Workmodes and Other Hidden Treasures

31 Aug, 2003 By: James Dyer

Today our design and engineering projects are increasing in complexity; they usually involve the consumption and delivery of hybrid project content. In such a dynamic environment, being able to streamline everyday tasks yields great efficiencies. So this month's, we'll focus primarily on productivity enhancing selection tools, design Workmodes, and hidden user interface components.


In MicroStation the PowerSelector tool is used to select and deselect multiple elements in a variety of ways. Attribute tabs in the PowerSelector settings dialog box allow you to select elements by one or more attributes: Level, Color, Style, Weight, Type, or Class. Alternatively, when you select elements graphically, the active set of attributes displays as a highlighted group at the top of each tab list box.

You can add to the set in each tab by clicking additional attributes (which are not highlighted). If an element exists with that attribute, the attribute will be included in the set. Similarly, you can remove an attribute from the set by clicking a highlighted attribute. Switching tabs lets you continue the process of adding or eliminating other attributes for the selection set. Where you have a number of attributes selected you can hold CTRL and click a highlighted attribute to deselect all other highlighted attributes.

PowerSelector can be activated by selecting a main palette, by selecting the PowerSelector toggle from the bottom right of your screen, or by using the trusty MicroStation key-in option.

From within the PowerSelector dialog box, you can control the content you select. Clicking the Show Selection Information arrow expands the Tool Settings window to reveal the Attribute tabs, as shown in Figure 1.

  • Lv (Level) lets you select the required levels from a list (1-63 plus any named levels present).
  • Co (Color) lets you select the required colors from a list (0-254 plus By Level).
  • Lc (Style) lets you select the required line styles from a list (0-7 plus any custom line styles present).
  • Wt (Weight) lets you select the required line weights from a list (0-31 plus By Level).
  • Ty (Type) lets you select the required element types from a list.
  • Cl (Class) lets you select the required element classes from a list.

Figure 1. The PowerSelector dialog box gives users the ability to control the content.

Element selection with PowerSelector could not be easier--or could it? There are hotkeys located on your keyboard to easily drive PowerSelector. For the left-handed users, the Q, W, E, R keys switch the methods, whereas the A, S, D, F, keys switch the modes. For the right-handed users, the U, I, O, P, keys switch the methods, and the H, J, K, L keys switch the modes.

Additionally, the G and apostrophe ['] keys are the hotkeys that allow you to select all elements in the active file.

Named Groups and Display Sets

With MicroStation, you can select a number of elements and quickly group them so you can recall and manipulate them as a single element. A group is a complex element whose component elements need not be connected. In some cases you may wish to limit the display to contain only specific element types with certain properties. This is easily accomplished using PowerSelector to highlight the elements you wish to display, and then creating a display set.

It is important to remember that Named Groups are not persistent. Named Groups store common selection sets in the file that survives across DGN file sessions. Quicksets tie these to hot keys for even faster creation/recall. In MicroStation, any modification only affects those elements that are actively displayed. Therefore, you can use Display Sets to insulate adjacent elements from any modifications.

In the example shown in Figure 2, we will extend the void area into the second conference room without changing the overall wall layout. We'll simplify our interaction by putting the elements representing the void into a Display Set and hiding everything else. Once the adjacent elements are removed from our display, simply use a fence stretch to extend the void area. Once complete, clear the Display Set. You'll see that none of the adjacent elements are impacted, except those contained in the display set.

Figure 2. In MicroStation, modifications only affect those elements that are actively displayed. Therefore, you can use Display Sets to insulate adjacent elements from any modification.


MicroStation has numerous options that enable you to precisely control how DWG files are opened and saved and how DGN files are saved. These options include the capability to remap design data to different values.

MicroStation provides the ability to open files from previous editions of MicroStation and save as either a MicroStation/J (V7) format or V8 format DGN files. Additionally, MicroStation provides a DWG Workmode specifically adapted to the editing and reviewing of DWG files. DWG Workmode is automatically enabled when a DWG file is opened. In DWG Workmode, some advanced MicroStation functionality is disabled to ensure that you do not create DWG-incompatible features.

By default, MicroStation manages the Workmode configuration settings. Because MicroStation controls the functionality available to you via Workmode settings, you need to keep track of the Workmode you are in at all times. When working in DWG Workmode, the setting is visually displayed in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, next to the Workmode icon.

To ensure project data conforms to project requirements, I recommend specifying the Workmode at the project level. To set the Workmode for working with DGN data you need to go to the Workspace Configurations settings dialog and set the MV_V7OPEN variable to the appropriate setting.

  • 0 opens file with alert dialog (default).
  • 1 upgrades V7 to V8, without alert dialog.
  • 2 opens V7 as read-only without alert dialog.
  • 3 opens V7 for read/write and set Workmode to V7 without alert dialog.

As for DWG Workmode, simply set the MS_WORKMODE Workspace variable equal to DWG and you will be off and running.

Hidden Goodies in the Status Bar

The Status bar is located at the bottom of MicroStation's user interface and spans the length of the application interface. Providing context-sensitive information, although very important, is only one of the many functions the entire Status Bar provides. The Status Bar is actually divided in to ten individual functional areas that accelerate your MicroStation experience by providing prompts and context-sensitive assistance.

Selected tool prompt shows the name of the selected tool or view control and a prompt for the next step in the normal procedure for using it.

Message Center shows a running log of system message information. The right-click menu allows you to save a message log (TXT file) and set properties (number of messages held in the list).

Snap Mode shows the type of snap selected. This indicator shows the current snap mode. Clicking here brings up the snap modes menu where you can select a one-time snap or set the default (SHFT + click). You can also open the snap button bar and the AccuSnap settings from here.

Locks Icon provides access to the locks menu but provides no visual feedback of current lock settings.

Active Level shows the active level setting. Clicking here brings up Level Manager, so you could turn that icon off in your primary toolbar if you want the space. Clicking the Active Level field opens the Level Manager dialog box, which is used to control level display and level symbology for the open DGN file and attached references.

Element Selection Indicator remains blank until you select an element or set of elements. Then it displays the number of selected elements. Clicking here opens a popup menu with access to the Select Element, Select by Attributes, and PowerSelector tools. In addition, you get Select All and Deselect All functions.

Fence Indicator remains blank until a fence is placed in the file. Clicking here enables you to set the fence mode too.

DGN Workmode is simply a reminder icon as to what Workmode you are currently working in (in case you forgot). Clicking here brings up information about the current Workmode.

DGN File Changes Indicator alerts you that the DGN file has been modified during the current session if a "diskette icon" is shown in the lower right-hand corner. If the preference Immediately Save Design Changes is off, it indicates that there are changes that have not been saved. If the diskette is red and has an X through it, it means that the file is read-only.

Digital Rights and Digital Signatures contains various symbols displaying the usage and state of these technologies in the current file, to show if the file is digitally signed. If the signature is present but invalid, active file is digitally protected.

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Until next time, enjoy MicroStation!

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