Translating Data with Civil 3D, part 3 (CAD Clinic: Civil 3D Tutorial)

28 Feb, 2007 By: Mike Choquette

Transfer survey and civil data between Civil 3D and other applications.

Many Civil 3D users are required to exchange data with outside consultants for surveying and design services, as well as to collaborate with other offices on shared projects. Many companies also have legacy project data they need to bring into Civil 3D. Currently, Civil 3D has many options for translating data from and to other civil/survey applications as well as from one file server or Vault project to another. This is the third and final installment on this topic which began in January's CAD Clinic: Civil 3D column.

The January column described LandXML and the function of the Import LandXML command available from the File pull-down menu. The February article described how to transfer LandXML data into and out of survey databases, commands for transferring data directly between Civil 3D and Land Desktop projects and some miscellaneous point and surface import commands. This installment discusses Civil 3D Vault projects and the Export to AutoCAD feature.

Vault Export Options
Project Archives. The File / Export command in the Vault Explorer lets you create a list of all documents located in a project vault, either in an ASCII, Microsoft Excel, HTML or XML format. However, this command doesn't create an external Vault archive. If you want to gather all of the documents stored in the Vault for an external backup or for transmitting to another party, first create a Label (often used to identify project milestones) through Tools / Labels. Then, in the Labels dialog box, choose Pack and Go to generate an external archive of your desired project files.

Individual File Backups. If you only want to transmit or make an external backup of a single drawing file you can launch a different Pack and Go command through the Vault Explorer's File pull-down menu. This command allows you to gather the highlighted drawing and all of its associated drawings, but not its dependant AutoCAD support files (the font mapping file, SHX files, etc.).

Transmit by E-mail. You can use the File / Send command in the Vault Explorer if you want to e-mail one or more files directly from a Vault project. This command attaches copies of all highlighted files (using DWF files in lieu of DWGs if available) directly into an e-mail message through your default e-mail client. This operation can't be run on a project folder itself, but you can select all the individual project files and then launch this command. Keep in mind that this operation doesn't compress the files prior to attaching them to the e-mail, so you may need to use a Pack and Go command instead if they wind up being too large for your (or the recipient's) e-mail system.

Copy and Move. You can copy a single drawing file in one project folder to another through Edit / Copy Design in the Vault Explorer. You can move but not copy any number of files (of any file types) from one project folder to another through the Edit / Move command also in the Vault Explorer, or by dragging and dropping files within Vault. Any copied or moved drawings become part of the destination project and are immediately available for checkout through the Civil 3D Toolspace. Keep in mind you may need to refresh the Prospector tab with the F5 key to locate these drawings. As far as I have been able to determine, the only way to copy a non-drawing file from one project to another is to extract the file (highlight and drag it to a Windows Explorer folder) and then drag the extracted file to the destination project in Vault Explorer. This extraction isn't considered a checkout, and both the original and copied document are immediately available for editing.

Exporting to AutoCAD: A Related Issue
In closing, there is an important related issue worth mentioning here. When sending civil and survey drawing files to users of earlier releases of Land Desktop and Civil 3D (or different applications altogether), custom objects often cause problems for the downstream users. Custom objects are those special types that are not included in core AutoCAD, such as Civil 3D points, labels, alignments, terrain models and so on. Even if you save your drawing to an earlier version of AutoCAD (with File / Save As?), these objects are retained in their current object version. The presence of foreign objects or objects from future releases of the same product often disable many important features that downstream users need to access. For example, someone using Land Desktop 2004 who opens as Civil 3D 2007 drawing saved as the 2004 format may not be able to use Land Desktop commands while in that drawing because of future object information is present.

The simplest way to sidestep this issue is to choose the File / Export / Export to AutoCAD command from within Land Desktop or Civil 3D. This command simplifies all intelligent objects to core AutoCAD graphics within anonymous blocks, which normally don't cause issues for users of other software or earlier versions of the same software. Bear in mind, however, that once a simplified drawing is saved and closed, the simplification can't be undone. Because of this you may want to export a copy of your drawing to keep the objects intact in your original version.

Wrap Up
This is our third and final installment discussing data transfer into and out of Civil 3D. With these tools you can efficiently and accurately translate your survey and design intelligence between drawings, projects and different software platforms.

About the Author: Mike Choquette

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