Usability Enhancements

May 21st, 2014

A new year means a new version of AutoCAD® Civil 3D®. Since AutoCAD doesn't include a file format change, continuing to use the AutoCAD 2013 file format, Autodesk is claiming the ability to open drawings created in Civil 3D 2015 all the way back to Civil 3D 2013. A word of caution, though, as I have experienced crashes in Civil 3D 2013 from opening drawings from Civil 3D 2014.

Core AutoCAD Changes

I'm not quite sure what UI modernization means. I'm beginning to think it's just a fancy way to say the fad of the moment has been incorporated into the product. Civil 3D 2015 continues to ship with an option for two color schemes, dark and light.

Figure 1: Color changes

A UI change I dislike is no longer being able to not use icons to show the various items at the bottom of the screen showing  oSnap, Polar, OrthoMode, and other items. I must be deficient in figuring out what exactly the icons represent. I'm also going to miss the light bulb indicating if objects are isolated or not. The new icon is hard to read and not as clear as the light bulb. It almost feels like change for the sake of change. The new icon seems counterintuitive to the purpose of what the icon is supposed to convey to the user, which is whether or not an object is isolated.

That said, I do like the addition of the Model and Layout tabs being turned on by default. Looks like I'll no longer have to dig through the options to turn the usable feature back on. The Quick View Layouts has been moved to above those tabs. I find that does make the product more usable.

Profile Layout

A variety of profile layout changes have been made. The ability to select a profile entity that is floating and extend the segment to the end of the profile view extents. This appears to help in extending a profile to the end of a profile view to make sure it makes it to the end of an alignment. Take note that it doesn't extend the segment, but creates an extension line.

Another addition is the ability to create a Free Curve with a Passthrough point as a parameter in addition to curve length, radius, and K value. This would be helpful to avoid objects at a given point. It is also possible to now change the parameter constraint for a  selected point.

Locking Profiles to Alignment Geometry

The big addition to this release, in my opinion, is the ability to lock profile PVIs to alignment geometry. This way any changes in the horizontal alignment will be reflected in the profile. There are two options. One is to have the PVI to anchor to the alignment's geometry. The other option is to have the affected entities deleted. When I use this feature I'll be using the first option.

Figure 2: Profile Locking

In addition to moving the profile, optional temporary graphics are placed on the profile, indicating ones that have been modified from their original location in relation to the alignment. This feature has been a long wish list of mine and I'm glad to see it has made it into the product. With this, implemented changes to the alignment will no longer require modifying the entire length of a profile if the beginning of an alignment has been lengthened or shortened.

Corridor Targeting

Enhancements to corridor targeting are once again a new feature. For this year's release—the ability to add corridor sections along target curves. The targets may be set "At an increment" or "By curvature" and the appropriate parameters set for each type. This will provide accurate models where targets curve. One such location where this would be useful is for driveways. Currently if you wanted additional sections, you would either need to create a region for the driveway and then put a tighter corridor frequency or ignore the issue and chance a corridor section being placed along the curve in a frequency needed for an accurate model.

Figure 3: Corridor frequency

Reassociate Labels

If you have ever had to replace a surface, you will love this feature. The ability to associate a label to a different object then originally labeled is now possible. No longer will you have to re-label a drawing just because the alignment or surface has changed. The labeled object is now a property and may be changed in AutoCAD Properties. Label types included in this new feature are alignment station labels, surface slope labels, surface spot elevation labels, and surface contour labels. This will save countless hours of pointless relabeling in a drawing.

Sliced Solids

Solids may now be sliced and placed on profile views. This feature is similar to last year's sliced solids for sections in Civil 3D 2014. This will provide a way to show solids in a profile view such as walls created from solids or other objects.

Subassembly Composer

Subassembly composer has quite a few improvements. The ability to have holes in shapes is one example of this. It is now possible to use subassembly composer to have shapes that represent objects such as box girder bridges. With the offset operations it will make it fairly easy to create the shapes.

Another subassembly composer operation is an offset operation. This takes a link or series of links and “automagically” adds the points and links to get the offset values. It does this by creating a sequence and putting the appropriate points and links inside of this. This allows for one to modify the point and link codes of the offset. This will make creating line type objects a whole lot easier than having to create each offset from scratch.

New to this release is the ability to use rail cant in a subassembly. It is now possible to set the various cant values and then utilize them in a subassembly made with subassembly composer, as shown in Figure 4. Both left and right rail can be specified.

Figure 4: Cant options

Superelevation improvements are not limited to rail cant. It is now also possible to apply Axis of Rotation to a link. The feature is implemented as a check box in a point geometry. There is also the ability to show if a condition is yes or no to validate a subassembly.

Civil 3D 2015 has a variety of usability improvements. Similar to last year, there are smaller improvements to the product as opposed to big changes. Many features such as pipes, structures, and fittings haven't been enhanced. The feature that would make me move to Civil 3D 2015 is the profile locking to an alignment.

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