Two Reference Text "Gotcha"s in 2008

Those of you who have been reading my work for any length of time know that I am eternally optimistic.  (Can you believe it has been almost 2 years since I wrote the Civil 3D Rocks Manifesto?)  I always try to find some way to exploit all of the tools in the program to get my designs done better, faster and with more smiles along the way.

I have discovered two things the past few days that have made me frown a little bit.  Now PLEASE don’t get me wrong.  I am not discounting the hard work of anyone at Autodesk and I am not saying that either of these two issues are nearly as significant as the incredible gains made by Civil 3D 2008.  I only temporarily threatened to quit the business when I found them (joke).  In fact, based on some conversations with folks at the ‘desk, I am pretty sure that both of these issues came up because of some improvements made in 2008.

I am hoping that posting about them will generate some interest in making them work for a future release or service pack.

Click more to find out what I am talking about…


In Civil 3D 2007, you could create an expression for, say, a profile.  Such as [(Profile Elevation – (12*.02)].  Then you could create an Alignment Station/Offset Label that had profile reference text.  In your reference text pulldown, that profile expression would be available to you.

Like Scott shows in his post FG Elevations Derived From a Profile (Without a Corridor)

Not any more.

It appears that the new expression organization system blocks the expressions from showing up in the reference text choice list.

The interesting thing is that a 2007 drawing (or dragging and dropping in a 2007 style) that already has the expression established in the label is fine.  And 2007 expressions will still show up in the 2008 reference text pull down.  But any new expressions are toast.  The work around? I guess you work with your old styles.  I’m at a loss, really.

This worked in Civil 3D 2007 at least until SP2.  I am pretty sure I have done it in SP3 for referencing profile expressions into alignment station/offset labels, but it seems broken in SP3 for referencing Surface expressions into General labels.  I have entire design processes that revolve around this behavior such as:

Intersection Design (desired EOP Elevations)

Residential Grading Checks (Surface expressions in General Notes that calculate desired garage floor elevations, finished floor elevations and perform checks of all kinds)

Stormwater Management Design (Parcel calculations referenced into general note labels and similar)

Many more


This one is new for 2008.  Or, it would be if it worked.

While reference text is great in Alignment Station/Offset Labels, each Station/Offset label has to bet set manually.

Chatter on the wishlist for a long time has asked for reference text in those “Label Set” type labels, like Major Stations, for example, so that we could give the contractor spot elevations at a certain interval without having to set each one manually.

I was happier than a pig in poo when I found the reference text pull down option in the Major Station (and other alignment and profile label set-type labels). 

It took me a few months to try it, and when I finally sat down to give it a whirl… I made a Major Station Label with a Surface Reference (from my FG) without a hitch.  Then I place the labels on the alignment. 

The interface never prompted me to choose my reference surface. Huh? Did I miss it?   

I tried all of the usual places- Properties, Label Properties, the Label Set interface and I couldn’t find the UI to set the reference surface.  Or reference anything- I tried it with other forms of reference text.  I called the BatCave.  Apparently, I didn’t miss the UI.  It just doesn’t exist right now.

So while I am excited that the bones for this feature are in place, I just wanted to warn you not to make it your reason for install right now, because unless you want to label your alignment with “???” every 50 feet, there is nothing here for you.

And now back to your regularly scheduled Dana sunshine….


  1. mbcastle says:

    This is really really dissapointing to me. I spent a bunch of time in 2008 trying to figure out why my expressions were not showing up in the drop down. I’m glad I found this post before I pulled the last of my hair out. The bummer is that I went straight from 2006 to 2008. Now I’ll either have to wait for the SP (who knows when that might be) or install and patch 2007 and build my labels there and drag them to 2008. Since I think a 2008 SP might be awhile out I guess I’ll have to install 2007 after all because I really really need this expression/reference text functionality.

  2. ChristopherF says:

    You can update the reference text in an alignment by selecting each label and setting the reference in properties. Not going to work on a long alignment, unless you have a lot of time on your hands. Since you can’t, or at least I haven’t found a way, to select multiple labels at the same time you have to do one at a time.

  3. ChristopherF says:

    And at least on my computer the comments are hard to type in and review on this site since its grey on grey. Perhaps another text color, not to be like an LDT lover, but I liked it better the old way.