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Bentley System's first product was PseudoStation, which allowed users of Intergraph's VAX systems to use low-cost graphics terminals to view and modify the designs on their Intergraph IGDS (Interactive Graphics Design System) installations. The product greatly expanded access to such designs, which previously could be accessed only through very expensive special purpose workstations. PseudoStation was originated by Keith A. Bentley while he was working at E.I. duPont in 1983. Keith persuaded duPont to allow him to commercialize the software in exchange for a site license to the resulting improvements.
Keith, in conjunction with his brother, Barry J. Bentley, founded Bentley Systems in 1984. They successfully introduced the commercial version of PseudoStation in 1985. Their PseudoStation experience convinced them that there was a ready market for a stand-alone personal computer-based CAD system compatible with the Intergraph CAD file format. At the time, the IBM AT personal computer, based on Intel's 80286 microprocessor, was just becoming available, and their tests showed that it had enough processing power, disk speed, and graphics capability to do the job. MicroStation Version 1, which allowed users to download files directly from their VAX system to their PC and view and plot them (a very primitive Bentley View), was introduced to the market in 1986.
The first MicroStation with the ability to write to .DGN design files was introduced early in 1987. It was able to place most graphic primitives and cells and had simple modification capabilities. Dynamics, showing the element in its intermediate state during placement and editing was available in this version. While that doesn't sound very exciting today, for users of terminals attached to minicomputer-based systems (like IGDS) it was a breakthrough in productivity.
The MicroStation 3.0 release introduced menus to the program. Before the addition of menus, keyboard-entered commands were the only form of interaction available. Menus increased the ease of accessibility for the user. MicroStation 3.0 was released on multiple operating systems. MicroStation Mac (v3.4) was released in late 1989. It was followed by a CLIX version and later a DOS version.
The MicroStation V4 release debuted the Motif graphic user interface and the MDL programming environment. New features in this version were shared cells, online help, design options, named levels, ACS, various fence modes, reference clipping and masking, surface construction, rendering enhancements, true associative dimensioning, and plot preview. The Nexus update included the first DWG translator. Nexus also included Windows Connection to run on Windows 3.1.
Bentley CSP (Comprehensive Support Program), originally known as MicroStation CSP, was the first product Bentley Systems, Inc. ever marketed and sold itself.
The release of MicroStation V5 focused on modularity and usability. New features included photo realistic rendering, binary raster support, custom line styles, Dimension Driven Design, Settings Manager, DDE, 2D booleans, font resource files, mass properties and centroid calculations and constraints. MicroStation V5 for Intel NT was the first version to be a native Windows application. It was demoed at Bill Gates' introduction for Windows NT in Baltimore.
MicroStation 95 was preceded by the introduction of MicroStation PowerDraft in late 1994. MicroStation 95 was the first release to depart from version numbering. It introduced AccuDraw and the SmartLine. New features added in this version were MicroStation BASIC, dockable toolboxes (that were resizeable and included tool tips), dockable dialogs non-modal plotting, Raster Manager, solar study, cell selector, Archiver, drawing composition, user preferences, keyframe animation, movie generation/playback, rendering surface smoothing, import level symbology, level usage, , and view grouping. It also provided the ability to reprioritize and modify references attachments, better customization tools, new view controls, new hidden line removal, and an improved key-in browser.
MicroStation SE was the first version that had colored icons. MicroStation SE included MicroStation MasterPiece. It was the last multi-platform release, supporting 13 different platforms. It also introduced Engineering Links, Digital signatures through Archive, LiveLinks (OLE Client & Server), Enhanced Precision, tabbed dialogs, combo boxes, QuickVision, and PowerSelector.
MicroStation/J was the first release that integrated Java. It introduced Solids modeling (SmartSolid/SmartSurface), QuickVisionGL, an SGML-based help system, a reorganized directory structure, and dimensioning enhancements. It was the first version to offer concurrent licensing via SELECTserver. MicroStation/J included MicroStation Engineering Configurations. MicroStation/J v7.1, released in November 1999, included spell checker and offered Windows 2000 support for the first time.
The release of MicroStation V8 included many new and updated features. Translation was no longer necessary to read or write DWG files. Undo, levels, and references became unlimited. It featured the introduction of Design History, AccuSnap, multiple design and sheet models per DGN, Packager, PopSet, compressed files, standard definition working units, particle tracing, VBA, text and dimension styles, TrueScale, 3D in 2D, workmodes, and HTML help.
The next release in the V8 generation, MicroStation V8.1, introduced Digital Signatures and file protection through Digital Rights. It also featured an improvement in the 3D functionality of Raster Manager. Enhancements to selection sets were Quickset Save/Recall, displaysets, and the addition of Named Groups to Utilities.
The MicroStation V8 2004 release was the first to include the Adobe PDF libraries, allowing for direct PDF printing and 3D in PDFs. It integrated Feature Modeling into the product and added multi-snap as a snap option. It also allowed exporting information to U3D and 2004/2005/2006 DWG and as ADT objects.
MicroStation V8 XM featured an updated interface to go with the DirectX-based display subsystem. It introduced Structured Workflows and Structured Content to improve the consistency of work. It was the first version to offer Windows Vista, Microsoft SharePoint, and AutoCAD 2007/2008 DWG support. This was also the first MicroStation version to deliver the MicroStation GenerativeComponents Extension as a value to SELECT subscribers at no charge.
The MicroStation V8i release was the first for a new generation of MicroStation. In addition to updated interoperability with AutoCAD 2009 DWG, it included the import of the Rhino 3DM format, and the export of the OBJ format. It introduced intuitive modeling tools and precise freeform modeling tools. Dynamic Views were introduced in this version, providing more intuitive ways to interact with drawing sections and details and more immersive 3D model visualization using display styles and cut planes. The printing system was completely overhauled with an integrated Print Organizer including print styles, and multi sheet, hierarchical PDF support. The release also included intrinsic geo-coordination with geospatial referencing, Web Map Server support, and GPS device support. Iterative Luxology Rendering added physically correct materials, Light Manager, render setups, and Distributed Rendering.
MicroStation V8i (SELECTseries 1) was the first version to offer Autodesk® RealDWG™ support, object enabler support for data from AutoCAD applications, and the ability to reference ESRI SHP files. PDF support was extended to enable the publication of geospatially enabled PDF files. MicroStation V8i (SELECTseries 1) introduced automated drawing composition that streamlined drawing production and created interactive Dynamic Views in a workflow-centric approach. It also added 3D printing support and mesh audit tools. The design review process improved with the ability to manage markups, approve or reject comments, overlay markup files, and publish design file information to an i-model. The full integration of Luxology Rendering Engine into the product made rendering an easy one-step process.
MicroStation V8i (SELECTseries 2) added integrated point cloud support via the the Pointools Vortex engine as well as Citrix ready verification. It also included support for ProjectWise Clash Resolution and Schedule Simulation (with a ProjectWise Visa). Visualization usability and animation enhancements were included. It also added Autodesk® RealDWG™ 2010 libraries and Autodesk® FBX File Support.
The MicroStation V8i (SELECTseries 3) release focused on immersive interaction with 3D models and 2D designs to produce trusted deliverables such as precise drawings, information-rich 3D PDFs and 3D plots. It introduced hypermodels which provided the ability to link documentation within the context of 3D models, navigate models using touch based interfaces, and review related components with item sets. MicroStation V8i (SELECTseries 3) introduced the ability to publish object properties to 2D/3D PDFs, quickly populate models with 3D content and streamlined the process of creating traffic animations.
Its data and analysis capabilities enabled performance simulation of designs, including lifelike rendering and compelling animations. Fast Preview and Progressive Refinement were new render modes that provide quick results during conceptual design while the Solar Exposure Calculator and Solar Shadow Generator provide new methods to test designs.
MicroStation V8i (SELECTseries 3) added support for Autodesk® RealDWG™ 2012, LandXML, and Bentley Civil Terrain Models, the file JT format, and the IFC file format.
On September 1st, Bentley introduced MicroStation CONNECT Edition, the first version of MicroStation connected to a growing list of cloud services from Bentley, providing more connected workflows and personalized experience. It featured a number of new capabilities for delivering projects (Documentation Center), for modeling them (Functional Components and Reality Modeling), and a new connected and streamlined interface.
CONNECT Edition included a more modern and intuitive ribbon-based interface. It added integrated search, presented all settings and file operations in a single location, and supported existing V8i user interface customizations. Project Explorer and the Items browser were consolidated and renamed as Explorer. Upon startup, a user was greeted with a Welcome Screen showing personalized LEARN content and news feeds, as well as sample files and videos. And of course, to enable users to work on connected projects, the new project screen presented documents within projects and maintained the association with project standards and configurations.
Parametric solids and surfaces were introduced along with new 2D and 3D constraints driven by a new Variables and Variations tied to Items to enable a complete property-driven workflow. A new Parametric cell type was introduced to encapsulate these models into reusable parametric content, known as Functional Components. This release introduced support for Reality Meshes, a .3MX format created by Bentley ContextCapture, and included support for opening, attaching , clipping and masking them.
A group of features for producing property-driven annotation and automating sheeting layout, often referred to as Documentation Center, was introduced. These features included the ability to automate sheet layout using named boundaries; to drive annotation from fields which harvest business data from elements; and to create display rules to automatically resymbolize elements based on their properties or attached Item Types, which are a named group of business properties.
This short history of MicroStation is not a comprehensive listing and dates are approximate. For additional information on MicroStation and Bentley's Modeling and Visualization offerings, see this Product Page. Also see the Modeling and Visualization community.