Description Keys Are Unnecessary - There, I Said It!
As soon as I first stated using AutoCAD Civil 3D, many moons ago, I had two thoughts:
- From a land surveyor's point of view, AutoCAD Civil 3D was not as "revolutionary" a tool as it was/is for civil engineering software improvements (as well as being a financial burden in time and money to set up and use).
- Having Description Keys carried forward from earlier AutoCAD versions appeared to be redundant and unnecessary.
I just could not then, and still don't, fully understand why Autodesk perpetuated Description Keys, when that whole system of survey point symbol and label management is a redundant feature.
Why bother with Description Keys when Point Styles, Point label Styles and Point Groups can do the same thing? That's why I created the AutoCAD Civil 3D 2012 Survey 2D Points Template Framework Without Description Keys, to cut your template setup time and to show that you can work with survey points while not using Description Keys at all.
I think the biggest issue land surveyors have with AutoCAD Civil 3D, besides cost, is the amount of setup time required to implement and use Civil 3D. First, you create Point Styles and Point Label Styles. Then, most likely, you create your Description Key file, where, if you did as I did, you used those Point Styles and Point Label Styles. Last, you might have then created Point Groups.
So I asked myself: Why do I even need to use a Description Key file if the Point Styles, Point Label Styles and the Point Groups can do what the Description Key File can do?
Let's review how this works:
- The Point Style handles placement and size of the symbol. Point Styles can do more than this, but at their basic functionality, it's the placement of a symbol (aka marker or block) and sizing of that symbol that's probably most important.
- The Point Label Style then takes care of how to label each point, including text orientation.
- The Point Groups then filter your points so that you can manage visibility and display of points.
So, Point Groups Are Used As Your Description Key File, So To Speak
If you look at the above workflow, you can see that by using Description Keys - probably between 2 & 3 - really just adds a level of complexity and redundancy that is unnecessary. So, in this new workflow, Point Groups are used as your Description Key file, so to speak.
I have to believe that this is in fact how Autodesk intended us to use AutoCAD Civil 3D. But, they probably didn't want to rock the boat too much, knowing how reliant land surveyors had become using Description Keys in the past.
I've not looked into what happens to figures and linework when a Description Key file is not present, but I suspect that everything still works fine. If you test this out on your own, let us know your results.
In summary, here are the benefits of not using a Description Key file:
- Quicker Template Setup
- Reduced Time Making On-The-Fly Changes And Additions
- Simplify Knowing What Is Controlling The Points In Your Drawings (it's a pain to figure out whether the Description Key file is controlling a point or if the Point Group is overriding a Description Key setting)
As mentioned in the beginning of this article, you can find your free download of the AutoCAD Civil 3D 2012 Survey 2D Points Essential Template Framework Without Description Keys on the Premium Membership Specials page. Download and work with this new template and then let me know how you like it.
This Professional Land Surveyor Premium Post by Eric Colburn, PLS, Professional Land Surveyor Adviser & Revivalist.