A Civil 3D Surface Data Reference Hack

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One of our Framework for Civil 3D customers recently discovered that a strategic visit to the Civil 3D Data Shortcut Manager Tool (DSM) appears to currently help reduce the size of Surface Data Reference container drawings rather significantly. Hoorah. The results may vary based on the content of the Surface Model and how the Civil 3D Diva sees the Surface dependencies etc. Worth a whirl?

How and Why could the DSM Tool do that? It’s complicated.

Fat Tuesday in Civil 3D

Let’s suppose we construct a Civil 3D Surface assembled from lots of Surface Pastes. This happens more often than we want to think about in current Civil 3D workflows.

The Civil 3D working drawing will be pretty porky (say 30Mb) given all the Surfaces involved and their potential dependencies that Civil 3D cannot ignore.
Oh yeah. We also have all that ACAD Undo chaff stored in the drawing too.

We’re Smarter than the Average Bear, Booboo

We know that storing a Surface (or any other type of Data Reference) in a drawing without Civil 3D Styles except the Standard code-built ones will help a lot.
In the Framework for Civil 3D, we call this vital resource a NoStyles template.

There are both performance and stability reasons to make the time and effort do the following.
The Civil Diva lusts to share her way.

We create a Data Shortcut and share the working Surface into the Civil 3D project.

The idea here in Civil 3D is to share only the Surface TIN Model data. This isn’t quite true as we all know from experience. We also end up with some Civil 3D dependencies. In this case, there are lots of potential Surface dependencies in the original working drawing. Put another way – there is lots of kinds of input data in a Civil 3D Surface in addition to the Surface Model these dependencies generate.

We Open our handy NoStyles drawing template to create an empty DREF container drawing.
We Promote in that previously shared fat Surface Model.
We thoughtfully remember to kill the first Data Shortcut to the original fat edit drawing.

The Project's Surface DREF drawing is now 3Mb. Whoa.
We get the Surface TIN Model itself and the Civil 3D Surface Shortcut data dependency.
A Save increases to size to 5 Mb.
ACAD is always watching our back.

We create a new Data Shortcut and share this cleaned NoStyles DREF Surface into the project.


Create another new drawing again from a NoStyles drawing template.
We don’t want any Styles messing with a test of the drawing size.
DREF in the cleaner new Project DREF Surface.
Drawing size after a Save - about 5Mb.
No real surprise here.

This result is way better than the original 30Mb or a sharp stick in the eye.

Now for the Picknick Basket

Open the Data Shortcut Manager Tool (DSM) and select the DREF Surface in the current drawing pane.

Civil 3D will find the DREF Project Surface in the Reference pane. Select that.

Hit the DSM Link tool in the middle of the DSM to reconnect the shared Surface Model from the DREF drawing to the current drawing again.

The current drawing file size after this simple DSM relink process is…Wait for it…640Kb.

What the…

Non-linear Results Can Be a Good Thing

Apparently, the Data Shortcut Manager Tool (DSM) in AutoCAD Civil 3D 2022.1 is able to reduce the Surface overhead significantly.

Autodesk has been working on Data Reference performance issues for Surfaces and Corridors throughout the Civil 3D 2022 release cycle. Here’s an interesting and currently useful example.

I’d hazard to guess that what we see here is a preview of a bit of upcoming Civil 3D 2023 performance improvement buried away into one of Civil 3D’s most powerful and useful tools.

Like I said – Your results will vary.

Our recent adventures into the art and magic of Complex Corridors deliver some other Civil 3D DREF construction and performance benefits. Best we learn to exercise our options.
What are Civil 3D Corridor Creation Plans?
What are Civil 3D Corridor Frequency Data Models?

We can all definitely agree that cleaner Civil 3D Project DREF sources and regular visits to the Data Shortcut Manager Tool (DSM) will make our day in Civil 3D.


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