Is it Time to Update Your Civil 3D Template?

November 19, 2020 Matt Miyamoto

If you’re on an Autodesk subscription plan, new versions of software are available to you every year, and periodic updates, enhancements and hotfixes are issued on a pretty regular basis.  Although your software may be keeping up to date, your template file might not be.

Our professional services team has had numerous conversations with customers interested in reviewing the quality of their working template files for efficiency and effectiveness.  During these conversations, it’s not unusual to find out that the templates that are in use were created five or ten or more years ago.  In many cases the “base” template file had been generated according to company workflows or modified from the out of box templates that were provided with Civil 3D.  Along the way, additional styles and settings were adjusted and created on an “as-needed” basis to meet project requirements creating what I like to call a “Frankenstein” template that’s been pieced together from various components and sources.  In other cases, Civil 3D has consistently been in use, and the template file has always been “good enough” to get the job done so not a lot of attention was put towards updates and upgrades of the content as versions progressed.

If either of those sounds like a situation you’re in, or if you can’t remember the last time anyone has taken some time to review what’s actually in your Civil 3D template file, it’s probably time for an update.

Here are five things to look for when reviewing your Civil 3D template to help determine what state it’s in.


Your template file was created with a previous file format as its base.  A change in the AutoCAD base file format is a good indication that new or enhanced functionality has been added to the application. 

If your template was created with a previous version file format, support for some of the current functionality may be missing.  AutoCAD .DWG versions and Civil 3D Object type versions do not coincide, so both versions should cross-checked.  If you’re not sure what version the content originated in, you should probably update your template.

  1. Going back over the past twenty years, AutoCAD .DWG file formats have been changed in 2000, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2018.
  2. For Civil 3D, anything before 2013 (2012 or earlier) was a single-version format.  Each year the object types changed with a new release.  From 2013-2016, Civil 3D versions were compatible, however there was new functionality (i.e. Pressure Networks) that were added along the way.  Civil 3D 2017 also had its own specific object types (and new functionality).  For the 2021 versions, the 2018 object types (and even more enhanced functionality) are still considered current.

At minimum, your Civil 3D template should be based on the 2018 AutoCAD .DWG file format and set up with Civil 3D 2018 Object Types, providing the “current” base file and object type formats for the template.  Ideally, your templates will be updated or upgraded for each release, providing a 2021 template base file for use with the current version.


Your template is comprised of content that was created by employees who no longer work at your company, have never worked at your company, or were created by “Autodesk, Inc.”

If you’re reviewing content in your template and the username of the person who created the style is unfamiliar to you or hasn’t worked for your organization for years, that could be a sign that it’s time to update.  Depending on their intended use, standard content and settings may be applicable across multiple versions, however if it’s been there for a while or was created by someone you don’t know, there may be potential for clean-up or refinement of styles to create a more efficient template. 

If your template contains styles that say “Created By: Autodesk, Inc.” those are styles that were provided out of box with the software installation.  Although these are functional, they are rarely updated or revised and may not be set up to conform with your organization’s standards.  A good example here is one of the out of box surface styles that appear in Civil 3D 2021.  When we take a look at the Information tab for the Contours 1’ and 5’ (Design) style, the last time it was modified was 12 years ago.


Object component layers are inconsistently named, inconsistently assigned or all set to Layer 0.

Layer naming is always a big issue, as it not only allows for a clearer understanding of what Layers are in the drawing, but it also provides better organization, compliance with standards, and a way to leverage additional tools like filters and layer states more efficiently.  If your styles are set up with component layers that don’t follow any type of standard naming convention or are still set to Layer 0, spend some time cleaning that up.  It will make things easier for everyone.


Your Command Defaults Styles are set to “Standard”

Another common occurrence that we run into when reviewing template content is default command settings that are still set to “Standard.”  If a specific style is not set for an object through command settings, often times we will see a default set to “Standard” which isn’t really standard for anything.  Because at least one style needs to exist in order for objects to be created, “Standard” is the generic name that was given to a basic style that was meant more as a placeholder until custom styles and settings were created.  If your template is still referencing “Standard” styles, it’s likely that some attention needs to be paid to those object styles and settings to get everything functioning at full potential.  I’ve heard many stories from end users who have said they’ve stopped using Civil 3D because they could “never get things to look right” and had to spend too much time trying to figure out how to adjust things instead of focusing on actual designs.  Having all of your background styles, settings, and command defaults set up in your template file is one way to prevent that from happening and provide your users with a streamlined and efficient workflow.


Your Civil 3D template does not conform to your organization’s standards

If your organization has a documented CAD Standard to follow, your Civil 3D template should be developed to support and direct your end users toward designs that comply with those standards.  If your template was created before (or after) your CAD Standards, and the content it generates does not meet those standards, it should be updated or revised.  Standards and Templates should work together to create a consistent and reliable product that represents your organization. 

If any, or all, of these items are things you are encountering with your Civil 3D template file, consider an update or upgrade to get things running clean and efficiently.  IMAGINiT offers services that can help, or if you’re looking for some advice on best practices for upgrading a template on your own, check out this article from Brian Johnson, another of our Applications Experts here at IMAGINiT.

About the Author

Matt Miyamoto

Project Manager - Civil Solutions<br><br>With over 15 years of experience in the civil engineering industry, Matt provides training, consulting, technical support, and implementation strategies for organizations transitioning to Civil 3D. Matt is a licensed civil engineer, an Autodesk Certified Instructor (ACI) as well as an Autodesk Certified BIM Specialist: Roads and Highway Solutions. Additionally, Matt is an Autodesk Certified Professional for AutoCAD and AutoCAD Civil 3D.

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