Sticky Codes, Fixed Parameters, and Templates

By Doug Aaberg • October 2nd, 2017

As most of you who have been following my blogs know by now, I am all about production. Shortening the time between fieldwork and final plan is essential in maintaining a consistent profit margin and meeting time schedules. Carlson’s fullsizerenderField to Finish program is a great tool and asset for accomplishing those goals, but the more fully you utilize it, the better the results.

Since the basic operation of Field to Finish is to connect linework, symbols, and text directly to the description code of each point, properly coding points in the field becomes a critical component. This is sometimes the hang-up and conflict between the field operation and office production. Often times I hear field surveyors comment that the coding process is too lengthy or complicated to really do all the things they would like. Carlson offers some great ways to shorten the amount of coding but many surveyors are not familiar with them. Let’s explore some of those functions.

Offset Coding
One of the most frequent uses of the offset code is for locating curbs. For example, you can locate the front of the curb and offset the back of curb both horizontally and vertically by adding the appropriate offset codes.

The default coding for offset horizontal and offset vertical is OH and OV respectively.


Example: A traditional coding for a curb line that is 0.5’ high and 1’ wide when locating the edge of the pavement, you could code it something like this:


Note: each code is separated by a space

Then if you add the fact that it is the beginning of a line segment and also the beginning of a curve, you may end up with this:


If this seems overwhelming already, there are several things to remember before you just give up.

1. You don’t need to code the beginning of a line string. If a code such as EP is set as to be a line, 2D or 3D polyline, it begins drawing a line as soon as you enter the EP. Therefore you only need to tell it when to stop drawing a line string. If you are using SurvCE and have preloaded your codes (always a very good idea) and you use the onboard “start a line” function, you will probably notice that it adds the default BEG, ST or similar special code automatically. That will also work fine but just know that entering the line code alone is sufficient. An interesting fact is that either the begin line or end line will accomplish the same thing but I’m not going to complicate things right now.

2. Offset Codes are “Sticky.” After you enter the first set of offset codes Carlson will continue those offsets for the entire line string. You do not need to add all of the codes for every shot, just the first. Furthermore, if an offset changes within the string, you need only modify the offset the changed. For example, if a curb line is consistently 1.5’ wide but the height varies from 0.5’ to 0.8’, just add the offset code for that shot.

  • Initial shot code: EP OV.5 OH1 PC
  • Point of change code: EP OV0.8

3. Special Codes are customizable. You can change the special codes to virtually anything you want them to be. There is some caution around that because you can possibly cause conflicts between your regular codes and special codes or even between special codes so don’t get carried away. For example, if you changed the OH code to just H and OV code to just V, the above line string would be reduced to:

  • EP V.5 H1 PC

4. Fixed Parameters are your friend. An often ignored feature in Field to Finish is Fixed Parameters.


Fixed Parameters allow you to preset what multiple codes you want to use. You can decide to use a variety of special code features and preset up to three of them and then only need to add the value in the field without the need to first specify the special code itself. For instance, in the above example if you preset the first parameter as offset vertical and the second as offset horizontal, the same string would be coded as such:

  • Initial shot code: EP .5 1 PC
  • Point of change code: EP .8


5. Carlson will label curb elevations for you. Many times on a survey, the client has requested that I label the top and bottom of curb elevations on the plan. With that exact need in mind, Carlson has added the ability to automatically label offset lines with elevations. This is another underutilized function that can be found in the Linetype tab in the Field Code Table.



When enabled, Field to Finish will add a text label and each point for both the original 3D polyline vector as shot on the ground and the offset 3D polyline calculated from the vertical offset amount. The location and appearance of the elevation text are controlled in the GIS/Note/Point Attribute Labels dialog box.





Note: The Attribute Format must be set to Text Attribute or Both for this function to operate properly.

The below example illustrates offsetting and labeling a curb with varying heights. The coding utilizes fixed the fixed parameters and offset elevation labels as shown above:

PointNo. Northing(Y)   Easting(X)     Elev(Z)   Description

1204     17105.43       11060.90       100.00     EP .5 1

1205     17106.02       11103.63       101.00     EP .8

1206     17105.09       11136.35       102.00     EP

1207     17101.69       11163.65       102.80     EP .7 PC

1208     17095.60       11185.58       102.95     EP

1209     17088.69       11202.27       103.00     EP .4

1210     17079.24       11219.58       103.80     EP PT


This is the resulting drawing after processing followed by rotating the text using the “follow” option in the [ss twist] command:



Notice how the elevation offset holds consistent between shots.

It should also be noted that the above example creates the necessary 3D breaklines for creating a surface model.


6. Templates. Another great time-saving tool in Field to Finish is Templates. Templates can be created for just about anything but are particularly useful when locating things like vertical curbs and retaining walls. Things that require a bottom, top and width can be easily defined in a template and then located with a single line string. Templates can be found in the Linetype Tab in your Field Code Table.


To create a template, click Set and give the template a name. Templates can be as simple or complicated as you like, saved and then shared throughout the company.

The template or .TPL file is the same format as that used in the Carlson Civil design modules.

For this example I created a template called VGCT-L for a vertical granite curb template to the left. Since the template is created with an offset to the left, it is advantageous to have one for either direction you are walking when locating the curb. I find that easier than trying to alter my workflow for the sake of the template. To add the horizontal and vertical elements to the template, enter the vertical and horizontal criteria in the appropriate dialog boxes.


The above shows a simple curb that is 0.5’ in height and 0.5’ in width.

Remember, this is the standard curb dimensions and can be modified in the field with an offset command. I added the VGCT-L.TPL template to the field code VGL as shown above.

The following codes are an example of using the template example:

PointNo. Northing(Y)   Easting(X)     Elev(Z)   Description

45       17129.70       11538.14       100.00     VGL

46       17124.84       11595.14       100.50     VGL PC

47       17138.19       11638.10       100.55     VGL

48       17165.67       11654.30       100.60     VGL


The resulting CAD drawing:

There are many more shortcuts and time-savers that I will be sharing with you as we go along. If you have something in particular that you would like to see covered, please just drop me an email. In the meantime, keep working with Carlson’s Field to Finish and get your efficiency as high as you can.


I’ve had this available for quite a while now and will soon put up some more custom tools to download, but if you haven’t already, check out my Easy Start Field to Finish Guide.
Download Doug's Field-to-Finish Guide

Let us help you get “up and running” and make your company more profitable.


Douglas L. Aaberg, PLS
Survey Product Manager

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