Civil Engineering

Toolspace Settings 2 (CAD Clinic: Civil 3D Tutorial)

27 Mar, 2009

When defining exceptions or needs for different values, Civil 3D uses the Edit Feature Settings dialog box at critical control points in the Settings tree.

Editor's Note: This tutorial courtesy of Imaginit.

As you work on implementing Civil 3D, it is essential to know where to make a change and what affect it will have. The last article in this series reviewed the values in Edit Drawing Settings. By its very name, the command defines its scope of influence -- the entire drawing. This is because Edit Drawing Settings is at Settings top and any value set here pushes down the tree to the end of each branch (Surface, Parcel, Alignment, etc.). This by itself is very powerful when wanting uniformity for all label styles, commands, and object styles. But what if you want parcel distances to be eight decimal places not the two used for alignments or profiles? Or, what if you want profile elevations to four places instead of two? When defining exceptions or needs for different values in the drawing's settings, Civil 3D uses the Edit Feature Settings dialog box at critical control points in the Settings tree.

Setting, modifying, or resetting Ambient Settings values does NOT affect what you have set for each feature's labels. Ambient settings affect only objects and their commands.

Edit Feature Settings

What is a feature? Simply, a feature is a Civil 3D object type such as surface, parcel, or alignment. In Figure 1 is a collapsed Settings tree listing all of the possible Civil 3D object types. This list is longer than the list found in Prospector. Prospector's list is base objects and their dependencies, not all object and their styles, labels, tables, or commands. Prospector's duty is to manage data. Settings manages all of the possible default values and styles objects can have.

A collapsed Settings tree listing all of the possible Civil 3D object types.

In Settings, if you select the object type's name and press the right mouse button, a shortcut menu displays containing the Edit Feature Settings command (See Figure 1). When selecting the command, the Edit Feature Settings dialog box displays (See Figure 2).

The dialog box contains the current ambient settings from the Edit Drawing Setting's Ambient Settings tab. The ambient settings list gives you the opportunity to change how object properties are displayed by this object type. For example, this is where to change how profile elevations display as five decimal places in the profile editors.

When selecting the command, the Edit Feature Settings dialog box displays.

When changing the elevation in Edit Feature Settings for profile or changing a value in any object's dialog box, the Override column's check box receives a check mark notifying you that this is a change from the Drawing's setting. This is not the only reaction by Civil 3D. Civil 3D also places a downward pointing arrow in Edit Drawing Settings' Ambient Setting entry for Elevations indicating that a Feature (child) has overridden its value. Edit Drawing Settings does not list who overrides the ambient setting. The only way to discover who changes the value is to first, visit each Feature Settings dialog box and if that fails, open the command settings dialog box for each object's command. What you are looking for is a check mark in the Override column. And, this is not a trivial task.

Down Arrows and Children

How do you know if there is an override to the drawing's or feature's settings? As mentioned above, Civil 3D indicates a lower entry on the tree changing the drawing's current values with a downward pointing arrow in the Child Override column (See Figure 3). In Figure 3, Edit Drawing Settings indicates the elevation value is overridden by either a feature or a command. In Figure 4, Edit Feature Settings for Profile overrides the drawing's value with its own value. In Figure 5, Edit Feature Settings for Profile does not override the elevation value, but one of its commands does. You know this by the Override column not having a checkmark, but there is a downward pointing arrow. The only option left is looking at each command to see which one overrides the elevation value.

Drawing Settings Override indicator.

Feature Settings Override indicator.

A Feature Command Override indicator.

Resetting or Exerting Control

How do you eliminate overrides? Following the elevation example, to reset all overrides to Edit Drawing Settings, Ambient Settings, current Elevation value, you click on the downward pointing arrow in Edit Drawing Settings. When clicking the downward arrow, a small 'x' displays on the arrow and clicking Apply or OK resets all changes to conform to Edit Drawing's value. Clicking Apply resets the value, but doesn't get rid of the downward pointing arrow. The downward pointing arrow disappears when you exit and reenter the Edit Drawing Settings dialog box.

If a command overrides a feature's values, you cancel the override by clicking the downward pointing arrow in the Edit Feature Settings dialog box. This action resets all of the commands that use a different value to the current Edit Feature Settings value. To reset the values for a single command, edit the command setting and uncheck the override.

Feature-Specific Settings

Each Edit Feature Settings dialog box has values directly affecting the objects creation, review, editing, and annotation. These setting can be as simple as default styles, a point's point and label style, to defining a naming convention, design criteria, or setting label styles and sets. Civil 3D marks these settings with feature specific icons that are always the third entry in the dialog box (See Figure 6).

Feature-specific settings.

Each value displays an up-down value changer (increasing or decreasing elevation's precision), a drop-list, a selection dialog box, or an ellipsis. The value changer has arrows pointing up and down and selecting one or the other increases or decreases the current value.


Civil 3D has levels of settings; drawing, feature, and command. Each of these control points allow you to set values you want objects to display while creating and manipulating them. The scope (effect) of the changes depends on where the change is made. Changing values at the drawing name affects the entire drawing. Making changes at the feature affects the entire feature. Changing values for commands affects only the commands.

The tutorial in this series will review some of the feature specific settings and methods for setting their values.

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