MicroStation Plotting General

 Applies To 
 Environment: N/A
 Area: Printing
 Original Author:Plotting, Bentley Technical Support Group









What are the various ways to plot from MicroStation?

Plotting or printing of MicroStation plotfiles can be accomplished several ways - through a batch file, the PLOTUTIL utility, directly from the Key-in window and File>Print/Plot dialog box.

The easiest way to plot a single file is the Print/Plot dialog box which can be accessed by selecting File>Print/Plot.

How do I connect to a plotter or printer using Windows NT, a network and the parallel port?

Under Windows NT at the DOS prompt, use the NET USE command to connect or disconnect a computer to a shared resource on the network (such as a printer or plotter). Typing in NET USE and enter will display the devices connected to your computer. For more information on NET USE, you can type NET USE /H for a more detailed explanation on the syntax options. Only the options that relate to setting the plotting port are shown below:


NET USE [devicename] [\\computername\sharename[\volume]]       

Where devicename Assigns a name to connect to the resource or specifies the device to be disconnected. There are two kinds of devicenames: disk drives (D: through Z:) and printers (LPT1: through LPT3:).

\\computername   Is the name of the computer controlling the shared resource. If the computername contains blank characters, enclose the double backslash (\\) and the computername in quotation marks (" "). The computername may be from 1 to 15 characters long.

\sharename Is the network name of the shared resource.       

\volume Specifies a NetWare volume on the server. You must have Client Services for NetWare (Windows NT Workstations) or Gateway Service for NetWare (Windows NT Server) installed and running to connect to NetWare servers. (not always necessary)   

for example:


This will return the message "command completed successfully" and set \\PRINTMAN\HP650C as the destination of the LPT1 port for that machine.

 Another example, this time using Banyon Vines Network software or Novell NetWare software with the format:


This will return the message "command completed successfully" and set \\LOCALHUB\PLOTQUE as the destination of the LPT1 port for that machine.

After connecting to the device you can copy the plot file to the port you specified in NET USE.

COPY <PLOT_FILE> LPT1        for example: COPY /b PLOT.000 LPT1    

To send a plotfile to a plotter through a parallel port:

At the system command line, enter:


To send a plot to a plotter through a parallel port without creating a plotfile:

  1. From the File menu, choose Print/Plot. The Plot Settings dialog box opens.
  2. In the settings box, adjust the controls as desired.
    (For more information, see the procedures in MicroStation User's Guide under "Creating Plotfiles" on page 16-1.)
  3. In the Plot dialog box's icon bar, click the Plot icon. or From the Plot dialog box's File menu, choose Plot.
    The Save Plot As dialog box opens.
  4. In the Name field, key in the name of the parallel port, for example, LPT1 or LPT2.
  5. Click the OK button.

What is the procedure for plotting directly to Window NT network ports in MicroStation?

The syntax below allows you to print directly to a network port without specifying a plotfile name or opening the Save-as plot dialog window.

Using a ASCII text editor (such as Windows Notepad) open the plot configuration file you use with your printer/plotter. This file is located in <yourdrive>:\<path>\Bentley\Program\MicroStation\plotdrv\ for MicroStation/J, <yourdrive>:\<path>\win32app\ms95\plotdrv\ for MicroStation 95/MicroStation SE, and <yourdrive>:\<path>\win32app\ustation\plotcfg\ for MicroStation V5.

Comment out the "default_extension/auto_incExt = '000'" line (put a semicolon in front of any line you want to comment out). This line tells the program to provide a default extension of ".000" in the Plotting Save As dialog box and to auto increment a duplicate plot file of the same name.

ex. plot.000 ; is the first saved plot file.    ex. plot.001 ; is the second saved plot file of the same file.   

Uncomment the "default_outFile/auto_overwrite = "LPT1"" line (remove the semicolon). This line tells the program to save the plotfile directly to a specified port. The "auto_overwrite" statement automatically overwrites the file without displaying a message saying "this file already exists, do you wish to overwrite?" The statement directly after "auto_overwrite = " sign is where we can specify a port (i.e. LPT1 ) or the network location of the printer/plotter (i.e. \\pub\help ).

for example:

     default_outFile/auto_overwrite = "\\printman\hp650c1"   

This will save the plot out file to the network device located at \\printman\hp650c1.

Another example to plot to LPT1 would be:

;default_extension/auto_incExt = '000' ; default extension for plotfiles;     ; To configure a default output file name comment out the default_extension     ; line above and uncomment this line.  "LPT1" may be substituted with any     ; desired filename - e.g. "$(MS_PLTFILES)plotfile.000"     ;         default_outFile/auto_overwrite = "LPT1"   

How do I plot using the serial port?

Although MicroStation will plot to a serial port, we recommend using a parallel port. Parallel port plotting is faster and less prone to setup and implementation problems. For those who have used PLOTUTIL in the past, the following procedure should now be used for MicroStation/J (MicroStation/J does not include PLOTUTIL.EXE or PLOTFILE.BAT, but previous versions of these files can be used with MicroStation/J).

To plot using the serial port in MicroStation, several steps need to be taken beforehand. When using a serial port you must set the BAUD RATE, PARITY, # of DATA BITS and STOP BITS.

At the DOS prompt, type (on one line):

mode com[#]: baud=[b] parity=[p] data=[d] stop=[s] to=[on,off] xon=[on,off]

odsr=[on,off]octs=[on,off] dtr=[on,off] rts=[on,off,hs,tg] idsr=[on,off]

for example:

  mode com2: baud=9600 parity=even data=7 stop=1 to=off xon=off   

These values must be set the same as in the communications line of your plotter's plot config file. This plot config file is located in <yourdrive>:\<path>\Bentley\Workspace\System\plotdrv\ for MicroStation/J, <yourdrive>:\<path>\win32app\ustation\plotdrv\ for MicroStation 95/MicroStation SE and <yourdrive>:\<path>\win32app\ustation\plotcfg\ for MicroStation V5. The configuration files have a ".plt" extension.

for example in the default plot configuration file, the communication line reads:


Before this line can be used by the program, remove the semicolon from the beginning. Another value besides the data, stop, parity & baud rates also needs to be set.
This value, handshake has the available settings:

HANDSHAKE= VALUE                       0=DIRECT CONTROL                      1=XON/XOFF (for Hewlett Packard devices)                      2=ACK/NAK (for Calcomp devices)   

for example for a HP device:


See your plotter manual for the correct setting to use with this value.

A known setup confusion is encountered when running PLOTFILE.BAT. This plotting utility is used for serial plotting. The default serial port in this utility is COM2. If you connect to COM4 the utility will run and the display a COM2 value and settings. To resolve this problem add the statement PORT=4 in the communication line of the plot config.

an example for this situation with a HP device connected to COM4:

COMMUNICATION=(HANDSHAKE=1,PORT=4,BAUD=9600,PAR=NONE,DATA=8,STOP=1)    Note: CalComp devices requires these additional communication values in addition to the values above:


These values are provided in all CalComp-compatible plot driver parameter files supplied with MicroStation. The actual values vary, depending on the CalComp device being used. Keep in mind that these values must be consistent with the setup that is on the plotter (otherwise, the output could be unpredictable). An additional value, Steps Per Inch (the correct resolution the device can handle), may also need to be set. Check your CalComp User's Guide for all of the above settings before sending a plot.

CalComp also provides a language to communicate with its devices - CalComp Device Control Language (CDCL). This is a command language used to control and configure any CalComp device. These commands can be used in conjunction with a PREFIX statement in a PLT file. Check your CalComp User's Guide for more information.

Each plotter supported by MicroStation can connect to a plotter using a serial communications port. The transmission rates for a given plotter must equal the rate the PC is set at (the maximum recommended rate for each plotter is given in the plot configuration file). The absolute maximum transmission rate supported by MicroStation's plotting utility is 38,400 baud. A proper cable must be used when plotting to a serial port. Most plotter manufacturer's will provide the proper cable with their plotters. Most all CalComp & HP plotters require a 'NULL MODEM' cable. When this cable is not used and PLOTFILE.BAT is executed, the utility will run and rise to 100% complete, then the screen will go black and the plotter will not start. To correct this situation, replace the cable with the proper type.

Make sure all the communication values set in the plot configuration file (*.plt), match the plotter's settings. These plotter specific settings are usually listed in the user's guide of the plotter.

A reminder when using a serial communications port, use the PLOTUTIL.EXE file instead of the DOS COPY command to send a file directly to a port. PLOTUTIL.EXE sends data through the communications port as fast as the plotter can handle it. If the plotter buffer becomes full, this utility will stop sending data and restart sending data when the buffer empties.
When plotting to a parallel port directly just execute the DOS COPY command but on serial ports DOS COPY command can not sense when the plotter is able to receive more data.


To run PLOTFILE.BAT from a DOS prompt in Windows 95 or NT. Create a new .BAT file called PLOT.BAT, in this file include the following:

SET USTNRESD=0123456789 etc... (any 80 ASCII characters in length)    CD \WIN32APP\USTATION    (use your path)    CALL PLOTFILE

Run the batch file PLOT.BAT to plot from a DOS prompt in Windows 95 or NT.

When plotting a drawing with reference files attached, why are the active files not plotting?

When reference files are attached to a design file and the Update Sequence is set with the active file last, the active file will display on top. The active file does not plot or preview.

Before plotting reset the Update Sequence with the active file at the top of the list and use a pen table to prioritize the plotting sequence.

It is a good practice to use Output Action Priority value increments greater than one. This will leave room for adding future Sections which require priorities to be placed between two existing Sections. Increments of ten is the recommended minimum between section priority values when a Pen Table is first created.

For example:

In the table shown below, the reference file Base1.dgn would plot on the bottom, therefore covered by all other files. The active file, Top.dgn, would plot last- on top of all the reference files.  
Figure 1

It is important that the active file be placed at the top of the Reference File Update Sequence in the design file.