Working With Workspace and Design Files

microstation fileIn the last tutorial, you’ve been introduced to MicroStation. In this tutorial, we will start working with workspace and design files.

When you start a Windows application, most of them will create and open a new file. But not here. MicroStation have two types of file: 2D DGN and 3D DGN. DGN is stand for design file. Not limited to DGN, you can also create a new DWG file. If you are not familiar with this file type, it’s AutoCAD file. We will discuss how you can create your own workspace, create new files; and save file and settings.

Creating Workspace

You can create multiple workspaces in MicroStation. If you need to design different drawings for different industries, you can set each of them in a separate workspace. This will avoid you to arrange tools and interface each time you need to create drawings in different industry. You can also use workspace if you have multiple users working on the same workstation.

Let’s create a new workspace that you will use for this tutorial until the end. Open your MicroStation. If you already open it, close your file. You will see MicroStation Manager.

From user option list, select new…

user setting

MicroStation will ask you to give description for this user configuration. Type MicroStation tutorial then click OK.

create ucf

We have defined a user configuration for this tutorial. Now let’s create a new project.

From project option list, select new. Give name for this project: MicroStation Tutorial Files. And give description: Tutorial files from Of course, you can use your own description :)


It will create a folder at this location (for Windows Vista):


If you use Windows XP, you can find it in C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Bentley\… folder.

Preparing Tutorial Files

I have prepared all tutorial files we will use. Download them here, extract, and paste them into the folder. The zip file contain two folders: DGN and CELL. Select both of them, copy, and paste them inside tutorial files folder. When Windows ask you to overwrite those two folder, click yes. Those folder is still empty anyway.

Up to this point, you have set user configuration and tutorial project. It may look complicated, but trust me, it’s not :) You will love using workspace. Try to change the users and projects that available on the list. Then change it back to our tutorial project. Very good for navigation, right?

Workspace can help you to manage your files for different users, different project. But it doesn’t mean that you have to save all files in that folder. You can still save your files to your desktop, C:\data folder, etc.

Create New File

Let’s try to create a new file. On the upper right of MicroStation Manager, you should see new file button. Click it.

create new file

Give the file name My First Drawing. Do not click save yet. Check the seed file. If it’s not showing seed2D.dgn, click browse and select it. Seed file is a drawing you can start with. Other applications call it a template file.

new file

Click save. You will see it created a new file with that name. Select it, and click open.

I know, it’s a bit different with other applications. But it’s not difficult, isn’t it?

Set your Working Unit

MicroStation works differently in handling working unit compared to AutoCAD. I feel like I have to write about this at very early stage, so if you are an AutoCAD user, you don’t get confused.

While in AutoCAD you can work with any working unit, and change it later, you can’t work that way here. You have to define your working unit at the very beginning. Before you start drawing. You can check your working unit by accessing menu settings>design file. Click on category working units on the left.

working unit

By default, in country using metric, MicroStation will define the master unit (MU) as meters and sub unit as millimeters. If it’s not your working units, change it now. After you finish, click OK.

That’s how you create a new file. I’ll stop right here now, and we will discuss more about working units.

To Understand Working Units

Have you copied the tutorial files to our tutorial project? Click open. You should see several files if you have copied them. Find working_unit.dgn and open it. Don’t laugh at the design :) Yes, it is a very simple drawing.

See the dimension. They show measurement in mm. Open design file settings, and change the MU to meters. Close the dialog and see what happen.

after working unit changed

The dimensions are showing meters now!

Now try to activate Place Smartline.


Click anywhere on your drawing area, an look at the AccuDraw. It’s showing measurement in meters. Click several times to draw lines. Right click to finish. When it ask you to choose right click button function, just let it be default value. Click OK.


Try to change the working unit again. Now try to place smartline again. You will see the measurement showing different scale, even you create approximately line with same length! Now it’s using the new working units. So don’t forget to check your drawing unit first!

Saving File and Settings

Close MicroStation. Did it ask you to save your design file? No. You placed some lines before, when you open the file again, you will still see the lines. Even you didn’t save the file. MicroStation automatically save it to your file, every time you create an object. It can be a good news for you, or maybe a bad news for some of you. However, I still recommend you to save your file regularly by accessing file>save or press [ctrl] + S.

But now look at the dimensions. We have change the working units to meters (or you may have changed it to something else) but it still showing millimeters! You need to save settings separately with saving file. There are a lot of settings you can save. We will get to this later. You san save the settings by accessing menu file>save settings or press [ctrl] + F.

Next, we are going to work with mouse and how you can control view/view navigation.

And don’t forget to bookmark the complete MicroStation tutorial list here.

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  1. Arif Husain says

    Hello sir Edwin, I want to learn micro station. I am new for this software. Please guide me.
    Thanks & Regards

  2. vijayalakshmi says

    i am a micro station beginner. so please could you explain again about working unit.

    thank you,

  3. shahul hameed says

    Dear Sir Iam having one problem . iam having more drawings(between 50 – 100 sheets). My problem is i need to change the drawing number/plant number in each and every sheet. is there any option available in that or any software.
    Iam waiting for your fav reply

  4. SAURABH says

    Hi Edwin

    I have understood the basics of Microstation, thanks to your tutorials.

    But, i am still unable to understand the significance of more than 1view (view groups) for the same drg.If I change something in view 2 it got changed into other views also.

    Please explain.