Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Civil 3D Interview Questions

Over the past few years I’ve done a several interviews, unfortunately for me it has resulted in only one offer that I had to decline. But in these interviews I’ve noticed that Civil 3D related questions are lacking. Not lacking in that they don’t ask, but lacking in the interviewer’s knowledge of how to show that a person has Civil 3D knowledge. Sure you could just ask and get the default answer of “Yes, I know Civil 3D I’m an expert”, but how do you know if they are telling the truth? Now you could get out a computer and test them on it, but I’m guessing that most of the interviewers don’t know how to run Civil 3D themselves. So that test probably won’t work.

So how can you tell if they know Civil 3D? I’ve come up with some questions that may help you determine if the person is versed in Civil 3D. I do want to add a disclaimer that my questions are geared towards finding the self motivated learner and someone always on the look out for new information. It won’t demonstrate if the prospective candidate has attended a reseller’s three day class and then sat next to and questioned the target person with questions for the last three years in the previous job. I really don’t want to hire that person, because unless you have the self motivated learner already on staff, that new hire is quickly going to become obsolete in their knowledge of Civil 3D.

Now the first question to ask is “What Civil 3D related blogs you read?”. If they stare back at you and don’t know what a blog is, well this person probably isn’t what your looking for. If they real off the best or most frequent blog posters, then you are headed for a winning candidate. If you are a interviewer here are some of the top Civil 3D related blogs:

Blogs are a great source of information, whether its finding out the newest product information or solutions to common problems. With blogs you get the best bang for your buck since they are free.

Now lets say they claim they’ve been using Civil 3D since it first came out, the question to ask is “What is your favorite Civil 3D Rocks post?” Now if they don’t know about the best early Civil 3D blog out there, they probably use Civil 3D like they used Land Desktop, as an expensive version of AutoCAD. Now if they mention that her parcel rules posts was one of the best or her lone wolf post really helped you in learning Civil 3d; then you probably have a candidate who has used the product and goes out and learns how to use the product when they encounter road blocks.

The next question to ask is “What is your favorite Civil 3D Discussion Group?” Now there isn’t a correct answer to this, just that they provide an answer to it. Answers I would expect to hear include the Autodesk Civil 3D Forum, The Swamp or the AUGI Civil 3D Discussion Group. Now you can ask if they are active in the groups or just go and look for answers. If they are active, ask for their user name so you can see how they interact with others in a public setting. This answer lets you know if the person goes and tries to find what they don’t know.

The last question is to ask them “How many Autodesk University online classes have you downloaded, watched or used to solve an issue in the past?” Now if they don’t know what Autodesk University is or about the boatload of information that is available there, it would indicate they are not a self motivated learner.

In review here are the questions:

  • “What Civil 3D related blogs you read?”
  • “What is your favorite Civil 3D Rocks post?” (for long time users)
  • “What is your favorite Civil 3D Discussion Group?”
  • “How many Autodesk University online classes have you downloaded, watched or used to solve an issue in the past?”

Now I’m sure there are other questions that are just as good, but I feel that the self motivated learner is the best one to have as a part of your team and I feel that these questions will help you find that person.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Civil 3D - Report Customization

If you love the out of the box reporting capabilities of Civil 3D you can stop reading this post and move on to the next one (may I suggest Brian Hailey’s recent post?), if not then read on.

If you find that you are exporting information from Civil 3D to Excel or Word and then modifying the look of the reports, then you probably should look into report customization. If you used a competing product that had a certain look to them and it isn’t available in Civil 3D and you want the same look,  then you may want to create a custom report to produce the same look as the previous software package. If you want to extract information (maybe calculating the number of rings required for all of the manholes in a sewer network) from the Civil 3D model and present it in a specific format you may want to look into report customization.

Autodesk has been nice enough to provide the source code for the report so you (or someone for you) can create new reports.

You can revise both the XML reporting and .NET reports that ship with the product. If you didn’t know they SNAGHTML17116012existed, check them out in the Toolbox portion of Toolspace.

To modify the XML reports you can edit the various xsl and xml files located in this folder:

C:\ProgramData\Autodesk\C3D 2011\enu\Data\Reports\xsl

You can edit the files using Notepad or a one of the xsl editor programs that are available. At this point I’ve only used Notepad so I can’t recommend an xsl editor (although I do know the full version of Microsoft Visual Studio doesn’t let you work with them).

Once you understand the structure and how the files are linked together it isn’t that hard to modify them. But unless I’m doing something quick and easy I’ll create the report using .NET.

Autodesk has also provided all of the source code for the .NET reports. They are located in this folder:

C:\ProgramData\Autodesk\C3D 2011\enu\Data\Reports\Net\Source

To modify the .NET reports you can use the Microsoft Visual Studio (or another IDE program). The structure of the reports is pretty straight forward and provide a good foundation for creating your own reports.

The other alternative is to have someone else do the customization for you, someone like me. If you are interested you can email me to find out more information.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Civil 3D 2012–Alignment Swapping Constraints

One of my favorite new features in Civil 3D 2012 is the ability to change Tangency Constraints on alignments. If you’ve worked with alignments for some time you’ve no doubt wanted to change a segment later on in the design. If you weren’t careful by adding in a fixed segment every so often you would soon find yourself with a lot of extra work to add in something later. For if the segment you wanted to remove was dependent on another segment then you would wouldn’t be able to remove it. Well now you can delete any of the segments within an alignment and the tangency constraints of the objects will be revised. There is even a spot to change the constraints in the segment parameter’s dialog box.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

AutoCAD and 3DConnexion (and Giveaway)

OK, I’ve been keeping quite about a new feature in AutoCAD 2012 since I first saw it in action at Autodesk University, support for 3DConnexion devices within AutoCAD 2012 (and Revit 2012). 

SpacePilot PROWith the release of AutoCAD 2012 the 3D mice produced by 3DConnexion are now better integrated into AutoCAD 2012. The 3D mice work quite nicely moving models around in Navisworks, Google Earth and now AutoCAD (and verticals).

Using the 3D mouse is easy as you use the cap to push, pull and rotate the model. There is are axis locks available enabling the device to act as pan and zoom tool. Just push the cap in the direction you want to go (or the opposite if you have it reversed) and the view adjusts to your movement.

Now I haven’t tried it in Civil 3D 2012 yet or AutoCAD 2012 so I can’t say how well it works or doesn’t work. But I am excited to try it out when I get my hands on Civil 3D 2012. I suspect with the new level of detail feature in Civil 3D it will work well with surfaces, although I have my concerns with corridors.

For one lucky reader of this blog will win their own Space Pilot Pro, complements of 3DConnexion. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment with your name and tell me what feature of Civil 3D 2o12 you are most excited about. You can check out my list of Civil 3D 2012 features or Autodesk’s. On April 5th I’ll have a fellow Civil 3D blogger pull a name out of a hat and that person will win the 3D mouse.

If you want more information about the 3D mouse visit 3DConnexion’s website.

Civil 3D 2012

New Features

Segment focus is mainly transportation, but will be beneficial to other segments.

Support Organization Standards


New label rotation options for labels, with markers. Rotation works with or without the marker being shown.

Can now have a maximum width. The text stacks within the maximum width.




Import and Purge styles


Have the ability to select the styles you want to purge or import, even tells you if there are conflicts between the drawings.


Watch out for the import Settings check mark at the bottom. It will make you import some styles if the settings are used. If you don’t want to bring those styles in then uncheck import settings.

You can now purge styles.


If the style is a setting you can replace the style with another one and then purge it. It does replace each instance of the style everywhere so you may want to be careful with it. Fortunately there is an option to see where styles are used.

Label improvements, being able to have more options to modify the look of labels outside of styles.

Enhance Transportation Design

I like the geometry editing improvements.


LandXML improvements, now bring in constraints. Civil 3D tries to recognize the constraints for the alignment. Before it just brought in the segments with no constraints, they were all Free.


Now after import you can modify the alignment without worrying about constraints.

No more having to do hacks (well almost) with PI labels. There are some instances where this doesn’t work, but at least it works in most cases.




Can now have a set viewport configuration when doing Corridor Section Editor. You can now see all the relevant viewports you would need to see to effectively modify a corridor, alignment and profile.


Has an improved Station Tracker to show where you are at in the three views (or more or less) that are being shown. So you can modify the corridor without exiting from the Corridor Section editor.


Notice the above subassembly parameter editor and the ability to change the target from the section.

The ability to show multiple baselines within the corridor section. (I was too slow to get a picture).

Superelevation improvements. Help to meet agency design standards by providing an easier way to modify the values.


Now have an option to specify axis of rotation.



Can now change the shoulder values based on high side or low side.


See the results below for the different values for the shoulder.


A new subassembly is used.


Additional parameters for how it’s built. Indicators are shown for the the points in the Assembly.



Can change the value in the Superelevation Manager.

Extend Visualization and Analysis



Create a pipe network from GIS information. You can map the GIS data to the correct location in the Pipe Network.


Creates a connected pipe network.

Can create catchments.


It shows the outline as well as the flow path of the catchment.


Can create other flows of the catchment.


So now you can have different type flows within the catchment area.

Can export to Civil View in 3Ds Max.


Can set a datum and a stepped range for the surface display.


Large surfaces are now easier to see within the drawing using Level of Display. It reduces the amount of objects being shown in the drawing.


Now makes viewing large surfaces and objects easier. So now you can rotate and view items easily. Better viewing the model on the fly. As you zoom in more detail is shown as you zoom out less is shown.

Other Things

Able to change the view of the viewport from the viewport, makes it easy to change the appearance of the viewport.


Content explorer lets you search for online, local or network files for AutoCAD content. Say you want to search for Sewer Main blocks, this tool will let you search through the drawings to find all of the sewer main blocks you may have locally or being able to find online.


Additional grips to edit polylines or lines.


Can use data shortcuts or vault. Vault is changing. Using Vault Collaboration above and beyond regular Autodesk Vault.

AutoCAD 2012

AutoCAD 2012 was announced yesterday and here are some of the new features of the product:

Content Explorer lets you search for items on-line or Network Location. Lets you find 2D or 3D models. Helps you make it quicker to find things.

Import Tool – Additional file formats supported (ie. Parasolid, CATIA). Make sure you are in the correct space. Model space will bring it in as 3D, paper space as 2D.

Editing with Fusion. Integration with Inventor Fusion. The edit command is hidden until the solid is selected (or on the Add-Ins Tab).

UCS now is moveable, drag it to the location you want it to be aligned to.

List of commands with dynamic input.


The new 3D tools look interesting, unfortunately I probably won’t find much use using them in Civil 3D.

Chain Loop, allows you to create a surface based on items that are connected.

The Path array is pretty cool. It lets you create blocks along a path. This has similar capabilities of the measure or divide commands. Except now it’s dynamic and you can go back and modify the items after they have been placed. Can use a tabular input or drag them around. I see applications in creating slope indicator blocks from the top of slope to the bottom when you aren’t using a corridor or grading object. If the object is changed, the array will update. It’d be really cool if these could be used on Civil 3D objects, I guess I’ll just have to wait and see if they do.

Model Documentation

It takes 3D models and provides 2D documentation of the model. Cool and easy way to provide different views based on the model. Can control how they look and change the view style. The other views are based on the base view, but you can modify the other ones separate from the base model. Such as changing the scale. The 2D views are linked to the models. If the model changes a notification is provided to let you update the location of the labels. Also lets you see if the dimensions are associative.

Can also bring in models from Inventor, that are then linked together. Can model in Inventor and then document in AutoCAD.

MLEADERS, have an option for Leader Extension. Allows the leader to be extended to the end of the text. So ther is not longer a gap between the leader and the end of the text, if you so choose.

Background mask now remembers it’s last setting!

Blend curves for the landscape architects to create a blended curve between two objects. There are options for continuity for smooth or tangent.

Join tool now lets you select multiple objects at one time. Lets you select multiple lines at once, without having to select them individually. A potential time saver.

Rectangular array – lets you adjust the spacing of objects on the fly as you lay them out. Kind of like a dynamic block without having to do the hard work. Can remove or replace items within the array.

Delete Duplicate Objects – In the Modify tab. Redone to be quicker.


Raster file support is improved.  DirectDraw Surface, USGS Digital Orthophoto Quads, and more.

DGN support for linetypes. Now they bring in complex linetypes with the import instead of blank lines.

AutoCAD WS is now integrated into AutoCAD. So you can share drawings with others easily.


A different installation experience. Icons are present if you have entered the incorrect value or the correct value.

There is an option to migration custom settings. They should work better in this release so it brings over all of the migrations. You should at least try it once. You can reset it, it also deletes the files associated with the migration.

Able to now add multiple Printer configuration, description and table style paths.

There are performance improvements:

  • On startup when using Vista or Windows 7
  • Switching between ribbon tabs
  • Selection highlighting
  • Running LISP routines
  • Faster running LISP routines.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Alignment–Finding Direction at Point

The code snippet below shows how to find the tangent direction on an alignment at a given statin/offset value. This may be useful in performing report calculations. In looking through the API documentation it may not be easily noticed since it’s hiding in the PointLocationEx method of an alignment.

        Dim settingsStation As AeccLandLib.AeccSettingsStation
settingsStation = ReportApplication.AeccXDatabase.Settings.AlignmentSettings.AmbientSettings.StationSettings
Dim tolerance As Double
tolerance = Math.Pow(10, -settingsStation.Precision.Value)

Dim curStation As Double
For curStation = stationStart To stationEnd Step staIncment
Dim curNorthing As Double
Dim curEasting As Double
Dim curTangent As Double

If oAlignment.PointLocationEx(curStation, 0.0, tolerance, curEasting, curNorthing, curTangent) _
= AeccLandLib.AeccAlignmentReturnValue.aeccOK Then
Dim stationString As String
stationString = oAlignment.GetStationStringWithEquations(curStation)

Dim alignData As New DirectionData
alignData.station = stationString
alignData.northing = FormatCoordSettings(curNorthing)
alignData.easting = FormatCoordSettings(curEasting)
alignData.tangentialDirection = FormatDirSettings(Math.PI / 2 - curTangent)

End If
Catch ex As Exception
Diagnostics.Debug.Assert(False, ex.Message)
End Try

The code snippet is from the Civil 3D Reports Source code that ships with the product.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

New DesignByMany Challenge

At Autodesk University HP announced the DesignByMany website. The site is primarily focused on architectural challenges, although I did post a civil related channel a while back. I recently visited the site and what caught my eye was the most recently sponsored challenge giveaway of a HP DesignJet 111 printer.

I previously did not know a large format printer was available for around $825 ($625 until 3/31/11). While it doesn’t print sizes over 24” in the shortest dimension, it may be an alternative to sending prints out for some smaller offices (like mine). Most of the sizes I deal with are 24x36, so this printer would be perfect that application. Based on the specifications, found on the HP Website, printing at 90 sec/page for black and white isn’t too bad for the price. While I can’t fit the printer in my budget today, I’ll probably take a look at it in the future.

Civil 3D 2012

Based on web traffic to this site, interest in Civil 3D 2012 is growing. If you want to find out what the big features Autodesk is crowing about this year, you may want to attend the Autodesk Special Media Webcast. More information may be found by clicking the image below.


In addition to the webcast I should be able to provide additional information regarding Civil 3D 2012 in the days afterwards.

In addition I’ll be giving away a 3D Connexion SpacePilot Pro 3D Mouse, more information to come.

To make this post somewhat useful to me (since I always seem to forget) this is how to change the labels set for a  section view group.

  • Right click on the Section View Group
  • Choose Edit Labels
  • Select the set you want applied to all of the sections within the group.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Civil 3D Reminders Pack Free Updated

I’ve corrected some issues with the Civil 3D Reminder Pack 2011 – Free Edition. The revised program may be downloaded here:

Some of the fixes include:

  • Swap Parts now works, previously it would not run.
  • Swap Parts now includes structures in the list, instead of listing pipes.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Angle Reporting Error - 2011

If you are using the Parcel Map Check reports from the Toolbox, you may have noticed the Angle value does not report correctly at 4 digit precision and reporting in DMS. To correct this change the rounding code to:

Dim dAng As Double
dAng = dRadAng * 180.0# / Math.PI

sAngle = formatDMS(dAng, angPrec, angRounding, angFormat)

The code needs to be replaced using Microsoft Visual Studio Visual Basic .NET (or another similar program). Then compile the code and replace the Civil Reports DLL. The report will then provide the correct values.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Running EXE from AutoCAD

So I was trying to run an EXE from AutoCAD. During debugging the code would work properly, but once I went to run the code the EXE would attempt to run from the directory path of the current drawing. Frustrating to say the least. In order to run an EXE in it’s location you can utilize the WorkingDirectory Property to set the place where the EXE is going to run from.

        Using NewProcess As New Process
NewProcess.StartInfo.WorkingDirectory = System.IO.Path.GetDirectoryName(System.Reflection.Assembly.GetExecutingAssembly.Location())
NewProcess.StartInfo.Arguments = sProgramInfo
NewProcess.StartInfo.FileName = sFileName

End Using

The System.IO.Path.GetDirectoryName(System.Reflection.Assembly.GetExecutingAssembly.Location())  gets the path of the current DLL that is running, which happens to be the same location as the EXE program.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Toggle Leader Tail

Have you ever wanted to get rid of the dragged leader tail on a Civil 3D label and keep the arrow? Well before today I thought it wasn’t possible. I never noticed the right click option of Toggle Leader Tail. It’s not available for some label types, such as points, but it is there for a variety of them. You can use the ToggleLabelLeaderTail command from the command line if you want to modify more than one at a time. You can also turn on and off the leader using the option right above it, but again it isn’t available for all label types.



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