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.

Donnie Gladfelter
Donnie Gladfelter

Donnie is author of the book and Autodesk Official Press, AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT: No Experience Required, a columnist for AUGIWorld Magazine, Autodesk University speaker, and former member of the AUGI Board of Directors.


  1. Joe,follow these steps:
    1. draw a polyline for how you want the alignment to be.
    2. go to alignment>create from polyline, give it a name, check on delete existing entities, check off create tangents, then hit OK.
    3. one alignment is done, go to profile>create from surface, then choose your newly created alignment and your surface, then say Ok.
    4. under profile>profile view>create profile view to see your profile.
    hope this helps!

  2. Joe,follow these steps:
    1. draw a polyline for how you want the alignment to be.
    2. go to alignment>create from polyline, give it a name, check on delete existing entities, check off create tangents, then hit OK.
    3. one alignment is done, go to profile>create from surface, then choose your newly created alignment and your surface, then say Ok.
    4. under profile>profile view>create profile view to see your profile.
    hope this helps!

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