CAD Functionality in Standalone as an Alternative to AutoCAD or MicroStation Integration

Applies To 
Product(s): SewerGEMS, CivilStorm, WaterGEMS, WaterCAD, StormCAD, SewerCAD, PondPack, HAMMER
Version(s): CONNECT Edition, V8i
Area:  Modeling
Original Author: Jesse Dringoli, Bentley Technical Support Group


I'm interested in working in the AutoCAD or MicroStation integrated mode of my Bentley Hydraulics and Hydrology product, but I'm either using an incompatible version or for some other reason I'm not able to integrate them. Are there any alternatives?

Note: this is of particular importance for MicroStation integration, as the OpenFlows products only support integration with MicroStation V8i (not CONNECT Edition), and support for MicroStation V8i will be discontinued on January 1st, 2021.


Working in AutoCAD or MicroStation integrated mode allows you to access AutoCAD tools and work in a familiar AutoCAD interface, among other benefits. However, the Standalone version of Bentley's Hydraulics and Hydrology products includes some CAD functionality that you may not be aware of, that can help in some of the situations you may be interested in.


See this below post for a video demonstration of using CAD functionality in Standalone:

Taking advantage of CAD functionality in the Standalone platform

Displaying a CAD file as a Background Layer

One of the benefits of working in AutoCAD or MicroStation integrated mode is to see your model along with any other CAD linework (referenced in drawings for example). However, the Standalone platform can display CAD files as a background layer. This allows you to see the linework and trace over it as you lay out elements, if you desire.

To do this, open the Standalone version, start a new model or open an existing model, then navigate to View > background Layers (it's typically open by default, in the lower-left corner.) Click on the New button and choose File, then select your DXF file. In the DXF Properties window that appears, choose the unit, transparency, color, etc and click OK. You should now see your CAD file as a background in the plan view of the drawing. If you do not see it, click View > Zoom > Zoom Extents.

Some considerations:

1) Currently only the DXF format is supported. If you have a different format such as DGN or DWG, you will need to first save a copy to DXF format in your CAD application.

2) Some text and line types are not supported as background layers, such as MTEXT and arcs. See more here on MTEXT: Text, cells/blocks and line styles do not display correctly in a DXF background layer

3) If you encounter an error when inserting your background layer in Standalone, try saving it down to an earlier DXF format in AutoCAD, or see the below Support Solution: Error when opening model with DXF background (HRESULT, acdb19.dll, AecBase.dbx, etc)

Displaying Aerial Imagery or Other Background Layers

In addition to the DXF background option mentioned above, the Standalone version also supports a variety of other background formats, such as images or Shapefiles. Bing Maps is also supported, where you can easily align your model with a live road or aerial. From the Background Layers Manager, click the New button and choose Bing Map.

Adding Custom Linework and Annotations

The Standalone version includes additional drawing features that can be used for additional annotations or to call out elements of the model where element symbology cannot. 

From the Layout tab, the "Drawing" section includes the border (rectangle), Text (custom text box) and Line tools. See more here: Using Text, Line, and Border feature

If you have other linework already drafted, you can save it to DXF format and add as a background layer (see above).

Turning CAD Files into Hydraulic Elements

Using a CAD file background as a guide to trace your water elements can be helpful, but existing linework can also be automatically imported and converted into hydraulic elements using the ModelBuilder tool. This is useful if your elements (Pipes, conduits, junctions, etc) already exist in your CAD file and you simply want to create a hydraulic model.

To do this, you will need to first save your drawing in the DXF format, then go to Tools > ModelBuilder. For more on using ModelBuilder to import a CAD file, see the below Support Solution: Importing an AutoCAD or MicroStation CAD file using ModelBuilder

Exporting Your Model to CAD Format

One of the other benefits of CAD applications such as AutoCAD and MicroStation are the printing/plotting capabilities. However in the Standalone version of our Hydraulic and Hydrology products, you can export the model to DXF format. This allows you to do your modeling work in Standalone, then when you're ready to print your results/figures, you can export to DXF, open that in your CAD application and print.

1) To export the plan view of the model, go to File > Export > DXF and select the name and location.

2) To export a profile in SewerCAD, SewerGEMS, CivilStorm or StormCAD, open the profile, click the Options button in the upper-left corner and choose to Export to DXF.

Engineering Profiles:

Modeling Profiles:

Other Options: OpenRoads Designer and OpenSite Designer

Bentley's OpenRoads Designer and OpenSite Designer use the OpenFlows storm and sewer hydraulic modeling capabilities in addition to the physical modeling and other civil capabilities. Additionally, if you prefer to work in the MicroStation environment, these products use the familiar MicroStation user interface. This may be a natural progression from the MicroStation integrated platform of the OpenFlows products (as only MicroStation V8i is currently supported, and support for MicroStation V8i will be discontinued on January 1st, 2021.)

For more information, see: