MicroStation is a suite of CAD software products for 2- and 3-dimensional design and drafting, developed and sold by Bentley Systems. The latest versions of the software are released solely for Microsoft Windows operating systems, but historically MicroStation was available for Macintosh platforms and a number of Unix-like operating systems. MicroStation is the platform architectural and engineering software package developed by Bentley Systems, Incorporated. Among a number of things, it generates 2D/3D vector graphic objects and elements. Current version is MicroStation V8 XM.


Intergraph MicroStation was originally developed by Bentley Systems for Intergraph in the 1980s. It was originally designed as an IGDS (Interactive Graphics Design System) file reader for the PC. At the time, the product was developed under the name PseudoStation by Keith Bentley.

In 1987, MicroStation 2.0 was released, and was the first version of MicroStation to read and write DGN files.

Almost two years later, MicroStation 3.0 was released, which took advantage of the increasing processing power of the PC, particularly with respect to dynamics.

Intergraph MicroStation 4.0 was released in late 1990 and added many features: reference file clipping & masking, a DWG translator, fence modes, the ability to name levels, and GUI enhancements to name a few. The 1992 release of version 4 introduced the ability to write applications using the MicroStation Development Language (MDL).

In 1993, MicroStation 5.0 was released and brought with it more capabilities. Among these were binary raster support, custom line styles, settings manager, and dimension driven design. This was the last version to be supported in Linux This version was branded both Intergraph (on CLIX) and Bentley Microstation (on PC). Later versions were all branded Bentley. This was the last version to run on Intergraph CLIX.

In 1995, Windows 95 was released. Bentley soon followed with a release of MicroStation for that operating system - its first foray into the 32-bit world. Aside from being the first version of MicroStation to not include the version number in its name (MicroStation 95 was actually MicroStation v5.5), MicroStation 95 was a groundbreaking release for many more reasons than going 32-bit. This version introduced a host of new features: Accudraw, dockable dialogs, Smartline, revised view controls, movie generation, and the ability to use two application windows. Many of these features are among the most popular used today.

The last multi-platform release, MicroStation SE (SE standing for special edition, but it was actually MicroStation 5.7) was released late in 1997, and was the first MicroStation release to include button icons that were in color. These icons could also be made borderless, just like in Office 97. This version of MicroStation also included several features to enable more work over the internet. This version also introduced enhanced precision and a very commonly used tool in MicroStation - PowerSelector.

MicroStation J (aka MicroStation 7.0, aka MicroStation V7) was released almost a year after SE. The J in the software title stood for Java, as this version introduced a Java-enhanced version of MDL, called JMDL. Other features included QuickvisionGL and a revised help system. MicroStation J was the last version to be based upon the IGDS file format; since MicroStation J was actually Version 7, the file format became known as "V7 DGN". That file format had been used for about 20 years.

However, with the advent of MicroStation V8 in 2001 came a new IEEE-754 based 64-bit file format, referred to as V8 DGN. MicroStation V8 is noted by most users as the most groundbreaking release in Bentley's history. Along with the new file format came many new enhancements, including unlimited levels, a nearly limitless design plane and no limits on filesize. Other features that were added were: Accusnap, Design History, models, unlimited undo, VBA programming, .Net interopelability, True Scale, and standard definitions for working units (as the new file format stored everything internally in meters, but can recognize rational unit conversions so that it can know the size of geometry). But the most anticipated feature was the ability to work natively with DWG files, an ability perhaps lauded more than any other.

MicroStation 8.5 followed nearly three years later with support for newer DWG releases, Multi-snaps, PDF creation, the Standards Checker and Feature modeling.

The latest version is MicroStation V8 XM Edition (aka MicroStation 8.9), released in May 2006. It builds upon the changes made by V8. The XM edition includes a completely revised Direct3d-based graphics subsystem, PDF References, task navigation, element templates, color books, support for PANTONE and RAL color systems and keyboard mapping. Curiously enough, according to Bentley, "XM" doesn't stand for anything.

A new version of MicroStation, code-named "Athens", is due to be released in late 2008.

Name Version Date Comments
PseudoStation 1.0 1.0 1985 Initial release
MicroStation 2.0 2.0 Feb, 1987 First version to read/write to DGN files
MicroStation 3.0 3.0 Dec, 1988
MicroStation Mac 3.4 3.4 Dec, 1989 Set baseline for Motif in PC and UNIX versions in 1990
MicroStation V4 4.0 Dec, 1990 First version with MDL and Motif GUI
MicroStation V5 5.0 Oct, 1993 Photo realistic rendering.
MicroStation 95 5.5 Nov, 1995 Introduction of AccuDraw and SmartLine - 32-bit
MicroStation SE 5.7 Nov, 1997 Rolled Image Manager and MicroStation MasterPiece - last multi-platform release
MicroStation/J 7.0 Dec, 1998 Solids modeling (SmartSolid/SmartSurface), Java
MicroStation/J V7.1 7.1 Dec, 1998 Spell checker, ProjectBank client, Windows 2000 support.
MicroStation V8 8.0 Oct, 2001 Read/write DWG without translation, unlimited levels, history
MicroStation V8.1 8.1 Feb, 2003 Digital signatures, file protection, named groups, quicksets, displaysets
MicroStation V8 2004 Edition 8.5 Apr, 2004 Print to PDF, 3D in PDF, export to U3D, ADT objects
MicroStation V8 XM Edition 8.9 May, 2006 Structured Workflows, New DirectX-based display subsystem, Structured Content, Updated GUI

File Format Support

Its native format is the DGN format, though it can also read and write a variety of standard CAD formats including DWG and DXF as producing media output in such forms as rendered images (JPEG and BMP), animations (AVI), 3D web pages in Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML, and Adobe PDF).

At its inception, MicroStation was used in the engineering and architecture fields primarily for creating construction drawings; however, it has evolved through its various versions to include advanced modeling and rendering features, including boolean solids, raytracing, and keyframe animation. It can provide specialized environments for architecture, civil engineering, mapping, or plant design, among others.

In 2000, Bentley made revisions to the DGN file format in V8 to add additional features like Digital Rights and Design History - a revision control ability that allows to reinstate previous revisions either globally or by selection, and to better support import/export of AutoDesk's DWG Format. Additionally, the V8 file format removed many data restrictions from earlier releases such as limited design levels and drawing area.


Extensions can be used with MicroStation to add to its functionality. Example extensions include the following:

  • Provide accurate materials lists for every item included in the design
  • Sequenced schedule for construction
  • Check for interferences between objects
  • Publish all drawings automatically on a public website
  • Provide a client/owner a detailed model of their entire plant including its virtual operation for training and testing.

Extensions can be created using:

  • The MicroStation Development Language (MDL) which is a 'C' like programming language.
  • User Command Macros (UCMs). Once very popular, support for these is no longer guaranteed in V8.
  • Visual Basic for Applications (VBA).
  • C/C++.

See also


External links

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