Thursday, December 22, 2011

River Analysis Labs Project Extended

According to the Labs blog, the River Analysis Extension project has been extended to 12/31/2012.  Should we assume that to mean it won't be included in the next release of Civil 3D, either baked in or as a Subscription add-on?  Maybe so, but at least we'll get another year to mess around with it and provide feedback.
In addition to the new end date, a few other items were addressed as well:
  • The issue where 64-bit Civil 3D 2012/Map 3D 2012 users receive a “RAS error message: Error starting process: Steady File not found.” error has been resolved.
  • The issue where River Analysis icons are not placed on the desktop on non-US English language versions was fixed by an installer correction
Be advised that if you want to apply the new end date, you must uninstall the current version and install the new one.

Have you spent any time with this extension?  If so, share your thoughts.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Hidden Treasure Trove - Civil 3D Support Page

Thanks to @Indydrafter I was shown the way to a treasure trove of add-ons and extensions for Civil 3D.  Where is this magical place, you ask?  Right on the Autodesk support page for Civil 3D.

Now I may be exposing myself to a total "Duh!" moment, but I spend just about every day immersed in Civil 3D and today was the first time I went to this place for anything.  So, if it happened to me, chances are it has happened to someone else...hence this Blog post.

What I was looking for was the Borehole Importer extension, which I found.  But what really got my attention were the features built within the Transportation Extension, many of which were useful on all types of projects, not just transportation.

Below is a list of what's there for Civil 3D 2012.  Maybe there is something in here that you will find useful?

Also, @C3DPlus posted this review of the Transportation Extension back when this extension was released for 2011.  It contains tons of detailed info about this extension.
  • AutoCAD Civil 3D 2012 DACH Extension
  • AutoCAD Plant 3D 2012 Object Enablers
  • CAiCE Translator Extension for AutoCAD Civil 3D 2012
  • AutoCAD Civil 3D 2012 Spanish Import Export Tools
  • Autodesk Subassembly Composer Support Pack for AutoCAD Civil 3D 2011 & 2012
  • AutoCAD Civil 3D 2012 Cartogramma Extension
  • AutoCAD Civil 3D 2012 Borehole 64bit
  • AutoCAD Civil 3D 2012 PISTE Extension
  • Open Light 2012 Object Enabler (32-bit and 64-bit)
  • AutoCAD Civil 3D 2012 Transportation Extension
    • Check alignment geometry – enables users to check alignment geometry for tangency conditions, and automatically fix inconsistencies.'
    • Show / Hide Labels – enables users to show and hide all Civil 3D labels.
    • Surface high / Low points – enables users to automatically generate Civil 3D points at surface high/low points.
    • Export Civil Data (to survey formats – RD5 and TP5) – enables users to export Civil 3D alignments, profiles, and corridors to a TDS .rd5 roadway file and/or .tp5 template file.
    • Import Raw Data (imports Star*Net data) – enables users to import a Star*Net .dat file.
    • Create surface from photogrammetric data – provides a simple import functionality for surface creation from layer based AutoCAD 3D linework and points (lines, arcs, polylines, and point entities residing on user selected layers). Additionally, the utility allows users to append AutoCAD entities to an existing surface.
    • 11 Reports – globally beneficial
  • AutoCAD Structural Detailing 2012 Object Enablers (32-bit and 64-bit)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What I Learned About Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler Today

I wanted to do a quick demo of AIM today so I installed the demo, fired it up, and started importing data.  Here are some things I discovered.

  • You can import a surface into Civil 3D using Google Earth, then export that as XML and import it into AIM.  Great way to make a quick surface if you don't have GIS topo data.
  • F5, F5, F5! (thanks to @C3Dish for enlightening me about this).  F5 is AIM's version of REGEN.  Until I learned about F5, I was importing data and wondering where in the heck it was.
  • Make sure you give your buildings a roof slope that is greater than zero.  Zero roof slope =  no roof.
  • It's not as fast as you may have been led to believe.  Once the data is in there it screams along nicely, but processing data (in my case 2 shape files, a LandXML file, and an image file) can take a long time.  It may have been user error because I was importing a county's worth of data but my terrain was only a square mile or so.  Maybe there's a filter you can apply up front so that it doesn't try to import and process everything.
  • Make sure to use the Drape option, or you're data will be down at sea level
  • AIM is really cool.  The image below is of my office building and surrounding area.  Knowing what I know now, I could probably generate this model in about 15 minutes.  It would have an aerial image draped on the terrain too, but I didn't have a good-quality one handy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Work Begins On the Next Essentials Book

In case anyone was wondering, the plan is to develop and release an update of Civil 3D Essentials that will correspond with the next release of Civil 3D.  That project is just getting ramped up and I'm excited about making improvements in the next round.  I've got a marked up copy of Civil 3D 2012 Essentials just waiting to be put to use.  I'll keep you all posted as things move along.  Of course, no promises and nothing is certain, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that there will be a Civil 3D ???? Essentials sometime next year!

Project Silverstar - Profile Optimization

A new Civil 3D Labs project became available recently with the enchanting name of Project Silverstar.  The idea behind this tool is to provide profile optimization via cloud computing.  Reminds me of the concept of SiteOps where you let the cloud do the computational heavy lifting for a complex, multi-iteration solution.

I decided to download it and give it a try and then give you all an account of my experience so you can decide for yourself whether you want to spend the 15 minutes required to test it out on your own computer.  Whatever you think of it, I think this project is significant because its Autodesk's first stab at having Civil 3D go to the cloud to perform an operation.  What's next?  Cloud-based corridor optimization? Parcel layout solutions?  Grading solutions?  Could be exciting!

The Project Silverstar Labs Page gives you a nice overview of the project as well as a link to a rather extensive 31-page Users Manual and some sample drawings.  I just perused it, but the manual seems to have lots of good background theory information that explains the "why" and the "how" of  what's going on.

The download and installation process took less than a minute.  After that, I opened Civil 3D 2012 and Profile Optimization was visible within the Toolbox tab.

To get started I drew an alignment and sampled an existing ground profile.  Then I executed the tool which launched a login dialog where I entered my usual Autodesk credentials that I use for signing into the Subscription center, AU, etc.  What followed was a series of dialog boxes, the first being a General dialog for selecting the alignment, etc.
Next was a Borrow/Waste dialog which I'll research some other for now, I'm not real sure what this is supposed to do.

After that I was given the ability to set some limits for solution.

The final dialog box appears to deal with the accuracy of the solution, another thing I'll read up on a bit more another day.
After about 30 minutes, I received the official e-mail from Autodesk.

I was surprised that it took that long but the results were pretty impressive.  The e-mail came with four attachments: A PDF report (excerpt shown below), a LandXML file and ASCII file of the profile, and a Log file.

I imported the LandXML file into Civil 3D and my cloud-optimized profile appeared!
Try it out for yourself and share some comments about what you find.  And of course, share your thoughts with Autodesk Labs as well.  Labs needs feedback to remain a success.

Happy Profile Optimizing!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

AECMentor: The Next Generation of CAD Training?

What do you get when you take great training material and make it directly available to everyone for an affordable price?
Sound like a commercial?  Well it is - kind of.  Bear with me and read on.

A few years ago I worked full time for Engineered Efficiency and during that time helped to develop online training materials for EE customers.  I still maintain close ties to EE and work on EE projects as a consultant, but have not worked directly on the training materials for some time.  Recently Mark Scacco introduced me to what he’s done with EE’s online training offerings since my involvement and I must say that I’m very excited about it.  He has managed to wrap a totally new concept for CAD training around the best content available (in my opinion) and make it affordable for everyone.

What’s new about the concept? 

Two things:

  1. It is available to users directly.  You don’t have to work through a reseller or Autodesk.  You can pull out your credit card and sign up right now if you want.  Why is this such a big deal?  Because it makes training “not such a big deal”.  Typically the mention of CAD training within a firm causes dread in the hearts of everyone.  Big money, long meetings with resellers about training plans, finding a location ,finding time, etc.  Now, if you're sitting at your desk and realize that you need some training, you can sign up and expense it without any fanfare or approval from the Board of Directors.  The cost is totally reasonable, $75 for the first month, and $15/month after that.  I’ll admit, this isn’t a totally new concept but there’s not a ton of it out there and I haven’t seen a better price.
  2. The affiliate program - Anyone can sign up and become an AECMentor partner.  If you check out the site and you believe in what it has to offer, you can receive cash for getting others to sign up.  Why is this such a big deal?  It gives the site great potential, in fact the potential to go viral with more people signing up, leading to more affiliates, leading to revenue growth, leading to bigger and better training, leading to more people signing up, more affiliates, and on and on.  When I saw what the site had to offer, I became an affiliate right away.
What you get serves up classes in AutoCAD, Civil 3D, and Revit that range from introductory to advanced.  The $15/month fee gives you access to everything.  

Training is served up as videos, downloadable exercise files, and downloadable course manuals.  Video transcripts are searchable meaning that you can continue to use them after the training as an alternate help system.  

Exams are available to accompany the training materials.  These can be used for self-assessment or to assess your employees to make sure they’re completing the training and retaining it.
Be advised, though, AECMentor is in its infancy.  The content is delivered via an open source LMS called Moodle which can be a little tough to navigate at times.  Also, not all of the content is the most recent 2012 version.  This is offset however by the depth and quality of the material.  For example, I can personally speak to the depth and quality of the advanced Civil 3D classes because I wrote the original 2009 material.  Since then, EE has updated it but all of the content is still there, and even though it is not done in release 2012, 99% of it still applies.

So I'll admit, if you read this, click the AECMentor link, and sign up, I'll get my cut through the affiliate program.  Aside from that, because of what I know about EE and what I know about the content that AECMentor contains, I really think Mark's got something here and I would love to see it grow into something great for all of us.
AECMentor is a great concept that has the potential to liberate all of us from the overpriced reseller training model.  If looked at as a community, the affiliate program is a great way for us to spread the word about something good and make a little cash in the process.  The initial content is there and with some interest and participation, it is a great foundation to build something great upon.  My advice, at least check out the site.  While you’re there, consider where it is and how long it’s been out there, and decide for yourself whether you want to partake of the training, become an affiliate, or both.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Upright Linetypes - Gotcha!

Recently we upgraded to Civil 3D 2012 and one of the things I was really excited about was actually an AutoCAD 2011 feature that enabled text in linetypes to always stay upright.
For those of you unfamiliar with the feature, you simply replace the r= part of a linetype definition to u= to put it into practice.

It's been almost two months and I thought this feature was working great for everyone until someone sent in a support request complaining that their text was upside-down.  Naturally I thought they had just loaded up the old linetypes but to my surprise, when I opened the problem drawing, I found that the text was upside down no matter what.  Then I saw it...the drawing had a rotated viewport which meant that the Y direction was pointing toward the floor.  That was my "You gotta be kidding me" moment with this feature.
So...heads up.  If you use this feature, be aware that it looks only at world coordinates to determine which way is up.  It's a great feature as long as you never rotate views.

My solution?  I copied our linetype file and did a find/replace switching all the "u=0"s to "u=180"s.  This gives users an alternate set of linetypes to load when they've got a rotated viewport.  Pretty?  If anyone has a better solution...please share!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Deploying Infrastructure Design Suite - Part 2

Although it applies to any installation package, not just IDS, the next really useful skill I've picked up is performing a silent uninstall.  In the case of my deployment, I would like to uninstall certain applications if they exist (Civil 3D 2010, LDT 2009 Companion, and Raster Design 2010).  Figuring out the right command with the right switches to uninstall a specific program has historically been very challenging, until I met my new best friend  Here you can take advantage of the kind folks who provided uninstall codes for lots and lots of different applications.  There's no guarantee you'll get the right one the first time but at least it narrows it down.  For example, I searched Raster Design 2010 and got this:
There are two codes listed here and lucky me!...the first one worked.  I had to doctor it up a bit by adding a /x and /quiet switches and also an IF statement that checked for a file to see if RD was even installed.  After that, I just added this line to the beginning of my batch file and Raster Design be gone!

IF Exist "C:\Program Files (x86)\AutoCAD Raster Design 2010\acgiclipengine18.dll" Call MsiExec.exe /x{9E92FE3D-E224-0409-0002-69EA414E8E51} /quiet

Got a more eloquent way to silently uninstall program X, please share!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Deploying Infrastructure Design Suite - Part 1

Over the next few days I'm going to be building and testing a deployment for the Infrastructure Design Suite for about 150 users.  Already I've run into some interesting revelations so I thought I'd chronicle my experience to hopefully save those who go after me some time and headaches.

First big lesson: When you choose to include Civil 3D, Map, and AutoCAD in your deployment you get three complete installations.
That's right folks.  It's not three separate AutoCAD profiles like you'd expect (or at least I did), you get three complete installations.  I haven't decided yet whether this is a good thing or a bad thing but I do know it's going to make me rethink my deployment strategy.

Within every installer is a "staller" (couldn't resist that play on words)
Another really helpful thing I've learned deals with batching your Civil 3D installation along with other stuff.  In the past, when I tried to call the Civil 3D installation then something after it, the next thing would execute before Civil 3D finished and there would be a big mess.  Thanks to this post from The CADMasters blog I was able to put a stall function in my batch file that would force the batch file to wait until Civil 3D was done.  I had to tweak it a bit to get it to work, here's the resulting "staller" piece of the batch file:

set tempfile=c:\windows\temp\tmp.txt
REM **********Wait until Previous install is finished before calling next install************
PING -n 1 -w 10000 >NUL
del %tempfile%
tasklist > %tempfile%
type c:\windows\temp\tmp.txt |find /i "setup.exe"
if errorlevel 0 if not errorlevel 1 goto IsRunning

See you when I post Part 2!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Linetypes on Really Long Polylines

As the blog title above implies, I like to write about things that make me go hmmmmmm, and this one had a lot more m's than usual.  A user had a linetype that she needed to display in two viewports; one at 1" = 100' and the other at 1" = 30'.  The linetype looked great in the 100-scale viewport but appeared as a continuous line in the 30-scale one.  I checked all the usual stuff and then leaned back in my chair and scratched my head.
Next, I switched the drawing to the Model tab and set the drawing scale to 1" = 30' and drew my own line on the same layer - linetype looked great, her polyline looked continuous.  Hmmmmm.  Not sure what made me do it but I used the BREAK command to break her polyline and voila! the linetype appeared.
Now, the linetype in question was a custom one that uses a custom shape.  I think maybe there is a limit to the number of times that a pattern can be repeated within a given object (or maybe a shape inserted) but when you took this massively long polyline (76 miles) and tried to show it at a smaller scale (more copies) it said "Uh-uh, not doing that."  The solution was simply to turn the 76 mile polyine into as many shorter ones as needed by using the BREAK command or whatever other command you fancy.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

When Is a Foot Not a Foot?

I ran into an interesting issue today when dealing with some survey drawings that were done in both metric and imperial units.  Not something you run into every day but for me, today was that day.  As Civil 3D users know, Civil 3D understands that there are U.S. and International Feet.

AutoCAD, however, does not.  So even though you may have leveraged Civil 3D's ability to distinguish between different types of feet through LandXML, Survey Database, etc., if you do an XREF or insert a block and you're depending on the AutoCAD INSUNITS system variable to kick in, you might find some discrepancies.

By the way, International feet are .3048 meters while US Survey Feet are 39.37 inches per meter or 12/39.37 or 0.30480060960121920243840487680975 meters, give or take.  When dealing with large coordinate values (like state plane coordinates), this starts to make a difference.

So, what do you do about XREFs or inserting blocks.  Well, the best approach I have found is to turn off the effect of the INSUNITS system variable by setting it to zero.  Then, when you insert or XREF a file, AutoCAD won't do you the favor of trying to scale it for you.  Then once it's in there you can use the SCALE command with a factor of 1200/3937 to go from feet to meters, or the inverse of that to go from meters to feet.

Beware of another favor that AutoCAD tries to do for you.  There's a setting in options that will just go ahead and assign a scale factor for your incoming block or XREF even if you've said you wanted it to be unitless.  It's on the User Preferences tab under Insertion Scale.  AutoCAD is like that over-helpful store worker who keeps saying "Can I scale that for you?", "Can I scale that for you?".  No AutoCAD, I got it.

Do you use a different approach to handle this issue?  If so, please share.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Daylight Rounding

OK, so once again I'm bearing my soul about something I should have known but didn't because I'm thinking; if it happened to me, it happened to someone else and hopefully that person will read this.
Anyway, at the Subassembly Composer sneak peek yesterday I inquired about Daylight Rounding.  I asked if it was a feature available only in the SAC?  It was brought to my attention by the illustrious Nick Zeeben that, to my surprise, it's been in Civil 3D since like 2009!  Luckily I've been doing this too long to get embarrassed about such a thing so I chalked it up as one of those hmmmm moments.
Anyway, if you're clueless about this feature, like I was, you'll find it as an option in all (I'm assuming all, I didn't check every one) of the daylight subassemblies.

So the way to apply it is pretty simple (these values are based on the BasicSideSlopeCutDitch subassembly BTW):

  • First, say Yes to rounding by choosing Circular or Parabolic for the Rounding Option instead of None
  • Choose Length or Radius as the Rounding Parameter by choosing either option beside Rounding By
  • Enter a value for the Rounding Parameter (length or radius)
  • Enter a value for Rounding Tessellation - another case where you can't really draw a curve in Civil 3D so you have to tell AutoCAD how to break it up.
Once you've done all that you should see some nice, rounded daylighting in section view...

And those little hooks on your contours that everyone loves so much

So to make myself feel better I've decided that I didn't know about this because when it comes to daylighting, I like to keep it as simple as possible and usually try to get by with LinkSlopeToSurface (which has no Rounding option).  Frankly I think Civil 3D needs a simple daylight subassembly that has no ditches, linings, alternate slopes, bells, or whistles. It just daylights using one of two slopes: cut or fill.  Maybe call it DaylightICanUseWithoutGettingAHeadache. Can I get an "amen"?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Subassembly Composer - What Does it All Mean?

Information about the Subassembly Composer (SAC) that will become available to subscription customers this week is already flowing.  So rather than talk about the details of this tool, I thought I would talk more about how I see it playing out within the firms that use Civil 3D.

First of all, I think that the release of this tool is HUGE.  It opens up an infinite number of doors to the types of designs to which corridors can be applied.  In fact, within the short hour that it took for Autodesk to provide a sneak preview of the tool, I saw an I-beam, a breakwater, a retaining wall, and of course a few roads (although highly specialized roads).  As for the tool itself, I have to say "Nice job, Autodesk".  It is robust and as user-friendly as such a tool could be.  It is an example of why to be on subscription.

However, composing subassemblies (heck, even spelling subassemblies) is not for the casual Civil 3D user.  Think of composing music.  Anyone can listen to music (using assemblies), a lot of people can play music (build assemblies), but only a handful have an understanding of music that enables them to compose music (make subassemblies).  In a typical company, I think that a small percentage of the users will have the mettle or the desire to build subassemblies.   Many will be curious, some will tinker, but only a few will actually build production subassemblies.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I think that's the way it will be.  In fact, having a small number of people creating custom subassemblies and controlling their consumption might be a good idea to avoid reinventing the wheel.

That said, the fact that only a few will use it does not make it any less useful or important.  Why?  Because even though creating custom subassembiles is a bit tough, it is now much more accessible.  It is something that anyone can at least try, even if they have no programming experience.  And the ability for each firm or organization to be able to create its own custom subassemblies has the potential to remove nearly any limitation currently presented by the use of stock subassemblies.

So why am I telling you all this?  To help you set expectations and not waste time on what you think this tool might be.  It's not a magic wand that you can wave that will create a subassembly at the push of a button. Building subbasemblies, even with a tool as slick as this is going to take work.  My advice:  If you need custom subassemblies and you're a casual user, forward your info on SAC to your office Civil 3D guru and take him or her out to lunch.  If you're a Civil 3D guru, install it (when it becomes available) and give it a try.  If you feel overwhelmed, look to someone you who is even more of a guru than you.  Or, be patient...I'm sure there will be training content available soon.  Oh, and the Autodesk WikiHelp content for this tool is already well-populated.

Happy composing!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

AU Bound!

Got my notification yesterday and I'll be teaching four classes.  Hope to see you all there!

CI5241: Islands in the Asphalt - Parking Lot Grading for Commercial Site Projects
Parking lot grading is one of the most daunting tasks for a commercial site design project. Knowing the right tricks and techniques is crucial if you want to build models quickly and accurately and be able to modify them easily. In this class we'll explore industry-proven design techniques that will result in stunning designs that are accurate, dynamic, and extremely useful in many aspects of the project.

CI5251: Creating Custom Storm Inlets Using Part Builder
Many states have requirements for drainage inlets that are more than just a box. For example, in some states, the most common inlet types require a variable-width flow pan that cannot be modeled with the out-of-the-box parts that come with Civil 3D. In this class, I will demonstrate how to build a custom drainage inlet that goes above and beyond the parts that come with Civil 3D.

CM5262: Training Your Users with No Training Budget
Times are tough and companies are having a hard time justifying the cost of training. On the other hand, as a CAD Manager it is your responsibility to ensure that your users are trained in the tools that they use. What if you could provide the training they need with little or no budget set aside for training? What if you could train them with very little impact on production? This session will give you some great ideas about how to accomplish just that. And, you may find that some new approaches to training not only reduce the cost of training, but also provide better results.

CM5272: CAD Standards vs. Office Politics - Winning the Battle
Are office politics getting in the way of the CAD standards that you know your company or organization needs? Take it from someone who knows, the successful implementation of CAD standards has much more to do with people than it does with technology. In this class we'll explore how to defuse typical sources of resistance that prevent good standards from happening. You'll be surprised by how a few simple techniques can get your company where it needs to be.

Friday, June 10, 2011

How Suite Is It?

Recently Autodesk Infrastructure Design Suite became available and I'm assuming you all got a "nudge" from your reseller to opt in before the deadline.  After getting the low-down it really seemed like a no-brainer to me.  A whole lotta software for not a whole lot more $$.  With IDS Premium we now have a matching license of NavisWorks Simulate and 3DS Max to go along with our Civil 3D licenses.  Of course the Autodesk website lists a bunch of other stuff but when it comes down to it, if you're a Civil 3D customer on subscription, you're already getting all of that except the Navis and 3DS Max.
So why did I post this?  Well, to let you know it's a good deal...if it is.  Or to have folks out there tell me (and the rest of us) that I'm missing something...if I did.  Feel free to provide a comment to help us all feel more at ease about the decision to opt in.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

AutoCAD Civil 3D 2012 Essentials Errata & Stuff to Know

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've already taught a class with AutoCAD Civil 3D Essentials and even after the extensive editing cycles that the book went through, there were a couple of  things that I noticed.  As time goes on and I use the book for future classes, I'll continue to update this post and grow the list.  Also, if you use the book yourself and notice anything not quite right, please let me know by e-mailing

  • Page 31:  In steps 7 and 10 of the exercise you are presented with a warning dialog box that the drawing must be saved.  You must save the drawing before proceeding.
  • Page 33:  The Essentials and Beyond exercise was written with the assumption that you would use the current project to do the work.  If you create a new project, you will get some warning messages informing you that the Parcels.dwg drawing is not associated to it.  You must associate Parcels.dwg to your new project before continuing.
  • Page 56: In step 15 of the exercise, you are instructed to click one of the magenta road centerlines.  The property lines are also a magenta-ish color so make sure you (or your students) are not confused.
  • Page 72:  The last sentence in step 4 of the exercise should be omitted.  It is repeated at the beginning of step 5.
  • Page 106: In step 11, the road name should be Madison Lane, not Madison Court.
  • Page 119: Step 5 of the exercise can be omitted.  A new drawing is opened for the next exercise so keeping the current one open is not necessary.
  • Page 168: There should be a Certification Objective icon next to the Intersections heading.
  • Pages 172-175:  One or more alignments in this drawing have the warning symbols turned on in the alignment style.  This tends to be a distraction/annoyance so you may want to edit the alignment style and turn those off (or instruct your students to do so).

Friday, June 3, 2011

It's Finally Here!

After nearly 8 months, I have finally held the book in my hand.  In fact, by the time I got around to writing this post, I had already taught a class with it! Of course I knew the contents of the book but now that I've touched it and looked at every page, I'm very impressed by its quality and very proud to have been involved in the project.  The back and front cover images are quite stunning, the feel of the paper says pure quality, and the images inside are crisp and clean...and COLOR!

Pure luck would have it that a group of college and high school students would be joining us to begin their internships one day after the book became available for order.  I don't have proof but I'd be willing to bet that they were the first class to use the book and I was the first instructor.
So let me be the first to provide a review for the book and assess its use in a class was great!  I was very pleased with the match between the difficulty of the material and the students.  The students had little to no trouble completing the exercises, some of which we did together, and others they did on their own.  There were essentially no issues with the drawing files (must admit I was a bit nervous about that - a lot of moving parts) and the many sidebars and margin notes were useful in providing some background info to go along with the Civil 3D nuts and bolts.  Overall I can honestly say that I'm very pleased with how this book came out.
Of course, I didn't produce this book by myself  - there are many who deserve the credit.  In the Acknowledgments I recognize just a few of the folks at Wiley/Sybex that made this book possible along with others who helped along the way.  It truly was a team effort.  I'd mention names here but I know I wouldn't be able to stop and would end up rewriting the Acknowledgments all over again.
Thanks for letting me share my excitement about finally completing this project.  It really was a great feeling to see and touch the book in printed form.  In fact, it was so special to me that I started to open the box and then stopped, hauled it out to my car, drove it home, and opened it with my family.  It was a special day that I was so happy to be able to share with them.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Autodesk Labs River Analysis Extension

I checked out the new River Analysis Extension made available May 9th on Autodesk Labs and I must say it looks pretty exciting.  I haven't actually run a design through it but I did install it and take a look at the user's guide.  It appears to be much more extensive than the HEC-RAS toolbox tool that we've seen in the past - this one has its own ribbon tab!
Hmmmm......Which of these pictures is just like the other? :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Disappearing Survey Figures

Ran into something interesting and a bit scary today.  Within a certain drawing, if you ran the purge command with the "Purge zero length geometry and empty text objects" option turned on, it would obliterate all survey figures in the drawing.

I did some searching on this and although there wasn't a wealth of information, it appears that this isn't the first time this has happened.  Be advised, this was discovered in Civil 3D 2010 and I have no idea whether the problem exists in 2011 or 2012.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Getting Rid of Those Pesky Project Associations

Not sure how, but I ended up with a bunch of drawings that reference a project they have nothing to do with. This was mildly annoying because the project name was displayed next to the drawing name at the top of the screen. Then, when I deleted the project it became just too much to bear. Each time I opened one of these orphaned drawings, the command line would report that it could not find the project - oh the horror.

The solution?
  1. Right-click Data Shortcuts and select Associate Project to Multiple Drawings
  2. Select <None> as the project
  3. Point to the folder containing the drawings
Intuitive?  I'll let you decide.

WARNING - This procedure will open and save your drawings in the background.  I thought that was interesting.  I expected the project association to be managed in an XML file somewhere but its apparently stored in the drawing file itself.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lot Labeling Tips

I was working on the Chapter 13 of the book, doing a ton of lot labeling and I started thinking of a few very simple techniques that I use that make things a little easier.  When it comes to working with CAD, laziness is a virtue.  But actually its not laziness, it's efficiency...right? (wink wink).  But seriously, whatever you call it....doing as much as possible in the least amount of time/fewest number of keystrokes is something we're all after. goes:
TIP 1: Use Match Properties - Maybe you're not aware of this but good ol' AutoCAD Match Properties works on Civil 3D labels too!  Among other things, it will transfer the style so you can change one "Bearing over Distance" label to "Distance Only", and then use MP to do the other 47.
TIP2: Grip-slide and Copy - Try this one just for fun:  Click a label to show its diamond-shaped grip.  Then click the grip and enter C for Copy.  Slide the label to the next lot and Civil 3D will copy the label.  Strangely, this craps out if you have to pan out of your current view so zoom out as far as you can.
TIP 3: Use the Properties Window - This might seem obvious but you'd be surprised how many times I've seen someone launching the Label Properties command over and over again....It's the same Properties window, people!  So..if you're doing a lot of label editing, you might find it quite handy to just keep the Properties window open for all your style-changing, flipping, and reversing.  Not recommended for a crappy system because you'll find that the Properties window slows everything down a bit.
TIP 4: Where's That Darn Tag Number Setting?: On the Settings tab, right-click the drawing name and then click Table Tag Numbering.

TIP 5: Where's the Renumber Tags command?:  Modify > Parcels > Labels & Tables panel.  After about 10 times of clicking a tag, then clicking Renumber Tag on the contextual ribbon, I thought...there must be a better way.  There must be a way to launch the command, then click a bunch of labels in the order I want.  You can also type EDITTAGNUMBERS.

Hope these tips help you get your labeling done a bit quicker so you can have more time to play golf (ahem...) I mean get more work done.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Invisible Band-It

This one had me scratching my head for a few hours today.  I was trying to plot several sheets of cross sections but no matter what I did, Civil 3D put huge spaces between the section views enabling only a handful of sections on each sheet.

I monkeyed with the group plot style over and over until I was just about ready to give up.  Turns out, I had a band that was taking up a lot of space due to the band height and text box width settings (highlighted to the right).

Once I set these values to something reasonable, all of my section sheet problems went away.

File this one in the back of your mind somewhere in case you ever run into something similar.  This can come in handy, by the way, when you need to make space above or below a section view.  For example, when using Plan Production (this works for profiles too) you might need to create some space above or below the view so that the viewport is large enough to fit labels and doesn't cut them off.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I'm Expecting!!

June 7, 2011...this is the due date of my least that's what the listing says.  Of course I'm not talking about a baby-baby, I'm talking about AutoCAD Civil 3D 2012 Essentials, the book I've been working on since October of last year.
The official press release for the whole series from Wiley/Sybex can be found here.  And Wiley's listing on the book can be found here.  As you can guess I'm very excited about the book since it's my first work that is publicly available.
My hope is that this book will see its way onto thousands of desks around the world, whether they be in training centers, home offices, high schools, colleges, or the workplace.  If you're familiar with my work, either through AU, consulting work that I may have done for your company, blogs that I've written for, or some other way, please check out the book and consider it for anyone you know who might need some basic training or a brush-up on Civil 3D.
Which leads me to the book itself.  As the "Essentials" part of the title implies, this book is for Civil 3D basics.  It is designed for anyone who wants to begin learning Civil 3D or brush up on the fundamentals.  It is a multi-purpose book designed to work in a classroom environment (whether a training center, high school, or college), or for learning on one's own.  It contains hands-on exercises and is accompanied by downloadable drawings, etc. to be used in completing those exercises.
While writing the book, I wanted it to mean something more than just the nuts and bolts of Civil 3D.  Wherever I could, I included information about how the different Civil 3D procedures relate to the real-world.  For example, here's one of my favorite sidebars to explain K values:

They're not all this colorful, but this one makes me chuckle every time I read it.  If you're a veteran, remember learning about design concepts like this when you were young?  Imagine how nice it would have been to have sidebars explaining this type of thing in your Softdesk or Land Desktop manual?  I wish I had them!
Anyway, I just wanted to share my excitement about the book with anyone who might want to listen.  I hope some of you who read this post will be able to comment on the book someday!

Much Ado About Northing

A few posts ago I admitted not knowing a seemingly easy solution to assigning a different alignment to a structure label.  Something just reminded me of another forehead-slapper that I had awhile back and I thought...well, if it happened to me, its probably happening to someone else somewhere in the world.  So here goes...
Need a northing and easting label?  Don't do what I did:  create a point label style and make your users create points in the drawing just to make a label.  Instead, use a Note label.  These guys have northing and easting capabilities built right into the label style.

Works like a charm and there aren't any pesky points to deal with in the drawing.