Fully Cooked Project Template in Civil 3D

Project Template in Civil 3D

We’ve all seen project templates in Civil 3D that come pre-installed. There are a few folders to help organize drawings. Typically, you would create a new DWG, save it into one of those folders and start adding content.  Maybe you then have to make a data shortcut. No create another file, make more content, and maybe add the data shortcut. Continue this until you have the full set of construction documents. Just this process of building a new set of project files can take at least a few days to complete.

But.  What if you had a template based on a specific project type where most, if not all of the drawings, data shortcuts and xref’s were already established? Can’t be done you say? Read on doubter of efficiency…

Here’s the basic steps to accomplish this feat of, well, engineering.

  • Create the project template with a set of typical folders.
  • Add DWGs, XLS, DOC, JPG, DST and any other files you use to those same folders. Presumably, you have a file naming convention that doesn’t change from project to project. If you add a prefix or suffix to filenames, just add placeholders in this project template as a reminder (i.e.- PPPP-R-Topo.DWG).
  • Add XREF’s to sheet and reference files, making sure to use relative paths. Yes, it doesn’t matter what level of folder structure the DWG may exist, AutoCAD will figure it out with the relative path. Just save the host DWG first.  Smile
  • Add Civil 3D “container” objects to the appropriate files. By container, just create the objects with no data. Make sure to utilize your object naming convention here as well.
  • Create a data shortcut project such that the _shortcuts folder falls in the appropriate place in your project template.
  • Create data shortcuts using those container objects.
  • Create references of those data shortcuts in the appropriate reference files.

That should just about complete most of a typical project for you. Create a new project using the new project template and you most of the way there. A few minor steps to do to complete the project creation.

  • Use the data shortcut editor to resolve the paths of the objects to the new project location using find and replace (CTRL + R).
    Data Shortcut Editor
  • Associate all DWGs in the new project folder to the new data shortcut project.
    Associate Project to Drawings
  • Rename any files with prefixes or suffixes accordingly. If there are many, this could easily be done with a batch or script file.
  • In sheet set manager, make sure to adjust where new sheets are to be saved, etc.

That’s it! No, really, that’s it. Now creating a new project should take about 5 minutes or less! You could even take an existing project and strip out the content and creating the project template would be that much faster!

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.

7 Responses to Fully Cooked Project Template in Civil 3D

  1. Pingback: Fully Cooked Project Template in Civil 3D | Synergis Engineering Design Solutions

  2. Wes Ashworth says:

    Thanks, I like this and will give it a try.


  3. Alan Neal says:

    Our office had abysmal results trying this method. The problem was that every time you copy the project folder it is making a copy of the Civil3D “project” as well, which has a Civil3d Project ID number in it. We coudln’t find a way to change or randomly seed a new project number. It worked fine on the same machine, but the local machine maintains lists of projects, so when you started it up on another machine, it automatically assumed another project and broke all the links – trying to use the link data that was in the other project. To summarize, the problem will occur when you open from one machine to the next, and it gets worse as you add more projects. Be sure to test that part. If you find a way around this let us know!


    • Kevin says:

      Hi Alan, sorry you had problems with this. In a post like this, I just can’t include all the little details. To which i apologize now. One detail in this process is that when you create your initial project, C3D creates a ShortcutsHistory.xml in the _Shortcuts folder. In addition to the steps above, we have to delete this single file when we move/copy the project structure to the Project Template folder.

      Just to reiterate – we can’t copy the project, we need to have Civil 3D create the project using the template mainly for this purpose. Hopefully, this will resolve your issue. If not, you can reach me at kevin dot spear at synergis dot com.


  4. Holli says:

    We are currently attempting to set this up for our office and I can see it being a huge time saver for us. My question is how do you set up the data references for this template? We use Xrefs and Dref’s, kept in separate drawings. How can I create a data reference to, say an alignment, without putting a physical alignment in the template?
    Thanks for the great info,


    • Kevin says:

      Hi Holli, the trick is to create the object without any data. For instance with an alignment, create an alignment with the layout tools. Only, when you get to the point of actually doing a layout, simply close the toolbar. There will be an object in the prospector.

      With an object in the prospector, you can share it even if it has no data or definition. To add data, right click that object and choose SELECT to edit it once you have an active project. Sadly, this does not work for every object, but it does for most. So, the fully baked project template still needs a little attention, but not much…

      Hope this works out for you!


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