Working with Points in Civil 3D

Most people are looking at points in Civil 3D and thinking “Hey, I did that in Land Desktop!” Well, yes, but…..

In the days of Land Desktop, we used Description Keys to get our point objects to display the way we wanted them. Description Keys controlled what layer a point came in on, what the point name was, and even inserted blocks (on their own layers) along with the point. For example, we could take a field-located iron pin and import it into Land Desktop with the IP block on an IP layer and the point object on a PTS-IP layer. With this functionality, we had total control over the way our points were imported.

In Civil 3D, however, there is not an option for inserting a block or symbol with a point. Civil 3D expands on the concept of Point Groups. The creation of Point Groups will be very familiar to most of you Land Desktop users. However, the things we can do with Point Groups now are incredible! Applying a style to point groups affect how they display, and applying a Point Label Style affects the text that goes along with the point. With these Point Styles, we can assign a common point object (the familiar + or x that we’re all used to) or we can assign any block to a point object. That’s right – Point Groups now control the blocks that come in with our points as well as the layer those points are on! A little different from Land Desktop, isn’t it?

One word of caution – those of you who are used to having description keys defining the layer that your points import on will have to keep an open mind. The best analogy that I’ve seen is in the book Digging Into Autodesk Civil 3D 2006 by Rick Ellis. In it, he writes the following:

As you have seen with the Point Group Display Order, the styles and layer of a point in multople groups is determined by the first Point Group in the display order list that contains that point. This means that the point will jump from layer to layer as you change the Point Group Display Order

When you use Description Keys they can control the point layer. However, they do not change what you just learned about Point Groups. When you set point layer through Description Keys it is similar to creating a block with nested layers. In this analogy, the block is the Point Group and the individual points are the entities on specific layers within the blocks.

This (relatively) new idea of styles is hard to grasp, especially for people accustomed to using Land Desktop for the past (almost) 10 years. Keep an open mind when trying it out – you may have to forget a lot of what you know!


  1. Lana says:

    love your bloggin website! u too kewl! carry on my civil 3d man!

  2. How would you like to be able to work with points the old fashion way! By layer? It can be done. And it works a lot easier than by Groups. And faster…..

    Let me know if you want to know?

    Bill Neuhauser P.E.
    Alignex Inc.

    Ed: After we talked (all right, e-mailed,) with Bill, we suggested he post his technique on the Autodesk Civil Community for all to see. –JW