December 2009

I mean, come on!  How much information do you really think I need right there in the middle of my drawing?  You know what I really like to see in the middle of my drawing?  MY DRAWING!  There are several things that can clutter up your drawings, the least favorite of mine is the AutoCAD rollover tooltips.  You know, that HUGE white area with the widely spaced text taking up a ton of room!  In this post, I’m going to give you some information on how to choose what information you want to see.  So, there are four things that have a tendency to pop up and clutter your drawing area, the quick properties, rollover tooltips, Civil 3D object tooltips, and dynamic input.  I personally use three of these and the forth I can’t stand.

So, let’s start off with the first culprit, the Quick Properties.  Now, you can simply disable the quick properties but I’ve come to love my quick properties.  In this post I explain some of the things you can do with the Quick Properties but real quick, this post is about where it’s displayed.  Turn your Quick Properties on, select something, and then, just under the X to close it, there is a little arrow.  This will bring up your options.  One of the options is location mode, change that to static and wherever you put your Quick Properties, it will stay there.

The next one I find to be more annoying then useful, and that’s the rollover tool tips. I mean, come on!  Do you have to cram each line of text so close to each other and can’t you at least put a little bit of room around the box instead of putting the border right up next to the text?  Ok, so I’ve been told that sarcasm isn’t becoming but that’s the way I roll (pun intended).  So much space is taken up for such a small amount of information that it just doesn’t make sense to me.  You can turn off your rollover tooltips via the options.  Right click in your drawing and choose Options (or whatever way you want to get there).  On the Display tab is a toggle for Show Rollover ToolTips.  Simply toggle this off.  You can also toggle this on and off via the system variable ROLLOVERTIPS and changing it to zero (off) or one (on).

The Civil 3D Object tooltips aren’t quite as annoying as the Rollover Tooltips but they’re close.  The nice thing about these tooltips is you have full control over what objects display these tooltips.  There are three levels of control; the object, the feature, and the drawing.  You can turn off tooltips for any object by going into that objects properties.  At the bottom left of the information tab, you can toggle on and off the tooltips for that specific object.  If you want to turn all alignment tooltips off (or surfaces or whatevers),  you’ll need to go to the settings tab of the toolspace.  Right click on the feature you want to disable/enable the tooltips for and choose Feature Settings.  In the Edit Feature Settings dialog box, expand out General and you can toggle on and off the tooltips for that feature.  In the same way you can turn off the tooltips for a feature, you can turn them off for the entire drawing.  Again, on the settings tab, right click on the drawing name and choose Edit Drawing Settings.  in the Edit Drawing Settings dialog box, choose Ambient Settings (far right tab) and here you can expand out general and toggle on and off the tooltips.

The final culprit of clogging up your drawing is the Dynamic Input.  Now, when I first started using the dynamic input, I didn’t like it.  I found it to be annoying to have to find where my command line input was.  Now, I like the dimensional input but it’s not worth it if I can’t have my command line.  Well, you can have the best of both worlds.  In your drafting settings (right click on the dynamic input toggle in your system tray and choose settings) toggle off “Show command prompting and command input near the crosshairs”.

Well, this will be my last post for the year.  Happy new year to both of you that are reading my blog and may all your dreams come true.


If you are familiar with the coordinate systems in Civil 3D, you may be aware that the transformation tab allows you to transform a local coordinate system to a known coordinate system.  In other words, Ground (project coordinates) to Grid (known coordinates).  Now, how does this tab affect bringing survey data into the survey database?  Well, it all depends on where the data is coming from.

<begin disclaimer>I am not a surveyor nor do I pretend to be one on TV.  I’ve just learned a lot about this stuff in recent years.  I’m by nature an engineer and engineers aren’t allowed to play with survey data so everything I have, I made myself.<end disclaimer>

So what happens when you have transformations set to your drawing and you import survey data from a point file?  Well, point files typically don’t have coordinate systems assigned to them (can they ever?).  When using the import survey command, the points come into the database as if they were collected using the same coordinate system as the survey database.  Since I live in Colorado, I’ll use NAD83 Colorado State Planes, North Zone, US Foot as the coordinate system.  I create a point file that has the following points in it:


The survey database has the same coordinate system as the drawing, NAD83 Colorado State Planes, North Zone, US Foot and has a very simple transformation assigned to it.  Basically, it will translate the ground coordinate N=40,000 E=50,000 to the grid coordinate N=1,040,000 E=3,050,000. When the point file is imported into the survey database, the points are brought in and the transformation settings in the drawing are not honored.  I don’t know exactly why but, this is my theory on what is happening.  When you bring the points directly into the survey database, they don’t come into the drawing and then into the database, they are brought directly into the database from the point file bypassing the drawing altogether.  Since the point file has no coordinate system (yet alone a transformation setting), they are simply brought directly into the database.

As you can see, the points coordinate match the points in the point file and do not reflect the transformation settings.  If you need the points to honor the transformation settings, import the points into the drawing first, and then import the points into the survey database from the drawing.  Since the points are in the drawing, the settings of the drawing will be used and the points will be transformed as they are brought into the database.  In this image, you can see that the points in the drawing are in the project coordinates:

And after the points are brought into the survey database, they are in the known coordinate system:

Hopefully, this will help clarify some of the mystery of the survey database.

So, at some point in your Civil 3D career, you may find yourself needing to combine a design surface that loops around and has a hole in the middle with an overall existing surface.  No problem you may say to yourself.  You know better than pasting your design surface into your existing ground surface so you create a new surface (I’ll call it Final Site Grading) and paste in the existing ground and then paste in the proposed ground.  You take a look at your final output and, what on earth is going on?  Well, when you paste a surface that has a hide boundary (necessary in order to create a void in the middle), the paste doesn’t recognize that hole and simply fills in the middle or, doesn’t fill anything in at all.  What to do?

Well, here’s my solution.  I’m sure there are other solutions out there but this is what I’ve come up with.  Create a third surface that will just show the interior portion of the existing ground surface.  Again, we all know better than to copy the existing surface, I mean what happens if the surveyor decides to make some changes?  Create a blank surface and paste in the existing ground.  Extract the interior boundary for the design surface, and then add that to the interior surface as an outer boundary.  Now, when it’s time to make the Final Site Grading surface, paste in the overall existing ground surface, the design surface, and then the interior surface.  Remember, these surfaces can come through via datashortcuts too!


For those of you out there that often need to take screen captures for blog posts, training materials, or bragging rights, there are some great options out there.  Here are the ones I use as well as one I don’t use but is readily available.

Print Screen – Windows

You know, that key on your keyboard that is supposed to take screen captures but you can never seem to figure it out?  Well, it’s really not all that complicated.  Simply press the button and whatever is on your screen is put in an image on your clipboard.  You then simply need to paste it into whatever program you want, such as an e-mail, word, or power point.  There aren’t a ton of options but there is one.  If you hold down the alt key as you press the Print Screen key, you will only capture the active window.  The main drawback to using print screen is that you need some other piece of software to narrow down your selection even further or to add annotations or additional information or, for that matter, to even see it.  In fact, this tool is so straight forward and simple, I’m not even going to include any screen captures for it (ironic, huh?).

Snipping Tool – Windows Vista and Windows 7

The Snipping Tool is available in Windows Vista as well as Windows 7.  This tool basically is the next level above the print screen button.  Using this tool, you can more precisely choose the area you wish to capture.  You can select just a specific area of the screen using a rectangle, selecting a window, or (and I like this one) using the free form option.  The free form option allows you to draw a closed figure and whatever is within the figure will be captured.  The best part about this tool, if you have Vista or W7, you already have it!  The default location is under the start menu, accessories, Snipping Tool.  Try it out, you might like it.

Snagit by Techsmith

This is a great tool for taking screen captures and one I use quite often.  There are a ton of options for how you want to take the screen capture.  You can choose the entire screen, just a portion of it, one window, if what you need doesn’t fit on the screen you capture a scrolling window, and you can set up custom screen capture settings.  The thing that I really like about Snagit is it comes with an editor.  In this editor you can add text, put in arrows, send it out to other programs, trim it, etc.  If I’m doing complex images, this is the tool I’ll use.  It’s not photoshop but it is a great little image editor.  The biggest drawback to Snagit is that it’s not free.  It’s not really expensive but, it’s not free.  If you do a lot of screen capturing, it is probably worthwhile getting.  If you do this on occasion, probably not so.  You can find more information about Snagit HERE.

Jing by TechSmith

TechSmith also has a little program called Jing.  This is a great program because not only does it allow you to choose the area that you want to take the screen capture of, it also allows you to publish it directly to the internet for use online.  In order to do this, you have to set up a Screencast account.  Don’t worry, just like Jing, Screencast is free!  The other cool thing about Jing is it also allows you to do video capture of you screen and publish that to the web as well.  It’s limited to three minutes of video but, hey, that’s all most people need.  Once the file (image or video) is uploaded, the link to it is immediately placed in your clipboard so you can paste it wherever you need it.  You also have the option to save the image, edit it in Snagit, or even post it up to Twitter.  I often find myself taking a screen capture of something with Snagit, editing it in the Snagit Editor, and then taking a screen capture of the Snagit editor with Jing to quickly share it online.

I’m sure there are other programs out there and some that might even be better then these but, I like these programs, especially Jing.  If you use a different program, let me know.  I would love to check it out.


Welcome to my new blog.  Hopefully this will be a great resource for those of you wishing to take Civil 3D to the next level.

Recently, I’ve talked with several people that haven’t been using the new user interface (i.e. ribbon) to it’s full capabilities.  I put together a quick little video showing a few modifications that I like to make that hopefully you’ll be able to use as well.  The first thing about the new interface is that the quick properties is an excellent (vital?) tool to use with Civil 3D.  In 2009, the quick properties often caused the program to crash but, in 2010, I’ve yet to have that happen.  You can quickly rename objects and change their styles using the quick properties.  There are also additional properties that you can add to the quick properties depending on what kind of projects you work on.  All this is nice and good but, man it sure is annoying when you select something and that quick pr0perties shows up right on top of what you are trying to see.  Even if you move it out of the way, it will still pop up where it’s least wanted.  Well, you can change the properties so that it always pops up in the same place.

When I first started using the ribbon, the thing I disliked most is that the layer pulldown is on the home tab.  If I switch to any other tab, the layers aren’t readily visible.  Well, if you right click on any tool on the ribbon, you get the option to add it to the quick access toolbar.  Now, no matter what I’m doing, I always have access to my layers pulldown.  Another command I like to add to the quick access toolbar is the add labels command.

I look forward to writing more posts.  If anyone has anything they would like me to post on, feel free to leave a comment.

For future posts, I’m planning on embedding any videos I create directly into the blog so, sorry about the link for now.