Finding the 3D in Map 3D: Surface Visualization

Flash The September / October issue of AUGIWorld is now available for download.  The cover story for this issue is "A First Good Impression".  Impression is a brand new program that Autodesk released this year which allows you to give your CAD drawings a hand sketched look.  Anyone faced with creating such exhibits and illustrations will definitely want to read this months AUGIWorld.

In addition to the "A First Good Impression" article, there are numerous other articles worth giving a read.  Of those articles is one by yours truly titled "Finding the 3D in Map 3D: Surface Visualization". AUGIWorld is available electronically by clicking HERE.

Download the September / October AUGIWorld

Composing Parcel Label Styles in Civil 3D 2008

New to Civil 3D 2008 is the ability to create composed parcel labels. Before the introduction of composed parcel label styles, one would have to configure a separate parcel label style for each labeling scenario. Or in other words, a style to show the parcels area in square feet, another to show it in acres, and another to show no area at all. It should also be mentioned that the lot number and lot area were a single object, meaning you could not move one independent to the other.

Composing Parcel Label Styles in Civil 3D 2008 082607 0128 composingpa1These shortcomings are what the new composed parcel labels set out to solve. In lieu of having a separate style for every labeling scenario you can think of, now you can simplify your style library by having a series of parcel label components. You will notice in this drawing I only have 5 parcel area label styles. My fundamental style, Lot Number, simply displays the lot number, nothing else. To display the lot's area I will add my "Lot Area" area label style to the parcel(s) whose area I need to label. There are a couple ways this can be done.

Map 3D Drawing Status Bar in Civil 3D

Civil 3D users – did you know that Map 3D has a specialized drawing status bar?

It seems the typical Civil 3D user knows little to nothing about the abilities of Map 3D. As those who do use it know, Map 3D is an incredibly powerful geospatial tool. Autodesk did publish their "GIS Skills for Engineers" document with the release of AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008 and AutoCAD Map 3D 2008. For anyone who has to use GIS data in an engineering environment, the document is a must read.

In reading through the document one thing I noticed was its use of a drawing status bar I had never seen before. That got me to thinking, and in true CAD Geek fashion, on a quest for the answer for this little riddle. Finally after fiddling around for some time I was finally able to uncover the answer to unlocking this super top secret drawing status bar. I say super top secret because (to my knowledge) the Map 3D Status Bar cannot be enabled from within AutoCAD. So how does one enable it?

Isolating Individual Objects

Isolating Individual Objects 061807 1749 isolatingin1Hidden for some time now in the lower right-hand corner of AutoCAD is a little light bulb. If you are like most, you have simply let this little light bulb burn –wasting electricity. At first glance it may seem a little out of place. After all light bulbs belong in the layer manager– right?

Even still – what's up with the light bulb in the lower corner of the screen? What many seem to discount as being a status notification of some sort is in fact an actual command.

The Truth About Deploying Civil 3D

So I must confess, this post was born as a response to an e-mail I recently received from one of my readers. As I began writing my response it became overly apparent to me that my response was one that could benefit more than just one reader, and thus the moment I decided to make it a blog post rather than an e-mail response. The e-mail I received was in many ways a classic illustration of the toils which lie ahead for most firms wanting to implement Civil 3D. Some may argue that toil is too strong of a word to describe the implementation of Civil 3D, but to be frankly honest it's the truth.

To provide some background, the e-mail I received was from a rather respected firm. Currently, they are running an older version of Land Development Desktop, and well things "work" for them but they know there's new technology out there. A relative newcomer to the firm has convinced his boss to at least consider migrating to Civil 3D. The employee has been tasked with preparing a proposal to get training for 8 technicians. Understanding there is more to implementing Civil 3D than simply sending a handful of people to training for a few days, this individual is seeking some sort of guidance as to the physical implementation of Civil 3D. Of course as luck would have it, the company doesn't have much of a real CAD Standard.

In reading the synopsis above we have a rather complex task at hand. Since the firm is using a somewhat dated release of LDT, it's quite simply time for an upgrade. Upgrades alone can be quite burdensome in and of their self. Deploying a new version of CAD requires a lot more thought than popping a CD (whoops DVD) into a disk drive and calling it a day. Especially in larger firms, preparing for an upgrade can easily take a CAD Manager months to prepare for. Luckily in this case training has already been approved by the boss. Depending on the forward-thinking nature of your office, just selling the idea of Civil 3D can be tough. But that doesn't get us out of the woods just yet. Still, it's imperative you get your CAD Standards whipped into shape. Without a solid graphical CAD Standard, it will be next to impossible to create a Civil 3D style library.

Some basic things you will want to do when looking to implement Civil 3D:

  • Select a Pilot Project - A first or pilot Civil 3D project shouldn't be overly complex, but not overly simple. To be more specific, you don't want to start using Civil 3D on the largest project in your firms history. On the flip side you don't want to use it on a cookie cutter type project, where you won't have the chance to put the software through its paces. Another thing to consider is the fact your project team will be on a bit of a learning curve. Thus you will need to budget for this developmental time in addition to your standard designing time. The project team for this project will become your pilot Civil 3D team as well.


  • CAD Standards - Before you seriously consider launching Civil 3D you need to have a somewhat established Graphical CAD Standard. In Civil 3D much of the drafting is done for you automatically. The graphical element of Civil 3D entities is defined by a civil 3D style. For instance Civil 3D knows the layer to place a parcel line on based on its Civil 3D Style. Since a graphical standard is so imperative to deploying Civil 3D, you will want to table the thought of Civil 3D while you iron out your graphical standards. Thinking of Civil 3D during the CAD Standardization part will likely cause more harm than good. Moreover it will likely prove to be more a distraction than aid during the standardization process. Focus on however you illustrate things now, and use it as the foundation to your CAD Standards. I would add however, you may want to consider adopting the National CAD Standards (NCS). NCS has truly taken root in the last few years, and consequently if I had to make a prediction about the CAD industry in 5-10 years, NCS would be it. Quite simply you are likely to become the minority in a few years if you do not adopt the NCS.


  • Civil 3D Styles - As mentioned above every graphical entity of a Civil 3D object is configured by a Civil 3D Style. Be sure you have a graphical standard before you begin tackling Civil 3D Styles. Be warned, Civil 3D Styles are not especially intuitive to configure. If you do not have a lot of experience with Civil 3D you will, without question, want to hire a consultant. Given a good Graphical CAD Standard, a hired consultant should be able to either configure, or help you configure your Civil 3D styles in a relatively short period of time. Shelling out a few bucks for a consultant will undoubtedly pay off in the long run, as teaching yourself the concept of Civil 3D Styles is no easy task.


  • Training - If you are serious about making your Civil 3D deployment a success, you will want to offer some training to your project team. Optimally the training would be tailored to use your firms newly created Civil 3D styles. Even if that is not an option, any decent training course will provide a through look into how to complete vital Civil 3D procedures.


  • Post Deployment & Your Consultant - While I highly recommend hiring a consultant there are a few things to watch out for. Often time's consultants will present you with an absolutely stunning proposal, promising you that your entire firm will be on Civil 3D within a relatively short period of time. Let me reference my comment on deploying Civil 3D; it's not as simple as putting a DVD into a disk drive and calling it a day. To successfully implement Civil 3D you need to have someone readily accessible who can answer the questions that WILL come up when working on real world designs. Some consultants will come in, conduct some training, install Civil 3D, and collect a check. Unless your designers can get quick answers on how to complete their site, they will without question dub Civil 3D the worst piece of software ever created. Assuming you do not have a Civil 3D guru on staff, avoid users getting disgruntled at the software, and be sure to arrange some support options with your consultant.


CAD Standards

  • National CAD Standards - Truly becoming the national standard, firms not using NCS are likely to become the minority within the next five or so years.
  • Civil 3D Drawing Templates - Civil 3D ships with a number of pre-configured drawing templates which have been based on the National CAD Standard. The "Classic" templates will mimic Land Desktop's graphical output.


  • Consultants - nearly all Autodesk Authorized Resellers are also Autodesk Authorized Training Centers. That said, talk to your reseller when trying to line up training for Civil 3D. After all, your reseller likely has a pretty good understanding of your firm.
  • Autodesk University (AU) - AU has a seemingly endless number of classes on all things Autodesk. Civil 3D is no exception. Autodesk University will afford you a chance to attend classes by speakers who are likely unavailable in your area.


  • Moving from Land Desktop to Civil 3D Guide- Autodesk puts out some great documentation that is FREE to download. Perhaps one of the most valuable documents is the new Moving from Land Desktop to Civil 3D Guide.
  • Mastering Civil 3D "X" - Written by the folks at Engineered Efficiency, the people who run the popular blog, have a great book on all things Civil 3D. Websites
  • The CAD Geek Blog - nothing wrong with a little self-promotion is there?
  • Civil 3D Blog - Engineered Efficiency's blog about Civil 3D. This is one of my favorite blogs to keep up with!
  • Civil Engineering Community - Ran by Autodesk the site allows users to share templates, ideas, and more. There are also numerous blogs featured on that site which can prove rather valuable.
  • Webcasts - Autodesk has hosted Friday Civil 3D Webcasts for some time now. They're free to attend, and also very helpful to attend.

While I know there are many more resources than I outlined above, those are the ones I personally frequent the most. Feel free to suggest additional resources by posting a comment to this post. Hopefully, my brief outlook has afforded those looking to deploy Civil 3D a better outlook on what all is involved. I can't emphasize enough, implementing Civil 3D is no easy task. It is something that will require some planning, training, and yes some money. The resources I outlined will surely help you, but instructor-led training followed by practically applying the software is the vital combination needed to successfully implement Civil 3D in your company.

AUGI World First Look at Civil 3D 2008

AUGI World First Look at Civil 3D 2008 051607 1554 augiworldfi1The May/June issue of AUGIWorld has been released. Inside this issue is a First Look at Civil 3D 2008 (pg. 22) written by yours truly. The article takes a quick look at a number of the new features within AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008, and then dives into using the new Plan Production feature. I intend to expand on articles look at Plan Production here on The CAD Geek Blog. So stay tuned. In the meantime hop over to AUGI and download the May/June issue of AUGIWorld .

AUGIWorld can be downloaded from the following location:

Separate Annotation Scales Per Viewport

Dana Probert over at the Engineered Efficiency blog wrote about quickly changing your Civil 3D Drawing Scale with the new Annotation Scale. Using the Annotation Scale fly out on the Status Bar we can quickly change our Civil 3D Drawing Scale. Those familiar with previous versions of Civil 3D will recall having to go to the "Settings" tab from the Civil 3D Toolspace. So that tip helps us out when working in Model Space, but what about Paper Space.

Separate Annotation Scales Per Viewport 050807 0602 separateann11

Geospatial Data in a DWF file

In observance of the "National Orange Effect Day" The CAD Geek Blog is proudly displaying the colors of Virginia Tech - Orange and Maroon.

Geospatial Data in a DWF file windowslivewritergeospatialdatainadwffile 1c4tcg vtcolors thumb1

Those of us who work with geospatial data (aka GIS Data) know how incredibly valuable the data can be. Living in the digital age of the 21st century, the one thing always more valuable than processing data is the ability to share it. Perhaps the most common file format for geospatial data is the ESRI SHP file. Although phenomenally powerful, the format is quite frankly rather clunky. It takes 5 separate support files to make a single SHP file to work. With Design Review becoming a free download the collaborative powers of the DWF format can now be realized. Of the powers packed into the DWF format is the ability to embed geospatial data into a DWF file. It is possible to embed geospatial data into a DWF, and it be available in Design Review.

AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008 is here!

AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008 is here! windowslivewriterauotcadcivil3d2008ishere 126dcirs thumb2 Just as the IRS is out to take our money, Autodesk has released AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008 which drastically streamlines the design process. A streamlined design process means working more efficiently, and working more efficiently means being more profitable. As outlined before, introduces a lot of new features. Just as Annotation Scaling is the big new thing for AutoCAD 2008; the BIG new thing for Civil 3D 2008 is Plan Production. The veterans out there likely remember a little thing called "Sheet Manager".

Autodesk Experience the Possibilities Tour Review

Autodesk Experience the Possibilities Tour Review 041307 0238

So I am back from Washington DC where I have been for the last couple days. Staying over Wednesday night, I spent the day Wednesday simply enjoying our nation's capital and paid a visit to the National Zoo. Contrary to popular belief I have hobbies other than playing with CAD. In fact I am also an avid photographer. While visiting the National Zoo I was able to shoot some photos that can be seen below:

Panda Beaver Eagle Bear Butterfly

While I could easily spend days shooting photos of Washington DC, that was not the primary purpose of my visit. Today (Thursday) was the second stop for the Autodesk Experience the Possibilities Tour. For those not familiar with the event, Autodesk is currently touring the country introducing the 2008 line of products. Regardless if you are an architect, engineer, or a general CAD user, the Experience the Possibilities tour has something to offer you. Naturally I attended the Civil Solutions breakout where Autodesk's own Pete Kelsey and Steve Gonda presented Civil 3D 2008.

If you have kept up with my blog you have likely read my Civil 3D 2008 – First Impressions post. Likely going without saying, I am rather excited about the upcoming release of Civil 3D. While I am no Nostradamus, if I had to make any predictions I'd say AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008 is going to be the release Civil 3D starts being seen as a practical design platform for the masses. The Civil 3D presentation provided a powerful overview of what the software can do. Regardless if you have been using Civil 3D since it's preview release days, or simply considering it as a possible solution, there's something in the presentation for you.

For me the true benefit in the whole day was the opportunity to have Autodesk employees at your disposal for just about any question you can think of. Autodesk's intent is of course to sell software, and consequently there were parts of the day that felt more like a sales pitch than an info session. Even still, you can't fault Autodesk for that, after all their business is to sell software. I tend to feel their true sales strategy is much like the “Field of Dreams”.  Rather than “Build it and they will come”, Autodesk seems to say “educate (users) and they will use (the software)”. Again I cannot express how helpful it was to have so many people available to ask questions.

Not an Autodesk employee, but equally helpful to talk to was Dana Probert over at Engineered Efficiency. You can catch her blog posts over at She too is an invaluable resource for just about all things Civil 3D. Just another example of the top-notch people you can expect to bump into.

Concluding the day was a presentation by Lynn Allen on AutoCAD 2008 Tips & Tricks. If you have ever had the pleasure of attending Lynn's presentations you know how dynamic of a speaker she is. We get caught up in our vertical product world, and often forget about good ole’ AutoCAD.  Lynn did a great job previewing what all is in AutoCAD 2008. She has promised her new AutoCAD 2008 Tips & Tricks booklet will be posted to her blog “very soon”.

Autodesk's "Experience the Possibilities Tour" is making its way to cities all across the US. Washington DC was just their second stop, and so there are still plenty of stops left on the tour. Making the event even better was its price – FREE. You can get details about the tour by visiting

Civil 3D 2008 - Moving from Land Desktop to Civil 3D

Civil 3D 2008 - Moving from Land Desktop to Civil 3D 032607 1430 autocadcivi1Since Civil 3D's first release people (including myself) have struggled to make a comparison between it and its predecessor Land Desktop. Making such comparisons are only natural as we have each used Land Desktop for some time and ultimately understand the way it works. Now we are presented with this new platform and have been left with questions like where's my Land Desktop Project, what about my prototype, etc? While the help files have done a great job documenting the individual features of Civil 3D, a document comparing the two and explaining certain equivalencies has never existed. Well that is until AutoCAD Civil 3D 2008.

Arguably the most valuable new feature in AutoCAD Civil 3D, the new "Moving from Land Desktop to Civil 3D" users guide helps anyone trying to equate a feature in Land Desktop to our new friend Civil 3D. What I find most valuable about the document is that it is written from a collection of real-world experiences. For instance at one point in the document it discusses the topic "Increase Design Alternatives". I must say I chuckled a little as I read that and thought back to my first Civil 3D lot layout project. With Civil 3D I was able to do in one day what could have easily taken two or three days to do in Land Desktop. One may concede I then had two days to go and work on another project - wrong. In the end I still spent three days working on the lot layout, the big difference was rather than having only a single lot layout to show the client we had three solid alternatives for him to choose from. But I digress.

The "Moving from Land Desktop to Civil 3D' really does do a great job establishing the mental link between Land Desktop and Civil 3D. Titled "Comparing Land Desktop and Civil 3D", Chapter 2 actually provides a comprehensive side-by-side comparison between the two software platforms. Below is an excerpt from the "Grading" portion of chapter 2 illustrating the differences in terminology between Land Desktop and Civil 3D.

Civil 3D 2008 - Moving from Land Desktop to Civil 3D 032607 1430 autocadcivi2

In all the new users guide is 132 pages, and truly provides a detailed and upfront look at what's involved in migrating to Civil 3D. For instance the document is rather candid about the fact you may want to hire a consultant to either develop or help you develop your style library. The vast differences in the fluid Civil 3D design environment and very linear Land Desktop design environment can be overwhelming for both CAD managers and users. Of course even if you have already migrated to Civil 3D, the user's guide really does include a number of helpful tips that are likely to prove helpful for even the seasoned pro.