Implementing a custom north arrow into Civil 3D and Map

One customization you may want when moving to Civil 3D or Map is the North Arrow. Now when I first began using Civil 3D I noticed the north arrow used in some of the templates, and didn’t really think anything of them, but these symbols have far more intelligence behind them than I first realized. I just assumed that the symbol was just placed with a rotation and scale factor automatically, but I eventually realized that the north arrow symbols in Civil 3D maintain a connection with the viewport they are associated with. This means that by adjusting the view or the north arrow both are adjusted.

Once I realized there was a difference in the behavior of the old north arrows and the ones used in Civil 3D I naturally wanted to find a way to add this to my old north arrow. Well one of the main differences is how the arrow is inserted. In the past I inserted the old north arrow as a block, but the new north arrows are inserted with a special tool located in the layout conceptual tab layout elements panel.

Layout Elements Panel

From this tool a drop-down comes out allowing you to select a north arrow from a built-in list or load one of your own, however the north arrow has to be setup to function with this tool. Once you select the arrow to place you specify the viewport the arrow will be associated with and then place the north arrow.

North Arrow Tool


What allows these blocks to be used by the north arrow tool are two parameter sets.

Existing North Arrow Parameters

As seen in the picture above there is a rotation and scale parameter set. Some of you may be familiar with these parameter sets, but for those of you who have not used these before I’ll explain how these can be added. Once we add these parameters to a standard block we can use them with the north arrow tool.

When in the block editor you can add these parameters from the tool palette. From the Parameter Set tab use the Rotation Set.

Creating a Rotation Parameter

Once you place the rotation set it will be labeled Angle1. We need to rename this parameter in the properties palette.

Rotation Parameter Name

In the properties palette scroll down to the property labels section and change the angle name to Map.View.Rotation

Right click on the icon to the right of the parameter set.

Rotation Parameter Set

This icon represents an action. The action in this case is rotate, and we want to tell the parameter set what to rotate. From the right click drop-down click action selection set and new selection set.

New Selection Set for Rotation Parameter

Now select the north arrow.

Select North Arrow

Press enter to complete the selection.

Now that the action has been given a selection set we can add the scale parameter. For whatever reason there is no scale parameter set in the parameter sets tab, so I am using the linear move parameter set. In the picture below you can see Distance1 has the move action tied to it.

Create Distance Parameter

If you right click on the action you can delete the action.

Remove Action

With the move action removed now go to the actions tab and use the scale action on the Distance1 parameter.

Scale Action

After selecting Distance1 you will be prompted to select objects; at this point you should select the lines that define the north arrow and press enter to complete the selection.

Now we need to rename the distance parameter to Map.NorthArrow.Scale

Scale Parameter Name

From here you can close the block editor and save the changes you made to the block. Now that the block has the needed parameters you will be able to use it with the north arrow tool by using the load custom northarrow option.

North Arrow Tool

If you want to add your custom north arrow to the list of built in options you just need to insert the block into the Map – North Arrows drawing located at the following path:
C:\Program Files\Autodesk\AutoCAD 2015\Map\Sample\Symbols
Note that this location will be adjusted slightly each release.

Once the custom north arrow has been inserted into the drawing you will need to close and reopen Civil 3D or Map before the block will be loaded into the built in list.

New Arrow Built-in

If you decide you need to remove some of the options from this list you can purge the ones you don’t want out of the Map – North Arrows drawing, and they will no longer show up in the built-in list. You may want to keep a drawing to back them up to be safe.

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