Civil 3D Lables vs. Annotative Text

Invariably, at some point while learning Civil 3D, most people will run into the question “Should I use Civil 3D Labels, or Annotative Mtext and Mleaders?”  The answer is a resounding “Both!”

Civil 3D Labels and Annotative Text have different properties, and for any given task, one may be more appropriate than the other.  So the big question becomes “How do I determine which one to use?”  Read on for details…


The following table contains a brief synopsis of the differences between Civil 3D Labels and Annotative Mtext and Mleaders.  Most items in the table apply to either, but some are specific to Mleaders.  The majority of these items also apply to Annotative Dimensions.


C3D Labels

Annotative Mtext & Mleaders

Cannot use Fields

Can use Fields

Can display dynamic data associated with Civil 3D elements, such as Bearing, Northing/Easting, Lat/Long, etc.

Cannot see custom properties of Civil 3D elements

Can orient to Object, View, or WCS, depending on the setting in the Style

Orients to UCS current when object is created, unless "Match Viewport Orientation" is selected in the Style

Loses Text Overrides when copied between drawings or when Style is changed.

Retains text contents when copied between drawings or when Style is changed.

Rotation is controlled via the Style settings, and cannot overridden

Can be freely rotated, and will retain new rotation angle (unless "Match Viewport Orientation" is set in the Style)

Has an option to "Flip Plan Readable" with "Readability Bias"

Cannot "Flip Plan Readable"

Scales by Viewport Scale in paperspace, and by the Drawing Scale in modelspace

Scales by Annotation Scale

Must use Layers+VPFreeze to control visibility in viewports

Can use either Layers+VPFreeze or Annotation Scales to control visibility in viewports

Cannot override settings in Styles, and must create a new Style to alter any display settings

Style settings can be overridden for each individual entity

Label can be placed with accompanying Marker

Does not include a Marker

Each Style can be composed of multiple Components, including Block and Line Components, for flexible appearance

Contents limited to a single Text or Block component for Mleaders, with no options for Block or Text components in Mtext

Leader segments cannot be constrained

Leader segments can be constrained to specific angles

Can only have a single Leader

Can have multiple Leaders

No advanced layout options

Has advanced layout options, such as MLEADERALIGN and MLEADERCOLLECT

One final note…  Scaling occurs differently for Civil 3D Labels than for Annotative Text, which means the two types of labels can get “out of sync” unless you change both the Annotation Scale and the Viewport scale (in paperspace) or the Drawing Scale (in modelspace).  The Scale combo box in the Status Bar at the bottom of the screen will change both settings simultaneously.  So things tend to work best if you always change your scales by using the setting in the Status Bar.  (See this post for more details.)


  1. Clem Kuns says:

    If C3D object data were exposed to annotative text and C3D styles were setup to utilize annotative text, I dont think I would ever use the “old” C3D styles again. Basically, a C3D style would be very simple in that it would specify which object data fields to populate an annotative text or annotative leader with. IMHO, annotative text is just better from a drafting standpoint.

    • One of the things we like about C3D Labels is the ability to “Flip Plan Readable”. That option is missing from Annotative elements. So we particularly like C3D labels for that feature.

      However, there are a lot of other drawbacks to using General Note labels in particular, such as the single-leader limitation, the loss of text overrides when copying between drawings, the inability to override any settings, the inability to control visibility in any other way than VPFreeze, etc. So we also tend to favor Annotative Mleaders or Mtext over General Note labels for most things.

  2. DENNIS SCHMIDT, P. ENG. says:

    I’ve found there are a couple things that aren’t available in the labels that are in Mtext. I had to play with the styles quite a bit while I could quickly get the same result with Mtext.

  3. Adam Farnsworth says:

    From what I’ve found, MLeaders are so much easier to edit. The “General Note Label” is the bane of my existence. I don’t mind labels when they’re necessary, such as pipe inverts, but for almost all callouts, I much prefer mleaders. (There is no reason, other than just to annoy me lol, to label “EXISTING GROUND” in a profile with a C3D label rather than a mleader)


  4. Kent Schellinger P.E. says:

    I much perfer Civil3d labels for surfaces, pipes and structures since I create them as a design tool in the early stages of plan development. The most annoying limitation is I want them to be in paper space. As my centerline alignment curves, the rotation of the labels are different for each viewport. The labels rotate and cover one another. If I could add the labels in paper space I could only label items that are needed in the current plan sheet.

  5. Andrew Stewart says:

    You know, you can label Civil 3D objects through an XREF. I leave as little text in the design file as possible and label as much as I can through my plot sheets.

    Also, I only use Civil 3D labels for text items that reference design data that may change, i.e. inverts, structure tops, etc. MLeaders are just much easier to grip-edit. However, using “Edit Label Text…”, you can add almost any text you want to any label. It’s just a PITA compared to double-clicking the MText in an MLeader.

    • Skip Burns says:

      I do the same thing. You can add “Double Click Actions” to Civil 3D labels in the CUI though which makes them a little less tedious to edit.

  6. Mark Spatz says:

    My moto for company training:

    “If there is a number in the label, you should be using ‘General–>Add Label’ (C3D labels).”

    “If the lable is descriptive – text – then feel free to use AutoCAD.”

    The Civil 3D goal is to have ALL lables with numbers in them refer to the model(s).

    When teaching folks how to add Civil 3D labels push one direction:
    “General –> Add Label”;
    “General –> Add Label”;
    “General –> Add Label”; beat it into the class.