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The art of production and publication Civil 3D Standards is all about the construction and maintenance of managed, known, and current States. There is no singularity in Civil 3D Standards although such standards can feel like a time-sucking, black hole. After all, we are talking about sets of collections of variable properties. To produce consistent repeatable results, the collected properties must work together at identifiable points in time.

I admit to an experiential bias. I build, maintain, and market the Framework for Civil 3D – an engine and resources tool chest from which others construct and maintain their own Autodesk Civil 3D Standards. Jump Kit product success depends on the capability to make it so for many Civil 3D organizations and users.

We should all identify and easily recognize the Primacy of States in Standards Development. The Primacy of States perspective alters how we practically address our Civil 3D Standards.

“There can be only one” might be as wacky as it sounds. There’s more than one movie plot in there somewhere.

The States of Adoption and Adaption

Both our Adoption and our Adaption of standards also have current States of implementation. The differences between these two matters. We must adopt standards to get work out the door. Those standards must be adaptive or the types of project work we do and the clients we serve are constrained.

The thornier issues behind the challenges to production and publication Civil 3D Standards are about people and our habitual behaviors.
We want to blame our Standards problems on the ever-changing software.
See the recent Civil 3D Changes and Remains the Same post.

Maybe we cast the blame on the somewhat dubious assertion of an innate human resistance to technology and new tools. I don’t see that, but people talk about it. Frankly, many users in Civil 3D Land are tool user freaks or geeks.

Then there are all those numerous and nasty details to manage.
That WTMI problem comes closest to defining the practical problems we face in Standards Development.

We want most of those property details to remain the same. I call this…

The Permanence of Property Bias

Sorry, that sounds like a term from a sociologist’s PhD thesis or a term that an real estate loan broker might use. Experts do some strange things with words and phrases, don’t they?

The more robust, flexible, and advanced the software, the more transient the nature of Properties.

What I mean by Properties in this case are and the many properties that we can set for a layer, an STB plotstyle, a CTB color, a Civil 3D Style, ad nauseum.
I should say ad infinitum – That WTMI is the real-world Civil 3D Standards issue.

Our Permanence of Property Bias (e.g. Alignments should be Red) is an illusion of repetitive circumstance - a construct of our own experience.

The human brain is notably adept at constructing these frames. We are hardwired to do it. Adaption to a new set of repetitive circumstances (frames) is something humans do well. It may take a bit for us to internally overwrite one Property Bias with a new one.
If we work for a few companies, we get it.
We may prefer to drive a Chevy, but somehow we can also easily drive a Ford or a Honda.

We can and do become comfortable with more than one form of Permanence.

The point is:

We either proactively manage this human reality or we are enslaved by it.

The Real Deal

A set of colored themes for Civil 3D Surface contour Styles is a good example. Sometimes it really helps to see a visible difference between Surface A and Surface B to identify grading issues or to help us choose which Surfaces to paste together. We may want to publish them together with the same Style. We can happily embrace sets of Permanence.

Productive software users need managed, consistent, and known current States.

Practically, in both AutoCAD and Civil 3D, CTB and STB plot standards are different known States. As long as they are consistent and can be employed managed by trained users they can both be effective.

The technical fact the STB has more properties than CTB points to the human reality that more choice isn’t often compatible with an existing Permanence of Property bias.

The Layer State

A Framework customer called with questions about the NCS Layer System and it’s relationship to the Civil 3D Style tools. I informed him that for his purposes the Civil 3D doesn’t care about Layer properties. We do.
The two separate forms of style are independent and dynamic.
I suggested that he just change the supplied Layer States in the product templates.
He responded, “What is a Layer State?”

All the properties of a Layer in AutoCAD are dynamic. We know this. We all learn to use the AutoCAD Layer Manager tool to tweak properties around to get the job published and out the door.

The amount of user time spent inside the Layer Manager tool is staggering. Better and more adaptive Standards systems seek avoid that and reduce this man-hour problem.

The Layer Manager’s name is partly a misnomer. While the LA tool does manage dwg Layers, the AutoCAD tool itself is not actually very well-managed.

How do we quickly update a displayed XREF’s Layers in a Layout Viewport to print properly?

Autodesk long ago found it was more profitable to make this standards management problem a user responsibility. Layer States were added to the mix to help us standardize the many States of lots of Layer properties.

  • Layer States and the LM tool help us automate and truly manage the whole Layer thing so these things can become a consistent, known current State.
  • Saved Layer State external files are portable and manageable.
  • If we mess things up, we have Layer Standards files and the Standards Checker to get us back to a consistent, known current State.
  • We have Layer Filters that allow us to sort and reduce the detail and complexity in LA.
    Layer Filters also allow us to QA and validate the consistency of those many Properties within a Layer system.

A quick video is in order…


Layer States and Filters in Civil 3D

Autodesk marketing trumpets the benefits of the level of detailed management in the tools. The somewhat terrifying reality is the collected Properties truly are dynamic. WTMI. Autodesk says they are customizable.

Thank God. We can externalize the management and building of the Layer system. The system must manage a Collection of States. No single set of properties solves all our production work and publication problems.

The State is Only Current

As shown in the video, the Framework for Civil 3D employs Key and Pattern Rules which create and allow for a managed system. We include powerful Layer Standards Spreadsheet Tools that allow you to change the Keys, the Pattern, and the even the Rules to create a managed system in any image.
Frankly, for most folks this is often unnecessary. A few additions do come in handy.

We just need the consistent, known current States that allow us the freedom to work without hassling all the picky little details. Users can then enjoy a comfortable set of Property States.

That Transient Nature of Properties is manageable with the Framework for Civil 3D. It was built from the ground up with that exact problem and real-world production benefit in mind.

The Keys to Filtering Layers

Once upon a time a list of Key-based Property Layer Filters in the Civil 3D .LFT (lift) format shipped with the Framework. We still employ Layer Filters as consistency and quality control checks. Strangely, AutoCAD still does not support the LFT format, but does support Layer Standards files.

Given we have a Layer Standards Spreadsheet Tool with a list of Keys, Key-based Property Filters are ridiculously easy to build. The Framework’s Open Civil NCS Keys list is downloadable if you want to grow your own.

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