Five Civil 3D Tools Users Neglect

Tags Civil 3D, implementation, CAD Standards, tools, Data Shortcut Manager, DREF, DWF, IREF, View, DVIEW

Each month I receive a bunch of emails that seek help and support for Civil 3D user issues and problems.  For any Civil 3D product maker and Civil 3D expert that work comes with the territory.  When you put up the shingle, folks are going to call. Each query deserves a thoughtful response. I am notorious for my WTMI email responses.

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What’s Your Real Question?

As you might expect some of these User requests are boring or repetitive. It is no surprise that Civil 3D newbies often share the same confusions. More than a few User questions are truly fascinating and rewarding for the both of us. These differences are a matter of perspective.

A simple and unavoidable Civil 3D problem that stumps us completely leaves us to search the web for the unfindable is a more than frustrating obstacle. A functional Google translator for the official Civil 3D User help files might be a killer app. Just sayin’.

Five Civil 3D Tools Users Neglect

This brings me to the first most neglected Tool that Civil 3D users seem to neglect. Sorry folks. The most neglected User tool is the Civil 3D Help files. There are a few serious issues to consider here.

Read the Help File

Autodesk help files are all written in a dubious form of technical English and reviewed by programmers to attempt to explain what the program does. Then the geek speak is jammed into a formal structure invented and maintained by documentation bureaucrats. Now there’s a thankless job. Then those same help files must somehow translate all that mumbo jumbo and jargon into whatever native language a Civil 3D user speaks.

Our Silly Putty minds must cope with competing and different forms of industry, application, and programmer technical jargon. Sorry folks. The symbolic context of words always matters.
The proverbial question in Civil 3D, “What is a point?” says it all.

Give Your Brain a Chance to Work

The only answer I have found to the Civil 3D Help File nonsense problem is to spend a few minutes every day reading anything in the Help file when you first open the application.
Today, I read a stock subassembly help file page for maybe the 10th time.
Truly captivating content. Yum.
The day before yesterday I read something in Best Practices for Surfaces, I think.

Never read for more than 5 minutes. Do you want return to the same place tomorrow?

This regular Civil 3D exercise gives our brains, which are capable of making sense out of nonsense, a chance to translate the Civil 3D jargon and structures into meaningful and useful help when later push comes to shove. We use our brain or lose it.

The Cadpilot site has a handy Resource web page with links to all the Autodesk Civil Infrastructure and AEC Collection on-line Help files for many releases of the products.
See the Autodesk Online Help page.

At this point in this Five Civil 3D Tools Users Neglect post I am seriously tempted to stop right here, but I did not employ a Top Five hook in the title so I continue. Eheh.

The Data Shortcut Manager

Whether we love it or hate it our project-based production work in Autodesk Civil 3D is all about the management and maintenance of shared project data – aka - the data behind.
Here’s a telling Yes or No question for you:

Is the first tool you open in an existing project drawing the Data Shortcut Manager (DSM)?

If you answer Yes, you are hired.

All the rest of us Go Directly to Jail and Do not pass Go. Maybe the present administration in the name of social justice will set you free and arm you with free military grade hardware. You are a Civil 3D project terrorist. Eheh.

The Data Shortcut Manager (DSM) in Civil 3D was sort of an afterthought for many Civil 3D releases and updates.  In the Civil 3D 2020.1 release cycle the DSM developed some seriously useful chops. The Data Shortcut Manager Tool updates were cascaded back into the Civil 3D 2019.3+ Updates.

If you employ an older version of Civil 3D, upgrade ASAP.

In my experience, hardly any Civil 3D users notice the DREF world has changed.
What if it did?

See the Civil 3D Data Shortcut Manager Tool post for some more details.

Layer States Manager Tool

I find that Civil 3D Land is divided into those that live and work inside the AutoCAD Layer Manager (LA) tool and those that live and work with the Layer States Manager (LM) tool. This isn’t a blue state or red state thing.

The total amount of Civil 3D production man-hours that are eaten by the LA is staggering. This is like the California state budget for Education.
Why waste time and money like that? “Because we have to.”

It has always been tough to tell the LA crew they live in LaLa Land. It is tough to convince the OCD Layer addicted they are in denial.

Funny, The Layer Manager folks seem to obsess continuously about Layer Standards and all the related problems and production issues in Civil 3D.
The Layer States users with managed Layer States ask, what problems? 
They also tend to recognize the power of adaptive Standards and employ them.

Yes. Managed Layer States work for XREFs and are easily applied to Viewports in Layouts. Who knew?

If you open the AutoCAD Layer Manager more than a couple of times a week inside of Civil 3D, you know what State you are in at the moment. Its ok. Put down the shovel. Climb out of the ditch.

View Manager Tool

The use of the powerful AutoCAD View Manager tool to create, manage, and employ AutoCAD named Views seems to be directly related to how well organizations and their Civil 3D Users employ the Sheet Set Manager and the Civil 3D Plan Production tools. Dooh. Can you say, “Viewframes?”

From the outside looking in some of this effect appears to be about the rituals we construct in our project planning. How early in the process do fully consider what we will need work on and what we will need to publish? Are we proactive or reactive?

We can twist and shout. Are the VIEW, NEWVIEW, DVIEW commands familiar friends?
You can rotate the UCS to any reference object in a drawing and get back there next week in a click?
Of course, you have a shared naming convention for the named Views in your project drawings?

We can work and drive in reverse. You can quickly turn a Viewport in a Layout into a named model space View? Oh yeah. We can do that. There’s even a Ribbon tool for that.

DWF IREFs and Publication Performance

PLOT is easy as pie in Civil 3D. Can you hear my laughing?
What’s that sound?
I hear the moaning and gnashing of teeth from Project Managers, CAD Managers, and Civil 3D Users.

I have screeched and preached that DWF Image References (IREFs) are one of the most useful and powerful Civil 3D user-based performance tools to get established into your daily Civil 3D production workflows.

For a host of good reasons, I rarely produce a video about Civil 3D without a brief plot to DWF example.
DWF production and publication even made the 10x Civil 3D 2022 Considerations post.

The raging sea of project DREFs, XREFs, and IREFs can be calmed by various implementations of the not-so-simple Art of the DWF.
I must ask the basic question,
“Where do you think all those PDFs in Autodesk Civil 3D come from?”

Funny. DWF publication method and practice even makes more sense in the Document Managed Clouds of Autodesk Docs and BIM Collaborate Pro.

Preprinted DWFs rock. They decisively help in the 2-minute drills we practice to meet those deliverable deadlines we all get paid for. ‘Nuff said.

The Last Shall Be First

It is sort of weird that so many of these neglected Civil 3D tools are fundamental AutoCAD tools that have been around for years and years? Clearly, our challenge isn’t the tools that all work fine and have stood the test of time.

Our real challenge is a consistent implementation of these tools into the daily work of our Civil 3D users.

Here at point five, I seriously pondered Survey Dbs, Reference Templates (TREF), and Civil 3D Project Template tools in Autodesk Civil 3D. All of them are mission critical and all are neglected by many in Civil 3D Land.

Frankly, the Civil 3D Ribbons and Toolspace are crammed with WTMT (Way Too Many Tools) like the Style Replace tool in the Toolspace that can be the game changer when you need it.  
Pick your poison.
We all have our useful and neglected list.
This is more than half the fun.

Then it hits me like a slap in the face from an angry Taliban…

What is the Tool to Make Civil 3D Work Better?
The Framework for Civil 3D Release 8