The Civil 3D DWF Publication Reprise

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Last time we explored Intelligent Publish on Demand method and practice inside Civil 3D with the new Surface Spot Label Style Expressions Set that is now available to Release 8 Jump Kit customers for Civil 3D 2021 and Civil 3D 2020. Yes. Even the basic rewards from Label Style Expression Set AddOns are substantial.

Before we address the more advanced rewards of the latest Label Style Expression Sets it occurred to me that I did not have adequate time in previous posts and videos to cover the Powers of Managed DWF Publication for Civil 3D projects.

The two videos in the Civil 3D Spot Label Style AddOns Basic Rewards post cover a lot of deeper ground on many important bits and pieces of Civil 3D usage in addition to the new Framework Style Tools.

The Magic of Reprise

If we talk about employment of reprise (repetitive theme) in music, it is impossible to dodge JS Bach. Bach claimed that God delivered his works of genius to him on his daily walks often in complete forms. These musical visions sometimes took him months to write down.
A talent truly on loan from God.

I don’t often post music videos here. Trust me. This Bach 3- minute tune deserves a listen. Enjoy.


Air on the G String

Hmmm? Millions of clicks for lots of Air on a G string videos. Do you wonder why?
Yet, there is nothing politically correct about Bach’s now catchy title that means something entirely different than some folks might assume.

The Powers of Managed DWF Project Publication

The Powers of Managed DWF project publication rests on the simple repetitive iterations and innovations of a sometimes overlooked, but mission critical, Autodesk publish methodology.

As we saw in the previous post's videos, a Managed Dynamic Project Model can produce more than acceptable annotative results from the Civil 3D data behind.
DREFs and XREFs work. Hoorah.

On deadline day the Publish Live Model (PLM) method does introduce some last minute and very detailed QAQC issues in deliverable crunch time.
The PLM method can also take a long time to plot due to all the resolutions involved.
It certainly requires more hardware and the mandated plot-time complexity.
PLM also introduces more points of human, hardware, and network failure.

If you employ Civil 3D, you already know that. Comes with the territory. Or does it?

Pre-plotted and pre-checked DWF published IREFs referenced inside project standard XREFs work better.


Project Plan Set Publication with DWFs

The example of a DWF publication IREF stack employed in this oldy goldy video uses the classic existing conditions Basemap concept.

The easy-to-use AutoCAD ULAYERS command and the Display Order tools allow a lot of potential published variations from collections of easy to update standardized Civil 3D project publication resources.

Reprise Civil 3D Project Templates

These DWF collections can and should be built into our Civil 3D Project Templates or Project Template task-based subsets. In our practical Civil 3D Projects, users are just overwriting the same named DWFs in the same standard project folder structures. Easy and faster works for me and you. More about that in the next video.

Reprise AutoCAD Publish Performance

Let us remember the Cheapest Publish Performance Results in increasing order of Autodesk Civil 3D publish requirements.


  • DWF – everything is already published as vectors in a coordinate system–
    Can also include layer ON/OFF control, color or monochrome, even markups, and revisions
    All the Civil 3D Style resolutions are complete.
    All the STB or CTB plot resolution issues are already handled.
  • DREF – Civil 3D checks to see if THE ONE OBJECT changed…then resolve
    Survey Db data is similar– But that is NOT exactly true for imported COGO points
  • IREF – Civil 3D checks to see if the image source changed…then resolve
    This performance cost varies greatly based on the type of image to resolve.
    Preprinted DWFs are the smallest image type from an internal AutoCAD plot perspective.
  • XREF – Civil 3D checks to see if anything in an entire DRAWING changed…then resolve the entire XREF
  • DWG – Check and resolve everything for every little thing

Reprise the Simple

This publish performance list says it is way too easy to get lost and confused by making things too complicated when we publish in Civil 3D.
To publish a Project Live Model (PLM) includes identifiable and measurable real world project costs.
What we publish to certainly matters.

Reprise Autodesk DWF Interoperability

All Autodesk model building application software support publish to DWF for these good reasons.
All Autodesk Viewer apps support DWF too – See Autodesk Design Review.
The DWF Viewer Review, Compare, and Markup tools are a center point of the new Autodesk Cloud Document Management products like Autodesk Docs, BIM Collaborate (BIM 360) and BIM Collaborate Pro (BIM 360 Design).

Reprise Civil 3D Publish Standards

We must simplify and standardize Civil 3D publication with our brains engaged – Hence Intelligent Publish on Demand.


DWF Publication Mechanics and Label Style Expression Set Annotation

The apparent simplicity of the DWF publication methodology disguises the need to think and plan seriously about how we execute our Civil 3D project publication workflows.

Standardized DWF publication, like all forms of Intelligent Publish on Demand, is a learned personal and corporate Civil 3D skill set that requires practice.

DWF Publish Nuance

The publication of user manageable AutoCAD Layers (accessed by the ULAYERS command) and DWF Previews are controlled by the Custom Properties of the Autodesk supplied DWF6 eplot.pc3 driver.

The DWF6 eplot.pc3 driver’s Custom Properties also handle the important issue of Font resolutions in the produced DWF. When No Fonts settings is employed this produces only vectors for all text in the DWF.
A known selection of chosen Fonts (based the Textstyle font references employed) produces slightly larger DWF file sizes but appears to produce better text fidelity in the DWF.
The use of True Type fonts in DWF makes the output more generic and useable for other users.

Plot to DWF publication can employ either or both plot by Display at 1:1 scale or plot by named View with the appropriate Annotative scale.
Different DWF control Frame results are based on the By Display or By View method employed.
This difference can be both helpful and/or disconcerting for Civil 3D users new to the technique.
The current DWF6 eplot.pc3 driver plot methods do produce differently sized image (and somewhat deceptive) control Frames for the DWF in By View publications.

DWF Custom Sheet Sizes

A set of standardized custom sheet sizes tuned to the scales employed in the project(s) aid greatly in the success of standardized DWF production results. This most effects zoom and pan man-hours in Previews.

DWFs that produce the labels etc. for two miles of roadway and Plan Production tool output might require a different DWF custom sheet size than a small-scale site plan publication. KISS.
There is no need to be particularly obsessive about DWF sheet sizes.
The DWFs produced are trimmed to the limits of the plotted vector output in all cases.

DWF Insertion Display Card Resolution Illusions

Most of us employ video card hardware that accelerates video performance inside Civil 3D. On initial insertion a published DWF (or other image type) may appear to be located improperly.
Don’t be fooled.

This is a video illusion created by the card driver. Sooner or later it will catch up.
REGENALL will not usually fix the problem.
A DWF plot Preview usually will correct things.
In any case the key issue is the actual published DWF location result.

IREF Collections to XREFs

The managed DWF Image control of Layers and image display is usually best controlled in separate DWF drawing container drawings which are employed as XREFs into QAQC drawings and/or formal publication drawings.
To be clear -
We mean a managed collection of DWF IREFs included an XREF.

This stacked DWF collection in a project XREF method effectively makes the collections stacked DWFs project- based resources instead of the individual DWFs becoming individual drawing file dependencies.

I trust that the management and maintenance problem of lots of independent file dependencies in a Civil 3D project is a familiar and painful one?

This IREFs to XREF(s) method does require a bit more user man-hours in the production and maintenance of the DWF stack collector but makes both the QAQC workflows and the publication workflows easier to manage and maintain in the Civil 3D project.

The method also has some significant deliverable end results benefits.

Deliverable PDFs

As I stated it is important to note that you can employ DWF IREFs directly in a publish drawing.
However, employing an IREF stack(s) in a project XREF into any publish drawing will always produce smaller final PDFs. What?

I’d guess that the current available PDF drivers wrap both any direct DWF images and the result DWF vectors into the PDF. The PDF image wrapping appears to be ignored when the DWF stack is in an XREF - Only the plotted DWF vectors are included in the final PDF.

This DWF to PDF publication nuance can make a significant difference in the final production PDF file sizes.
The PDF file size difference can be even more significant when there are DWF published aerials or Bing Maps images in the pre-plotted DWF IREF stack.

The False Dichotomy of DWF and PDF Competition

Autodesk DWF and Adobe PDF are not direct competitive products although lots of folks appear to want to talk about the two technologies that way.

DWF is an Autodesk gentric vector plotting mechanism today shared by all Autodesk apps.
I can argue DWF appears to be the primary initial output technology employed before any other specialized driver tweaks are added.
This DWF technology approach makes sense for Autodesk and driver and/or viewer vendors and developers alike.

Most of the DWF and PDF competition talk is an illusion of our own making with the support of some other vendor marketing hype.

Our personal and corporate challenge to is learn to employ the appropriate technologies to more productively get our civil engineering and survey project work done in less man-hours and with less effort and hassle.

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Civil 3D Publish with DWF Posts