Civil 3D and The Elements of Style

Tags Style Management, Style, Label Style, Label Style Defaults, Civil 3D, Upgrade, Update, property, implementation

The on-going Style Maintenance of our Civil 3D templates is a significant and complex information management problem. There is the raw numbers problem. There are lots of kinds of Civil 3D Feature Styles and Civil 3D Label Styles for us to manage.

There is the larger critical path Style problem - the variety of purpose. The real user need for Style Choice. There are clearly Styles and Label Styles we need to employ for different purposes. Civil engineering and survey design processes involve creation, edit, QAQC, and an increasing number of multiple forms of publication of our engineering and survey project data.

The specific content of Styles for each of these diverse processes is not always the same. Of course, we can and do choose to limit our choices. This simplifies matters.

However, the choice to work with less constrains project adaptability, flexibility, and our work method and practice. It may even limit our potential project design and documentation options.

One Template to Rule Them Myth

The concept that a single Civil 3D template can handle all of these diverse Style challenges is all-too-common. While one template is better than none, the One Template to Rule Them myth confuses matters.

For the sake of simplification and argument, let’s say there are at least two key, daily-use Civil 3D production template forms. There are collections of Styles and Label Styles used in:

  • Working Templates employed in the day to day production processand project drawings
    In the production project world, we usually want and require more than one form of Working Template.
  • Publication Templates and project publication drawings
    In the best-case scenario, this second Publish collection is typically a subset of the larger Working collection.

The Elements of Style in Civil 3D

If we want to tackle the practical nastiness of the Civil 3D Style Maintenance, we must acknowledge the Elements of Style in Civil 3D. The essentials and nuance of Civil 3D Style and Label Style fact and practical mechanics are worth a brief review.

I am not here to rewrite the Civil 3D help files or delve into all Style property nuance. The intent in this summary is to help explain the Civil 3D help file contents as they relate to the practical Style Management challenges.

Styles of any type are a named collection of properties which may include references to other named Styles.

A Style’s collection of properties is intentionally separate from but tied to the Civil 3D Feature’s data behind. A Civil 3D Surface model is a separate thing from any Style representation of that model’s data.

Civil 3D Style typically produces linework, symbology, and related Civil 3D Feature display representations. Civil 3D Styles usually include a fixed set of components for the Feature and one or more standardized sets of Feature behaviors.

Civil 3D Label Style typically produces annotative text objects, marker symbols, and leaders. Civil 3D Label Styles have a set limited optional kinds of components and a standard set of behaviors related to those kinds of behaviors and the applied properties.

AutoCAD Styles

All Civil 3D Styles refer to AutoCAD primitive Styles (Layers, Blocks, Textstyles, etc).

  • Some form of consistent System Management (aka Standards) of the referenced AutoCAD Style resources is assumed inside of Civil 3D.
  • All AutoCAD Style to Civil 3D Style references are made and maintained only by the unique AutoCAD Style names (Layer name, Block name, etc.)
  • You can Rename AutoCAD Style references and most of the time the name modifications update the inherited Civil 3D Style references.
    Civil 3D Drawing Object Settings, a Figure Prefix Db, and Description Key Sets are some notable exceptions.

The fact that we can replace any and all of these referenced AutoCAD Style resources inside Civil 3D is a significant benefit.

That is only possible if we recognize those resources should be constructed from the ground up to make those replacements possible. In other words, the content itself is somewhat less important than the consistent structure of the AutoCAD Style Standards resources.

A Style is a Property Collection

The Property Collection of any Style are defined by the current Civil 3D object model.
The Civil 3D object model is technically subject to change without notice by Autodesk.
In most cases, Users may modify the individual property values but not the underlying formal code definitions and dependent behaviors produced by the applied properties.

Put another way…
We cannot own Civil 3D Style content we can only manage it successfully or not.

Therefore, it is common to conflate ownership with Style management accountability. These are, in fact and practice, two distinct and separate issues.

The Power of Names

The Name property of a Style is probably the most important property we must maintain and consistently manage inside Civil 3D. Aside from collecting the Civil 3D Feature and Label Style Types of the Style, Civil 3D relies only on the unique string of case-sensitive ASCII Unicode characters in the assigned Style Name property to differentiate Styles.

A well-maintained Description property of a Style helps Civil 3D users and managers to identify the usage, purpose, and specific important differences in Style properties within the Civil 3D Toolspace and other parts of the Civil 3D interface where the Description property is exposed.

Style Sets

Some special Styles (Code Set Styles), and many types of often employed Label Styles are collected into named Sets to simplify and automate application of multiple Styles simultaneously.

Sets like Styles are collected and Feature specific. All Set definitions employ only the explicit Style Names to identify the included Style references.

Label Style Specifics

All Label Style definitions include by default a Hierarchical Parent and Child relationship.

  • A child Style inherits most property definitions from a Parent
  • Property differences then make the definition a Child style
  • The names of Parent and Child style have no formal rules.
    In other words, without resorting to code, we can only visualize this Parent and Child relationship and structure inside the Civil 3D Toolspace interface
  • Many Label Styles also have a specific Type (e.g. Major Station or Minor Station label styles)
  • Label Style Default Settings allow users to apply property specifics by the Civil 3D Feature and/or specific the Label Style Type
    Label Style Default (LSD) application to properties is best done in a top down fashion.

All Label Style definitions include a geometric structure that relates the resolution of the collection of multiple potential Label Style components (Text values, Leaders, Markers, Attachment point, etc.).

  • Rearranging the geometric structure in a Parent Label Style may break the previous geometric structure(s) in Child Label Styles.
  • The names of components are best established in Parent Styles and should not be modified in Child Styles.
  • The addition of new components to Child styles is likely to make the style unstable or fail.
  • Historically, nested Label Styles are less likely to update and upgrade successfully without fixes.

ASCII Sort Order and Style Names

The Civil 3D Toolspace employs an ASCII-based sort order of Unicode characters by default.
Therefore, the arrangement of characters in the Style Name string has a significant effect of the presentation and order of Style resources in the Toolspace interface.
This clearly affects a user’s ability to identify and select a Style.

The AutoCAD Property palette tool that also allows users to change Civil 3D Style and Label Style assignments does not always employ the ASCII sort order. The Properties palette tool may not automatically sort large Style lists. Clearly grouped and identifiable Label Style Parents help.

The Framework for Civil 3D Style naming conventions include an integrated Feature-based and Type-based coded system. The number of unique Label Styles clarifies the problem and the need. This coded system is designed to be easy to learn by using it and is specifically built to help users identify the kind of Label Style assigned.

Key Style Resources

We consider the Framework for Civil 3D’s Style naming convention an Open Source resource. You can download the documentation and details from the Open Downloads page. You are welcome to email us suggestions for improvements.

You can purchase the Framework for Civil 3D Templates Only trial product that includes multiple, fully-functional Civil 3D templates with large working Style collections for a small service fee of $35.

You can review our often copied The Simple Style Rules for Civil 3D here.

You can review the related The Hierarchy Rules for Civil 3D here.

You can Register and become a Member of this site for free. This will allow you to gain access to our Members section which includes more Documentation and Help resources for the many topics addressed and summarized in this post.

The Liberty to Make Civil 3D Work
Get the Framework for Civil 3D Release 8