MicroStation produces high-quality 2D and 3D models. It has advanced rendering capabilities that can create realistic images and animations. This is what makes it a great choice for architects and engineers who need to create visualizations of their designs.
AutoCAD’s rendering capabilities are not quite as advanced as those of MicroStation. While some users find that AutoCAD’s 3D modeling capabilities may be limited compared to other software options, AutoCAD is great for 2D drafting.
MicroStation can be difficult to learn, especially for those who are new to CAD software. The interface can be overwhelming at first, and the program’s many features and tools can take time to master.
AutoCAD may present a similar learning curve, but even so, it is generally considered easier to learn than MicroStation, particularly for first-time CAD users.
Once you’ve mastered the intricacies of the interface, MicroStation makes it relatively easy for users to customize it to suit their needs. Users can create custom toolbars and menus, and even write their own macros to automate tasks.
Even with two different menu systems (Toolbar menus and Ribbon menus), AutoCAD is still considered more intuitive and easier to navigate than MicroStation.
Although AutoCAD can be customized to a certain extent, it’s not quite as flexible as MicroStation, and users could have difficulty creating custom toolbars and menus or writing their own macros.
While not as large as AutoCAD’s, MicroStation still has a sizeable user community that enables users to access help or learn more about the platform.
By contrast, AutoCAD has an enormous global user community, which means there’s an abundance of resources available for users who need help or want to learn more about the software.
MicroStation can read and write a wide variety of file formats, making it easy to exchange data with other CAD programs, such as Excel and ProjectWise, for example. This can be especially useful when collaborating with other designers or engineers who may be using different software.
AutoCAD is designed primarily for use with other AutoCAD files. While it can import and export other file formats, there can be issues with compatibility when working with files created in other CAD programs. (See the “Purpose-Built Tools” section below.)
For example, MicroStation can open a DWG file in its native format with zero translation needed. That DWG can then be closed and reopened with AutoCAD with nothing untoward occurring.
AutoCAD, however, can’t truly open a DGN. It requires that you run a DGN import command, which changes the DGN from its native format to a DWG file.
AutoCAD has a massive ecosystem of third-party add-ons and plugins that can enhance its functionality. This makes it easy to customize the software to suit your needs.
MicroStation doesn’t have the same level of third-party support as AutoCAD. This means that there are fewer add-ons and plugins available for MicroStation. (Again, see the “Purpose-Built Tools” section below.)
The price of MicroStation can make it difficult for some users to justify the investment. By contrast, AutoCAD is often less costly than MicroStation, making it a more accessible option for smaller companies or individual users.
The hardware requirements for running MicroStation can be demanding, such as needing high-end graphics cards. AutoCAD does have an option to turn on software graphics acceleration — in other words, to calculate the displayed graphics using the CPU only. However, if you’re working on something complex, a graphics card becomes a necessity in AutoCAD too.
It’s also worth noting that MicroStation only supports Windows®, while AutoCAD supports both Windows and Mac®.