Sharing Files the PDF Way, Part I

26 Jul, 2004 By: James Dyer

Now you can produce Adobe PDF documents directly from MicroStation.

This month's Productivity Corner focuses on how you can efficiently and securely share AEC drawings and project information day in and day out. MicroStation V8 2004 Edition introduces comprehensive Adobe PDF capabilities that enable you to share files more confidently than ever before.

This article is Part I of a two-part series on creating, navigating, and enriching PDF documents from MicroStation. That's right: You can produce authentic Adobe PDF documents directly from MicroStation V8 and all MicroStation-based vertical applications.

There are times when sharing source documents is required for effective referencing and interrogation, and there are times when you want to share drawings and project information more securely. When you wish to share information for hard-copy output, review, and markup, PDF is a great choice. MicroStation lets you produce individual PDF documents from DGN and DWG drawings as well as standard Microsoft Office applications or combine these document types into one composite PDF document. Knowing that more than 700 million Adobe Reader applications are in use worldwide should make you confident that the file recipient will be able to output and view the PDF document. File recipients who wish to view and mark up the PDF document will require Adobe Acrobat Professional for commenting tools.

Printing to Adobe PDF
PDF support from MicroStation begins with leveraging its plotting mechanisms. MicroStation V8 provides a PDF printer driver (figure 1). The file, PDF.PLT, is installed in the \WORKSPACE\SYSTEM\PLOTDRV directory.

Figure 1. Step one in creating a PDF file in MicroStation V8 is to set up the printer driver.

To select the PDF printer driver file:

  • In the Printer and Paper Size section of the Print dialog box, accessed from the File menu, choose Bentley Driver from the option menu. Or click the Select Plotter Driver icon to the right of the option menu.
  • The Select Printer Driver File dialog box opens. If necessary, navigate to the \WORKSPACE\SYSTEM\PLOTDRV directory.
  • Select the printer driver file PDF.PLT.
  • Click OK.

You can use the Batch Print utility to generate a multiple-page PDF document in which each page holds the contents of one original file. Or you can generate a single-page PDF document of the open DGN file using the Print dialog box.

Viewing and Printing PDF Files
To view and print PDF files, including those generated using MicroStation's print driver, use the free Adobe Reader application, downloadable from

PDF Levels and References
If you select the FileOptionalContent option in the PDF printer driver before generating a PDF document, you can individually view the levels and references in the Layers tab of Adobe Reader. To turn levels and references on and off, use the controls in the Layers tab's hierarchy list. The master DGN file name appears by itself in the top level of the hierarchy list. On the second level, you'll see each directly attached reference, each level in the master file, and each raster image attached to the master file. The third level lists nested references and the levels and raster images for each directly attached reference.

The depth to which you nest references determines the number of levels in the hierarchy. The bottom level lists levels and raster images for the most deeply nested reference(s).

Using PDF Composer
You can significantly enhance MicroStation's PDF capabilities by incorporating a MicroStation extension, the PDF Composer. This extension is available free to all MicroStation users who have a Bentley SELECT agreement. After installing PDF Composer a new option called Compose PDF appears in the MicroStation File pull-down menu.

MicroStation Composer provides a plan set management interface for easily repeatable output of Adobe PDF sets that you produce at your desktop from DGN and DWG data. With the extension, MicroStation can publish premium PDF documents. The term premium indicates a PDF document that contains engineering links, searchable text, advanced security options, and level and file information, as well as audio or video instructions, bookmarks, internal PDF document links, Web URL links, digital signature fields, and attachments that contain project specifications. As you can see, PDF is not just for Office documents.

Let's explore the steps involved in creating a plan set and publishing a PDF document from MicroStation using PDF Composer.

When creating PDF documents from MicroStation, you can apply predefined settings, such as sheet size, workspace definition, and design script application to drawings as you bring them into the Composer interface (figure 2). Look for more discussion of design script application in Part II of this series.

Figure 2. Apply predefined settings to PDF documents as you bring them into the Composer interface.

You can modify properties of individual sheets or the entire set. For this exercise, we'll apply a D-size sheet to all the sheets in the set as we bring them in for publishing. Let's select two of the four sheets and modify their properties to define PDF bookmarks, links, and signature fields (figure 3).

Once you set all the desired sheet properties, you're ready to export the sheets to PDF. Output selected sheets or combine the entire list of sheets into one PDF document.

Figure 3. Modify sheet properties as desired before exporting the sheets to PDF.

The PDF Export configuration lets you specify options to include in the PDF, such as Version Compatibility, URLs and Engineering Links, Searchable Text, and Levels/Files. One very important option is whether to print Levels/Files as created or as displayed. This option ensures your design output is exactly as you intended.

In addition, security options exist for specifying a password to open, print, or change the PDF. After you export the PDF to your local machine or network-connected drive, you can have it automatically open so you can preview it before sharing with others. If you specified a password for the PDF document, you'll need to key in that password before it will open.

MicroStation's PDF capabilities are among the most comprehensive in the industry. PDF is the universal format for sharing AEC drawings and project information. Next month we'll explore customizing the MicroStation PDF printer driver and enriching PDF documents from MicroStation.

Until next time -- enjoy MicroStation!

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