BIM Collaborate Pro: Collaboration for Civil 3D

Autodesk’s Construction Cloud platform connects project teams with a suite of products, from design to construction, all working from centralized project data. This unified platform centralizes data in Autodesk Docs, where Construction Cloud applications can utilize the data across the project lifespan. One product, Autodesk BIM Collaborate Pro, connects Revit, Civil 3D, and Plant 3D with seamless cloud collaboration. These tools are consistently improving and expanding, including some exciting advancements for collaborating in Civil 3D.

These advancements include a Sheet Set Manager designed for the cloud, a new and improved Desktop Connector, and up to 25% faster opening times. These build on an existing feature set that allows you to seamlessly collaborate on a Civil 3D project in the cloud. In this article we will explore how to setup and use the Collaboration for Civil 3D tools in the Autodesk Construction Cloud.

Clearing Up the Titles

When it comes to the Autodesk Construction Cloud, there are quite a few product names and titles, many of which sound the same. It can be quite confusing. Before we dive into the nuts and bolts, let’s clear up some of this naming.

First, Autodesk Construction Cloud is the name of the platform, a collection of products for different areas of the project lifecycle. These products include, Docs, Collaborate, Collaborate Pro, Build, and Takeoff. Each product is a toolset, containing several sub tools or modules. The two products we will focus on, are Docs and BIM Collaborate Pro.

The core of the Autodesk Construction Cloud (ACC) platform is the Document Management product, called Autodesk Docs or simply, Docs. This includes the Project Setup, Administration and Document Management tools.

The Account Admin web tool is where anything ACC gets started. This is where projects are created and configured, companies and members are added, analytics are reviewed, Etc. The Project Admin web tool is used to configure and administer an existing project, and the Project Home dashboard gives you quick insight into project status and information.

The Document Management module, Docs is the data repository, where all project files are stored, folder access is granted, file viewing, markup and issue creation occurs, etc. You can subscribe to Autodesk Docs by itself and take advantage of these modules, or by subscribing to any other ACC product, access to the Docs product is included with that subscription.

BIM Collaborate Pro extends the project data to Revit, Plant 3D, and Civil 3D for cloud collaboration and work-sharing. As mentioned earlier, a seat of Collaborate Pro grants that user access to all the tools of Autodesk Docs, as well as the collaboration tools. Collaborate Pro also includes the Model Coordination module for cloud clash detection and review.

There is also a package, BIM Collaborate that includes the Docs module, as well the Model Coordination module, but lacks the Collaboration tools included with Pro.

The Design Collaboration module, who’s name often gets confused with the Revit Cloud Worksharing tool or the entire BIM Collaborate Pro product, enables organization and control of each project team’s data and how other project teams can see and consume one another’s data. I wish Autodesk would have named this module differently as they used very similar wording in marketing and help material. Don’t be surprised if you see material from Autodesk or otherwise that use the term ‘Design Collaboration’ for more than just this module.

The collaboration module for Civil 3D, in the BIM Collaborate Pro product, and focus of this article is Collaboration for Civil 3D. Using the Desktop Connector, a desktop service that connects Windows File Explorer with your ACC data, extended project teams can collaborate on Civil 3D projects, with automated file locking, XREF and Data Shortcut support.

As the Autodesk Construction Cloud platform has evolved, names have been changed, and in some cases, very similar names have been used for different tools and products, creating quite a bit of confusion. This hopefully clears up some of that confusion with Autodesk Construction Cloud, and its product and module naming.

Getting Setup

Before getting into the nuts and bolts of Collaboration for Civil 3D, there are a few things you need to do in preparation. The first step is to ensure your Autodesk User Account has a BIM Collaborate Pro license assigned to it. ACC products are single named user subscriptions. This means a subscription, or seat of the product needs to be assigned to your Autodesk User Account, so when you login, the system recognizes you are licensed to use the product. Licenses are assigned by your Autodesk Account Administrator via the Autodesk Account.

Before you can start uploading files, you need a place to put them, an ACC project, setup in Docs. If you are an ACC Account Admin, you can create a new project, or if you are joining an existing project, you will need to be invited by an admin of that project. This project could be in your company’s ACC Account, or another company’s ACC Account.

The ACC Account is the overall storage container for a company’s projects, and configurations. You will likely be invited to projects on multiple accounts. Projects in both Desktop Connector, and the ACC Web interfaces are listed under their associated account name as the parent folder. When someone invites you to a project on their Account, and you accept the invitation you receive via email, you will then see that account, and any project(s) from their account you are invited to in your project list.

A quick note on Autodesk BIM Collaborate Pro (ABC Pro) licensing. A seat of ABC Pro assigned to your Autodesk User account allows you to use the ABC Pro tools on all Accounts/Projects you are invited to.  This is a ‘bring your own license’ model, meaning you as a user are licenses to use the product, and that license follows you to any project you are invited to.

The last step is to install and sign into the Autodesk Desktop Connector. You can download the Desktop Connector from your Autodesk Account, on the All Products and Services tab.   The installation is simple, run the .exe file that is downloaded, and click Install. Once the installation finishes, sign in with your Autodesk account. This will put an ‘Autodesk Docs’ location in ‘This PC’ in your Windows File Explorer. You will then be able to access any ACC accounts, and projects you are invited to via Windows File Explorer.

The Desktop Connector functions in a ‘files on demand’ method. This means though you see the entire set of files/folders, they are not all stored on your local system. When you access a file, it is then downloaded to your system and cached locally until it has been unused for 15 days, after which it will be automatically removed from your local cache.

The latest version of the Desktop Connector, version 16, also called the Autodesk Docs Connector, has some exciting new features including right click commands from both Windows, and Docs Connector, upload and file reference tools and improved file locking.

Now that you have Desktop Connector installed and connected, a license to BIM Collaborate Pro, and are a member of an ACC project you can get started with setting up and using Collaboration for Civil 3D.

Configuration and Access

The first step is to set up the project folder structure in the project. This can be done in the Docs web portal or using the Desktop Connector through file explorer. If you have a folder structure already created you want to copy to this project, use the Desktop Connector as there currently is not a folder upload in the web portal. In versions 15 and below of the Desktop Connector, there is no right click context menu in the Desktop Connecter for Copy/Paste. Copy your project data in by dragging and dropping, or CTRL-V to paste. In version 16, you can use the Copy/Cut/ Paste command built into File Explorer.

Once you have pasted or dragged and dropped in your data, a ‘Transferring Files’ window will appear to let you know your files/folders are being uploaded. You can also monitor the upload status via the Pending Actions dialog. In the System Tray of Windows, you will see the gray icon with a white ‘D’ Symbol of the Desktop Connector. Right click on the icon and select ‘Pending Actions’ to open the dialog box in versions 15 and older. In version 16, pending actions appear on the pop-up window that appears when clicking on the Desktop Connector icon in the system tray.

Now that you have your data uploaded, it’s time to open Civil 3D. Currently, only Civil 3D 2020.2 and later is supported. If you do not have the 2020.2 update installed, you need to install the update before continuing. The start screen for Civil 3D on a supported version will have a ‘Autodesk Docs’ location where you can browse the Accounts/Projects you have access to. The dropdown at the top of the screen allows you to switch which projects folders you are browsing. Clicking ‘Change Account’ will show you all Accounts you have access to, selecting an Account will then list the available projects.

On the metadata ribbon, to the far right is a gear icon that lets you select what metadata columns you see about the files. I like to turn on at least Locked State, Local State, and Locked By fields. Click on the file you want to open, or right click to select between Open and Open Read-Only.

As the file opens, the file is automatically locked so no one else can modify the file while you have it locked. (Unless of course you selected Read-Only, or it was already locked, and it forced Open Read-Only).

To save your changes, simply click ‘Save’ in Civil 3D and your changes will be saved locally, and the Desktop Connector will begin uploading the modified file.

Data Shortcuts and XREFS

Next you need to set your Data Shortcuts working folder. Data shortcuts in Collaboration for Civil 3D use the same Data Shortcuts in Toolspace, on the Prospector tab as when you’re working locally, but you will now select an Autodesk Docs location via the Desktop Connector as the working folder. If you do not yet have a Data Shortcuts Project folder in your folder structure, create one. Then set the working folder to that location. Right click on Data Shortcuts, and select Set Working Folder, then browse to the Docs location for your shortcuts. Once selected, you will see a Blue cloud icon, as well as an ACC Docs:\... location set.

You can then create and reference Data Shortcuts the same way you are used to working locally.

Civil 3D X-References are also supported. When dragging and dropping / pasting files through the Desktop Connector, XREFS are automatically checked, uploaded to Docs and paths updated.  Even if you only copied in the host drawing, the XREF check will see that drawing has a reference, automatically go get that reference file if it can be resolved, and upload it, updating the path to a Docs path. The referenced file will be copied to the project location, replicating the directory structure where it was found. If it is not able to resolve the reference, you will get an error message saying ‘Failure Gathering References’ and the missing XREFS will be ignored, and the host drawing uploaded with a broken reference.

To create a new reference, you follow the same procedure you normally do, but select the file to be referenced from the Desktop Connector folder structure. If you look at the absolute path for a reference, you will notice its pathing to your C:\Users\UserName… Folder. But do not worry, the Desktop Connector makes the translation in the background to the cloud. Even though it shows a local path, when another user opens it, it shows their local location of the desktop connecter, the translation from local folder to cloud is being made in the background.

Sheet Set Manager

Previously, the weak point in the Collaboration for Civil 3D workflow was the lack of support for Sheet Set Manager. That has now changed, Autodesk has developed a sheet set manager, based on the legacy Sheet Set Manger tool designed specifically for Autodesk Docs workflows. This new tool, Sheet Set Manager for Web is a Lightweight version of the legacy Sheet Set Manager, providing these core functionalities.

  • Create cloud sheet sets.
  • Manage support files.
  • Create, remove, or move sheets and subsets.
  • Define sheet set and sheet properties.
  • Automatically number new sheets
  • Rename or renumber sheets.
  • Import sheets.
  • Publish sheet sets to PDF.
  • Transmit sheet sets.

Opening an existing .DST file from Autodesk Docs will automatically open the sheet set in the new Sheet Set Manager for Web tool. Browse for the .DST file through the Desktop Connector in File Explorer and double click to open it. Opening through the legacy SSM tool in Civil 3D will open in the legacy tool. Once open, you will see tools for the core functionalities listed above. You can also see all users who are collaborating on the sheet set by clicking the members icon in the top right corner.

You can create a new sheet with the ‘Add Sheet Set’ button in the top left corner of the Sheet Set Manager for Web tool, or in the legacy SSM tool by clicking Add Sheet Set and selecting ‘Cloud Example Sheet Set’ and filling out the sheet set details. You can also save an existing sheet set to Autodesk Docs and open it through File Explorer.

This new tool has very familiar toolset naming, look and feel as the legacy sheet set tool. It will be an easy transition for users to seamlessly start using this new tool with very little learning curve. Utilizing the new Sheet Set Manager for web, users can now utilize sheet set workflows on Civil 3d projects in Autodesk Docs.


The Collaboration for Civil 3D module of BIM Collaborate Pro is constantly advancing, adding new features and improved speed. Utilizing BIM Collaborate Pro, you can improve your Civil 3D workflow extending collaboration, anywhere, anytime.