Civil 3D

Well, it’s once again that time of year, we get to see what cool new features are available in the new release of Autodesk software. Well, do you want to see what I think the best features are? I’ll list a few of the new features in the order that I think they are the most beneficial. Of course I’ll leave the best for last so, ranked from 5-1, my top five features in Civil 3D 2017!


Autodesk AutoCAD Civil 3D 2017

5 – Object and Data Shortcut Folders

On large projects, managing all your data can be cumbersome at best. Having several different surfaces that end up getting combined into a single surface, multiple alignments for use in an interstate interchange, and the examples keep coming.

In Civil 3D 2017, we can now organize our object data and data shortcuts in folders, simply right click on the object collection and choose the Create Folder option. You can create as many folders as you like and can create sub-folders as well.

Not only is this option available for the objects, they are available for data shortcuts too. In fact, if you create a data shortcut for an object in a sub-folder, the data shortcut will be placed in an identical sub-folder in the project folder.


Create sub-folders for objects and data shortcuts

On a related note, you can also create multiple data references at once. Just select all the data shortcuts you want to reference and drag them into your drawing (or right click and choose “Create Reference”). You won’t get the options you get when creating a single data reference but you could always go edit the ones you wanted to change from the default.


Adding Multiple References at Once

4 – Style Management

There are a lot of situations where the current method of managing the styles within a drawing leave a lot to desire. Many companies have very strict CAD standards but how do you know if someone has changed a style? Other times, you may work with organizations that have different standards and you may work on these different projects daily. How do you keep track of which drawings need which styles?

Well, 2017 will greatly help you here, that’s for sure! You can now attach a drawing  or drawing template to a drawing as a “Referenced Template”. If styles in the template are changed, deleted, or added, the styles will be changed, deleted (if they aren’t being used), or added to the attached drawing. In fact, multiple Reference Templates can be added to a drawing (you can even create a template specific for a project and attach it to the project drawings only). The new command can be found on the Manage Tab of the Ribbon.


Referenced Templates

3 – Pressure Network Content

This one is pretty huge and I almost placed it further down in the list but, it’s just content and not functionality. I often get asked if CAD-1 is going to create pressure network content for the Civil 3D Pressure Networks like we have for the Pipe Networks and I was always hesitant to do it because I figured Autodesk would create the content the release after I created ours. Looks like it worked out for me because that’s exactly what Autodesk did (without the me doing it first part).

In Civil 3D 2017, there has been a ton of added Pressure Network content! In fact, there are now 6 catalogs that are installed by default.

  • Flanged
  • HDPE
  • Mechanical
  • Push On
  • PVC
  • Steel

Just to give you an idea of some of the added content, the following image shows some of the appurtenances available in the PVC catalog and, yes, that’s a hydrant!


PVC Catalog Appurtenances

2 – Featurelines as Corridor Baselines

This is one I’ve been anticipating for a long time! Yes, alignments and profiles are powerful and have a place for roadway design but sometimes you just need to push an assembly along a feature, well now you can. Featurelines can now be used as a baseline in a corridor!

Now, honestly, I probably wouldn’t use them much to replace the traditional alignment/profile workflow for roadway design but what about those offset targets? They can be used for assembly offsets too! And don’t forget curb and gutter in a parking lot!


Featureline as Corridor Baseline

1 – Corridor Corner Cleanup

And finally, you’ve made it all the way to number one! What do I think is the best feature out of everything that’s available in Civil 3D 2017? Well, that would have to be the Corridor Corner Cleanup! You have an angle point in your corridor baseline? (I almost typed alignment but a baseline can be a featureline now…) Does that angle point cause your corridor to do odd things such as crossing sections on the inside of the bend or short cutting on the outside?

With the new feature, this is no longer an issue! As long as the subassemblies used in that region of the corridor have a constant width (in other words daylight subassemblies don’t work yet), they will clean up to each other! Now, add this with the option to use a featureline as a baseline and you have amazing new tools for modeling a parking lot!


Corridor Corner Cleanup

Bonus Feature

Ok, so this last one I’m not quite sure about yet. It’s a great tool, I’m just not sure how it would be used, it’s something I’m going to have to play around with for a bit and see how useful it is. What’s the feature? Well, Corridors can now be data referenced! It’s great that we can do it, I’m just not quite sure where it will fit into the workflow just yet. If you can think of how you would use it, just leave a comment and let us all know.


Data Reference Corridors

Final Thoughts

So, what do you think about these features? Would you have ordered them differently or added some of the others and removed some of these from the list?

All in all, I’m very excited about this release of the software! There’s a ton of new stuff in here but, it does come with a cost. Although AutoCAD 2017 still uses the 2013 .dwg format and is backwards compatible, Civil 3D 2017 is not backwards compatible. If you open a Civil 3D drawing in 2017 and save it, you won’t be able to use it in 2016 or earlier any longer so be cautious as you explore the new features, use copies of your drawings until you are ready to make the leap to the new version.

Now get out there and see what amazing out of the box ideas you can come up with now that we have these new capabilities!

Apparently, this won’t come as a surprise to those that know AutoCAD Architecture but, we can add any property we want to any object in our drawing!

Example Properties on a Featureline

Example Properties on a Featureline

Turns out, it’s a lot easier then you would think.

First thing to do is run the command PROPERTYDATA and go into the “Sets” command line option. This will open up the “Style Manager” dialog box (no, not Civil 3D styles…).

Style Manager

Style Manager

Once in here, simply right click on Property Set Definition, choose New, and name the new style (I named mine “Featureline Curbs”). On the “Applies To” tab on the right, simply select the type of object you want to create a custom property for (I chose a featureline for this example).

Object Type to Add Properties To

Object Type to Add Properties To

Finally, go to the Definition tab and add your new properties. Click the top button on the right side to create the new property, and then simply fill in the data. I created a new property for a featureline that represents a curb so I know what type of curb it is (defaults to “vertical”).

Create New Property

Create New Property

Settings for the new property

Settings for the new property

When you select a featureline now and go into the AutoCAD Properties, you’ll be able to see these new properties and edit them independently for each object. There is a trick, however, to be able to see them. On the Extended Data tab of your properties, you’ll need to select the object (or objects) you want these properties to be assigned to and then click on the button at the bottom of the properties, “Add Property Sets”.

Add Property Sets

Add Property Sets

This will then bring up a dialog box that will allow you to choose the property sets for this (these) object(s). In this example, I only have one but you aren’t limited to just one.

Select Property Sets

Select Property Sets

Now, when you select that line again, and go to the extended properties in your AutoCAD properties, you’ll see those properties.

Property Sets Dislayed

Property Sets Dislayed

Now, comes the fun part, figuring out what we can do with this! If you have any ideas, leave a comment below. Keep in mind, I just found out about these and I haven’t really had much time at all to play around with them yet but they’re there so go start using them!

So, you like to use the Bearing and Distance command while drafting in Civil 3D you say? Well, you might want to be aware of a little inconsistency in the command depending on how you run it.

Rick Ellis over at Cadapult Software Solutions (the author of the Civil 3D book we use here at CAD-1) pointed this out to me and I thought it would warrant a blog post. Thanks Rick!

So, here’s the problem, two lines drawn from the same location using the Bearing and Distance transparent command end up with different bearings depending on how you run the Bearing and Distance command.

Different Results, Same Input

Different Results, Same Input

So, what did I do differently? Well, the bottom line I drew using the Bearing and Distance command by typing ‘BD at the command line (don’t forget the apostrophe). The top line I drew it using the Bearing and Distance command from the Transparent Commands Toolbar (by default on the right side of your drawing area).

This will make more sense if I explain what it is I typed. I start the line command and snap to the center of the circle. I then invoke the Bearing and Distance transparent command using one of the methods listed above (repeat with the other method). I then type “1” for the quadrant, “45.4545” for the bearing, and “100.00” for the distance.

Same input different results

Same input different results

That’s great and all but, which one is wrong? Well, technically, they are both right, they’re just different. When ‘BD is typed at the command line, and you input 45.4545 for the bearing, it sees that as 45o45’45”. when you use the Bearing and Distance command from the toolbar, you are actually using the ‘_BD command and it returns a bearing of 45.4545o which, as you can see in the video, works out to be about 45o27’16”. Neither is wrong, they’re just different.

Here is a video with commentary that I made if you want some additional clarification:

So, if you haven’t heard yet, Civil 3D 2015 is due out soon. Wondering what’s new in the latest and greatest? Well, the C3D team has released the help for 2015 already. If you are interested, you can find the new features listed HERE.

Stay tuned. As the software gets released, you’ll see some more detailed information on exactly what’s in the new version.


A while back, I did a post about bringing DEM data into AutoCAD Civil 3D (you can read it HERE if you are interested). In the comments, people have asked several questions and have had some issues. One of the issues is, you have to know what coordinate system the DEM file is using. Another is that, no matter what coordinate system you are using, the DEM comes in as though the elevations where in meters (and will then convert those meters to feet).

Well, all that’s about to change. If you have the Autodesk Infrastructure Design Suite (Premium or Ultimate) then you also have Autodesk Infrastructure Modeler (AIM). You can use AIM as a DEM to Civil 3D surface converter. Simply import your DEM file into AIM, export to a .imx file, and then import that into Civil 3D.

Open up AIM and create a new project. Give it a name and a place to save it. Keep the coordinate system as LL84 (there’s no need to change it) and leave everything else the way it is.

Create a new project

Once the project is created, import the DEM file into AIM. This is done through the Data Sources panel. Expand out the different data sources and choose “Raster” as the data source. Browse to your DEM file, open it, and then Refresh the data. You will now have a beautiful surface in your model.

Import DEM as Raster

Refresh DEM

Now that the DEM is added to your model, export it out to Civil 3D via the .imx file. In the application menu of AIM (that’s the purple I in the top left corner of the application), choose the Export menu and then “Export to IMX”. In the Export to IMX dialog box, choose to export the entire model, and give it a file name. AIM will choose an appropriate coordinate system so just leave that alone. Depending on the size of the DEM file, this could take a few minutes.

Export to IMX

Once the .imx file is created, open Civil 3D. To import the .imx file, it’s important to remember to assign a coordinate system to your drawing. If you aren’t sure how to do this, click HERE. Once in Civil 3D choose the Import IMX command (it’s on the Import panel of the Home tab of the ribbon or type IMX_IMPORT at the command line). Simply browse to the .imx file and bring it in. Because both the .imx file and your drawing have coordinate systems assigned, the DEM file comes in at the correct location and at the correct elevation. You may want to change the name of the surface as well as the style but, you now have a beautiful DEM file in your drawing and you didn’t ever have to know what coordinate system it was using!

Import the .imx file into Civil 3D

And if anyone is wondering, the DEM file I used while creating this blog post created a surface in Civil 3D with almost 4 million points.

Surface Properties

Note from Brian: I wrote up an article showing an alternative way to bring in free surface and image data (at least for those in the United States) HERE. Go take a look at it and tell me what you think.

More new information: Check out Project Basejump now available from Autodesk Labs. “With Project Basejump, AutoCAD Map 3D and AutoCAD Civil 3D software users can access Microsoft Bing data including aerial imagery, road, traffic, and other information within an AutoCAD environment.”

Even more new information: Project Basejump is no longer available but in AutoCAD 2015, you can bring in the Bing imagery and plot it too. Read about it HERE.

So, there is a lot of talk about the cool new features in Civil 3D 2013 but, there is something I’m very bummed about. Do you like to have access to free data for preliminary design? Do you like to show your client where you project is in relationship to the world? How do you do this? Well, you use Google Earth. Unfortunately, in Civil 3D 2013 there is no longer the option to import from or export to Google Earth.

Here’s an image showing not only the ribbon where the import command should exist but also the surface settings showing where the command settings for these tools would be. As you can see, they are not there:

No Option to Import From Google Earth

On the Output tab, you’ll also so that the commands to export to Google Earth are missing as well:

No Option to Export to Google Earth

Why were these tools removed from Civil 3D? I honestly have no idea why they were removed. Perhaps someone in the know will comment and let us know why. Here’s my guess and yes, this is truly a guess; Autodesk was contacted by the Google legal team and was told not to include the functionality.

Anyways, I hate talking about the bad but if you use Google Earth regularly, you might want to hang onto Civil 3D 2012 a little longer.

:Authors note:
I’m going to close comments on this topic. Also, I’m going to remove all approved comments with the exception of Dave’s. If you would like to discuss it, head over to the discussion forum where there is a thread with this topic. You can find it HERE.


Looks like it’s not limited to just Civil 3D. The Google Earth extension for AutoCAD in labs has “graduated”. Not sure what that means. Thanks to Juan Soto @Civil3d_Jedi for this info.

Google Earth extension “Graduates”

I’ve finally gotten a bit of time to test the performance gains of Civil 3D 2013 over Civil 3D 2012. I spent about 3 weeks testing every possible configuration of every situation of every…

Ok, I lied. I worked on it for about an hour this morning. Here’s what I did.

  1. Restart my computer.
  2. Launch C3D 2012 and time it.
  3. Close C3D.
  4. Relaunch C3D12 and time it.
  5. Open a drawing containing a large corridor and about a dozen datareferenced surfaces and time it.
  6. Rebuild the corridor and time it.
  7. Close the drawing.
  8. Open a drawing containing a large grading object and time it.
  9. Grip edit the featureline creating the grading object and time it.
  10. Repeat the entire process (including restarting my computer) with C3D 2013.

Here are my results:

Initial Launch:

4:46 – 2012
2:43 – 2013


0:24 – 2012
0:16 – 2013

Open Corridor:

0:24 – 2012
0:12 – 2013

Rebuild Corridor:

0:19 – 2012
0:20 – 2013

Open Grading:

0:11 – 2012
0:08 – 2013

Rebuild Grading

0:25 – 2012
0:20 – 2013

This truely was not a very scientific study. My Civil 3D 2012 has a lot of add-ins installed such as the Interactive Terrain Shaping, the Bridge Modeler, Trimble Link, etc. (that’s why I think it took so long to do the initial launch). I also went through and upgraded the files to 2013 prior to running the test on 2013.

Anyways, I hope this helps someone in someway. What do your tests show?

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