynamic (data driven) nature of Civil 3D Label Style is important for us to capitalize upon.

Can we plan for rules and behaviors that we don’t expect?

“I just want to label my lines and curves.”

The Civil 3D geek responds, “Ok. What kind of lines and curves?”

“I want to label my parcel boundary.”

“Easy enough. But you did not answer my question.

Did you import all the geometry from a LandXML file as Parcel geometry?
Did you import all the geometry from an ESRI SHP structure or via the Autodesk Connector for ArcGIS?
Is there Civil 3D Property Set data included?
Did you convert the raw AutoCAD linework into Parcel Segments?
Are one or more of the Parcel Segments in the resolved Parcels from an Alignment or maybe even a Survey Figure in a Site Parcel?
Is the linework just raw AutoCAD primitives – lines and arcs?”

Huh? They’re AutoCAD lines and plines. Why does that other stuff matter? We don’t use that.

“Why not?”

The recent Label Styles in Civil 3D Practice post talked about the lust for the One and Done.

Our desire to get things done immediately can interfere with our opportunity to get things done better and faster in the end. We need to carefully consider the Separation of Powers implied in the working, QAQC, and published States in our production deliverables process and project structure.
See The Arts of the Separation of Powers in Civil 3D post.

We need to consider the Principal of Delayed Gratification.

Label Consternations

What are the differences between the plethora of Line and Curve Labels in Autodesk Civil 3D?
Let’s segment out the issues. (grin). Yes. Segment is an important key word in Civil 3D.
There are:

  • Civil 3D Feature Label Styleslike Alignment, Parcel, and Figure versions
    • Work on the collected and/or individual segments
    • Feature Segments and their labels have types like line, curve and spiral
    • Feature Segments and their Labels recognize the behaviors and rules
      of the specific Civil 3D Feature in question
      Therefore there are kinds of Segments defined by the Civil 3D behaviors and rules
  • General or the generic Line and Curve labels
    • Read and display only the AutoCAD primitive geometry data
    • Ignore behaviors and rules of the specific Civil 3D Feature

Each Feature’s segment labels potentially give us access to the specific exposed and often resolved Feature segment data behind. We are not locked into that.
Sometimes the specific Civil Feature data, behavior, and rules are important and sometimes they are not.
When then becomes the substantive question - The when often proceeds the how.
We choose.

We can go vanilla and employ Civil 3D’s General Line and Curve labels. Sounds simple, but that easy may require we blow off important Civil 3D data, connectivity, and reference relationships to get there.

Choose Wisely Grasshopper

While we can use the different Label Styles interchangeably (replaceable) the Labels are not the same thing (dynamic). It is important to understand the differences in the Civil 3D data behind here.
Register. Become a Member and learn about Civil 3D Parcels, Civil 3D Alignments, etc. in detail.

The competent and skilled use of Civil 3D Feature Label Style works in our projects like the financial principal of compound interest.
We choose to borrow or invest. Without an educated plan the financial scales may not balance in your favor. You probably know by now the experience can be painful. It need not be.

What Feature’s Label is it Anyway?

A new Framework customer asked,
“Please, explain why I get this big list of Line or Curve label styles when I modify the Label Properties of a Line (or Curve) Label on many different Civil 3D Features?”

Note that the lack of such a choice, while less confusing, can be more significant and dangerous than too much of a good thing.

We get to choose. Civil 3D assumes we know what we are doing. Civil 3D assumes we understand the object-oriented programming principals and the Power of Names that Civil 3D is built upon.
See The Arts of the Separation of Powers in Civil 3D post.
The names in Civil 3D is our only handle to manage those things. We have a naming convention for Label Styles. Did they tell you that?

“Does replaceabe mean I can slap a Parcel Line segment label on a tangent segment of an Alignment?”

No. For Line and Curve labels you always get the choice of the current Feature’s Line or Curve Label Styles and the General (generic) Line and Curve Label Styles.
You can’t switch an Alignment’s Label to a Parcel’s Label Style.

Ah rats! In Civil 3D, such an ability remains an act of indecent exposure. Sorry for the inside programming joke. I should resist.

We can have different specific Civil 3D Feature Segment Label Styles that look the same.
The Framework for Civil 3D products Label Style libraries consistently provide that capability.

“Do your Civil 3D Label Styles Do That?”

Right Click Select Similar is Your Friend

Many people discover the core Civil 3D Right click menu’s Select Similar command often works great as a Label selection tool.
You can select (collect) Feature labels and modify them to refer to a Label Style for the Feature or a General one in the Properties box.

“Does the Select Similar command sort by the assigned Style for Labels?”

Not exactly.

We better pay attention.

  • You may not currently see other labels that get selected that you did not recognize as being “similar”.
  • We already pointed out that what you believe is similar isn’t. Type can matter.
  • A Label Properties pick from any Ribbon tool is the same action for any selected Labels.

Unfortunately, we also get a bit stuck with the interface limitations of list boxes inside the AutoCAD Properties box too.

All the different types of assignable Label Styles for a Feature with Label Styles are presented in the same Property box list selection interface. This Property box interface has evolved in small but important ways over the releases of AutoCAD and Autodesk Civil 3D. In general, this has gotten better.

No doubt you’ve noticed that Civil 3D:

  • The Names of the Label Styles have a big effect on the Property box list order and therefore whether or not you get what you want and expect
  • Cares about Vector Direction of segments even when you do not
  • Must have access to the ACAD primitives or the Civil 3D Feature segments to generate Labels – its’s dynamic.
    A layer Freeze or object isolation can therefore be your unseen enemy when those handy tools seem to be our friend
  • Requires that you manage the Civil 3D data behind whether you like it, understand it, know how to do it, or not

The reality of many Civil 3D projects may mean that mixed kinds of Labels can be a good thing when we learn how to employ, change, and manage them thoughtfully.

People complain about the nuance and complexity of Autodesk Civil 3D annotation. It’s understandable. The annotative work is often mission critical to our performance and directly on the critical path of the successful execution of the multiple deliverable sets of any civil engineering or survey project.

The Ruthless Pursuit

If we talk about investment in Civil 3D, it is best to remember…

Better Civil 3D annotation is all about the reduction of invested project man-hours.

Masterful Civil 3D Label Style Libraries
Get the Framework for Civil 3D Release 8


Civil 3D Label Style Management posts