AutoCad vs Microstation: Head to Head Comparison

AutoCAD has gone head to head with a lot of other packages much capable of the challenge. One widely held debate is between the AutoCAD user base and the MicroStation user base. These communities like most others have no limit to the reasons why they would stick to one and not the other. Prior to this we have also posted several articles on AutoCad which can be found at “AutoCAD vs Inventor” and “AutoCad vs Blender”. For now take a look below to see our on the current subject of AutoCad vs Microstation.


Both Softwares at a Glance

AutoCad vs Microstation: Head to Head ComparisonThis particular comparison is of some technical value apart from the reference-material help guide that it basically is. MicroStation was initiated as a platform by its design whereas AutoCAD grew into a platform over a 2 decade period. This is one interesting comparison with a chronological hint of the CAD industry.

The MicroStation’s parent company, Bently Systems has been trying relentlessly to bring all of their products on to a central platform. And AutoCAD has built up an empire around it’s self with modules and packages for specialized projects. Let’s see what this showdown is all about.


How do They Differ and Does Microstation Stack Up?

MicroStation allows drafting/illustrating/detailing, 3D modeling, rendering, and even animations (yes, the really hard animations too.) all because of its centralized, modular design. Because of the fact that it does all this on the same file formats means interoperability amongst an array of software functionality as opposed to AutoCAD’s approach of developing a base design in AutoCAD and then use GreenBuild engine or the BIM tools from another package. MicroStation does all that under the same roof.

Bently doesn’t have to worry about this since this is how the software was designed from bottom up. But Autodesk have over time tweaked a 2D/3D drafting and documenting tool into a CAD platform. Thanks to the industry-wide acceptance, professional users have adapted to the way Autodesk has brought up its products instead of making the jump and changing their software altogether. With Autodesk’s advance, every professional CADer has a package and/or suite ready for her particular needs. Another point to be noted on the 2D/3D drafting tool reference earlier. AutoCAD was a drafting tool, and still is the best of the best also reigning in the documentation domain. For that purpose, many a software have failed in comparison and MicroStation is no exception.


So What is Microstation Good For?

AutoCad vs Microstation: Head to Head ComparisonDon’t give up too easily since every CAD software survives in this competitive market based on its distinct features suiting some people more than others so lets delve deeper to see what else this software has to offer.

Unlike AutoCad, MicroStation doesn’t require LISP or any third party application for that matter allowing CADers to CAD rather than code. If need be, MDL is the programming language here and is basically a macro-recording dumbed down for CADers like myself who dread coding (when CADing…).  And no need for multiple monitors when drawing in multiple views actively.

In terms of same-functionality comparisons, both the packages work just as good and are as just as easy to use for 2D CADing. MicroStation is a bit systematic with the interface, whereas AutoCAD has way too many options with way too many hot keys and shortcuts. Customization options are pretty much the same with MicroStation leading in this arena. For 3D graphics and rendering, both packages are good enough for all scales and scopes of design but one does not expect MicroStation to crash, whereas with AutoCAD there’s always a fair amount of chance. Due to the interoperability of the software MicroStations filing system is very effective. The files sizes are smaller and there is no need of going from module to module when needs new tools. Both tools create 2D drawings from 3D models and also vice versa. MicroStation has 3D printing capabilities built in whereas AutoCAD does not.

MicroStation is another step ahead with its digital signature that protects the project and works from intellectual theft. Where AutoCAD offers Google Maps integration, MicroStation allows its users the same with other coordinate based real time geolocation services as well as allowing users to use AutoCAD drawings and projects. AutoCAD does not offer any MicroStation-specific integrated support but the DW* series of file formats is pretty commons nowadays.


Conclusion and Comparison

In general, AutoCAD is a good documentation tool with a powerful array of extensions available. MicroStation is fundamentally designed to be a tool for collaboration hosting much needed functionality under the same roof. No software is the best software overall but it all boils down to one and only one thing which is your requirement. If one of these softwares is able to do that then it is best for you and so here we present a side by side comparison in the form of a table gathering what we have learned so far.

 AutoCADMicroStation
Scope2D/3D drawing toolSingle platform for engineering specific CAD
Strongest featureDesign, documentationDesign, production
ExtensibilityDiscipline specific packagesProject specific add-ons
User baseDesign-orientedEngineering-oriented
Learning curveLongRelatively same
Project scaleLargeLarge
DomainBuilding, construction, pre/post-developmentEngineering specific CAD
cad exercises