Loading a Civil 3D Project to Autodesk Vault

Importing an AutoCAD® Civil 3D® project to Autodesk® Vault can be a frustrating task and result in a project with poor performance if the project is not cleaned up and prepped before import. Over the past seven years implementing and administering Autodesk Vault with Civil 3D, I’ve developed a process for preparing a project before importing that can also be used to clean up an existing Vault project with poor performance. This process for prepping a project makes importing much smoother and ensures maximum project performance.

This article will guide you through the steps I take to prep a Civil 3D project and help you to successfully import a project without errors and performance issues.

Importing Data to Autodesk Vault

There are several ways to upload data to Autodesk Vault, each with its own purpose and advantages. Non-CAD files such as PDF, Word, and Excel files can be added right through the thick client, while CAD files must be imported through a CAD application or by using the Vault Autoloader. These processes will upload a set of folders and files to Vault and work great for AutoCAD® projects. However, Civil 3D projects, specifically those containing Data Shortcuts, must be imported through Civil 3D. This creates a Vault Civil 3D Project that recognizes existing Data Shortcuts and converts them to Vault Shortcuts and prepares the project to recognize Civil 3D objects to create additional Vault Shortcuts.

Creating a Civil 3D project in Vault sets up a purpose-made environment for Civil 3D projects, including Data Shortcuts. In the July 2014 edition of AUGIWorld,  I wrote an article entitled “Managing Your Project Data with Autodesk Vault” that detailed the use of Civil 3D with Autodesk Vault. If you are unfamiliar with the process or need a refresher, you can find the detailed article on the AUGI website. 

The most important part to understand for the sake of this article is how Data Shortcuts (Vault Shortcuts in the Vault environment) and Sheet Set Manager work in the Vault environment. A quick overview of how those both works is as follows.

Instead of .xml files created and stored in the Data Shortcuts folder, Vault recognizes Civil objects and during file check in, you can also check in those objects as Vault Shortcuts. The project has an indexed and categorized area where the shortcuts are stored by type and can be used the same was Data Shortcuts. They are stored in an auto-created folder named Civil 3D Data. Within Civil 3D in Toolspace Master View is a section called Projects that displays the projects you select from Vault when you are logged in. Within the project is the folder structure containing Vault Shortcuts. Utilizing them is the same as Data Shortcuts—right-click and choose Create Reference. This will then bring up the same Data Shortcut dialog you are accustomed to (Figure 1).

Figure 1

Sheet Set Manager also integrates by processing a .dst file during import and creating a folder set, with a .dss container file, subsets to .dsu files, and sheets to .dsh files. When opened in Sheet Set Manager, it appears the same as opening a .dst file; However, this also allows multiple people to be in the sheet at once, as well as to edit the sheet set simultaneously.

Importing a Civil 3D Project

Although there are many ways to import data into Vault, to create the Vault Civil 3D project you must import the project through Civil 3D. This is done through Toolspace in Master View. Right clicking on ‘Projects’ in Toolspace gives you the option to Import from a .zip file or a folder. Once you select the folder or .zip file, Vault/Civil 3D will begin scanning the files to be checked in and processing the data.

This is where things can begin to go south if the project is not properly prepared. Missing references, bloated or corrupt drawing files, and missing font or shape files cause errors that cancel the import and significantly slows down the import process. This will also cause Vault interactions later on such as slow performance when opening sheet sets or when checking files in/out.

Spending some time cleaning up the project before import will give you an error-free, quick import and a high performing project.

Checking XREFS

The issue that will cause the most grief when importing CAD files to Vault is missing XREFs. When using the Autoloader, each file is scanned and the autoloader will not allow you to continue the import until all XREFs are resolved. The Civil 3D project import does not have the same XREF enforcement, so the project will begin to import, but either fail entirely or fail to import those files with missing XREFs.

The first thing I do when importing a project is use Reference Manager, an application for checking for missing references in CAD files. It is installed automatically with AutoCAD and Civil 3D. You can find it in the Civil 3D 20** folder on the start menu.

Reference Manager scans .dwg files for missing XREFs, font files, plot styles, plot configurations, etc. Paths can be updated right from within Reference Manager. While missing .pc3, .ctb, and .stb files do not cause significant issues during import, missing XREFs and .shx files do.

I typically sort by reference type and then by status so I can see what paths are not found for each file type. Starting with XREFs, correct any missing paths either through the Reference Manager application or by opening the file in Civil 3D. Continue through the list until you have all XREFs and font files resolved (Figure 2).  

Figure 2

Purging Files

Once I have all the reference issues resolved, I run a purge on all CAD files. This can be done manually by opening each drawing, but would be impractical for importing an entire project. Instead, I use a free app from the Autodesk App Store called Drawing Purge. This add-on to Civil 3D allows for batch purging of .dwg files. After installing, you can launch the batch purge with the command DWG_PURGE_BATCH.

In the window that opens, you can add files or select a folder and it will find all .dwg files within that folder and its sub-folders. Once they are all added, click Purge and it will automatically begin purging each file. The results of what was purged, and whether it was successful, are displayed for each file in a spreadsheet type format.

Once purge has finished, right-click on any file and select Remove Purged. This will leave you with a list of any files that failed. Typically, they will fail from being read only or corrupt. Once all drawings are purged successfully, move on to the import (Figure 3).

Figure 3

Sheet Set Creation

When importing a project, if a .dst file is present, it will be converted to a Vaulted Sheet Set. This typically goes smoothly if you have prepped the project with the above steps. If the sheet fails to create, you can manually import it to Vault by opening the .dst file and right-clicking on the sheet set name, Vault -> ‘Check In’. This will begin sheet processing into a Vaulted Sheet Set.

Project Maintenance

These same steps for cleaning up a project before import can also be used to maintain an existing Vault Civil 3D project. When a project begins to slow down, the sheet set manager hangs on open, or Vault dialogs—specifically Check In/ Out dialogs—take longer to open, cleaning up the project can help speed things back up.

When this happens, I will check out all .dwg files, run the clean up steps above and check them back in. Start by clearing your local Vault working folder and ensuring all files are checked in by all team members so you can clean the entire project.

Then open the Vault thick client and open the search dialog. Set the search “Look In” to the project you are wanting to clean, and the advanced search property to “File Type - Is - dwg” and search. This will list all CAD files in the project, select them all and Get/Check Out. Your vault working folder will then contain all CAD files from the project.

You can then run the Batch Purge application to purge all drawings. For good measure I like to check the files with Reference Manager to be sure there are no missing references (there shouldn’t be any). Vault prevents check in operations with missing XREFs so it should be all resolved.

To check the drawing files back in, in Civil 3D click the big “A C3D” File menu button in the top left corner.  Under the Vault Server section is the Check in Folder command, which allows you to select the entire parent folder and check everything back in.

If you are having issues with sheet set manager errors or slow sheet set open times, it is very easy to re-create the Vaulted Sheet Set, which can help solve those issues. To re-create the sheet set, open from Vault the sheet set you are having troubles with, hit Ok on any errors, and wait until the sheet set fully opens.

Once it has opened, right-click on the sheet set name and close it. When you close a vaulted sheet set, a .dst file is created in the same folder as the .dss file. You can then delete the sheet set folder set from the Vault thick client, open the .dst file in Civil 3D, and check it into Vault. This will re-create the vaulted sheet set folder set.


Keeping your projects clean and purging often can greatly help with project performance. I have found that significant time and frustration with re-work can be saved by ensuring you are importing a problem-free project, and re-purging often will keep the project at peak performance.

Bryson Anderson has worked in the IT industry since 2008. During this time, he has been involved in many aspects of IT including, Systems Administration, Networking, Telecom, Hardware, and IT consulting. He has helped large and small companies in a variety of industries including healthcare, software development, engineering and architecture to plan, implement, upgrade, and maintain their IT infrastructure. At ProSoft, Bryson administers all aspects of the internal IT infrastructure and oversees ProSoft’s custom workstation and server division. With his knowledge and experience in IT, he consults with companies worldwide on the planning, implementation, and training of Autodesk data management and collaboration software as well as assisting customers with the licensing, installation, and deployment of Autodesk products.

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