Site Standards - Colour Tables

Many users have over the years set the variable MS_DEFCTBL = Company_ColourTable.tbl and then wondered why any other colour table ever shows up.

The assumption being that once you set a variable for a default colour table that is what you will get.

However this in not how this variable behaves. The actual behaviour is made reasonably clear in the help documentation where it says: "Default color table if DGN file has none".

But you say "when I open my file all I see is the default MicroStation colour table" the company colour table is not showing up?

The explanation is once MS_DEFCTBL = Company_ColourTable.tbl has been set the behaviour is, that provided that a file has not had a colour table attached to it at any point in its existence, MS_DEFCTBL will apply the colour table specified. I understand this is designed to allow exceptions to be made to a site standard by attaching a colour table in specific cases or to specific seed files.

Using example colour table P:\TestProject\support\dataset\data\Company_ColourTable.tbl with MS_DEFCTBL = Company_ColourTable.tbl:

Use key-in CT=?  to establish the current state, results can be:

  • Current CT = NONE (default is in use)
    which shows the default (either the delivered default color.tbl or the table specified by MS_DEFCTBL) is in use.
  • Current CT = P:\TestProject\support\dataset\data\SomeOther_ColourTable.tbl
    showing the name of the currently attached colour table.

Use key-in CT = P:\TestProject\support\dataset\data\Freds_ColourTable.tbl will apply the specified colour table.

Use key-in CT= detaches the attached colour table without attaching a different one allowing the default to take effect.
This can be used in a batch  process to clear errant colour tables.


Simply visually checking the colour table displayed in the colour picker is not enough, you must run key-in CT=? to identify the current state.

Check the state of seed files, including seed files and dgnlibs used by the Dynamic View Create Drawing processes.

Run key-in CT= either manually or by batch process to clear unwanted colour table attachments.

Colour Tables and Reference Files

The 'Use Color Table' preference will force the use of a reference file's colour table when ticked on.

This can be configured by setting MS_REFCOLORTABLE = 1, the reference's colour table will then always be used.

If MS_REFCOLORTABLE is defined and set to any value other than 1, the reference's colour table will never be used.

If MS_REFCOLORTABLE is not defined,  the user preference will determine whether or not to use the reference's colour table.

Related pages:

Colours in MicroStation

MicroStation - Creating a Custom Colour Book