Civil 3D: Customizing User Interfaces

In the never-ending expanding world of computer applications, we find ourselves in many occasions trying to define the best ways to make the User Interfaces (UI) we use, as comfortable and efficient as possible.

Over the last few months, I have found myself re-learning what I thought was set and done in my brain. You see, I have started a transition from Civil 3D and the Autodesk world into the new Bentley OpenRoads environment, an interesting journey so far. Unlike previous versions of Bentley CADD software such as Microstation Select’s series or Power GeoPAK, OpenRoads Designer – ORD, finally makes uses of a Ribbon Interface to allow users access to the tools within the software, which make things easier for “Us AutoCAD users”.

If you are facing this challenge in your career at this moment, I can tell you, you are NOT ALONE. One of the key things I have followed during this transition phase to better understand ORD’s environment was to familiarize myself with the location of various common toolbars and menus. Think of this as a one-on-one comparison about where to find in this new program what I often use while working in Civil 3D. Because it is almost impossible to cover most of these tools in one article, let’s focus on a few key elements that make ORD not such a Bad guy coming from the Civil 3D experience.

Workflow Menu

As within Civil 3D, you can access different workflows available, depending on what you need to accomplish with the task at hand.

There is also a very similar approach (if not the same) to the way how you can access through the ribbon tabs all the individual tools available within the software.

One neat feature I have found in ORD is the search box, which allows you to find any tool within the application by just typing the name of what you are looking for in the upper right corner of your screen.


Settings are a huge component of our personal workflows as well as our day-to-day operations, and on this point, ORD is loyal to the MicroStation Series approach. Nevertheless, the process to configure your workspace is very similar on these 2 platforms, where the main difference is the way how you have access to it. In ORD from your file tab and then scrolling down to the settings options, you can choose the environment to which you need to make changes, whether is your preferences, toolboxes, database settings, configuration variables and more.

Within Civil 3D we have a little more digging to do to access different configuration settings within the software (I like to think that this is because of how much more robust our C3D friend is than ORD). Through the options command we are granted access to key components of our UI such as our File paths, Display options, Plot, User preferences and more.

In reference to our drawing settings, we need to refer to our main menu in order to access these tools. And wait there is one more that we need to mention, the actual customization UI tool which we can access through our workspace switching panel.

I know I am not covering a few C3D options here… remember I  told you it would be an impossible task to list everything about customization within these two programas in just one article?

This is my first full ORD model after just a couple of months of serious training and practice. I have seen some of my colleagues developing these new skills very efficiently within this application.


One of the most exciting but also frustrating things we can do with these programs: 3D design. I won’t lie to you; Civil 3D is still in my humble opinion a more solid and stable tool for this purpose. Now with this being said, ORD is not coming short to this challenge, and I can attest that over the last 2 years the improvements are visible when it comes to modeling.

ORD offers templates, template libraries that work as the equivalent of our assemblies and subassemblies in civil 3D, and even though they look a little bit different from each other they both offer an interesting approach to what they can do when it comes to modeling, defining control points and/or targeting.

One thing for sure, from my personal experience I have found that the learning curve developing templates for corridor modeling in ORD it has been more efficient that becoming decent within subassembly composer in Civil 3D. Nevertheless, the options to create customized components tailored to your project needs is quite similar in both applications.

There are many more elements we could discuss about how to make these programs look and feel as comfortable and as productive as they can possible be according to our individual preferences. From plan production to drainage modeling, from 3D visualization to Infraworks or LumenRT, from external interactions with 3rd applications, this discussion will continue to evolve and develop further as Autodesk and Bentley keep taking these tools further along.

The main idea I am wishing to share with you here today is that if you find yourself in front of this challenge, and whether you are coming from an Autodesk Background or viceversa, from a Bentley environment, there are many similarities within OpenRoads Designer and Civil 3D that make the possibility to transition less painful and more productive, and what better way to start that by customizing our screens the way we feel more comfortable with.

The options to make these programs look and feel familiar to the way we develop our work are there for us to take advantage of.

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