Implementing standard tool palettes throughout the entire company always sounds like a great idea. Doing so is wise, so that people have a convenient way of adhering to company standards without effort. With tool palettes, things can be drawn in on the right layers, represented with the right block, inserted at the right scale, and hatched with the correct parameters without even knowing what any of that is. Creating the tool palettes is the easy part. Setting them up on everyone’s computer in your organization can be challenging.
The Content Browser seems to be a seldom-used tool in AutoCAD Civil 3D. It is present in other AutoCAD verticals such as AutoCAD Architectural and AutoCAD MEP. It can be accessed from Start > Autodesk Civil 3D 2023 – English (or whichever version you are using) > Autodesk Content Browser; or, from inside AutoCAD Civil 3D, go to the Home tab, expand the bottom of the Palettes panel, and click Content Browser.
The Content Browser can be used to serve up network-based Tool Palettes. Content can come from network locations or websites. Once Content Browser is opened, a new Catalog can be created by clicking the Add or Create a Catalog button in the lower left corner of the dialog. To create a new catalog from a network location, browse to the appropriate network folder location and type a name for your catalog in the Add Catalog dialog. Then click OK.
You may see this dialog pop up. Just click No to proceed.
The new catalog can now be seen in the Catalog Library represented by a solid rectangle. Right-click on this catalog to access Properties on the right-click menu.
In the Catalog Properties dialog,
- Right-click on the image to browse to a new image to represent the catalog.
- The File or Target value is automatically created.
- Configuring a cover page is optional
- Publisher would be yours or your company name. This field is also optional.
- Type is optional and has no impact currently on the organization of the library.
- Filling the check box links all items in the Tool Palettes back to the Content Browser catalog. Clearing the checkbox allows for changes to be made in the Tool Palettes on the local level independent of the catalog.
- Click OK to close.
Using File Explorer, we can browse to the network location of our custom catalog and see that a folder named after the catalog has been created.
Inside that folder will be an ATC file and an Images folder. The Images folder at this point contains the image associated with the catalog.
To populate the catalog, single click on it in the Content Browser.
In the lower left corner of the Catalog dialog, there are three tools.
From left to right, the buttons do the following:
- Create a Category – categories are like folders; we use them to organize our tools.
- Create a Tool Set
- Create a Tool Palette – tool palettes will be created in this example.
Creating a category establishes a place to organize a certain group of tools. In this example, we’ll click the Create a New Category button to create a category called Utilities. Then click OK.
This creates a new folder within the Catalog folder called Categories and a Utilities ATC file within that folder.
In the Content Browser, we’ll click on Utilities to open the Utilities category contents.
Within the Utilities category, we’ll create a tool palette. Clicking Create New Palette opens the Tool Palette Properties dialog.
In this example, we’ll create one called Water. Filling in the remaining fields in the dialog is not mandatory.
We’ve just created a blank tool palette called Water. Within the Categories folder, a new folder called Palettes has been created and a Water ATC file within that folder.
So far in Content Browser, we have created the following:
- Catalog: Company Symbols
- Category: Utilities
- Tool Palette: Water
Populating the Tool Palette
To populate the palette, we go to AutoCAD Civil 3D.
The Water tool palette will contain blocks we use to draft waterlines in plan.
- We will need to open a drawing containing these symbols.
- We will need to drag the symbols to a tool palette.
- Then drag the tool palette symbols into Content Browser.
Sounds pretty straight forward but to do it like an A-Lister, you need to do it with swag.
In the symbol drawing, open Autodesk Design Center by typing ADC at the command line.
- On the Open Drawings tab, under the symbols drawing, select Blocks.
- Right-click on Blocks and click Create Tool Palette.
This will create a tool palette named after the drawing symbol drawing. This tool palette serves as a working area and does not represent what will be delivered to our users.
Next, we will edit the properties of each block to be included in the Water tool palette and drag it into Content Explorer. For this example, we will step through this process with one block.
By right-clicking on v-hyd and clicking Properties, we can configure the pre-sets for existing fire hydrants.
- In the Name field, a less awkward name was provided for the symbol.
- Next to Auxiliary Scale, Plot Scale was selected. This means it will assume the size of the block is the plotted text height and scale the block up according to the annotation scale set in the drawing.
- The Layer field is set to an appropriate NCS layer.
- Clicking OK will set these new properties.
Once all the properties of the blocks for water are set, we can drag them off the palette over to the Content Explorer. The Water tool palette dialog now looks like this:
In the Palettes folder under Categories, the Water ATC file has been updated and there is an Image folder containing screen shots of the blocks placed on the Water tool palette.
Not only can we create tool palettes for blocks, but we can also create them for the insertion of standard hatch patterns and the creation of layer-centric linework. Refer to the Samples tool palette group for examples.
Implement the Catalog Throughout the Organization
Once we have completed all of our standard tool palettes, it is time to implement the catalog throughout the organization. For this, we must return to the homepage of the Content Browser. To do this, click on the little house icon towards the upper left corner of the dialog above Search.
First, we must publish the catalog. This step will ensure the tools are placed at the appropriate destination with all links intact.
- Right-click on the custom catalog and click Publish.
- In the Publish Tool Catalog – Step 1 of 4 dialog, make an appropriate selection.
- Move it to a new location – Takes the working copy and actually moves it. The working copy will no longer exist in its existing location.
- Copy it to another location – This option does the same as the first but keeps the working copy in place.
- Leave it in its current location – This works if the current location is where our users will be accessing the content.
- Click Next to continue.
- In the Publish Tool Catalog – Step 3 of 4 dialog (notice that Step 2 of 4 doesn’t exist):
- Use the ellipsis to browse to a location to save your supporting DWG files.
- Filling the checkbox will force the Content Browser to copy these dependent files into the above folder.
- Click Next to continue.
- In the Publish Tool Catalog – Step 4 of 4 dialog:
- In this example, we are preparing content to be used from a network drive. In this case, we would leave the Directly from the location provided option selected.
- Set items in catalog to be read-only – Activates the read-only attributes on the files to discourage updating from the user level.
- Click Finish to close.
The last step is to create a catalog install file. This is done on the Home page of the Content Browser by holding down the Shift key, right-clicking on the catalog, then clicking Convert to Registry File.
Browse to a location that makes sense like the custom content folder, give it a name, and save the REG file.
This is a Windows setting file that can be pushed out to all users by your IT department. Or if you are your IT department, you can push it to everyone’s computer easily with a tool like PDQDeploy. A tool like this is very handy for pushing out Autodesk updates as well. Executing the REG file will add the custom content to the users’ Content Browser.
Below are the inner workings of the REG file which contains the magic that places our customization into Content Browser.
Once the execution of the REG file is complete across all AutoCAD Civil 3D desktops in our organization, the users can now access the customization in AutoCAD Civil 3D by doing the following:
- Open the Content Browser and click on the custom catalog. In this case, it is the Company Symbols.
- Once in the catalog, categories may show. An end user can hover over a category and click Add to Tool Palette. AutoCAD Civil 3D must be open!
In this example, a Tool Palette group called Utilities is added. Any tool palette created in the Utility category will be added to the AutoCAD workspace under that Tool Palette group.
Being able to masterfully manage Tool Palettes for an entire organization will make you a super star A-Lister in your organization. Using the Content Browser to expedite this project is just the swag you need to increase productivity, promote adherence to standards, and maintain a standard aesthetic throughout your organization.
– Cyndy Davenport