MicroStation 5.0

While MicroStation has gone through great strides in its lifetime, its
user interface suffers from icon overkill. Its reliance on separate windows for
the drawing area, main menu and status area, tearable icon windows, icon
settings window, and even multiple views in 3-D clutter up the screen. The icons
themselves are very deep in their interaction, with around nine icons for most
palette tools.

Creating accurate geometry was a little confusing. Precise options for many elements are part of Tool Settings and not part of the immediate icon options menus displayed when a tool is selected. The other method for displaying options is to select the Tool Settings menu from Settings, which gives a floating window with appropriate options for the different elements.

The ability to make custom line styles inside of MicroStation is great. The method is completely graphically orientated with controls for stroke pattern, gap and length of line segment, repeatablity, and even the addition of other graphic shapes and multiple lines.

Easy editing. The text editor is extremely well done with support for multi-line paragraphs. Text is edited in an Edit Window that must be Closed when editing is finished. The User Preference setting lets you edit in the Command Window, which is faster since the Edit Window does not have to be Closed when editing is finished.

MicroStation's cells are created in their own window and can be viewed and interacted with while still in the current file. MicroStation also allows for dimension-driven cells in which geometry is variable, dependent upon the value input by the operator at the time of cell placement.

Support for associated hatching offered greater performance than I had anticipated. When the hatch is associated with the border, any changes in the border will cause the hatch to be recalculated and fill up the new area.

Dimensions are very good. Not only is there control of type, but settings like as text location may be retrieved from a stored group such as ANSI. View display control for 3-D work is also very good. A View Attributes control window allows quick control of various drawing and element attributives by view.

SPEC BOX
MicroStation Version 5.0
MicroStation requires 8M bytes RAM (16M bytes recommended) and an 80M-byte hard disk. It is available for PCs with DOS, Windows, or Windows NT; as well as for SUN (SPARC), HP, DEC, IBM, Intergraph, and SGI workstations.

List Price: $3,790.00

Bentley Systems Inc., 690 Pennsylvania Dr., Exton, PA 19341; ph. (610) 458-5000; fax: (610) 458-1060.

3-D primitives such as boxes and cones are provided and size control is available in the 3-D Primitives window. Since an object can be a surface or a solid, the Type field allows the operator to specify solid or surface at this time as well.

Multiple modifications. For surface editing and combining functions, MicroStation offers a robust set of tools. Fourteen 3-D surface modification options are given, many of which have numerous subsets and alternate methods of operation. The first three modify methods apply to solids and surfaces. The other ten apply to surfaces only. One option for changing a surface or solid to the active type of surface or solid is also given. There are also many tools for blending surfaces together. Overall, the 3-D construction and modification tools are some of the best I've seen.

Another offering lets you construct a working document from a design. Though several steps long, the process for making a document for plotting is relatively easy to do.

MicroStation gets high marks for its complete rendering, viewing, and materials features and functions. Once a model is made, viewing is not limited to straight-on shots. It may also be done with various camera settings. Different backgrounds and objects such as people and cars can be added to the image. Rendering materials are provided in several categories.

I think MicroStation is one of the most complete CAD products on the market. Productive features such as combining solids and surfacing, rendering, database links, and AutoCAD file read/write make it powerful. File compatibility across all support platforms is another plus in today's networked environment, and quick support for Windows NT is welcome in the industry.

Other similar products:

AutoCAD - Autodesk, Inc., 2320 Marinship Way, Sausalito, CA 94965.

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