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Our annotative work is mission critical to our performance and productivity in Autodesk Civil 3D. People do complain about the nuance and complexity of Civil 3D annotation. The work is on the mission critical path of the successful execution of the multiple deliverable sets of any civil engineering or survey project. Best we pay attention and acquire the necessary Civil 3D annotative skills.

The Ruthless Productivity Pursuit in Civil 3D

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.

We’ve been demystifying Label Styles in Civil 3D. These do provide an enlightening example of how the common and familiar of CAD habits can become the disconcerting and confusing in Civil 3D.

Beyond the now commonplace automatic annotative scaling, Civil 3D Label Styles behave differently from CAD text labels. We attempt to grasp how Civil 3D’s dualistic Replaceable and Dynamic Labels can make our production work easier and reduce the required man-hours invested.

Speaking of Labels – Alignment Reference Group Labels in this case. Here’s a videoto watch.


Alignment Reference Group Labels

I trust you won’t miss the fact that the Offset Alignments and Surface data that were labeled could have all been project DREF sources. Here we employed Reference Surface Labels, but design Reference Profile Elevation Labels might be what you prefer. We choose.

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To Create and Edit Labels Differs?

We learned to modify a Line and Curve Label the annotative Label object must already be connected to the Feature’s linear segments or the geometry of a CAD primitive. The data here is not the same thing.

If there is no connected label on the Civil 3D Feature, no changes are possible. Dooh.

There are a lot of ways to create Features inside Civil 3D. Some of the useful methods can leave you up a creek without a Label Set or an assigned Label where you might need them. Remember that when Alignment and Profile Group Labels are the thing…Right click is your friend. Labeling these in XREFs comes to mind.

Dirty Ribbon Annotation

When you initially Annotate (from the ribbon Label Tools) a Civil 3D Feature you definitely do not get all of the potential Label choices. The Civil 3D Label engine these days remains Feature Label Style specific. The Annotate Label tool is the master of the quick and dirty. It favors repetitive consistency and a manual Label process. The manual must be maintained.
The interface disguises some of the potential Label Style tool capabilities in Civil 3D.

“It is Faster to Edit than Create”

You can just slam in standard (even Standard) or familiar labels and modify at will. I do. Do you do too?

Obviously, we must learn how to do that. There are a few ways to go about that. The Faster to Edit than Create statement in this context also assumes you :

  • Already have the Replaceable variety of Style tools that back this method up
    This is easy to fix – Get Jump Kit
  • Understand the Dynamic nature of the Feature specific data behind
    We need Style tools that make the appropriate data behind visible

We sometimes have users say that the Framework for Civil 3D products have too many annotative choices. We acknowledge that choice can be overwhelming at times. It is useful too.
Hey. We do tell you that you will probably want to delete the Styles you don’t think you’ll use from your production templates and certainly from your publishing templates.
Yes. These should probably be different.

Any deleted Styles don’t disappear forever either. We’ve got them organized and put away for you in nifty Civil 3D Style Libraries when you need them later.

Small wonder why the simple annotative task of getting labels on Civil 3D objects is at times so befuddling. Flexibility and complexity can create confusion.

Speaking of strategies and other Civil 3D Label methods - we can Edit in mass.

Toolspace Label Trickery

If you pay careful attention in the Toolspace>>Settings tab you’ll also note we can replace all found instances of one Label Style with another.
Instead of attacking the change from the selected Feature(s) themselves you make the change from a selected named Style in the Toolspace.

“Bob. We need to change all the d&#$ curve labels.”

Replace By Style

The Replace Style command (found in a selected Style’s right click Toolspace menus) is handy for rapid changes in a drawing when you know the Styles you want to change from A to B.
(You should also note the Replace Style command is not Feature specific in all releases of Civil 3D either.)

We all sometimes have to follow someone (maybe us) who messed up.
Maybe you’d like a command to slap all the Feature Style and Feature Label Styles assigned in a drawing back to Standard? I know I would. We all may need that niffy chain saw one time or another.
Tell Autodesk. Don’t hold your breath.

I also wish for the ability to feed a version of the Style Replace tool an external file match list.

Back to Standard or Whatever

By the way, you can do this violent act systematically by working from the Toolspace when used in conjunction with Style Purge command. Remember to do this in a copy of the drawing.

  • Get rid of the unused Style clutter with Style Purge command
    This will normally take more than one pass.
  • Style Import will get you back missing Standard styles and
    also kill Style assignments/references in drawing Command Settings
    from the ever useful NoStyles template
  • Change the rest with Replace Style

Way Cool. Remember to do the do on a copy of the drawing.

We can Create en mass.

Label on Reference in the Project

In a working project environment it can be better to annotate references as much as possible. You get the annotation you require when and where you need it, but you aren’t so locked in. You can always kill the reference. Say, “Goodbye”. Reload the reference, re-annotate, and more quickly publish on demand.

“Whoa. Are we talking about DREFs (Data References) or XREFs (external references)?”


There are other very useful annotative publication references available to us in Civil 3D. These require system managed workflows that are well worth the effort to develop and embrace at deliverable crunch time.


Annotate with Published DWFs

There is a good reason we have included DWF publication examples in our Framework for Civil 3D Sandbox/Sample projects for years. See the Power of DWFs page and linked publication posts. There are a bunch.

A stack of preprinted DWF references provide a powerful QAQC process mechanism and a significant production performance upgrade. DWF publication methods can provide more flexible and adaptive basemap production resources than traditional XREFs and even resolved DREFs because the DWFs are effectively pre-plotted, far less compute intensive, and simpler to administrate at deliverable crunch time.

A continuously improved set of Civil 3D Project Templates helps to manage the DWF names and storage structures.

Annotate with Design Points from a Survey Db

Location, Location, Location says it all. We call this method and practice and art form - Point Wizardry in Civil 3D. Here are some annotation By Point highlights to consider:

  • Design documentation and annotation Survey Points stored in Survey Dbs are shared project resources in Civil 3D
  • The amount of text we can cram into the Point Description field and format as Labels is astounding
  • The adaptive flexibility of Description Key Sets and the Format column can allow us to automate the Label content of seemingly static labels
  • The Civil 3D Reference Text component complexity available to us in a Point Label Style adds even more secret sauce to consider
  • The new Project Explorer for Civil 3D now allows us much easier report access to many important Civil 3D design Feature geometry locations -Excel files and PNEZD/PENZD report files are a breeze

See the Point Wizardry in Civil 3D page for videos and linked posts. The ability to Label roadway and site grading Corridor Feature Lines quickly and automatically is a game changing annotative skill.

Is Better Managed Annotation in Your Civil 3D Future?

In Civil 3D, the Project Management principals of Divide and Conquer are a fact of life. Like in the old ad, we need to Lift and Separate. We are responsible to manage while we juggle the balls in the air. That requires a Managed System and a support structure in Civil 3D.
We call that a Framework for Civil 3D.

Funny. We manage to pull that miracle off without a lick of proprietary code.

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Civil 3D Label Style Management posts