Monday, August 01, 2005

How to make your first experiences with Civil 3D positive experiences

How to make your first experiences with Civil 3D positive experiences

1. CAD standards- gotta have ‘em.

Let’s say, hypothetically, you started your own engineering firm. Every day you come in to the office and see more and more papers EVERYWHERE. On the floor. On the desks. You can never find anything!!

So what do you do?

You run down to the Office Supply Store and the slick salesperson talks you in to the state of the art filing cabinet.

So you go back to the office and you dump all of your stuff into this cabinet.

The office looks GREAT.

But every time you open the filing cabinet you think that the sales person ripped you off because you still can’t find anything. The mess is just hidden inside.



Why do you expect your drawings to be produced effortlessly without CAD Standards?

And, why do you blame Civil 3D? (Or Map or Land Desktop or Whatever else you use?)

2. Clean up your inherited data! See inherited data checklist

You cannot help the data you get (unless you screen your subconsultants and hold them to your standards). But you can help what you put in to your drawings. What may be perfectly useful in your surveyor’s office could contribute to GIGO and corruption in your office. Know your data and know how to clean it up, translate it and make it good for YOU.

3. ALWAYS start with a Civil 3D Template

If you do not pick a Civil 3D template you will email me and tell me how much Civil 3D sucks. It doesn’t. You just have to pick a template. Until you create your own (or have me create it for you), choose the Imperial by Style template. Why? Because everything is mapped to layer zero to begin with, so that you can map it to your own layers when you are ready.

4. Start with Pilot Project

Save cold turkey for after Thanksgiving.

Pick your most gearhead, giddy about technology project team. You know the guys- they build their own computers. They never buy intel. They had CD burners in 1995. They watch Tech TV. They would stay up all night to figure out how to use Civil 3D and Viz to render a valley scene from Lord of the Rings.

These guys and gals will lay the groundwork for your firm’s Civil 3D standards and procedures.

Pick a relatively small project- good examples: shopping centers, straightforward subdivisions, stream restorations, etc.

If you do not have a team of gearheads, never fear. Civil 3D really isn’t that bad and the technology is no longer in Beta form. This is the release for everyman. Call me and I can help you through your Pilot Project and help you get your standards established.

6. If you remember nothing else- THE TOOLSPACE IS YOUR FRIEND

General>Show Toolspace

The Toolspace is your command center. When in doubt, go to the toolspace and right click on something.

5. Remember the DON’Ts

Don’t open a drawing created somewhere else besides Civil 3D. Why? Not because it won’t open, but because Civil 3D won’t understand its project data. You also won’t have any styles. Best bet? File>New>Choose a template. Insert necessary linework as a block. Then, use LandXML or Import Data From Land Desktop to get the project data

Don’t expect it to be Land Desktop. There are no Land Desktop style Project Paths, Projects and Databases. Layers take on a new meaning. Erasing objects actually erases them. There is much more to learn here. But the most important thing to learn is that Civil 3D is not Enhanced Land Desktop.

Don’t get bogged down in “knowing it all” and having it all perfect. Guaranteed I could show you menus in MS Word you have never seen let alone used, but that doesn’t stop you from opening up MS Word every time you need to type a letter.

Don’t explode anything. If you feel the itch to explode something EMAIL ME FIRST. Tell my why you want to explode it. Keep your fingers off of the mouse. Go for a walk. Go get a soda. Check out

Don’t give up! You have survived Engineering School. Or Tech School. Or Planning School. Or Landscape Architecture School. Or the School of Hard Knocks. You have survived DCA, Softdesk, R14, Many Releases of Land Desktop not to mention Betamax, VHS, Cassettes, CDs, DVDs and MP3s. Civil 3D is a whole lot more fun that any of that stuff. It is more visual and intuitive than Land Desktop. You will survive this and you will love this.

In a year, you will say things like “I can’t believe we used to have to build surfaces after adding data and we couldn’t see the contours change right away. Man, that was the stone age”

6. Keep your drawing clean

Audit your drawing regularly. Keep junk out. By junk I mean- Land Desktop points, softdesk points, HUGE contours (like aerial topo). Save the originals in their own file, use the data to create Civil 3D data and get rid of the junk!

7. Make sure you are asking Civil 3D to do things that are possible

The Parceling routine cannot make 5 acre lots with 100 foot depths and 50 feet of frontage. It will crash if you ask it to do that. It also cannot fillet intersections at 25 ft if you have drawn horizontal curve radii smaller than that.

Yes, Civil 3D should politely say “Does not compute” and leave you alone, but sometimes it gets angry and kicks you out. Worse yet, if you have a drawing full of junk and errors it may corrupt itself leaving you hoped. We’ll talk about backup in a minute, but it helps to think a little about what you are doing before you do it.

8. Create Backups in case you accidentally ask Civil 3D to do something it cannot do

This will happen. You are learning the right order of mouse clicks and what the parameters are. If you ask Civil 3D to do something it cannot do and it kicks you out, you will want a backup.

Exporting LandXML is a great way to preserve this data. It takes a second. It doesn’t cause confusion since it is not another dwg file. And if you are taking advantage of the Civil 3D objects, most, if not all, of your linework will be recreated from an import of LandXML.

I am recommending doing a LandXML export once an hour or so when you are in heavy object creation. For example: If you are subdividing a large site, creating a lot of alignments, creating a lot of points.

Autosave and I have a mixed relationship. I have never been able to do much with the .sv$ format if I can even find the file. Plus, autosave tends to kick in when I am in the middle of something and it messes me up. I’d rather get in the habit of hitting the quicksave button every 15 minutes under my control.

At critical junctions, save a copy of your drawing somewhere safe- locally or otherwise.

9. Seek intro training at the very least
Cadapult offers a one day quick orientation to Civil 3D that is designed to give you an idea of what is possible. I can also come to your site to do the Civil 3D Workshop. Also try tutorials that come with the program. Email me for more resources.

10. Make a project commitment and don’t go back

Take it to Civil 3D and unless you absolutely must move it out- leave it there.