TDS Files to FBK Files – a How To

Well, it’s so much fun being on the road. I’ve had two days at home this entire month, and it’s not looking too open for the rest of the month, either. As I said before Christmas, it’s a great time to be working with Civil 3D. I’ll be back in the office next week for a few days auditing a Civil 3D class taught by my ISD compadre at ALACAD, James Murphy.

Anyway, I was cleaning out my Outlook inbox, and found an email from Matt Anderson of Joseph A. Schudt and Associates. Matt and I met for the first time in early November in Manchester, NH, but had talked via the Autodesk discussion groups for quite a while. Matt’s a great guy, and we bounce survey ideas back and forth between the two of us. Back in late November, Matt sent me an email regarding converting TDS files to be able to be used in the Civil 3D survey database. For some odd reason, I never got around to documenting his email here in a post, and now I know why – the process has simplified significantly since he sent me that email. Click below to find out how:

Matt had figured out how to use the Geodimeter connection features of Carlson Connect to convert his TDS RW5 files to FBK format. It worked, no problems. However, many users may not know to use the Geodimeter section of Carlson Connect to be able to do this. Since Dave Carlson was nice enough to write the TDS functionality for Carlson Connect just in time for Christmas, we now have an intuitive place to go and look for the functionality that we require.

First, let’s take a look at a typical TDS RW5 file and see what makes it so special for the survey database. Here’s a look:

If we look closely, we can see the highlighted notes in the raw data – these notes (BEG for this page) tell Civil 3D to begin a figure. There are quite a few other codes that we can put into the raw data, and a lot of these can be found over at From the Ground Up. Chris Berends wrote that post just in the nick of time – as I was researching for the codes for a client of mine – Thanks, Chris! (speaking of Chris, if you haven’t visited From the Ground Up, you’re missing out on a unique perspective from across the pond. I’ve found their information to be timely and informative, and they constantly remind me that Civil 3D is a global program – especially when I’m sitting next to some of them in meetings and hear what some of the feature wording translates into in locations other than the US.)

Now, on to how to perform the conversion – how do we get this information into Civil 3D:

First, under the Carlson Connect menu in Civil 3D, select TDS Transfer to begin:

This will bring up the following dialog box, which allows direct connection to a TDS data collector. The button we’re looking for is Convert RW5 to Fieldbook:

Pressing that button brings up the following dialog box:

(people who look closely will notice a few things missing – photo edited to protect the innocent)

Now, once we select the RW5 file, click open and it will throw up another window that asks us to name the file that we want to create:

Once we enter the name of the file, click save and it creates a FBK file for us.

Now, to get that into Civil 3D, we first have to create a Survey Database. To get the FBK file into the database, we have to create a new network (you can do that by right-clicking on Networks under the database name and creating a new network.) Once the new network is created, we have to import the FBK into the network (again, right-click on the network name and select Import Fieldbook.) Doing this will cause the lil’ surveyor to run around the screen taking shots and drawing the figures in. We can see the results here in the drawing window:

SInce we also want to see the figures, we need to go to Figures (under the survey database), right-click and click Insert Into Drawing – this brings in the linework that was created from these raw data notes:

Next, to see the points, we’ll need to go on down the list under the survey database and select Survey Points, right click and select Points, then select Insert Into Drawing (seeing a theme here?) Now we can see the points in our drawing (once we update our point groups)

So there – an easy way to get started with automated linework in Civil 3D – if you’re just starting, I’d love to see examples of what you’re doing – email them to me and I’ll be glad to give you publicity here on the website.

Have fun!

Ed Note: You’re not drunk, they’re a little bit fuzzy. It’s a Live Writer issue and we’re working on it. The content’s still the same…. JW


  1. MAnderson says:

    Thanks Jason. Great Job. It took a lot of time to determine how to transfer TDS files into Civil 3d over the past couple of months. My twins early arrival and the Carlson Christmas present made my December!

  2. Kevin Spear says:

    This is awesome Jason. But I noticed something pecular. What happens if you have a TDS Ranger? I haven’t figured out how to get active sync to see the survey pro folder. Using the carlson connect doesn’t help either because the laptop doesn’t have a serial connection (dang progress). I can explorer the collector and just copy & paste, open up the tds software and make a fbk file. But that is so last year… 🙂

  3. Jason Hickey says:

    Don’t have one to play with at the moment. I’ll try to look tomorrow – I’ll be with a client who uses a Ranger and try to see. I *think* I used to connect them with a USB cable, but that may have been the Recon. Speaking of progress, I enjoy connecting to the newest Recons with my laptop via Bluetooth connection – now THAT’S progress 😉

  4. MAnderson says:

    We use ActiveSync to download our Rangers to a folder on the server. It is then we use Carlson Connect to convert the RW5 file.

  5. Paul Coutu says:

    First let me say that this website is AWESOME!!
    Secondly, I am in the process of purchasing Mastering C3D. Heard great stuff about it. (I have also heard that there is a book focusing on the Survey Module in C3D. Is that true?)
    So heres the deal… Ive been using my Recon for about a year now & I am just setting up my Autoline work & Description Codes now….(I know I know sorry.)But I used to have the biggest problem just importing points, using Survey Link.
    So now, I am excited to be able to bring linework & points directly into CAD. Excellent,… right??
    My C3D trainer was telling me about creating a “Fieldbook”. Sounds great…(Although Im not exactly sure what it does…)
    Ok, anyways, I have the Carlson Connect tab on my C3D workspace…
    Unfotrunately, the pull down tab is different than the one pictured above. In the dialog box there is not a TDS Transfer field. I have SurvCE & other things in that pull down… but not TDS Transfer.
    Any ideas?
    Empire Mapping

  6. Jason Hickey says:

    Hi Paul –

    First of all, congratulations on stepping into the world of automated linework. Secondly, in order to better utilize the TDS software with Civil 3D, you should download the TDS Survey Link extension from the Autodesk subscription site. Once you have done this, you can use the conversion tools inside Survey Link to convert your raw data file to an Autodesk FBK file. Then you’re up and running! Create a survey database and a network and import the FBK into the network and you’ll have points and linework pretty quickly. Note that to have the figures (Civil 3D’s term for linework) show as you want them to, you’ll need to create a figure prefix database and figure styles…it’s a lot to digest, but if you’ll follow the procedures outlined in Chapter 3 of the Mastering book, you’ll catch on pretty quickly.

  7. Paul Coutu says:

    Thanks! I have the latest version of survey link (& that damned hardware lock…lol.) So I guess that Im current w/ all that.
    As for Carlson Connect…. I am a bit confused.
    Will I have to use surevy link still, or is Carlson Connect the best way to import points to C3D?
    Thanks you again… & again… ( i have many questions still)

  8. Jason Hickey says:

    You will have to use Survey Link, and not Carlson Connect. As of the 2008 release of Civil 3D, Carlson Connect only works with Carlson data collectors.

    And the version of Survey Link that you get from the Autodesk subscription site requires no hardware lock. The license is “free” with your Civil 3D subscription.

  9. Paul Coutu says:

    Hey thanks for your help Jason.
    Now to request my user name & password for The subscription site…. (I sent an email to
    Thanks for your help. I let you know how everything goes…
    Hopefully Ill get my password before the New Year!

  10. Paul Coutu says:

    I created my FBK now im trying to create a network.
    i right click over “networks’ under the prospector tab…
    But it does not say create network… it only says refresh…
    please tell me i dont have to import my points as a txt file…
    (that seems to me like the only way…except i dont even know how to do that anymore)[my tds recon gives me .JOB & .RAW]
    Id have better luck pulling a rabbit out of my hat.

    I just want to import points… the tab is there but, i just dont know anymore….

  11. Paul Coutu says:

    oh create DATABASE…
    Then Network….
    Ugh, Ive been doing this CAD thing for a long time & it just seems like so much has changed…
    Like starting frim scratch almost.
    Thanks again.

  12. Paul Coutu says:

    ok i got that, now i just cant view my points.
    i updated my point grouns (there is only 1 & i made sure to use multiple when i was in the field)
    I see the nodes just not #s ,elevs, & descriptions.

  13. Paul Coutu says:

    found that too…
    Sorry, it was a “properties” setting that was unchecked.
    first time here. wish me lcuk.
    thanks again

  14. Paul Coutu says:

    Attn: Surveyors
    Im not exactly sure on auto linework.
    I have description codes setup.
    Auto Line Work Descriptions are also set up.
    For Example:
    Description Code, ep = EP (Edge Pave)
    Line Work Description, ep1… ep2… etc.
    Using TDS Ranger I begin collection my ep side shots.
    My description is EP.
    Where do I enter the Auto linework Commands (b=Begin. E= End)???
    In my side shot description, meaning when i shoot my 1st ep shot, the description should be entered as b EP1.
    Im confused in this area.
    Thanks in advanced.
    Also, is there a way to delete a ‘survey database’?

  15. Paul Coutu says:

    Well nevermind all that.
    Im having the same problem i had before, where i cant see point#, Elev. & descriptions.
    i thought i cleared this problem but obviuosly not.
    i updated point groups and did everything that is outlined above.
    i can only see the nodes & the “network”
    i really dont care about any of that.
    i would like to view my point #, Elevs, & descriptions.
    i guess there are too many settings in C3D.
    ive done this before but i just dont know now…

    Q: How do i show points?
    Q: How do i “erase” “side shot lines” from ” network”?