I wrote this some time ago, and figured I’d better get it out here before 2010.

Data Shortcuts are Cool. The list of reasons to use these is growing. One such reason is a small amount of companies have shunned Vault for varying reasons, including the learning curve involved. I have repeatedly been tasked to produce methods that would allow the greatest flexibility in sharing, with the least amount of interruption to workflow. In earlier versions, Land XML had always been my preferred method of transfer, allowing some anonymity of the data origin. When the origin has been updated, the XML is overwritten and the definitions would recreate themselves like a data XREF, only more stable.

In the past I have reserved certain procedures away from Data references, however since 2009 issued, these reservations are almost gone.

Data shortcuts provide references to objects that can be inserted into other drawings. These references are like the best combination of a MAP queried object, LandXML data, and an XREF all in 1. They lie in the drawing, and distribute information, in the form of the original object, as an uneditable shell. Labels can be applied, and objects can be derived from the reference. These limitation are that only surfaces, alignments, profiles, pipe networks, and view frame groups can be referenced. They provide a nice alternative to vault.

The Working Folder

The working folder encapsulates a work environment much like a Land Desktop project did, and will contain the shortcut information. It may include the related drawings and data shortcuts for a project. The Data Shortcuts node on the Prospector Tab shows the shortcuts in the current working folder. When an object is updated in the source drawing, notification appears in the main application window and in Toolspace Prospector.

The organization of the shortcuts can be managed as a grouped collection, or separately among the project information. The path structure of the storage is as follows:

Working Folder path\ Data Shortcut Folder\_Shortcuts\data for references

Let’s begin by creating a Working Folder under the Data Shortcuts Collection. Make sure that Master View is set in the Prospector and proceed as follows:

Toolspace->Prospector TAB->right click Data Shortcuts->Set Working Folder


Navigate to the path desired. If this is project related, and the short cut is to remain with the project information, then set this to be the same name as the existing project.

Example…O:\my company PROJECTS\

If this is a Controlled collection, then set the folder to the collection base directory.

Example…X:\my company SHORTCUTS\

If this is a one time promotion, then use a temp path on the local machine.


Once set, the application will begin to collect the Data Shortcut folders here.

Create Data Shortcut Folder

We need to create a Data Shortcut Folder, that will reside in the Working Folder created in the last step. Navigate as follows:

Toolspace->Prospector TAB->Right Click Data Shortcuts->New Data Shortcuts Folder

Immediately a dialog will appear and allow you to navigate to the Shortcut folder desired. Once again I will show the examples, built upon the previous example paths.

Project oriented example:

O:\my company PROJECTS\Big Commercial Project that haunts me\

Controlled collection example:

X:\my company SHORTCUTS\Big Commercial Project that haunts me\

One time promotion example

C:\Temp\erase me later\


Note the Use project template option towards the middle of the dialog. It points to a project template called _Sample Project, located in the C:\Civil 3D Project Templates\ path. If you navigate there, you should be able to see a structured set of directories that will be duplicated into the Data Shortcut Folder, along with the ‘_Shortcuts’ folder that will contain the actual shortcut information. You can create different organization templates, and customize them as you see fit. We already have a project information structure, so this option is not needed.

Once completed, the ‘_Shortcuts directory will be placed in the path specified. That path will now be available for selection in the Set Data Shortcut Folder Dialog.

Data Shortcuts

Now we can create the core information that lets us effectively share the data we want. Open the drawing that you want to create shortcuts and references to (the data location). Now we need to create a new shortcut through the Toolspace :

Toolspace->Prospector TAB->Right Click Data Shortcuts->Create Data Shortcuts

The Create Data Shortcuts dialog appears with a list of Objects that can be referenced from the current drawing.


We can now select the objects needed. Others can be added later as needed. The collection Shortcut Folder can contain shortcuts from other drawings as well.


Note: The _Shortcuts folder can be copied and moved as needed. Once the copy location Data Shortcut Folder is established in the Data Shortcut Node in the Prospector, the data will be accessible.

Data References

Open the drawing that the reference is to be inserted into. We need to create the reference through the Toolspace :

Toolspace->Prospector TAB-> +Data Shortcut Node-> +Referenced Object collection (PIPE NETWORK)->Right Click the Object desired->Create Reference


Once selected, the Create reference dialog appears as shown in the image below. Ensure the correct project Network Parts List is selected, as well as the Various Label Styles desired. The display styles of these references are completely customizable.


You should also note the Override Reference surface and alignment, allowing Object referenced tied in the previous drawing, to be retied to others in the recipient drawing.

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