Digging into your workspace

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Original Article Date: Jan 1, 2001

Why do you need a customized workspace? The most compelling reason is to implement standards at the corporate, departmental and project levels. Defining a workspace for these areas makes it possible to define common resources and directories.
2001-01-01 Originally published on MSMonline
2006-03-02 Aquired and posted on AskInga

A workspace is a MicroStation environment that has been customized for a specific purpose. The first time you start MicroStation, you are using the “default” workspace. Other workspaces are delivered with MicroStation and can be selected in the MicroStation Manager dialog box. A customized workspace can be created, as well. You may create one for a particular customer, for a specific job or for a specific task. Ultimately, a customized workspace should make MicroStation easier to use and increase consistency and quality of your final product.

A workspace consists of configuration variables, user interface, user preferences and a status bar or command window. Let’s take a closer look at each of these.

Configuration variables can be defined at the site, project or user levels. Site variables are stored in a .cfg (configuration) file. At this level, you may define corporate, departmental or client standards. For example, you could have a corporate cell library containing a north arrow and drawing scales that are used on all projects.

Some companies will set variables per project, which are stored in a .pcf (project configuration) file. In this case, you could have a second cell library that contains project-specific cells, such as a client’s title block. Finally, the user variables are found in a .ucf (user configuration) file and point to resources only to which that user has access. So your user can have a custom cell library which may be used to extend the project and corporate standards.

Customizing the user interface usually means creating custom toolboxes and tool frames. You may want to create a company standard toolbox and then allow each user to create a custom personal toolbox. User preferences are stored in the .upf file. By default, MicroStation assigns each .ucf a corresponding .upf. If you start up MicroStation using the default .ucf, you will be assigned a default .upf. User preferences are defined by the user in MicroStation in the pull-down menu at Workspace > Preferences. User preferences also define which toolboxes are open and where they are positioned in the MicroStation window.

You also need to decide whether to use the status bar or command window. The status bar is selected by default. Some people still prefer the old style command window. You can make your selection in the MicroStation Manager dialog box or by setting a configuration variable.

Why customize?
Why would you need a customized workspace? The most compelling reason is that you can implement CAD standards at the corporate, departmental and project levels. Defining a workspace for these areas allows you to define common resources and directories. For the CAD manager/administrator, a well-thought-out workspace implementation can aid in management, training and deployment.

Start with a plan of action prior to creating a customized workspace. Figure out where you are now. Take stock of what your users are doing. Look at each department and find out what resources are in use. Select a diverse group of users with different skill levels and ask them what resources they use and find out what they need. One of your goals should be to improve the MicroStation environment for the end user.

Start with a simple implementation, especially if you have not implemented any CAD standards. Take small steps! Find the resources that could be shared by the largest group of people. These will be the easiest to implement. Make sure you have the users on your side by including them in the research and development of your customized workspace. Ignoring them is the quickest path to an unsuccessful customized workspace—and it increases your support workload!

Take a look at the list below and select a few items to work with on your initial implementation. Remember, keep it simple.

- Project directories
- Discipline sub directories
- Seed files and directories
- Settings files
- Symbology resource files (fonts and line styles)
- MDL applications
- Basic macros
- User commands
- Color tables
- Level name files
- Rendering material files

The next step is to make some decisions about the resources selected. First, decide who will use these resources. Ask yourself what level will be affected. Will it be a corporatewide standard or just this site? Will all departments use the resource or just one? Does every project need it or only one client? Second, decide where the resources will reside. Should they be stored locally or on the network and on what drive/directory? Finally, find which configuration variables control the resource.

Also, consider adding custom toolboxes. You could create a simple toolbox with a button that sets the level, weight, line code and style for linear elements.

To help you track this data, I recommend writing it down. Use a spreadsheet or index cards or yellow sticky notes, whatever works for you.

AskInga Article #288