The Explorer – Part Three: The Items Tab

So far in our blog series on the Explorer, found within the MicroStation CONNECT Edition, we did an overview of the Explorer in Part One.  In Part Two, we talked about the capabilities of the File tab, which allows you to display the content of the file such as models, saved views, references, etc.  Here in Part Three of the Explorer blog series, we will take a closer look at the Explorer dialog’s Items tab.

Now, a typical DGN file contains graphics, and of course, those graphics are displayed in the model.  However, behind the graphics, there may be business data.  Business data is the real-world information associated with the items represented by the graphics in the model. 

In MicroStation V8i, to view this business data, you needed to utilize the Items Browser dialog.  The Items dialog showed a list of folder-like nodes representing the “item types” of the business items present in the DGN file. These Class Type nodes group the items by type, and when you expand them, you can see the individual “items” (component instances) contained in the DGN file.

(Item Browser from V8i)

With the MicroStation CONNECT Edition, the Item Browser dialog that you may have been familiar with in V8i has been merged into the Explorer dialog.  The Items tab within the Explorer, lists business items contained in a DGN file. Items are listed within groups that can be expanded or collapsed to see the individual items. Clicking the item selects the item in the current view. Likewise, selecting a group name selects all the items in that group. The expanded group is known as the active tree.

(The Explorer: Items Tab)


Items Tab Icon Bank

You can view items in your model by setting Zoom, Isolation or Transparency.  The icon bank provides the following functions:

  • Refresh Active Tree – refreshes the active tree to reflect changes to the DGN file.
  • Transparent – turns the graphics that are not associated with the selected items invisible. Selected item(s) remain opaque.
  • Zoom – will zoom to the selected items.
  • Isolate – displays only the selected item’s graphics. All other graphics are hidden.

In the architectural example, from the Items tab, we’ll expand the Doors.  Then when we select a particular instance in the Doors listing, we can see that selected item is highlighted (the handles can be disabled) within the view.


 The Items tab view tools can be toggled individually or any particular combination.  Here, we’ll begin by toggling on the Transparency view tool.

When you turn on Transparency, the entire model is rendered in transparent white with the selected item in its selection set color (design file settings).

With Zoom, the view zooms to the selected item in the model. In this example below, only Zoom was toggled on.  As you can see, view zooms into the selected door while the view is rendered in its original color.


And when Isolation mode is toggled, it displays the selected item apart from the rest of the graphics in the model.

Right-click Options

Right-clicking a selected Item(s) will provide the following:

  • Zoom – will zoom to the selected items.
  • Isolate – displays only the selected item’s graphics. All other graphics are hidden.  Both Zoom and Isolate work independently from the View Controls from the icon bank of the Items tab.
  • Clear Isolate – will remove/undo the display set created by the Isolate command, restoring the all the graphics in view to their previous view state.
  • Details – will open the Details dialog. This used to display information related to what is selected in any of the tabs of the Explorer dialog in a tabular format.  The information displayed, in some cases, can be edited and can be saved. There is a right-click menu that allows for finding or copying information, editing, and saving (see image further below in criteria search demonstration).
  • Properties – will display the Properties dialog and is used to review or modify the properties of the selection. The Properties dialog can be used to edit properties of data that have write permissions. This can include files, items, or elements (see image further below in criteria search demonstration).


Performing Searches

In the Items tab – just like we saw in the File tab and as we’ll see later in the Resources tab of the Explorer dialog, you can search for objects within the tree. Based on the requirements, you can either perform a Simple search, Criteria search, or an Advanced search. In short:

  • Simple searches allow you to conduct a search based on searched text.
  • Criteria searches allow you to create simple queries.
  • Advanced searches lets you build complex search conditions that can be saved for later use.

But let’s take a deeper look at performing searches.  In our first example of the types of searches you can perform, we will do a Simple Search.  In this case, we want to look up a furniture item.  We know the ID number of the piece of furniture and as such, we’ll type that into the Search field.  Here we’ll type, “374719” and click the Search icon or simply hit the Enter key.

Search results are stored in a folder that is named after the search condition at the bottom of the listing.   As shown below, the search netted 1 result.  In the example, the Zoom was toggled, and hence, the furniture item is located within the building.

To perform criteria search, we first need to click the Expand the Query Builder icon. 

The Add Criteria button then displays. From here, we need to type or select the item or property name for which we want to create the criteria.  In this case, we want to search for single-flush doors.  So, we’ll expand Doors and then select, Family. 

Next, we’ll need to enter the partial or complete value for search.  In this case, we’ll type Single-Flush into the field, and then click the Search icon.  Results display in search folder that is named after the entered condition.  As you can see, the search netted 10 single-flush doors.  In our example below, Transparent was toggled on.

From the right-click menu of the search results folder, you can save the results as report definitions (only for Criteria and Advanced search).   You can save the search result as a report and place a table from the report.

In addition, from the right-click menu, you can edit or delete the search criteria. You can view the results in the Details dialog as shown here.

And as well, view the results from the Properties dialog, as shown.

As another example of performing a Criteria search, here we are looking for double glass doors.

In our last example, we wish to perform a search for multiple types of items.  In this case, the building’s HVAC system.  In order to do this, we must perform an Advanced search.  To begin, we need to click Show Advanced Search Dialog icon.  Then from there, the Advanced Search dialog will open.  In the Search For field, we need to click the drop-down list box.  And then from there, select the option, Multiple types of items.

The Add or Remove Items dialog will open.  From here, we’ll select Air Terminals, Duct Fittings, Ducts, Flex Ducts, and Mechanical Equipment.

Once finished selecting the items to add, clicking OK returns you back to the Advanced Search.

At this point, we are finished building the search because we want to include all of the items.  It is possible to refine this search further within the dialog by setting conditions and/or criteria.  So, with that, we’ll go ahead a perform the search by clicking OK.

Just like before, the results display in search folder that is named after the entered condition.  As you can see, the search netted 388 items.  Expanding the search, you can see a further break down of the items in groups. 

In our example below, Transparent was toggled on.

In next image -- to show the search results in a different manner, the view toggles from the Items tab were toggled off and a display set created to isolate the results.

Again, just like you can from Criteria searches -- the right-click menu of the search results folder allows you to save the results as report definitions for Advanced searches, as well.

So, more and more, applications like OpenRoads, or AECOsim, and so on, can write business data to your graphics.  Even now, the MicroStation CONNECT Edition can write business data (i.e. user-defined properties) to your graphics.  All in all, graphics are starting to have more and more intelligence beyond what you just see in the model.  And as such, as you just saw, the Items tab provides a great way to expose those business items can contain in a DGN file.

Next, in Part Four of the Explorer blog series, we will take a look at the Resources tab.  The Resources tab displays common resources being used by a DGN file. Common resources include DGN library files and the active file.