Bentley MicroStation XM V8i


Bentley Systems, USA

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CAD package for drafting and 3D modelling.

Next version release:




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Bentley Systems




LEARN, The Catalogue


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MicroStation is a good, flexible and reliable package primarily used for 2D and 3D drafting.  Its strength and relative popularity in Europe, as well as its close integration with GC and capacity for complex geometry make it a strong competitor with AutoCAD .  

Primary functions:

MicroStation's primary function at present is as a 2D drafting application, similar to AutoCAD .  What it offers over and above AutoCAD is project-sharing applications and component capabilities. 
Common functions include:
1.     3D drafting.  The 3D drafting capacities of MicroStation are flexible and stable.  It is ideal for processing large files and dealing with complex forms.  The fact that it is not shy of curves and complex forms (as is, say, ArchiCAD ) makes it a good all round program in terms of functionality in this area.
2.     2D Drafting.  Standard orthographic sets and documentation are easily produced.
3.     Line-work in general (diagramming, matrixing etc)

Compare these functions with those of ArchiCAD , Revit ,  AutoCAD .

Primary outputs:

Primary out-puts for MicroStation centre around conventional project documentation and project-collaboration/sharing facilities.  Drawing sets, contract sets and consent drawings are all well suited to MicroStation's capacities.  From here, as is standard practice now, MicroStation will be useful for laser-cutting files, as per other CAD programs.
1.     Line-drawings.  Measured and line-drawings are a very common output from MicroStation.  It is easy to print from MicroStation, including batch printing and scaling.
In general, with each new release of MicroStation output capabilities are increasing.


MicroStation is a relatively standard application to learn.  However, it is structured in a different way to many other CAD programs and as such, initially, the user must get their head around these difference.  It is worth pursuing though, as the user will be rewarded with a fast, efficient CAD interface.

MicroStation's interface is not particularly intuitive.  Many users find it confusing, especially at the beginning.  However, the program has streamlined its interface over recent releases so that now, once initial confusion has been overcome, the use of "quickdraw menus" accessed by single keystrokes (Q, or L, or T) mean that the program can be worked quickly and efficiently, perhaps even faster than AutoCAD.

MicroStation's functions are accessed via dropdown file menus.  However, the quickdraw menu is a cross between the tradition line command box and the dropdown menu.  The quickdraw menu is a floating dialogue box.  As noted, once this quickdraw menu is utilised fully it the program becomes very fast and efficient to use.  To access tools for example you usually just put in the keyboard shortcut.

Some user's find the aesthetic of the interface a little dated – lots of fluro!

Owing to AutoCAD' s dominant position in the industry, the developers of MicroStation have worked hard to ensure a very high level of interoperability with other CAD programs, above all AutoCAD.  DWG and DXF are common forms.  Exporting from MicroStation will present the user with a host of file-type options.  Note also that MicroStation is presently the only CAD program that imports SketchUp 's domestic file-type SKP directly and accurately.

Remember also, that MicroStation is GC 's standard CAD counterpart, both of which are produced by Bentley Systems.  Naturally, MicroStation's files are fully interoperable with GC.  This is certainly one of MicroStation's strong points.  Projects and/or components put together in GC can be easily transferred into MicroStation for documentation and fabrication.


Over and above those strengths and weaknesses listed already, MicroStation at present is:
+ + Very strong in terms of the ease of project -sharing. making it excellent for collaborative projects
+ + Very stable as a program: it crashes very rarely.
+ Strong in that it is popular in the British/European architectural industries.
+ Strong in dealing with curved geometry, - one area where it is far stronger than ArchiCAD or Reivt.
-  A little weak with support.  MicroStation's popularity, perhaps unfairly, is relatively low.  As such there is limited online support and forum information.   This includes limited professional training.  However, the range is expanding.

Learning support:

Reasonable competency in MicroStation can be gathered by working through the tutorials listed.

To get you started Media Centre suggest the following tutorials:
Beginner A: Introduction to MicroStation

Intermediate A: Using MicroStation shortcuts
Intermediate B: Accudraw and accusnap exercise





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First published Mon. 1 Feb. 2010

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