AutoCAD versus MicroStation, which one is the best?


I’ve seen people comparing AutoCAD and MicroStation. How they love it, and don’t understand why would people choose the other one. So which one is the best? Which one should you use?

This article is my personal opinion, you are welcome if you want to write yours on comment section below.

It’s not an apple-to-apple comparison

To me, it’s not really apple-to-apple comparison. They are not really competing each other.

Really? Aren’t they both can do about the same thing? Well yeah, but it doesn’t mean they are competing on the same area.

AutoCAD was designed as drafting tool

Yes. AutoCAD was designed as drafting tool. It was the best ever, and still is. If you mainly work with detailed drawings, I think most likely you will say AutoCAD is better than MicroStation. Later, many applications use AutoCAD as platform. Autodesk puts many tools to AutoCAD, even change the rendering engine to mental ray. The same rendering engine for 3ds Max. But still, the AutoCAD strongest point is its drafting capability.

MicroStation was designed as platform

MicroStation was optimized as a CAD platform. Bentley is working hard to make almost all of their products run on MicroStation. It makes MicroStation has the ability for drafting/detailing, 3D modeling, rendering, and even animations. I’m not talking about simple walkthrough here, but complex animation like I found here on YouTube:

Here also some sample tutorial how you can create traffic animation in MicroStation, and this is a result from Bentley Civil channel.

Yes, Bentley can create great renderings too.

So MicroStation is better than AutoCAD? As a CAD platform, yes. But not as drafting tool.

Of course you can create detailed drawings in MicroStation. MicroStation has tools for drafting, but I find AutoCAD is much more convenient than MicroStation.

I believe that’s why Autodesk acquire Revit, replace AutoCAD Mechanical Desktop with Inventor, and bundle their products as suite. Because AutoCAD is not enough.

In the end, it’s about solution

So Bentley is better than Autodesk? Not really.

Today, 2D drafting probably is still dominating many industries. So it makes sense if more people use AutoCAD than other CAD software. But today, many industries emphasize to move further. In building industries, they have BIM. In manufacturing, they have digital prototyping or PLM. Not sure what are other terms in different industries.

Autodesk already have AutoCAD as the most powerful drafting tool. They have the most powerful visualization tools in their portfolio too. The reason why I didn’t put Autodesk rendering samples is because you must have seen them. Almost every computer graphics in Hollywood movies used their solution.

The problem is they need more power in their arsenal, because AutoCAD can’t handle more than what it can handle now. So now they have Revit for BIM. They have Inventor for manufacturing. Each of them are good.

Bentley won’t have many problem because they already have good CAD platform. Autodesk needs to create interoperability between their products. Bentley doesn’t have to. They all use the same CAD platform and file format.

Yes, Autodesk has the best drafting and visualization tool. But MicroStation offers enough capabilities. By using it, you can avoid steep learning curve because basically it’s the same tool.

But do you really need to master that many software?

So what do you think?

Above is just my two cents. I believe there are many of you who use both AutoCAD and MicroStation.

You probably want to share yours?

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  1. Donald D'Agostino says

    I’ve been using Microstation since before it was called Microstation. Back then it was Intergraph and the software was written specifically for the hardware. When the Bentley brothers left Intergraph and started to write the software for use on the PC my company got in on the ground floor with version 1. Back then it was basically a drafting tool. There were no other applications as today. At the time AutoCAD was not very usable for our industry plus our main client used Microstation so that’s what we used. Just within the last year or so I started using AutoCAD and, even though I have much more experience with Microstation I find AutoCAD much the same. There are pros and cons with both platforms and even though I am able to work much faster with Microstation I am finding as I use AutoCAD there are some aspects of it that I prefer over Microstation. I think, for most people, it depends which platform you were trained on as to which on you perceive as “better”. For me, as I get more experience with AutoCAD I’m finding either platform does a good job.

  2. Mark says

    After using both Microstation and AutoCAD, I prefer Microstation as CAD-tool, Autocad has many benefits but crashes often and is bit harder to use (once you master Microstation). I can also compare Civil and PowerCivil, Microstation PowerCivil is totally unusable software before Bentley fixes some major bugs in the program, Autodesk Civil is relly slow on large files, but seems to work better than PC.

  3. Gavin says

    I’m an Electrical & Instrumentation (E&I) designer. I’ve used AutoCAD, AutoCAD Electrical & Microstation. I find Microstation to be quicker, easier and way more user friendly than the other two.
    Every E&I designer I’ve worked with over the years has preferred Microstation, however every Mechanical, Structural and Civil designer I’ve worked with say they prefer AutoCAD. So I guess it depends what you’re using it for as to which one is best to use for you.

  4. Viktor says

    There’s only one way to figure out which software is best. None of this “personal opinion” junk. Find 2, 10 year veterans at each software, sit them down and give them a task. Do this for each discipline, and you’ll have a winner.

    • says

      In the end, it’s the company decision. I know a company that use AutoCAD in my country, but they use MicroStation in the headquarter.
      The reason is, it’s not easy to find MicroStation users here. It’s easier (and cheaper) to switch and hire AutoCAD users.
      Sometimes to be the best is not enough. The pricing, support availability, and many more reasons are used to choose a software. Not simply because the software can do everything.

    • Mike McWilliams says

      Sorry, but no, you wont. All you’ll be testing is how cute the salesman/manager of the product in question is. They will use countless tricks to promote whatever is best for them personally. Whenever you have 3 people or more in a room, y0u have politics, and politics and perception will always rule the day. This has been Bentley’s problem from day 1.

      Personally, I have been working with both platforms for almost 30 years now. I find Microstation infinitely better for larger files, complex 3-D modeling, and design. AutoCAD still rules for drafting, but still behaves like an enhanced 2D platform.

      That fellow’s article was bang on.


  5. luke says

    I worked with Autocad solely for 6 years and mastered it even to the point I was writing my own Lisp programs. Now I’ve been using Microstation and Bentley Rail for only 7 months, already I can see how much better Microstation is for design and drafting the functionality and versatility of the software really shows. But believe me when I first started using microstation, naturally I wanted autocad back because I wasn’t used to the new working environment but only 7 months down the line and I can see the potential and I can’t wait to take things further with this product.

  6. Tom MacKnight says

    I’ve worked with each since they existed. And I’ve worked with many other CAD solutions. MicroStation vs. AutoCAD. Well if you aren’t expert in each, then it would be difficult for you to judge. My experience tells me that MicroStation slams AutoCAD and of that there can be no doubt. The following link is a Bentley publication, but a fair evaluation based on my experience. The only real thing that AutoCAD has over MicroStation is advertising. Autodesk has been much, much better at marketing its product over the years. Revit vs. AECOsim. They are such different products that it is difficult to say. They each have their nitch. However my preference is AECOsim. I like the freedom it gives you. And it comes with built-in tool that Revit doesn’t have, so you need to purchase add-ons to have the equivalent functionality. That said, some portions of the AECOsim interface are showing their age and need to be updated.

  7. david says

    This “comparison” from Mr. Prakoso is not very fair, certainly is biased to AutoCAD’s favor, and seeing that his background is all ACAD, I can understand why that is the case. In my opinion, if you do have experience in both platforms that ranges all the way from the first releases up until the present time, your opinion doesn’t count for much (and even then you could have a favorite).

    I have used MicroStation for 17 yrs, and my exposure to ACAD during this time has been limited. Right now, I am having to learn Civil 3D, while having proficiency in InRoads. To me, there is no comparison. Graphically, Microstation is much easier on the eyes than ACAD, but MicroStation seems much more willing to play nicely with ACAD than the other way round. Overall, MicroStation serms to function much more smoothly, while ACAD is very particular and buggy.

    I think the main attractive feature that ACAD has in comparison to MicroStation is a lower price. But cheaper is not necessarily better.

  8. John says

    Bentley has Promis.e which they acquired a few years ago. Very good product, but definitely will take some time learning

  9. Josh says

    Microstation is geared towards people that can't handle a steep learning curve. That tells enough for me right there. Microstation is a simplified copy of AutoCAD, as InRoads is a simplified copy of Civil 3D. AutoCAD has caught on to the fact that they are missing out on revenue from the simpleton gene pool and have created the Ribbon as a result. I'd prefer not to use a less capable software simply because the one I use is too complex for newbies.

    • John says

      @Josh, do you really feel that InRoads or GEOPAK are inferior to Civil 3D? They both have more functionality than Civil 3D. MicroStation, and all other Bentley Products are much more difficult to learn (AT FIRST). But once you've learned a single product, you are miles ahead of the curve in relation to Civil 3D. You sound quite ignorant in your thinking… FWIW, I use both products, but to act like Civil 3D doesn't have some major faults just makes you sound stupid.

    • Joel says

      As a person who has trained new users in Autocad/Civil 3D and Microstation/Inroads I can say the far better product is Microstation/Inroads for roadway design. Civil 3D is site design software that Autodesk has tried to modify to be roadway design software. Inroads is roadway design software that has been used for many years (with that many bugs have been eliminated and improvements made). Civil 3D is unstable (It crashes even with best practices for file management). Autodesk tried to make it simple to use in terms of corridor modeling but by doing so it cannot handle complex roadway design situations. It has limits on the number of lanes of superelevation, it does not model transitions in side slopes along roadways (this is basic roadway design), plans production (many issues here as it is very slow, cumbersome, and misses meany features that Inroads has), modeling islands, modeling driveways, modeling intersections, and modeling roundabouts that require workarounds for projects done by state DOTs. Drainage in Inroads is vastly better against Civil 3D’s drainage packages. Although Inroads is a bit harder to learn, it can handle work done by State DOTs much better because it handles these complex situations. Civil 3D cannot handle large DOT projects like Inroads and requires projects to be broken up into many files.

      Looking at Microstation versus Autocad as drafting software, Autocad does win out. But most users are not just drafting, many are using additional software packages with these products.

      Lastly, Autodesk is clearly trying to get into the state DOTs with Civil 3D but many states have ranked Inroads and Geopak over Civil 3D. Florida and New Mexico looked at switching to Civil 3D but due to the limitations of Civil 3D picked with Geopak/Inroads. California switched to Civil 3D but only did so due to politics even after they ranked Inroads much higher than Civil 3D. Ontario (which has some of the largest highways in the world – See the 401) went with Inroads over Civil 3D. Michigan and Georgia went with Geopak over Civil 3D. Wisconsin, Alaska, and Massachusetts are the only states that have gone with Civil 3D. All of them came from a CaiCE/Land Desktop Development platform and based on my time in working with WI/MA, they clearly seem to be having issues with it due to Civil 3D’s limitations.

  10. grandhougday says

    I use AutoCAD for a long Time But solve my problems with Microstation!
    Autocad is fast in drafting but:
    If you need to work with a huge drawing and don't have much resource to buy a Harware use microstation
    If you need to manipulate multiple formats In and Out use it
    If you need to develop an application fast you can record a macro and see its result in VBA in microstation
    AutoCAD has macro, (V)Lisp,VBA,.NET ,… and recently record macro but you can't edit its macro.
    If you need to convert hundreds of Cad files from one format to another use microstation batch converter
    But if you don't know many about both use Autocad because help resources are limit it micro and autocad is very popular.

  11. truckmann says

    I've also worked with both for about 11 years now and I will have to completely
    disagree with you. For civil and roadway design I can do anything in
    Microstation faster and more efficient than AutoCAD is capable of. Not only
    that most DOT's have bought into MicroStation and Bentley products
    because they have far better civil design packages.

  12. Galthouse34 says

    Rendering like the pictures above can also be done in AutoCAD. I've worked with AutoCAD for six years and Microstation for six years doing the same kind of roadway design and plan preporation stuff. Microstation has some nice tools – BUT OVERALL – AutoCAD wins hands down. No contest. Anyone I've run into that says differently (for the industry I am in) only says that because they aren't using AutoCAD correctly.

    • Isc says

      I am surprised to see so many people supporting InRoads here. I like civil 3D better, though I can some valid points in people going against it (like the stability stuff, being very precise, etc.). I can see how people can probably model a little quicker in Microstation, but at the end of the day, you still need drawings. Given the amount of drawing you need to do, I personally think that you’ll save more time by using Acad than Micro.