Autodesk Civil 3D is a virtual feast of fundamental capabilities for civil engineers and surveyors. We can easily debate whether the resultant Civil 3D complexity is the result of the considerable depth of function built into the software or whether the sheer number of potential Civil 3D workflows is an obstacle to users all by itself.
We could also argue that such attention is unwarranted. The emphasis is only necessary because of the strange mix of old and new interface design mashed up in Autodesk Civil 3D. Regardless of that, our productivity in the software is what we get paid for.
Our Productivity Remains Our Responsibility
It is easy to forget that simple, and not so obvious, things may make the Civil 3D interface a user challenge. The current screen in our current drawing tends to dominate our focus. In training, I like to remind folks to ask themselves,
Whose Data Behind Are You Watching?
Our expectation can be our downfall.
Inside Civil 3D, we have to remember to consciously adjust and readjust our focus.
Watch yourself work.
All skilled Civil 3D users change their focus of attention unconsciously.
We learn the change of focus art experientially – the hard way.
A new Civil 3D user simply doesn’t know where to look when - or worse even - they focus on the wrong thing altogether.
I see this all the time in Civil 3D training. None of us are immune. I stumble over this myself.
“What went wrong?”
We looked in the wrong place. Dooh.
Civil 3D Driver Training
The classic defensive driving cycle we all learned back in the day in Driver’s Education works:
Window>> Review Mirror>> Side Mirror>> Speedometer>> Window
In Civil 3D, we would replace that basic pattern in the defensive driving metaphor with:
I could argue the Screen is often far less important than we might expect.
The following Focus Cycle pattern works even better most of the time as far as the data behind is concerned:
Toolspace >>Ribbon>>Command Line>> Screen>> Toolspace
You get the point.
These basic Focus Cycle patterns will help you avoid many self -inflicted and idiot operator accidents.
Project Explorer Changed Everything
If we have the AEC Collection and have installed access to the PE (Project Explorer), we can basically swap the Toolspace peeks with focus cycle looks at some PE pane.
PE Pane>>Ribbon>>Command Line>> Screen>> Another PE Pane
The best thing about the PE is we can tune those panes to deliver better results that match our current needs. The bad news about the PE is that the new design and reporting interface doesn’t cover everything Civil 3D.
Cycle Focus or Lose It
To be truly productive in Civil 3D we need to be – CAD Pilots. We have more to worry about than the next curve on a NASCAR oval. Up in the wild blue yonder things come at us from front to back and side to side but also from top and bottom. The Civil 3D interface may tell us there’s a problem, but we have to know when and where to look.
It is our responsibility to manage that focal point of our attention.
“The command line is asking you to pick a point.”
More than half the battle with a new Civil 3D release or the latest Update is to identify the new focus patterns and subtle changes to the old ones. Call me dumb. Like I said - I still neglect do change my focus if I haven’t done a task in Civil 3D for a while and when I am learning something new.
Work the Task to Space
Complex model-based software is really more like piloting a high performance aircraft than a car. Different interface elements on the instrument panel become critically important to introduce into the basic Civil 3D Focus Cycle at different times.
Landings require different information and controls than takeoffs.
The focus effects can be obvious and nuanced.
- Corridor design requires different tools than Parcel construction.
- Corridor Roadway design requires a somewhat different interface and focus approach than Corridor Site design.
- Survey Point or Figure QAQC and the familiar Civil 3D Surface building tasks are best done with different sets of interface tools.
The Civil 3D software interface attempts to steer us with Civil 3D Feature-based Ribbon Tools. This selective programmed help can be a distraction. It can be like an alert on our phone.
We must deal with lots of different data behind Buckets when we work in Civil 3D. “What’s a Bucket?”
A key point from that famous post -
How fast we learn Civil 3D is a non-linear function of how quickly we can learn to identify how to get to specific Buckets and the specific mini-buckets in the interface.
This is a pattern recognition and physical habit of usage challenge.
What we pay attention to must change.
To get control and manage that, is part of what workspaces are in there for in Civil 3D by the way.
Focus Cycles a Learnable Skill to Practice
As Civil 3D users, we are accountable to control the WTMI (Way Too Much Information) and our Focus Cycle problem appropriately. Which brings us too…
The Most Important Civil 3D Training Tip
Read a different part of the Civil 3D Help file(s) for 1-5 minutes a day every day.
It doesn’t matter what you read.
It doesn’t matter if you understand it.
That may be impossible…at the moment.