AutoCAD Course for Microstation Users

This week has been a very satisfactory day, I've been teaching an AutoCAD course for Microstation users, as a continuity to Topography course Which we had given a few days ago using CivilCAD to generate the digital model and contour lines.

The main reason why we have done it is because despite the fact that we have always used Bentley software, we can not close the work horizon because there are opportunities that can be closed because we do not know how to use the most popular design software in our environment. The majority of students were users who only used Microstation, one of them with a good command of ArcView 3x, another with great experience in ArcGIS and Territorial Planning, one with good command of CivilCAD although not so much of AutoCAD, a few that have seen Manifold GIS and a Peace Corps volunteer who had to translate the topics into English. Of all the 18, only three girls and in ages ... from 23 years to scratch the 50.

The focus of the course has been on the criterion:

Autocad course"How to do with AutoCAD what we do with Microstation".

For this reason, we've avoided Ribbon complications and used the classic look to focus on only 32 commands, Method that I used before Although with more hours and with a focus of constructive planes that did vary at least some 8 commands:

  • 11 of the construction bar (Draw): Line, construction line, polyline, circle, rectangle, make block, call block, point, shot and multiple text
  • 10 of the edit bar (Modify): Copy, parallel, rotate, scale, cut, extend, break at one point, break at two points, round with zero radius and ungroup
  • 5 that we have used from the keyboard: List, dist, lengthen, area, divide
  • 7 additional utilities: Print, size, call reference DGN, call reference raster, layer manager, property panel and snaps control.

In addition, we have shown other complementary tools to understand the seemingly "poor" AutoCAD being just a drawing board.

What they did not like about AutoCAD

Being users who come to use Microstation it was obvious that at the beginning they felt uncomfortable with the different logic, also because the basics of the course did not allow to use Lisp routines of those who walk the Internet. Although if it had been a course of AutoCAD 2012, some of its dissatisfactions would not have been necessary:

  • To be with one hand between the keyboard and the Esc key
  • Seeing below that asks for the command, and why have to be saying the same or enter, enter, enter for each command, instead of having drop-down windows. The dynamic input did nothing but confuse them.
  • That from time to time hang the mouse scroll wheel to be interacting between zoom / pan
  • You can not drag on the layers to turn them off or on from a side panel, either the same file or the reference at the same time
  • That you could not see the layers that had information in a different tone than the empty ones
  • That in raster handler support very few formats and are inserts boxes that you have to be sending back so that they do not hide the vectors
  • That there is no tool to limit course and distance of a stroke, without having to use an oblique sizing command
  • That the Fence command does not exist for multiple operations to a specific zone like export or cut in bite.
  • That the text command does not allow to stretch and to shorten to the taste
  • That you could not import points from a txt listing
  • There was no incremental text to enumerate the parcels
  • That the commands are interrupted with basic interface routines (such as zoom or minimize), or that the Undo is considered actions like zoom
  • That the commands are so scattered in toolbars or ribbon tabs
  • The way to write the bearings in the form @dist <N '"E, although we used the template Geofumadas to concatenate them, did not solve the malaise of being looking for those symbols in keyboards with different languages.
  • Have to be entering commands manually, such as list, dist, lengthen, area, regen. The biggest problem was that my AutoCAD was in English, theirs in Spanish and hence the shortcuts would not always work, the underscore of more than once did not accept the command in English. Also somewhat uncomfortable to have to call the commands with unusual names (offset offset, presentation layout ...)
  • That he did not calculate area from internal fluid and had to resort to the boundary
  • That the size of the point, thickness and line type are not dynamic and it is necessary to use the redraw command
  • The comparative slowness, though it ran pretty well on portable notebooks Dell Inspiron Mini, in those of 1 GB of memory the snap was hung or at every moment it raised a panel that said that it was necessary to regenerate. It is clear that these mini are not for AutoCAD, but it was what the guys had and what they had not suffered problems using Microstation

What else did you like about AutoCAD?

Autocad courseAs the course progressed, they found things that were in good taste:

  • Being able to paste concatenated coordinate lists into Excel without having to use a txt file
  • The panel of properties where you can make filters by particular features and with much better functionalities than the panel of V8i, among them the creation of sizing style to taste
  • The command break at a point, which does not exist in Microstation and would solve a lot for vertex topological segmentation
  • The construction line (xline), which in Microstation does not exist and solves a lot for strokes that we made with the 4H pencil on the table
  • The printing layouts, which seemed simpler than the management of models in Microstation.
  • The wizard to generate layouts for printing, which far surpasses the Sheet Composer of V8i, although they missed the options of scale in meters because AutoCAD only brings millimeters and inches by default
  • They found interesting Fit and Spline functions of the polyline, to draw contour lines
  • The package of blocks available in the Design Center and the simplicity of storing blocks in files and not necessarily in a library .cel shared

That changed the perspective

From the second day we were seeing CivilCAD tools, as one of the students has an acceptable command of that tool. Seeing this and PlexEarth served to exemplify the model of CAD platforms, whose -questionable- Success is based on the simplification of the drawing board to the minimum, so that other solutions and companies have the opportunity to do business on their API. Among the things we saw about CivilCAD, which helped us understand this matter:

  • The labeling of parcels incrementally
  • The labeling of the land boundaries. We had spent almost an hour working on the configuration of boundary styles, and seeing how it was simplified with CivilCAD was good.
  • The calculation of the area with option to enter a factor and place the text inside the property without being polyline
  • The subdivision of plots in percentages, specific areas and number of plots
  • The automatic construction box with various templates
  • The grid generator in UTM and geographic coordinates
  • The inversion of the course in a line


It has been an interesting experience, in which the collective contributions have been more useful than what it took to impart them. Some of them are smarter because they have a good mastery of the mapping and also because they know that they have the responsibility of replicating the training to other technicians ... and others because of the opportunity they see to do jobs that in this context are called "iguanas".

It has also been a good time to reflect on how valuable it is to include the rule of not pirating software, as a rule of honesty, for this we have shown the functionalities of the Autodesk educational licenses As an alternative to using AutoCAD without going unlawful, also the benefit relationship that exists in buying PlexEarth for a price less than what the average mobile phone costs in the room.

To me, it reminded me of the times of giving AutoCAD courses, identify the evolution and versatility that can be found at interface changes. I have also learned much more than them from me, seeing what CivilCAD does has convinced me that it will be a frequent topic in the coming months, especially since it is a Mexican software that adapts a lot to the routines that we need in the Hispanic context. Very similar to Softdesk, it makes Civil 3D routines much faster and less confusing, although perhaps in the future it's worth a comparative course between Bentley PowerCivil with CivilCAD or AutoDesk Civil 3D.

There is a lot of practice and follow some advice that filtered through the lines, many of them outside the CAD theme.

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