Getting comfortable in Civil 3D

Being comfortable physically makes a big difference in your performance no matter what you are doing. In the same way, being comfortable with the user interface in your software programs will make you more efficient and improve your day to day performance. Civil 3D is no exception to this and Autodesk offers an incredible amount of customization potential.

There are a few items that I change immediately anytime I begin working on a freshly installed Civil 3D setup:

  • Command Line placement & function

  • Change workspace colors

  • Manage popup windows

  • Customize Status bar

What I will be describing is how I like to set up my workspace and how I am most efficient. You may work differently and have different preferences - I would encourage you to try out some different settings until you find what works best for you.


By default in the latest versions of Civil 3D the command line begins in a floating state and pops up transparent command line history. While this does provide a somewhat cleaner experience when looking at the model space when the command line is not in use, I find that the transparent pop-up history causes my system to lag slightly on inputs and I use many commands that require visibility of the command line history.

My solution for this is to drag the command line to the bottom of the screen to dock it in the more classic form and expand it vertically to show at least 3 lines of command line history.


The next item I address is the workspace colors. I like to work with dark backgrounds in both the model and paper space. I also change the background colors for the command line. When you make these color changes you also need to adjust the text color in the command line as well as the crosshair color in paper space so that you can still see it. I enjoy the green color so I use it for my crosshairs and for the command option keyword text highlights in the command line section as well.

To adjust the colors you first access the Options window by either typing the command Options or you can right-click and select options from the bottom of the right-click menu. Once the Options dialog box opens navigate to the Display tab and select the Colors button on the left side. This will open up the Drawing Window Colors dialog box where you can customize the colors for all of the contexts that you would like. Note that you must select the appropriate Context in the selection window then select which Interface Element you want to adjust before modifying the color with the drop-down menu in the top right corner.

For example, if you wanted to change the background for the model space you would need to select the 2D model space context and uniform background as shown in the image above.


There are so many options that you can try out many different color combinations and find out what suits the way you work best.

By default Civil 3D operates with separated pop-up windows that float around over the workspace when you open them. For me, this has always been a source of frustration as I need some of the windows very often, such as the properties window, but to work in the space you have to constantly open and close the window or move it to a second monitor.


Now, this is definitely a preference item and others will disagree, but I have found myself to be much more efficient by utilizing the ability to anchor the windows to either the left or right and enable the Auto-hide function. These options can be seen by right-clicking on the header for each window.


I set up my space to have my commonly used windows all docked to the left side with autohide so that I don't have to constantly type in the command or click the buttons to open them up. The typical windows I leave anchored are Properties, Toolspace, Layer Manager, External References, and Sheet Set Manager.



The last item I'll address in this post is that I customize the status bar at the bottom of the window. You can choose which icons and options show up along the bottom status bar by selecting the three-lined "hamburger" menu in the bottom right corner. This shows a list of the available items that, if checked, will show along the bottom and will be modifiable by directly clicking on the specific icon.


The primary item I adjust on this status bar when I first open default Civil 3D is to turn off dynamic input. I leave it showing on the status bar so that it can quickly be turned on if needed, but I find that the majority of the time it primarily just adds input lag to my system as I am trying to execute other commands. It is very useful in certain situations, like defining a specific angle or distance when drawing some basic linework, but in most cases, I do not miss it.


These are just a few of the customization options available in Civil 3D, mostly focus on the user experience and preference. In future posts, I'll provide information on how to utilize custom command macros and toolbar/button modifications to streamline workflows.


If you have a Civil 3D feature or question that you would like to see a future post on please reach out to us at insights@fulfilledengineering.com or through our Contact page!