The Explorer - Part One: The Introduction

When working on a project, you encounter many types of project related data.  Typical data may consist of CAD files originating from MicroStation or even AutoCAD.  Of that, there are many components that make up these which can range from models (design, drawing, sheet), saved views (plan, elevation, section, detail), and reference attachments.  Any number of styles such as dimension or text styles. Then there could be Items Types, Cells and Levels.  Perhaps your project consists of other, non-CAD data such as Adobe PDFs, Microsoft Word documents, Microsoft Excel workbooks, and their contents.  Maybe you deal with raster's like aerial imagery.  Even data like video or perhaps website links.

Now, when you are working with your project data, whatever data types that may be, have you ever been frustrated when you have to flip through many of these to get to the right model, and correct view?  Wouldn’t it be useful to have something simple that helps you do some organization? Is there a single place in MicroStation where we can list all this important information?

The answer is Yes - the Explorer dialog.

The Explorer dialog, found in the MicroStation CONNECT Edition, builds upon the foundation of the Project Explorer found in earlier editions of MicroStation. In the MicroStation CONNECT Edition, you can manage the project data using the Explorer dialog. It is a single interface that provides browsing function for files, links, items, resources, and sheet indexes.  It can become a central resource to organize your project data.

It provides hierarchical storage for information related to your project such as DGN and DWG files, models, references, Adobe PDFs, Microsoft Word documents, Microsoft Excel workbooks, and their contents, as well as other data file formats. It also hierarchically lists models in the active WorkSet, making the navigation within the WorkSet easier.

The Explorer dialog allows you to navigate easily through the models, saved views, and references in a DGN file, as well as to other supporting files that have been linked to the DGN file. For example, a DGN file may contain an index that lists the drawings in the file, as well as supporting documentation. You could use Explorer to add links from the items in the list to the drawings and supporting files, providing easy access to all documentation related to the WorkSet.

The Explorer dialog can be accessed from the Ribbon from several workflows: 

  • Ribbon: Drawing > Home > Primary

  • Ribbon: Modeling > Home > Primary

  • Ribbon: Admin > Home > Primary

  • Toolbox: Primary Tools

  • Default Function key menu: <Ctrl+F10>

In the image below, here we have the Drawing workflow shown.  And as such, from the Primary group of the Home tab, we can click the Explorer icon to open the dialog.

  • The File tab is used to browse and manage the file content such as models, references, saved views, levels, styles, templates, and so on.

  • The Items tab displays non-graphical business data in a DGN file in hierarchical order.

  • The Resources tab displays resources used in a DGN file in hierarchical order.

  • The Sheet Index tab allows you to manage sheet indexing. A sheet index is an organized and named collection of sheet models from one or more design files.

  • The Links tab can be used to see the linked data.

In this 5-part blog series, we will take a closer look at each one of these tabs and the capabilities, functionality and the role each one plays.  In the meantime, it is worth covering some of the different options for the Explorer dialog.

You can access this dialog from the Ribbon: File > Settings > User > Explorer Settings.  Remember, the integrated Ribbon Search can also locate and open dialogs and tools by simply type part or all of the name of what you are looking for.

The Explorer Settings controls many different settings, but, in short, it allows you to show or hide each of the tabs, and rather to show or hide individual related items within each respective tab.  In addition, it allows you enable or disable the setting for DGN Indexing.  More on that, later.

So, as mentioned above, over the next series of blogs on the Explorer, you’ll get a better understanding of the capabilities, functionality and the roles that each tab has.  From the different types of links available to target your project data, and what Link Sets are.  How easy and intuitive it is to setup a project with Explorer.  Display resources used in a DGN file or what is available from the DGN Library files.  Expose and aggregate non-graphical business data in a DGN file or reference.  Being able to browse and manage the file content from models, references, saved views, levels, styles, templates, and so on.  Manage sheets to create a construction document set.  And we’ll learn how Explorer allows for integration with other dialogs such as Print Organizer.

More importantly, at the end of this blog series, you will understand just how powerful of a tool that the Explorer really is, within MicroStation.  It allows you to explore (pun not intended) more interactively, resulting in higher quality of designs through improved coordination of project data.  You can think of Explorer as a hyper-linked table of contents to your project data…