Civil 3D Style Import and Maintenance Work

Jump Kit

The Framework for Civil 3D
Get More

Templates Only

See The Framework Work
Get More

Become a Member

Master Civil 3D
Get More

Autodesk Civil Videos

Free Civil 3D Training
Get More

Framework Videos

Free Civil 3D Videos
Get More

The practice of Civil 3D Style Maintenance and Improvement and Style Import requires the examination of the tools inside the software and the multiple methods we can employ together to assemble and validate Style Collections into well-integrated Civil 3D Template Targets. We want to know how to combine and improve collected Style Tools to create Civil 3D user production and/or publication working environments.

We all need…

Civil 3D Templates That Work

The Civil 3D Template Targets post states that we should consider a Template Style Collection Target is a management benchmark - a waypoint in our Civil 3D implementation process.
The target is neither the Template end goal nor the source of the Known Good.
Please, review the post to understand this helpful and productive perspective on Civil 3D Templates and develop[ment.

Our initial target is demonstrably a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). The developmental target Civil 3D Template is a functional collection of Civil 3D Styles Civil 3D Labels Styles, Civil 3D Sets, and resources that embrace the various Goldilocks conditions necessary to support viable production work in Autodesk Civil 3D.

Tools Beyond Civil 3D are Necessary to Reach the Target

Civil 3D Style Maintenance and Improvement requires a thorough knowledge of the many available tools both inside and outside of the AutoCAD and the Civil 3D software. Some of the more useful and powerful Style maintenance and improvement tools are not inside Civil 3D’s interfaces at all.
See the Civil 3D and AutoCAD Standards Updates post.

As managers and users we must look and think Beyond the Code.
We must employ ordered and systematic workflows and processes to be consistent and successful in our development efforts.

From our perspective, a workflow can be considered as an ordered set of separate processes.

Change Management Matters

We might initially consider Style Maintenance and Improvement to be a linear form of work.
We need to get from A to B.
However, better Civil 3D Style Maintenance and Improvement results come from formal and repetitive loops of a known and effective workflow.
Real continuous development and improvement comes from a practical application of one form or another of formal Change Management.

Styles must be fixed and improved. Hopefully, our users help us create new more useful Style Tools.
We need a corporate Known Good even if we work alone.
We need to improve that Known Good target for the production folk that do the work.

We must somehow produce and maintain systematic feedback loops that our users actually employ to successfully manage, maintain, and improve our Known Good resources.

If we are not willing to employ the feedback loops, our users are also unlikely to do so.

We should employ the classic PDCA (Plan|Do|Check|Act) change management process.
(Your choice of change management terms (vernacular) may be different.)

  • We create a Plan.
  • We execute and Do it.
  • We test and Check the results.
  • We Act to fix the problems discovered.

This leads to a new Plan ad nauseum.

The Vomit Comet

Sadly, the nausea is part of the process like astronaut training on NASA’s Vomit Comet.

The repetition that is PDCA does tend to make us a bit dizzy and sick.
Therefore, we may take common shortcuts like mixing Plan and Check or Do and Act together.
If we find ourselves doing this, the likely problem is we are trying to do too much with too many different Styles at the same time.

We must thoughtfully manage the complexity and numbers problem that is inherent in Civil 3D.
The more refined and focused our Plan is on discrete, smaller collections of Styles, the better our results.

The Framework for Civil 3D product are designed and built to help us with all the necessary and functional Civil 3D resources, structures, and implementation tools instead of starting from scratch.
We focus on what matters to us and get work out the door while we do the PDCA do.

The Civil 3D Style Import Tool

Whether we employ classic Civil 3D Template Targets or newer Reference Template Targets the Civil 3D Style Import Tool and the complementary Style Purge Tool will play a role in our processes.

Style properties can only be substantively for consistency with the Civil 3D Style Import Tool. The Style Import Tool currently validates most - but does not check all - potential Style and Set resources and conflicts between the current drawing and a resource drawing.

Unfortunately, the Style collections affected may also vary by the Civil 3D release and/or by specific Civil 3D Updates.

Style Import Tool Limitations

The common problematic resources:

  • Description Key Sets
  • Figure Prefix Dbs
  • Design Criteria Styles
  • Grading Criteria Sets and Styles
  • New Styles in the Generals Style collection
  • Part Lists and Sets for Pipes and Pressure Pipes
  • New Styles released in incremental Civil 3D Updates
  • Settings for any of the above

Most of the Style Import Tool’s Style and Settings limitations are easily found by noting by their absence in the Style Import Tool interface. Simply put, the Styles or Label Styles categories will not be visible.

There are third party Civil 3D Style and Setting import tools that perform the Civil 3D Style Import Tool functional work better than the native Civil 3D tool itself.
Offerings from Quux Software and CTC Software come to mind.

How Do We See What’s Not There?

The most important question remains,
Do we know the source and location of the Known Good?

It helps significantly to remember to set up and expand the current drawing’s Toolspace interface Master View (or Labels Only) Settings tree branch for the Styles to be checked before opening the Style Import Tool. This Style Maintenance best practice also tends to remind us to check and review for what is not there.

The Civil 3D Styles, Label Styles, and Sets that the Style Import Tool does currently validate and can import are significant in number.
These represent the bulk of the potential Styles, Label Styles, and Sets we must maintain and improve.

From Parts is the Best Practice

We are best served by the Style Import Tool when we focus the attention the use of the Tool to specific smaller and more manageable collections of Styles and Settings.
This empirical reality again argues for the systematic and structured separation of Style Collection resources.
We all end up with a structured library of Style collections like the Framework.

We maintain the parts.
We consider the additive assembly of those parts to be a separate process in the overall Style maintenance and improvement workflow.

Yes. It does take discipline and attention to detail not to mix these two processes and muddy the waters.

Style Import Tool

The Style Import Tool is very useful for Style property validation testing.
In such a testing scenario, no Styles or Settings are actually imported or changed.
We employ the Tool to check and identify differences between the current and a Known Good resource drawing or vice versa.

It helps considerably to remember to test in both directions.
The more we take the time to test in both directions, the more consistent our Style Tool end results will be. This work habit of reversal of sources once again helps us identify more errors and problems.

Potential Styles and Settings can potentially updated, added, or removed from a drawing by use of the Style Import Tool and the overwrite option.

The Style Import Tool:

  • Assumes that the Civil 3D user who employs the tool knows the file resource and location of the Known Good resource
  • Displays Styles to Update, Styles to Add, and Styles to Remove after the comparison
    Understanding the meaning of these checkboxes in the Style Import Tool interface is vital.
  • Settings testing and import is an all or nothing choice based on the Import Settings checkbox
    A Settings import may include the automatic import of any referenced Styles in all the Settings in the external resource drawing.
  • During the additive assembly process for resource collections, we do not typically want to check the Import Settings checkbox.

Style Import Tool Use

An understanding of the use and results of the Style Import Tool selection checkboxes is mandatory for the proper employment of Tool. We typically want to clear all checkboxes and then check where the current test or import update is focused. In other words, we should have a plan and know why we are employing the Tool checkboxes specifically.

The understanding, use, and application effect of the Import Settings checkbox in the Style Import dialog box is vital.
For example: we can employ the Import Settings checkbox to remove by replacement all the custom Settings from a current drawing. However, we must have a drawing resource that we know has no custom Settings available in it.

A quick and dirty approach to use of the Civil 3D Style Import Tool tends to propagate errors, inconsistencies,  and often hides problems in our Civil 3D resources.

In practice, we should only employ the Style Import Tool in import mode to update, add, and remove identified Styles and related Settings into a known target. In other words, a target resource that is the result of an on-going PDCA loop process.

Style Purge Tool

The complementary Civil 3D Style Purge Tool demands a word or two.
Sometimes what is already in the drawing or resource is the problem.

The PurgeStyles command will remove unreferenced Civil 3D Styles, Label Styles, and Sets from a Civil 3D drawing. Like the AutoCAD PURGE command, the Civil 3D version of the tool will require multiple passes to remove all unreferenced Styles since Civil 3D Styles can be nested in other Styles.

PurgeStyles will also remove references to unreferenced, but necessary, Civil 3D Standard Styles, Label Styles, and Sets. This can make Civil 3D drawings unstable. Be sure to restore the purged Standard Styles and Label Styles by importing them back in. All Framework for Civil 3D products ship with versions of those resources.

The Additive Assembly Methods

In practice, it is often faster to employ Insert/Explore method and the Drag and Drop By Selection method to import tested and identified Styles into a known (identified) target rather than employ the Style Import Tool itself.

What is Insert/Explode Method?

Civil 3D follows and obeys the classic AutoCAD platform Style rule that new named objects will not overwrite existing named objects in a drawing. We employ this Style rule to our advantage as we add together collections of Civil 3D Styles.

We can employ the AutoCAD INSERT (or -INSERT) command with the Explode objects checkbox checked to insert an entire a drawing with a collection of AutoCAD and/or Civil 3D Styles into another drawing.


In practice, the INSERT command can be easily scripted into .scr files and called with the SCRIPT command.
Multiple AutoCAD scripts can be chained together with the SCRIPTCALL command.
The Civil 3D Batch Save Utility can employ multiple SCRIPTCALLs to automate the assembly of Style collections and therefore the assembly entire Civil 3D Templates.

The Blocks Palette

Newer versions of Civil 3D support the newer Blocks Palette Tool interface inside of which crafted selections within the Blocks Tool interface can be employed to accomplish the same results as classic Insert/Explore method.
The more recent releases of AutoCAD do a better and more consistent job of this.

What is the Drag and Drop Method?

The classic Civil 3D Drag and Drop method is manual and selective by design.
We employ the Civil 3D Toolspace interface Master View (or Labels Only) to copy or overwrite Styles selected from the Settings tab Civil 3D Feature Style or Label Style collections from any resource drawing to the CURRENT drawing.

All typical Windows selection methods may be employed inside the Toolspace to selects Styles in the resource drawing.

Significantly, Drag and Drop allows us to overwrite and update named Styles or Label Styles in one drawing from another.

Both the item we want to copy and the name of the destination drawing must be visible in the Settings tree before we begin the drag-and-drop operation.

Referenced AutoCAD Styles (Layers, Blocks, Textstyles, Linetypes, and Dimstyles) will also be imported, but the definitions of these named AutoCAD objects will not overwritten. Add the AutoCAD references first or redefine them last.

We need to also take care to select and import Child Styles first unless we only want to import the Parent Style(s) alone.

Referenced Civil 3D Styles employed in Civil 3D Sets will also be imported. The best practice the produces stable results is to import all referenced Styles included in Set prior to importing any Set.

The Drag and Drop method is a quick and easy method to import a Description Key Set. The best practice about referenced Styles applies.

The Drag and Drop method is a quick and easy method to import a Point Groups definitions from the Prospector tab. Point Group definitions are imported in reverse priority order when multiple Point Groups are selected. Therefore, we want to employ an intermediate drawing to adjust for the correct order. The best practice about referenced Styles applies.

In practice, some combination of all the above Additive Methods is employed to assemble a Classic Template Style Collection Target and/or a Reference Template Style Collection Target.

Many of these specific technique, methods, and issues are covered in the Overview Videos section videos.

The Upcoming Target Assembly Methods

The newer Reference Template (TREF) method and a Reference Template Target dodges some of the details of the above methods. The TREF method of implementation does not preclude the testing and validation of the parts necessary to get to an acceptable target result.

We’ll cover the specific Classic Template Target assembly methods and the Reference Template Target assembly methods in detail in follow up posts.

The Production Toolset to Make Civil 3D Work
Get the Framework for Civil 3D


The Civil 3D Style Maintenance Handbook Post Series

Updates, additions, and fixes to the posts in this series are on-going.