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We continue to chisel away at the nuances of Civil 3D Label Style method and practice - The art of annotation in Autodesk Civil 3D matters to us all. Some of that pound and grind is similar to the removal of the sculptural whitepace from the original blocks of marble that became Michelangelo’s David or Madonna and Child. Do we need Label Style structural masterpieces? No and yes.

Label Style Structure and Patterns in Civil 3D

We do need to get the annotation right, perform the work quicker, and devote fewer man-hours to the maintenance of the same. We are coping with Civil 3D software that does and will change with new Release and Update.
The robust stability of the Label Styles that we build and employ is more mission critical than we like.

First, we address the Whys and then dig into some of the Label Style Structure and Pattern particulars that both Civil 3D and the people who employ it require.

How Can We Do Civil 3D Label Styles Better?

Odds are you already have Civil 3D Label Style collections that are fundamentally acceptable. Are they consistent? Are they robust? Are they adaptive?

Can we better support diversity, sustainability, and adaptability in our Civil 3D Style Libraries and resources, the multiple forms of Civil 3D Templates, and in more types and kinds of Project Deliverables?
We mean by:

  • Diversity - the need to support human preference both internal and external
  • Sustainability - Civil 3D Update and Release Upgrade survivability, consistency, and stability
  • Adaptability - the ever-increasing demand to deliver and annotate more detailed Civil 3D models in new ways and to varied standards

The Days of Future Passed (Past)

Is the Label Style topic Moody Blues in stereo or a Marvel comic movie?

The old CAD forced us to think our drawing is our published end product.
Get the annotation right and leave it alone.
What I call the ever-present lust for the One and Done.
We don’t need to do that anymore within the model centric, data-behind world that is Civil 3D.
Yet…people still do.

Nights in White Satin

We discussed in previous posts that if we want to maximize our production capabilities, Civil 3D users and managers have an identification of known benchmark and State challenges to address.
Both the Replaceable and Dynamic natures of Civil 3D Label Style annotations matter.
Put another way…
When to replace can be just as significant as what to replace a Label with and/or how to perform the replacement itself.

Our design Label Style issues are not our QAQC problems nor our Label Style publish issues.
The skill and ability to see it now so we can make better decisions is what Civil 3D user productivity is all about. That, however, requires rich Style collection resources and the Civil 3D Style changing skill to employ them.

The Tell-Tale Heart

The famous short story by Edgar Allen Poe also speaks volumes here.

How many manual dragged state labels do you and your folks maintain?

For each dragged state label, we have our thoroughly understandable reasons.

Label Style Whitespace, Readability and Data Density

The nuance of graphic whitespace and human readability continue to matter in our civil engineering and survey deliverables. Civil 3D models with potentially lots more exposed data density clearly exacerbate the problem. Without some conscious corporate and personal discipline and choice the Civil 3D data density problem can become exponential.

The Framework for Civil 3D is a Managed System and integrated approach to the challenge of Civil 3D customization and standards in Civil 3D production working environments. That’s more than a mouthful. It is an unavoidable statement and goal.

We must appreciate the management and systemic challenges for users inside Civil 3D as they relate to both the data behind and production ease of use. In other words, sooner rather than later, some sort of organized and managed framework for your version of Civil 3D must evolve. Comes with the territory.

Data Density

The key production factors of more available data to deliver are more often a matter of when inside our project production process. This means that data density choices appear to most often practically connected to specific project tasks and processes within a project workflow.

What and when we need visible annotative information from the Civil 3D data behind in design is separate and different from those needs in portions of the QAQC process and/or in published deliverables.

In some area of specialized design available inside the Civil 3D software toolset, when and if we limit our Label Style choice too much, users can miss the fact some things can be done inside the software at all. How do I know? Framework customers tend to comment about exactly that. Just sayin’.

More robust and useful Label Style collections should recognize at least the potential for these differences. The increased choice and flexibility for data density choices also requires Civil 3D users can more easily identify the differences themselves via naming conventions, rules, and standards.

The important graphic issues of whitespace and human readability discussed below are directly affected by the level of data density and detail required for the specific task.
Annotative WTMI (or the lack thereof) can both easily become a real problem.

Whitespace and Readability

In a generic sense, all the nuances of Label Style structures, patterns, and properties wrap themselves around the classic whitespace and human readability challenge. It should also be no great surprise that planned and executed structures, patterns, and common Label Style properties produce more sustainable and updatable collections.

The cheapest (and hypothetically) most lightweight Label Style only includes a single Text component to display some discrete portion of the data behind in both common and dragged state conditions. Whitespace and readability issues often make this simplistic approach quickly unacceptable across a larger Label Style collection with lots of variant arrangements.

Default Multi-Component Structure

The Framework Label Styles employ a multi-component standard Label Style structure.

  • Marker – a Block component (often invisible) that is used to control potential systematic rotations of the other components
    The Marker is typically attached either to the Feature primary anchor or Feature anchor extension
  • Line – a Line component (often invisible) and employed to highlight the data and connections to dragged state leaders
    The Line is typically attached either to the Marker or Text component format locations
  • Text or Reference Text – one or more components used to display and order the data behind displayed
    Updated Text components do not employ default Autodesk supplied Text component names
  • All Label Styles in any Label Style collection always share the same named components
    Never add or remove components from Child Styles

This basic Label Style structure evolved over many Releases and Updates of Civil 3D. This seems to work for a lot of different customers too.
The structure:

  • Proved itself to be remarkably stable, robust, and adaptive from both a performance and stability standpoint
  • Functions well for either Object and View based Label Styles
  • Responds well the Label Style Defaults management of common shared Label Style Properties

The Framework Label Style collections employ this same standard Label Style structure in similar patterns with common Style naming rules to speed up user adoption and more consistent usage and application patterns.

Label Style Dev and Edit Tips

Hopefully, the following suggestions and tips will help you construct and maintain better Label Style Collections. If you think about it - There really is no such thing as a Label Style.

Label Style Defaults

We make a concerted and sustained effort to support consistent Label Style Defaults behaviors for common Label Style Properties in our Label Style collections.
This allows the common fundamental values of Label Style Types, Parents, and Child Styles to be managed with less work and maintenance efforts.
Practically, that effort generally means we produce more Parent Styles to collect well-behaved Child Styles in our Label Style resource libraries.

The common or shared Label Style Default Properties:

  • Text Height and Text Height for Dragged State
  • Component Gap values
  • Border and Mark behaviors
  • Dragged State Leader behaviors
  • Only two distinct Textstyle name assignments - Existing and Proposed

No Nested Parents

We systematically eliminated nested collections (Parent Parent Children) in the supplied resources. Nested Parent Style tend to fail more often in practice across multiple Releases and Updates based on experience.

Label Style Name and Description Discipline

When you have ten of something the Name and Description of them appears to be no big deal. When you have thousands and thousands of the suckers it becomes a whole new ballgame.

The Name of each Label Style Parent and Child can make a huge difference in how the Label Styles sort and appear inside the Civil 3D interface. Take the time to sort and Name your Label Style collections carefully. A naming convention is essential for both the developer and the Civil 3D end user.

Label Style Description creation and maintenance is a nasty and time-consuming hassle. My rule is that any Civil 3D user should get a reasonably good idea of what they are going to get and what the Label Style does. This is arguably a mixture of Label Style Name and the Description detail.

Every Civil 3D user unconsciously or consciously develops a set of Label Style favorites for specifics tasks and the Civil 3D Feature content in the hot seat. Then the day comes when they need that other one. Make that easy.

Build and Edit Label Styles in Separate Collection Drawings

Label Style construction usually seems to produce the best results when we limit the process to a Parent and its direct Children during development and updating.

Yes, This does mean the required testing of Parent and Child Styles with live Civil 3D data behind demands a successful Import of the Label Styles via at least drag and drop into another drawing. This is another of the minimum basic QAQC tests for any Label Style.

When we work in a separated development environment, we also get the added benefit of being able to more easily assemble different Label Style collections from the separated resource drawings to build more useful production Label Style collections.

Never Edit a Label Style in a Production Drawings

This simple rule from our Simple Style Rules probably spares me from God knows too many Civil 3D crashes to mention. Yes. I still do it and usually live to curse the day that I did.

Obey the Civil 3D Hierarchy Rules

LSD in Civil 3D is always a trip. Label Style Defaults are a big deal and always worth more of our attention than we expect. Review and understand the contents of The Civil 3D Hierarchy Rules post.

Known Current Text Component Editor Issue

For many releases Civil 3D supported simple Copy Paste operations of Text Component Editor (TCE) content including the formatted data behind strings. In all recent Civil 3D 2019+ Updates, the Copy Paste operation must now be followed up with a select and reattach process in the TCE.
In other words, the TCE currently demands that any pasted text now be manually attached to the data behind and/or Expression content.

Yes. Externalized Civil 3D TCE and Civil 3D Expression content in separate ASCII text files works.
Do you have a library?

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Civil 3D Label Style Management posts