How I Rotate MY Views

OK, I feel as if it’s time for a “Point, Counterpoint” session here regarding this headache that is Rotating Your View In A Viewport I’m at home, so there will be no fancy pictures or illustrations in this post. Most of you are smart enough to follow written directions, so follow along and enjoy.

Now, a disclaimer. Disclaimers are important because they can keep people from getting the wrong impression about the tone of a post. Are you ready for the disclaimer? OK, good, now read carefully:

I am in no way discrediting Dana’s use of the DVIEW twist. It works for her. It gives her confidence. It is not a wrong way, but one way of many ways. I am sharing with you MY way. My way is just that: MY WAY. If you don’t like it, go back to your way. I don’t really care. Just like Dana’s proven the use of DVIEW, I’ve proven the appropriate use of rotating my UCS. It works, plain and simple, and if you follow some VERY BASIC RULES (caps lock on because, really, this is important, people), you too can enjoy success with rotating your UCS. Now, on with the show.

First, an explanation of why I don’t use DVIEW – very simply put, I didn’t like to have to guess my rotation angle. Now, the ALIGNSPACE command (which I’ve used once or twice, many years ago) gives me the flexibility to make it work, much like the method I’m about to show you.

I like to rotate my UCS and align it to an object. Now, I know what you’re saying, because I read it down below: “But Civil 3D objects work in WCS.” True, but I follow one very simple rule, the most important rule that you’ll ever have to know when rotating the UCS: DO NOT ROTATE THE UCS IN MODEL SPACE. This really bears repeating: DO NOT ROTATE THE UCS IN MODEL SPACE. Know why? Because, and I quote “Civil 3D objects work in the WCS.”

See, model space is where you do your design. It’s where you work. It’s where your Civil 3D project lives and breathes. We don’t rotate the view or the UCS in model space, because that really hoses our design process. See, North is always up in Civil 3D. If we change that, then the world goes a little crazy. However, there’s this little thing called paper space. Paper space is your printed document, your piece of paper, your final “here’s what I designed, now build it” tool. Paper space is how we set up how our sheet looks. It is a window into model space. That window is drawn in a layout, and looks into the real world. Now, since it’s a window, we can rotate it, scale it, whatever we need to do with it to make it look all pretty on the paper. Because that’s what it’s really all about, right? All the advanced design software in the world is as useless as a screen door on a submarine if we can’t convey that design intent to a sheet of paper.

So, since Paper Space is my plot, I can change whatever I want there. It doesn’t have to affect ANYTHING done in my model. I don’t import points through my layout, I don’t edit alignments in my layout, I don’t create parcels in my layout, I don’t do ANYTHING that will require the use of any coordinate system in my layout. Why? Because that’s my sheet of paper. I do all that other stuff in model space where north is always up and the UCS is always set to WORLD. Remember what I said above? I’ll repeat it once again since it’s so important: DO NOT ROTATE THE UCS IN MODEL SPACE.

So, with all this background as to WHY I’m doing something, here’s the HOW.

1) Create a layout. Insert your title block, do whatever you have to do with it.
2) Create a viewport. Any size, any shape, this is your masterpiece, do what you need to with it.
3) Figure out how you want to rotate your view to fit on the paper. This is pretty important.
4) Activate your viewport (make it active so you can go into model space).
5) Draw a short line that mimics the alignment of the view. For example, if I want to rotate my view 90°, I’m going to draw a line running up and down the paper.
6) At the command line, type UCS. Hit ENTER.
7) At the command line, type OBJ. Hit ENTER.
8) Pick the line that you just drew.
9) At the command line, type PLAN. Hit ENTER.
10) At the command line, hit ENTER once again to accept the default, which is current UCS.
11) Your view will now be rotated. Set your scale appropriately. DON’T FORGET TO REGEN.
12) Deactivate the viewport. Better yet, deactivate it and lock it. (There’s a debate for another day…locked vs. unlocked viewports.)
13) Enjoy your newly rotated view.

Go back to model space now. See if your drawing is rotated. It isn’t. I haven’t changed one thing in the model. Nothing is affected. If I give my drawing to an architect or AutoCAD user, the model is still correct. So, what’s so hard or dangerous about that?

Have fun!


  1. Kevin Spear says:

    Out of curiosity, do you ever edit things insde those viewport windows when the UCS is rotated?

  2. Jason Hickey says:

    Edit things? Like an alignment, parcel, points, etc? No, I do that in model space. If a label is overlapping another, then sure, I’ll go into that viewport and move the label. No problems whatsoever

  3. works well- i know many who do it that way.

    I am just not a big fan of reaching into viewports because you have to be very sure people don’t unlock the viewport.

    in a large firm that uses xrefs for sheet drawings and has cad folks of different skill levels, reaching into the VP may not help you (unless you want to use refedit = the devil) or worse, your scale could be blown if someone unlocks the vpot

    I treat my layouts as almost untouchable mylars, so for me, editing through the vport just isn’t going to happen.

    therefore i like the ability to make my model space in my base drawings twisted so i can tell how thing will look eventually. using named views allows me to make my model screen look like the site plan, the plan and profile, or any other different twist or zooom.

    i’m a big fan of named views. they can be put on a tool palette or dragged from the sheet set manager onto a sheet, too.

    they can be used whether you used divew straightout, or use UCS change as your method to get dview organized.

  4. John M. says:

    Please cruise on by to the Land NG.There is an apology awaiting all of you and an open discussion if you care to join.

  5. Bob Fickenscher says:

    I have a slight variation on your UCS method of rotation. I will often, in model space, rotate the UCS to some preferred working orientation, then execute command ‘Plan’ command. Then return the UCS to world coordinates and save a named view of the site.
    This is often useful when working at conceptual, when sheets/layouts are not yet prepared. When the formal layouts are created, viewports created, I can call the view name and set the viewport scale. So I would suggest that ‘NEVER’ rotating in model space might be a little dogmatic. However, putting it back to World UCS is definitely a good practice.

    Another purpose for using UCS rotation is because many objects are UCS sensitive. By that I mean that if you rotate your UCS to an object of line you can create objects on the same axis, say for example a rectangular polyline. Also dimensioning a rotated object (LDD style) with a rotated UCS can change the text orientation when needed, without a lot of complicated maneuvers.

    Working through the viewport to model is, in our situation, useful because we have a practice of leaving all layer ON and THAWED always (unless it is never intended as plotting data). We filter the viewports to the proper discipline. Working in model space with this practice is extremely difficult, especially with multiple referenced files. So we work through the viewport that is appropriate for what we are doing. Also, you can maximize the viewport and still maintain a filtered state.

    Of course all of this is subjective and dependent on disciplines and work practices.

  6. mike shick says:

    I agree 100%, Bob.

  7. Ryan Kiss says:

    I work with the UCS as Bob described although I have a lisp routine that cuts out a few steps. It creates a new UCS from two points selected in the drawing, name it Plan (as in plan view), and rotate that UCS to be the “plan” view in one step. From that point I do my design work in model space using that rotated view(which matches my paperspace view) while set to World coordinates. Our office is split 50-50 on the matter of DVIEWTWIST vs. UCS rotation and it probably always will be. I’ve decided that I don’t really care how my users choose to rotate your view as long as they leave me a way to get back to it if the rotation ever changes.