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Out here in Civil 3D Land we do civil engineering and survey work. That means that grading and Civil 3D Surfaces play a significant part of our daily workflows. Thankfully, Autodesk has been working hard on improved Civil 3D performance. How we structure our Civil 3D Projects and how we perform some basic Civil 3D Project maintenance work can matter.

One of our Framework for Civil 3D customers 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 data dependencies etc.
Sound interesting?

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

Fat Tuesday in Civil 3D

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. In other words, the size and contents of a Surface Edit stack matters. Technically, the order of operations in the Surface Edit stack matters as well.

The resulting Civil 3D working drawing will be pretty porky (say 30Mb) given all the Surfaces involved and the potential data dependencies that Civil 3D cannot ignore.
Yeah. We also have all that AutoCAD Undo chaff stored in this 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 bit.
In the Framework for Civil 3D, we call this vital resource a Civil 3D NoStyles template.
A NoStyles template contains only the Standard Styles that Civil 3D automatically builds from code.

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

We create a Data Shortcut and share the Surface into our Civil 3D Project.

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

We Open our handy NoStyles drawing template to create a new and empty Surface Data Reference (DREF) container drawing.
Into this new DREF storage drawing we Promote in our previously shared fat Surface Model.

We thoughtfully remember to kill that previous Data Shortcut to the original fat editing drawing.

The new Project Surface DREF drawing is now only 3Mb. Whoa.
We get only the resolved Surface TIN Model itself and a Civil 3D Surface Shortcut data dependency.
A QSAVE increases to size to 5 Mb.
AutoCAD always watches our back.

We create a new Surface Data Shortcut (DREF) and share this cleaned NoStyles DREF Surface into the Civil 3D Project.


Create another new working drawing again from a NoStyles drawing template.
(We don’t want our Civil 3D Style definitions 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, BooBoo

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 dialog box 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 Civil 3D is now able to reduce the Surface sharing overhead significantly.

Autodesk has been working on Data Reference performance issues for Surfaces and Corridors throughout for multiple Civil 3D release and Upgrade cycles.
Here’s an interesting and useful example of those better results.

I must point this out.
If we only worked in the working drawing that created this edited Surface, we’d never see or receive the benefit.

Like I said – Your results will vary.

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

The Liberty to Make Civil 3D Work Better
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