MicroStation Toolbars and Interactive Navigation

30 Sep, 2002 By: James Dyer

Welcome to the debut of the MicroStation Productivity Corner column. It will concentrate on providing design and engineering professionals with productivity enhancing techniques for Bentley's MicroStation product line. I hope it will help you work more effectively in your daily practice.

Tip 1: Toolboxes and Toolbars
In MicroStation, drawing tools are organized using a hierarchy of tool frames and toolboxes. Individual tools are accessed from a central tool frame using the click-drag-select method, or you can select them directly from an open toolbox. This provides efficient use of screen real estate by not requiring the constant opening and closing of toolboxes. Individual toolboxes can be separated from the supporting tool frame and placed anywhere on the screen.

MicroStation presents a uniform user-interface for all drawing tools presented to the user, as well as the flexibility of configuring a drawing tool. Instead of memorizing each command prompt, you can simply use the single dialog box that displays all tool options with their current settings, as shown in Figure 1. Generally, a user can set up the options of a tool and then perform the needed operation on objects within the design without further reference to these settings.

Figure 1. MicroStation's tool frame/toolbox organization allows the user to utilize minimal onscreen space while providing quick access to individual tools.

In MicroStation, a tool remains active until a different tool is selected. This allows you to perform the same operation multiple times without interruption. In addition, tool options are retained from the previous use of the tool so no further configuration need be done to return to a previous operation.

Tip 2: Interactive Navigation
A key component to any Design product is the ability to manipulate and store real-world coordinate values. MicroStation V8 provides AccuDraw for navigating and manipulating the drawing coordinate system.

AccuDraw provides an interactive method for entering coordinates as input to any design tool. When activated, AccuDraw presents two visual components: the AccuDraw compass and the AccuDraw window. As the pointing device is moved about, its coordinates are displayed in the AccuDraw window relative to the current compass location. Pressing the zero key moves the compass to the current pointer location.

AccuDraw provides both rectangular and polar coordinate supports. Pressing the space bar switches AccuDraw between polar and rectangular coordinate modes. The AccuDraw compass changes appearance to reflect this.

AccuDraw supports absolute-coordinate entry as well. To initiate an absolute point with AccuDraw active, press the P key (for point entry) and enter the absolute coordinate value (xval,yval,zval) in the Data Point Key-in window. The Absolute-coordinate entry mode can be used at any time during a tool's operation.

AccuDraw provides an interactive method for entering relative coordinates. Working in conjunction with the pointing device, a user can indicate which AccuDraw compass axis to offset by moving the pointer along that axis and typing in the numeric value desired. The action of typing a number in the focused x, y, or z field locks that axis. In addition, a user can chose to lock and unlock each axis using the x, y, or z hot key.

Tip 3: Intelligent Snapping
AccuDraw works with the current element-snap location to develop relative-coordinate offsets, from existing objects, using a combination of the axis locks and relative coordinates. In addition, you can set a tentative AccuDraw origin using the O hot key. This moves the AccuDraw compass to the current snap location without committing the coordinate point.

The relative-offset feature can be applied to the normal drawing xyz axis, or you can rotate the AccuDraw compass to any orientation desired using the RQ (Rotate Quick) or RA (Rotate ACS) hot keys.

When using the Modify Element tool, AccuDraw will respond differently depending on the type of element selected. For a rectangle, the AccuDraw compass appears in rectangular mode. For a circle, AccuDraw uses polar mode and locates itself at the circle's centerpoint. In both instances, the user can simply enter a distance value appropriate to the selected object, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. AccuDraw's coordinate system changes in response to the type of element being placed or modified.

MicroStation also has an advanced snapping tool called AccuSnap. AccuSnap provides new tentative snap functionality, which may be used standalone or in combination with AccuDraw. It provides graphical assistance--a smart pointer--for snapping to elements. It virtually eliminates the need to press the tentative snap button, thus reducing steps in a design session.

Tip 4: Capability Masks
In MicroStation, you can set up capability masks to control how and what MicroStation can do. For example, the code in Listing 1 can be set in standards.cfg.

For even more about this powerful feature, check out this file in MicroStation: \Program\MicroStation\config\system\workmode.cfg.

Listing 1. Disabling TrueType Fonts and New Level Creation

To disable the ability to use TrueType Fonts, use:

To disable the ability to create new levels use:

Ultimately, capability masks are a great way for companies to administer MicroStation's overall capability.

Tip 5: Editing Tools
MicroStation V8 delivers powerful element-editing tools, making it easy to incorporate changes into the design. Let's explore a few concepts of MicroStation's Modify Element editing methods.

MicroStation provides two methods for moving the vertices of faceted element types. The Select Element tool displays an element's handles, which can be moved to change the element's vertices. You can use the Modify Element tool to change an element's vertex or move a single segment of a linestring. At the same time, you can change a sharp vertex to a rounded corner for shapes and linestrings.

Tools are provided (Insert Vertex, Delete Vertex) for adding and removing vertices from various element types. As you add a vertex to a line, it automatically becomes a linestring. You use the pointing device to identify the segment of the line where you want to add the vertex (no next/prev mode). The Delete Vertex tool directly identifies the vertex to remove. Insert and Delete Vertex works equally well on lines, linestrings, dimensions, shapes, curves, and even B-splines.

To modify the radius of an elliptic element (circles, ellipses), you use the Modify Element tool. If AccuDraw is active, its compass appears in the center of the circle/ellipse. Entering a new value in the Distance field changes the element or you can simply data point a new radius.

In designs, many element types contain rounded and sharp vertices. To change a sharp corner to a rounded one (and the reverse), you use the Modify Element tool, by changing the Vertex Type to/from Rounded and setting a rounding radius value. You can also change individual vertices of a linestring or a shape using this method.

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