CAD Software: Autocad vs Microstation

In this article, we will compare AutoCAD and MicroStation to help you understand their strengths and weaknesses, enabling you to make an informed decision based on your specific requirements.

CAD Software: Autocad vs Microstation
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An Overview of CAD Software

AutoCAD and MicroStation are two popular computer-aided design (CAD) software used extensively in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry. Both programs offer powerful tools and features to create 2D and 3D designs, but they differ in terms of their user interfaces, file formats, and industry adoption. In this article, we will compare AutoCAD and MicroStation to help you understand their strengths and weaknesses, enabling you to make an informed decision based on your specific requirements.

Feature Comparison of Autocad to Microstation

Features AutoCAD MicroStation
User Interface Ribbon-based interface with command line Menu and toolbar-based interface
2D Drafting Extensive tools for detailed and precise drawings Supports 2D drafting
3D Modeling Powerful tools for creating complex 3D designs Strong 3D modeling capabilities
File Formats .DWG (native), .DXF for interoperability .DGN (native), .DWG, .DXF for compatibility
File Compatibility Widely recognized and supported across CAD platforms Supports AutoCAD file formats
Industry Adoption Dominant force in the CAD industry Strong presence in infrastructure projects
Customization Highly customizable interface and workflows Offers customization options
Online Resources Vast user community and extensive online resources Dedicated user base and online support
Third-party Integration Wide range of compatible plugins and applications Growing ecosystem with compatible extensions

User Interface

AutoCAD: AutoCAD has a widely recognized and user-friendly interface that features a command line and various toolbars. Its ribbon-based interface provides quick access to commonly used commands and functions. AutoCAD's interface is highly customizable, allowing users to create personalized workflows.

MicroStation: MicroStation also offers a customizable user interface, but it follows a more traditional approach with menus and toolbars. The interface may appear slightly complex for beginners, but experienced CAD users often appreciate its efficiency and flexibility. MicroStation's interface is optimized for precise drafting and modeling tasks.

Functionality and Features

AutoCAD: AutoCAD is renowned for its extensive range of tools and features, making it a versatile CAD software. It excels in 2D drafting, allowing users to create detailed technical drawings with accuracy and precision. AutoCAD also offers powerful 3D modeling capabilities, enabling users to create complex 3D designs and visualizations.

MicroStation: MicroStation is known for its strong 3D modeling capabilities, making it a preferred choice for architectural and infrastructure projects. It provides advanced tools for surface modeling, parametric modeling, and visualization.

File Compatibility

AutoCAD: AutoCAD uses the .DWG file format as its native format, which is widely recognized and supported across various CAD platforms. It also supports other formats like .DXF (Drawing Exchange Format) for interoperability with other software.

AutoCAD's file compatibility within the Autodesk ecosystem ensures seamless integration with other Autodesk products like Revit and Civil 3D.

MicroStation: MicroStation uses the .DGN file format as its native format, which is specific to Bentley Systems' software. However, MicroStation also supports the .DWG and .DXF file formats, allowing users to work with AutoCAD files seamlessly.

Microstation's .dgn file format ensures seamless integration against the entire suite of Bentley System's products. Examples include OpenBuildings Designer that is used for creating BIM models of buildings, and OpenRail that contains features that facilitate the efficient creation of rail models in BIM.

Industry Adoption

AutoCAD: AutoCAD has been a dominant force in the CAD industry for decades, and its widespread adoption makes it the de facto standard for many AEC firms. Its popularity translates into a vast user community, extensive online resources, and a wide range of compatible third-party applications and plugins.

MicroStation: MicroStation has a strong presence in certain industries, such as infrastructure and transportation, where it is often preferred for large-scale projects. In Singapore, contractors working in large-scale rail projects (LTA) or plant projects (PUB) prefer to use Bentley software. This could be attributed to the scalable file format that Bentley uses across all its software.

While it may not have the same level of market share as AutoCAD, MicroStation has a dedicated user base in infrastructure projects. and continues to evolve with new releases and updates.


Choosing between AutoCAD and MicroStation depends on various factors, including your specific workflow requirements, project types, and industry norms. AutoCAD offers a comprehensive set of features, a user-friendly interface, and widespread industry acceptance. On the other hand, MicroStation excels in 3D modeling, particularly in infrastructure-related projects, and offers a customizable interface optimized for precision drafting. Ultimately, the choice between the two software depends on your personal preference and the specific needs of your projects.