Civil 3D Reference Replacement and Tools

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Many, if not most, of our Civil 3D Projects will involve multiple forms of Reference Replacement. Many of us employ the classic External References (XREF) basemap strategy in our plan set publication.

There are two common scenarios here. The Survey dept must update the existing annotation for the proposed project’s Parcel map. Survey can overwrite a previously shared XREF drawing, and/or provide a separate and differently named drawing for project users to replace manually.

There are valid reasons to employ either and/or both of these XREF Replacement workflows. Hopefully, these choices are planned and ritual responses to known project Benchmarks and identified project States.
See the Manage Civil 3D Dependencies post and the entire in-depth series on these topics.

A case in point: Do we want or need to update references in previously submitted published deliverable drawings? Probably not.

In larger and more complex Civil 3D Projects with complex deliverables, it can help significantly to employ published DWFs to produce the XREF basemap instead of employing the direct dwg references. There are plot performance and QAQC reasons to better manage our deliverables via DWF.

Our Civil 3D Reference Replacement Rituals

Nothing is quite as simple as it sounds in the World of References that is Civil 3D. We know that.
Civil 3D is a diva – The Civil 3D diva can deliver great performances, but only if we direct and manage the show.

We Manage Project DREF Replacements

Civil 3D has long included intentionally similar processes and mechanics that apply for shared Civil 3D project Data References (DREF).

There are two common scenarios here. The Survey dept updates the existing project Surface. Survey can overwrite the previously shared Surface in the current shared DREF drawing, and/or provide a separate, and perhaps, differently named DREF and/or drawing for project Civil 3D users to replace manually.

The Civil 3D Data Shortcut workflows employ a different set of Civil 3D tools. DREFs process and structures do differ from classic XREF file and location-based process and structure.

These issues deserve a video. Why?  The Civil 3D data behind in our projects changes for a host of reasons.


The Data Shortcuts Manager

The Civil 3D Managed Data Reference Replacement post and video demonstrate how the newer Civil 3D Data Shortcut Manager Tool (DSM) allows us to effectively and easily replace DREF sources and also replace internal Civil 3D objects with shared DREF sources.

The DSM Tool is drawing centric.
We can affect changes in one open drawing in one Civil 3D Data Shortcut collection (Project) at a time. The DSM Tool does allow the savvy Civil 3D user to get a quick and/or detailed overview of all DREFs in the current Project’s Data Shortcut collection.

Practice time inside the Data Shortcut Manager helps.

The Data Shortcuts Editor

The Civil 3D Data Shortcuts Editor (DSE) is an external utility tool that does have a project wide scope.
The DSE:

  • May be Civil 3D release specific
  • Opens from Working Folder Shortcuts location
  • Can help us visualize the DREF Whats to the physical file location Wheres
  • Ignores Data Reference named folders
  • Reads and displays the default DREF types and subtypes from the existing DREF link XML files directly
  • Sorting by any of the displayed XML values is supported
  • Does not support edits of the Project’s ShortcutsFolders.XML file but writes to this file if DREF changes are saved
  • Find and replace by entire or partial string change edits are allowed to Object Names, Paths, and Drawing Names
  • Match by drawing Handle ID or Object Name changes are allowed

I see many Project examples from customers. The DSE is always the first tool I employ to start to look at them. God knows. I never open a Civil 3D drawing first. Just sayin’.

Reference Changes Happen

Odds are that our Civil 3D project has a reasonable lifespan.
Our design process will usually include several Reference changes and/or replacements.
Some of the many types of Civil 3D References may be nested inside other References.
For example a:

  • Pipe Network DREFs will often refer to one or more Alignment DREFs
  • ViewFrame Groups include references to Plan Production tool Layout template resources
  • Reference Templates collections can include multiple file references

These diverse Civil 3D Reference issues can make finding resolution problems are genuine pain. Worse – some broken References can make some issues effectively invisible to us. Oh bother.

It would be mighty nice and pretty handy to have a tool to allow us to see all the many types of References connected and/or missing in a Civil 3D project drawing.

Some of these Reference may be vital dependencies. Some of the References may no longer be relevant but Civil 3D does continue to remember them.


The Reference Explorer

The first question we must ask - Where the heck is this Reference Explorer Tools (RET) in Civil 3D?
The RET is not currently included in the core Civil 3D interface. What? Seriously?

Currently, the Reference Explorer tool remains part of the Autodesk Desktop Connector which is employed to connect us to Autodesk Docs et al. The Autodesk Desktop Connector is a separate standalone install. Install it. We do not need to employ an Autodesk Cloud to enjoy the benefits.

Autodesk Docs and all the other Autodesk Cloud collaboration tools are all more sensitive to broken or missing References. Therefore, sorting out potential lost or missing Reference issues in a Civil 3D drawing becomes all the more vital in those document management-based environments.

The Reference Explorer tool is also good news for those of us who work locally or in a network environment. The RET does help us locate and sort out most forms of References that may be employed in Civil 3D. Yes. There are a lot of them.


The Reference Explorer in Civil 3D

The Reference Explorer supplies us with multiple useful display forms to help us visualize and understand the References and dependencies in a Civil 3D drawing file.

The Data Shortcut Manager, the Data Shortcuts Editor, and the newer Reference Explorer can allhelp us improve overall Civil 3D project and drawing performance, project and drawing stability, and reduce our downstream upgrade, update, and project maintenance issues.

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