Civil 3D contains numerous Style and Standards details that can come back to bite us even when we proactively tackle Civil 3D Style Maintenance and Improvement. We do tend to take for granted the classic AutoCAD Styles. We already know that Layer, Block, Textstyle stuff we’ve lived with for all these years. We believe that…
“We already have all of that stuff covered in our current CAD Standards.”
And we do.
Is the real problem we face in Civil 3D only a conversion of our past into the present?
That is the place where we all start.
Our past is unlikely to be where we want to end up.
Can we pour new wine into an old wine skin? Sure, then we wonder why Civil 3D becomes a bitter pill.
Recycling AutoCAD wineskins usually does not produce acceptable, maintainable, and consistent Civil 3D Style results.
Perhaps you beg to differ?
Some cannot even see the opportunity they toss into the proverbial dumpster.
You know the drill - Penny Wise and Pound Foolish.
Whoa! Proverbs form both Jesus and Ben Franklin in the same paragraph?
We can easily make our Civil 3D implementation much more difficult to adapt to changing project demands.
Folks don’t want to talk about that.
We believe that we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
We quickly learn to avoid those bridges.
AutoCAD Style Update Methods
The most mission critical AutoCAD Styles related to Civil 3D Style maintenance are AutoCAD Layers, Blocks, and Textstyles. These AutoCAD Style resources are regularly referenced and nested inside Civil 3D Styles.
In this post we’ll try and focus on the first two.
The critical path information management problem is that all Civil 3D Styles nest these AutoCAD Style resources.
There are a great many Civil 3D Style and Civil 3D Label Style nests to manage.
We practically face an exponential growth problem that we must manage.
AutoCAD Style Standards Cautions
Failure to systematically manage these integral AutoCAD Style standards and details can significantly complicate Civil 3D Style management and maintenance issues.
The maintenance and upkeep of all the many aspects of AutoCAD Style is best managed outside of the software.
The Civil 3D software really does not support or include the tools to perform the required systematic maintenance of AutoCAD Style resources internally.
Do we want the virus like Civil 3D Object Model injected into all our Layer System and Block Standard resource drawings?
In a word - no.
AutoCAD .dwg or .dws files may be an acceptable place to store the refined resources.
Raw AutoCAD alone is also hardly any better at the construction of these AutoCAD Style Standards.
Attempts to manage these AutoCAD Style and Standards resources inside of the Autodesk software usually only produces a less than acceptable and inconsistent results. Often as not, many more man-hours are wasted in that form of effort.
- A consistent System Management (aka standards) of these referenced AutoCAD Style resources is assumed inside of Civil 3D.
Civil 3D is built so that the software doesn’t care about the AutoCAD Style garbage we reference into Civil 3D Styles.
We will sooner or later.
- All the AutoCAD Style to Civil 3D Style references are made, sustained, and maintained only via unique AutoCAD Style names (Layer name, Block name, Textstyle name, etc.)
- We can Rename AutoCAD Style references.
Most of the time the name modifications update the inherited Civil 3D Style references.
Civil 3D Drawing Object Settings, Figure Prefix Dbs, and Description Key Sets are notable and important exceptions.
- The graphics of any AutoCAD Block reference can be updated by changing/updating the graphics in a separate drawing with the same name.
- The font references of any Textstyle can be redirected to any other font definition.
We will have more practical success with font replacement when the character spacing is similar in both fonts.
This a font family thing.
Some understanding of font families, True Type, and fonts with complete (and/or appropriate) Unicode character sets are important
if we must address CAD conversion issues.
The Productive Benefit of the Power of Names
The fact that we can replace any and all of the referenced AutoCAD Style resources inside Civil 3D is a significant productivity benefit.
We can, in effect, adapt the CAD Standards employed in our projects or only in our deliverables (via Publishing templates) to meet more diverse CAD Standards demands.
That Adaptive Standards ability is only possible if we recognize those resources should be constructed, stored, and managed from the ground up to make those same replacements possible.
In other words, the content itself is somewhat less important than a consistent storage structure and naming convention of the AutoCAD Style Standards resources.
We should recognize this perspective is backwards from the classic AutoCAD customization and CAD Standards construction viewpoint where the explicit and specific details are usually considered to more significant than the names of the content.
Layers and Layer States
The maintenance and upkeep of all the many aspects of Layer Standards in Civil 3D is best managed outside of the software. The software really does not support or include the tools to perform the required systematic maintenance of complex Layer Systems.
The Framework for Civil 3D employs an NCS-like key-based methodology to create and maintain Layer Names and the various dynamic properties of those layers. The Framework employs Layer States help users more easily manage those dynamic properties that are part of the daily production use of any Layer system.
The Framework’s supplied Excel-based Layer Standards Spreadsheet Tools allow us to systematically manage the many potential details. This includes the necessary rename and the potential Layer property state changes that can and do occur in production environments.
- Typical implementation of Layer Standards and Layer State changes and/or update to new Standards are commonly performed via AutoCAD scripts.
- Multiple scripts may be chained together via the AutoCAD SCRIPTCALL command and the resultant chained scripts.
- SCRIPTCALL and scripts may be employed in conjunction with some basic LISP inside the Civil 3D Batch Save Utility to automate, in part or in full, Layer Standards Maintenance updates or complete Layer scheme changes.
Reference Template Tool Layer Details
The Reference Template (TREF) Tool:
- Does not currently import Layer States
Layer States may be imported manually from a Layer Standards resource drawing that includes them.
- May replace named Layer references if those TREF reference drawings include selected layers
- Does not check for consistency in the Layer references from different referenced resource drawings
The TREF Tool relies solely on the TREF resource stack order and the Tool's Settings selections
- The Reference Template Tool may be employed in templates and project drawings created from those templates.
The best practice is to employ separate AutoCAD Standards (.dws) files to maintain the Known Good for our Layer Standards and Layer State resources outside of Civil 3D.
The Framework supplies these AutoCAD Standards (.dws) files in organized resource libraries along with the integration tools, and the maintenance scripts for multiple NCS Layer Standards variants.
Take care to carefully match all the Layer scheme resources employed in a Reference Template (TREF) stack.
AutoCAD Standards Files
The process to create AutoCAD Standards (.dws) files and new updates to them are best performed in an Additive fashion.
Tests in realistic project drawings with Civil 3D Styles that reference the Layer System in detail are essential.
Take the time to do a thorough and documented assessment of the preferences and changes we need to make to layers.
The Layer Standards Spreadsheet Tools do make it easier to perform a PDCA (Plan|Do|Check|Act) iterative improvement process.
The odds are if we don’t work the entire PDCA process we will be unhappy with the result.
More repetitions produce better quality-controlled results.
Regular repetitions of the process are essential for successful Standards upkeep and maintenance.
Blocks and Symbols
The graphics of any AutoCAD Block reference can be updated by changing/updating the graphics in a separate drawing with the same name.
From a maintenance perspective, it is critical to understand that name of the symbol resource is more important than the specific graphic content included inside the Block resource.
We can then update Civil 3D Templates and project drawings with the new graphics with the command line version of the -INSERT command and employ the full path to the drawing file proceeded by an asterisk (*) character.
The newer Block Palette Tool can update Block defintions from drawings or folders of drawings.
Block replacement can be accomplished manually, by command, or more commonly via an AutoCAD script.
- Typical implementation of Block or Symbol Standards changes and/or updates to new Standards are commonly performed via AutoCAD scripts.
- Multiple scripts may be chained together via the AutoCAD SCRIPTCALL command and chained scripts.
- SCRIPTCALL and scripts may be employed with the Civil 3D Batch Save Utility to automate, in part or in full, Block standards maintenance updates.
Reference Template (TREF) Tool Block Details
- May replace named Block references if those reference drawings include selected Block instances.
- Does not currently check for consistency in the Block references from different referenced TREF resource drawings.
The tool relies solely on TREF resource stack order and the Tool's Settings selections
- The Reference Template Tool may be employed in templates and project drawings created from those templates.
Block Libraries and Updates
The best practice is to employ separate AutoCAD drawing (.dwg) files to maintain the Known Good for our Block resources outside of Civil 3D.
The better separated and more organized the Block resource library the better and more consistent the results.
Folders of raw AutoCAD block drawings can be easily imported into AutoCAD Tool Palettes and then refined as Tool palette production tools. How to do this is detailed in the AutoCAD Help.
The Framework for Civil 3D supplies these AutoCAD Block and related Civil 3D Point Style resource drawings (.dwg) files in a Symbol Set resource library with the Symbols Maintenance Spreadsheet Tool, and the creation and integration of the maintenance scripts.
The Symbol Exchange Tool employs that Spreadsheet Tool to generate typical scripts to replace set of named blocks with another set from an external folder. Symbol Exchange Tool employs the SCRIPTCALL command as discussed above. The Symbol Exchange Tool and script generation code is supplied in the Symbols Maintenance Spreadsheet Tool in an example Sheet inside the supplied Symbols Maintenance Spreadsheet Tool.
Take the time to do a thorough and documented assessment of the preferences and changes we need to make to blocks.
The Symbol Exchange method does make it easier to perform a PDCA (Plan|Do|Check|Act) iterative improvement process.
The odds are if we don’t work the entire continous development process we will be unhappy with the result.
More PDCA repetitions produce better quality-controlled results.
We have to do the AutoCAD Style and Standards loops in Civil 3D or we go loony.
The first couple of trips around the Style Maintenance mountain can be rough and tedious.
If we Do the Do, the work and man-hours go down significantly.
The Civil 3D Toolset to Make Civil 3D Work
Get the Framework for Civil 3D Release 8
The Civil 3D Style Maintenance Handbook Post Series
Updates, additions, and fixes to the posts in this series are on-going.