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Native DGN, the File Format of Choice for Infrastructure Projects

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Nanette Dorando, Bentley Expert


The CAD software MicroStation understands and respects your need for supporting the designs you created in the past. These old files can still be used as they are, without any conversion. We advise converting older files to DGN V8 format, but you do not have to.

MicroStation provides greater flexibility by working in three modes – DGN V7, DGN V8, and DWG. When MicroStation operates in one of these Work modes, it can read and write the file format that goes with it.

MicroStation supports native DGN file in infrastructure projects

Working with DGN File Formats

MicroStation natively supports DGN V8, the file format now used for many major infrastructure projects. Other CAD products, like AutoCAD, can only open and attach DGN files.

DGN V8 is the native format for MicroStation, and as such it can be processed the fastest, as MicroStation must do extra emulation when working in other Work modes. The DWG V8 Work mode also opens DXF formatted design files in Read-Write mode. However, most designers prefer not to work in that format, as it generates large files that require time-consuming processing.

In the DGN V7 and DWG Work modes, you are limited to the options and possibilities available in older versions of MicroStation and AutoCAD. If you are not familiar with the DGN V7 design file format, it was defined in 1979 by Intergraph. The DGN V8 format was introduced with MicroStation V8 in 2001, eliminating the many limitations of the DGN V7 format.

When dealing with DGN V7 and DWG design files, you have two options. First, you can leave the file as it is in a read-only state for reference. Second, you can convert the DGN V7 or DWG file to the DGN V8 format. We advise performing this conversion if you will be working with this data for a long time.

MicroStation supports any AutoCAD file format

Conversions of DGN Files in MicroStation

In every conversion, there is a risk of losing information or settings. In MicroStation, you can change the conversion result by creating your own settings that can be saved and reused. Additionally, the conversion from DGN to DWG and from DWG to DGN can be executed in Batch Convert – a useful option when you need to convert many design files at once.

Adding functionality to MicroStation takes a lot of programming and development. Removing functionality also takes time. But that is not why we keep older tools in MicroStation. The reason is that we respect your workflows and want you to keep using them for a long time.

The MicroStation Help file gives you the details on all the application’s functions. You can access the file even when MicroStation is not installed at https://docs.bentley.com.

Watch the Webinar Recording “Working with DGN File Format”:

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