Data Shortcut Projects – prescription for descriptions

{Update 2012-02-03: As noted in the comments below, SHOULD you have more than one working folder, close Civil 3D to make the edits to the descriptions. Any edits to projects in either the current or other working folder project descriptions will not be permanent. The edits only stick when Civil 3D is closed.  I had overlooked this variance in writing the original article. Sorry to anyone who may have struggled with this. Thanks to Scott for bringing it to my attention!  For us, we have a single working folder on our standards drive just for the data shortcuts, which avoids this issue. Project files stay in their normal place. We have routines that create our folder structure, again being a small piece of the larger pie.}


Data shortcuts are truly a solid option for data sharing in Civil 3D 2011 and going forward. But one item that has my standards hat hanging out to dry are data shortcut project descriptions. There is no way to effectively revise them once the project has been created. Or is there?

But I digress, let me start from the beginning.

Data shortcut (DS) projects are how we share data in Civil 3D. Of course I’m ignoring the EDMS Vault solution for the moment. With  Civil 3D 2010, we got the undocumented feature of DS project association to drawing files. This eliminated the manual step of setting the right DS project under DS node for the current drawing. Man, that’s even hard to describe. Moving on…

So with 2011, that functionality is now “documented” and folded into the program rather nicely. But I’m still not happy.  Why? Well, now that DS projects have become more common place, the project list needs to be better managed.  We had the foresight to use our project number for the project name. This conformed to our current project documentation processes.

Now for me, our project numbering is a bit on the deep side of things.  So i struggle with matching what we “call” the project with its project number. That problem led us to the network share of project links in a previous post.

That left us with the project description to really set apart each project, much like the aforementioned project links. Now the problem; it seems you can only specify the project description at the project creation stage. What happens if someone forgets to enter a description, or better yet, was thinking of one project while writing the description for another. Complete chaos can and probably does ensue.

{edit – I blurred the projects to protect the guilty.  :)}

Sure, we could limit who can create these DS projects, but what fun is that?

I wouldn’t have something to write about and you would be watching yet another viral video on YouTube. You know, the ones from Autodesk.  😉

Wait, I can’t get YouTube at work, so I have no idea what you guys are, eh, watching.

Moving on…  Here’s my solution.  The secret lies within a file called shortcutfolders.xml. If you open that file, you will get something like this:

So, at the local user level, we could edit this and it would be perfect. But only YOU can see that perfection.

So, like our templates, we need to share this edit somehow. And here’s how this might go:

  1. Create a folder on your network standards drive, call it PM.
  2. Copy shortcutfolders.xml file from your user profile to this location.
    {This file is found here: %userprofile%\AppData\Roaming\Autodesk\C3D 2011\enu\Project Management}
  3. Open the newly copied file on the network and edit the descriptions as needed.
    1. You can use xml notepad or notepad++ or even windows notepad. It depends on your comfort level with editing xml files. Some apps make it simpler while others require a stronger understanding of XML to edit the keys and values. I will typically use XML Notepad from Microsoft for simple quick edits like this.  The screen cap below shows you that you need to expand the appropriate node and edit the “desc” key value. That’s it!KSPEAR-M44 10-22-2010 12.07.56 PM
  4. Publish revised shortcutfolders.xml file back to the local user directory.

The trick to the above sequence is how you publish the file.  There a few ways to accomplish this. If you already have a batch file execute initially when launching Civil 3D, then simply add the appropriate command lines in the batch file to copy the file locally. They might look something like this:

REM —– Overwrite existing user xml —–
cd \
cd Civil3D\_Admin\PM

cd \
cd %userprofile%\appdata\roaming\autodesk\c3d 2011\enu\Project Management

copy i:*.* c:

Where the I: drive noted above is your company standards drive. Also, the above presumes you are working in Windows 7. For Vista and XP, the path probably will be different.

If you don’t have some automated way to trigger a batch file, you could send an email with an embeded hyperlink to the batch file that users click on first thing in the morning and then run Civil 3D. Actually, the batch routine can be executed while Civil 3D is running as the XML file is re-read each time the DS project dialog box is opened.

Lastly, a couple of one-off solutions can be had as well.  If you no longer need a project listed for any reason, be it a closed project or merely inactive for a long period of time, simply delete the parent node for that project shortcut.

Secondly, if you notice in that local user’s directory, there are 3 XML files that specify certain settings.

ProjectsSelectInfo.XML – specifies current vault project to display once you are logged into the vault. Cannot think of any reason to really edit this file.

ShortcutFolders.XML – contains paths and links to DS projects

WorkingFolders,XML – specifies current working folder path. Now this is separate from the “project path” in the options dialog box. The working folder path applies to vault and data shortcut projects as well as survey databases. The caveat is that with a vault project you can mandate a working folder for a given project. This is the typical shared network scenario. So in that case, the value specified in this file is ignored / overlooked / not used.

If you need to corporately change these before the next upgrade/c3d refresh, make a copy of that particular XML file to the network PM folder, make your edits and that will also propagate with the batch file routine.

By the way, I am sure there are other ways to accomplish this hack. Please share your trials and triumphs over keeping said DS project listings clean.  Till next time…



About Kevin
Hi… I am a husband, father, brother and neighbor. I am employed as a Civil Engineer and have enjoyed playing the drums for the last 30+ years.

2 Responses to Data Shortcut Projects – prescription for descriptions

  1. Scott says:

    So I’ve done what you prescribed. But for whatever reason the descriptions don’t always show up. We have multiple working folders (Folders 1 – 9) which have the data shortcut folders. Some show all the project descriptions (if I set to 1, all the 1000 projects have descriptions), some don’t (if I set to 4, only a few have descriptions most are blank). What step am I missing!!!


    • Kevin says:

      Thanks for the question Scott. Any edits to the local XML file will immediately be available to C3D. If you’re editing the network version, make sure to publish (or copy) down to your desktop machine. That said…

      One issue is editing descriptions of projects while Civil 3D is open. As long as there is only ONE working folder, there are no problems. But if you edit descriptions for any project in either the current or secondary working folders, then those edits aren’t kept. To verify, simply switch back and forth the different working folders and you will see edits that had been there are gone.

      The moral here is this – if you do have multiple working folders, close C3D first then make the edits. Civil 3D must be keeping something in memory to overwrite those edits, not sure though…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: