Three Tools That Rock!

Many AutoCAD® Civil 3D® users would say they use the software at a very proficient level. While this is true for a lot of people, another truth is that there are a lot of functions inside Civil 3D that many people have never used, or didn’t even realize were there.

In this article, we will look at three tools inside Civil 3D that work great, are easy to use, and can give us some nice results. As you will see, there is not a huge learning curve to be able to master these tools.

So Much Functionality!

It seems like every time I talk to relatively new users of Civil 3D, they tell me that there is so much in the software they don’t use simply because they know a core group of functions and don’t really have time to dig into other areas. We all know that Civil 3D does indeed contain a variety of functions and routines. Let’s take a look at some of the tools you may or may not be familiar with.

Quick Profile & Quick Cross Section

You may be thinking that this part of the article is about two tools and not one tool with a large name, right? Maybe you’re thinking the title for this article could have been, “Four Tools That Rock”? Well, it could have been, but I decided to write about these two tools together because of the similarity in what they give us. However, make no mistake about it—these are two separate tools.

Let’s start off with the Quick Profile tool. This one has been in Civil 3D the longest of the two. The name of this tool implies that it will give you a profile very quickly. Is this true? Absolutely! This tool is so simple to use that a caveman… you get the idea. The Quick Profile tool is located on the Analyze tab of the ribbon on the Ground Data Panel as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1

When you first select this tool, you are prompted to Select object or by Points. What this means is that before you start the command, you can draw a polyline in the location where you want the command to read profile data, or you can click points on the screen. My preference is to draw a polyline first because if I move that polyline, the profile view will dynamically adjust based on where I move the polyline.

After selecting the polyline or picking points, you are then prompted to select the surface or surfaces you want to show in the Quick Profile and the Profile View Style as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2

One important thing to point out in this dialog box: notice that I changed the profile style for the FG Road surface. I always make sure that I used different styles when profiling more than one surface. At this point I can simply click OK and then place my profile view in the drawing as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3

That’s it! It works great! One thing to remember about this tool, however, is that it is intended to be purely an inquiry tool, so when you save the drawing, this Quick Profile view will go away. That reminds me of a tip: if you want to maintain a profile view instead of having a temporary one, simply turn the polyline into an alignment then create a profile and view from that. This is another reason I like using the polyline option instead of clicking points.

Now it’s time to discuss the Quick Cross Section tool. This is another great inquiry tool that will give us a temporary picture when I want to see what is going on with a surface at a specific location. This tool can be found on the Toolbox tab of Toolspace under Miscellaneous Utilities, then under Surfaces as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4

To use this tool, simply right-click on it and click Execute. From there, you are prompted to select a surface. After selecting the surface, you are then prompted to select 3 point or multiple points. The difference between these options are that a 3 point gives you the cutting plane and the view directions; hence, the three points. This will produce a single section view. The multiple option will allow you to click many points along the surface. When you use this option, you will also be prompted to select sample interval as well as left and right swath widths. This process sort of simulates alignment and sample line creation, but as noted before, everything is temporary because it is an inquiry tool.

First, let’s try the 3 point option. Click on 3p on the command line, then click the points you want to use as the cutting plane for the view, then click the third point as the direction from which you want to view. Figure 5 shows an example of this.

At this point, a dialog box will appear with selections for section and section view styles as well as band style set. For some reason, I have only been successful when selecting Standard as my section and section view styles. For me, when I have tried using other styles, all I got for output was two rectangles with no data. For this reason, you may want to go into the Standard styles for section and section view and modify them to look the way you want.

Figure 5

You will then be prompted to select the section view origin, meaning where you want to place the section view. Pick an empty spot and place it. The results can be seen in Figure 6.

Figure 6

Now let’s briefly discuss the multiple points option. After selecting the surface, select the multiple option. Then you will be prompted to select the first point and then next point or points. In this example, I will click points along a roadway surface almost as if I were quickly creating an alignment. You are then prompted to enter a sampling increment, then left and right swath widths. I used 50 for all those values. You can see the results in Figure 7. Each simulated sample line produces a corresponding section view. Great tool, and easy to use!

Figure 7

Water Drop Command

The next useful tool in Civil 3D I will discuss is the Water Drop command. This command simulates where water would run to if it were dropped on a Civil 3D surface. This tool can be found on the Analyze tab, on the Ground Data panel, and by clicking on the Flow Paths drop-down as shown in Figure 8.

Figure 8

When you start this command, you are prompted to select a surface. After selecting the surface, a dialog box appears where you can select options such as the layer for the path, whether it will be 2D or 3D, and if you want a marker at the path start point. In my example, I chose the layer C-TOPO-WDRP, which has a blue color, and I chose a Basic marker style. After selecting all the desired options, click OK and start clicking points on top of the surface to see where water will run. The results can be seen in Figure 9. Quick, easy, and dare I say, kind of fun as well?

Figure 9

Stage Storage Tool

The last tool I will discuss is the Stage Storage Tool. This tool will assist you in reporting various data elements for basins. It is found on the Analyze tab on the Design panel by clicking the Design dropdown as shown in Figure 10.

Figure 10

Once you select this command, the Stage Storage dialog box appears. As you can see in Figure 11, there are several options, but also several elements of data that can be reported.

Figure 11

For this example, I will fill in the following information: For Report Title, Project Name, and Basin Description, I will simply type in “Basin,” just to keep it simple. For Volume Calculation Method, I will use “Both,” which will use the two available options of Average End Area and Conic Approximation. Notice that under Basin Definition Options, you have a choice to either Define Basin from Entity or Use Manual Contour Data Entry.

The first option, which I will use for this example, will allow you to either Define Basin from Surface Contours or Define Basin from Polylines. These options become available after clicking the Define Basin button. For this example, I will use the Define Basin from Surface Contours option and enter “Basin” in the Basin name area. Next, I click “Define” and the command line prompt says, “Please select the surface containing desired contours:” After selecting the surface, the Stage Storage dialog box comes back and now is populated with data. This dialog box gives you other options to save the table, load a previously saved table, create a report, or insert the table into your drawing. Figure 12 shows the table I inserted next to the Basin surface used for the Stage Storage calculations. Pretty simple tool to use and certainly easier than doing it manually.

Figure 12


As I mentioned previously, Civil 3D has a number of tools and commands designed to make tasks easier and more automated. The tools I discussed in this article are just a handful of what Civil 3D can do. Try them out and see if you agree that these tools rock!

If you have any questions regarding the tools discussed in this article, feel free to contact me at the email listed below.

Ron Couillard has more than 18 years of experience in Civil CAD production for commercial, military, and airport projects as a Designer and CAD Manager. He provides technical expertise and training, including software installations and product customization in the support of AutoCAD Civil 3D, Infraworks 360, AutoCAD Map 3D, AutoCAD, and other Autodesk solutions. In addition, Ron is an Implementation Certified Expert in both Civil 3D and Map 3D and is also a Certified Professional in AutoCAD Civil 3D 2016. He has instructed classes at Autodesk University as well as AUGI CAD Camp. Ron currently works as a Senior Technical Specialist with U.S. Cad. Contact him at

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