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I flap my lips, wave my hands about, and rant all the time about the importance of the Proactive System Management of the project-based Civil 3D data behind. Yes. This Civil 3D DREF stuff is important. A customer success story surrounding this Civil 3D model magic makes my day.

One Framework for Civil 3D customer, a Civil 3D CAD Manager for a good-sized engineering firm, quoted this back at me as his recent Jump On Civil 3D blog post favorite…

“We cannot take it personally that Civil 3D project DREF mechanics must be more managed, systematic, and corporate than they are personal. Others baked those assumptions into the Civil 3D cake.

Managers can plan and create standards until they are purple, train everyone comatose, and preach until they are apoplectic.

But the Civil 3D user attention to the Civil 3D data behind details and the requisite skills needed to manage published Civil 3D DREF project models remains a most significant operational benefit or obstacle in Civil 3D.”

Civil 3D Project DREF Optionality is Liberating

What are we talking about?

This brief roadway Corridor example video demonstrates how easily a managed Autodesk Civil 3D DREF Replacement workflow enables better design optionality in Civil 3D today.


The Civil 3D Data Shortcut Manager Tool


Our Framework customer proudly sent me a detailed Data Shortcut Manager Tool (DSM) company How to PDF and new Project structure that now maintains, manages, and publishes their complex Pipes and Pressure Pipe Network designs. Like your designs, these change all the time.

We must manage that. Yes. It is possible to continue to develop a project without mashing the previous deliverable until you decide it is time to do so. Can we go back to option A? You choose or you lose.

The PDF is far from light reading. Way Cool. It was a nice break for me from our on-going and somewhat mind-numbing Framework Label Style Expression Set development work.

The Most Important Fact

The customer’s new Civil 3D user and corporate capacity and capability will provide the firm significant competitive advantages in the marketplace in the future.

Autodesk introduced this new and much improved manage Data Shortcut Manager Tool (DSM) in Autodesk Civil 3D 2020.1+. At the time, Autodesk sort of made a big deal about this. Improvements do get lost in the Civil 3D Update shuffle.
Autodesk also cascaded that same mission-critical code back into the Civil 3D 2019.3+ Updates.
If you employ any reasonably current version of Civil 3D, there is better Data Shortcut Manager Tool (DSM) fix it tool. Hoorah.

Yes. The DSM recognizes Civil 3D BIM 360 Design DREFs too in the Civil 3D releases that support it.

Managed Design Optionality

Managed Design Optionality is an important and very significant production benefit powered in part by the thoughtful use of the Data Shortcut Manager Tool (DSM) in a managed Civil 3D Project.

As we see in the video above, the Data Shortcut Manager can do far more than repair a broken DREF.

If we uncheck that Show only broken data shortcuts checkbox, we can identify the current State of the what and where of the project-based data behind.
Do you regularly open and visit the DSM whenever you open a project drawing to take stock?

Hopefully, we recognize that we can replace any of the DREF supported Civil 3D Feature data behind (Surfaces, Alignment Parents and children, Pipe Networks, Pressure Networks, Corridors, and View Frame Groups) with any other project-shared Data Shortcut data behind.

Ponder that DREF replacement capability for a minute. Don’t panic. Breathe into the brown paper bag.

This is powerful stuff. Good news for every Civil 3D user.

Data Shortcut Use and Replace

A DREF use and replace strategy demands that we employ consistent names, rules, file names, project structures, and workflows to get the benefits without exploding the man-hours we invest in our project.

Do all of that well as Civil 3D users and we corporately significantly reduce those same costs and improve our capabilities for optionality for next to nothing.

These are important Civil 3D user and corporate skills we must pursue and master.

There are practical steps we can take to identify and implement the necessary details and heuristics.

Vision Beyond the Code

Continuously improved Design Prototypes in our specialized Civil 3D Project Templates can and do help. In other words, our project structures and even pre-built contents make this DREF build and replace methodology practical or they don’t.

Are your Civil 3D users rewarded to proactively work on Project Template Design Prototypes?

Why not?

Civil 3D is not about projects…Civil 3D is the project.

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