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Comparing SmartSketch to MicroStation

Making the choice to buy to SmartSketch® over MicroStation® for 2D CAD is a smart decision. SmartSketch offers the advantages of simplicity combined with powerful, advanced features that save time and money over MicroStation. By looking at three areas critical to users: user interface, ease of use, and functionality, the choice is clear: SmartSketch always comes out the winner.

Simplicity of the user interface:

  • Ease of use – Using Windows® and other intuitive, icon-based commands, SmartSketch presents a simplified drawing environment mimicking the Microsoft Office interface.
  • Rapid learning – SmartSketch has eliminated the command line of MicroStation and relies on dynamic geometric feedback for precision placement. This reduces costly training and facilitates corporate-wide implementation.
  • Saving on steps – SmartSketch can achieve in a few mouse clicks what often requires four to seven, or more, mouse clicks in MicroStation. MicroStation's many task-specific toolbars contain multiple commands, all geared at making the power-user more efficient. SmartSketch's interface is uncluttered and facilitates rapid proficiency for all users.
  • Accuracy is a snap – SmartSketch was designed for a myriad of users, including non-CAD users, engineers, managers, and support staff. As a result, SmartSketch is designed for accurate graphical input and visual feedback, unlike MicroStation.

Functionality without sacrificing productivity

  • One click away – SmartSketch and MicroStation are designed to look like Microsoft Windows applications. Most users will feel comfortable in this familiar environment. However, the sheer number of tools found in MicroStation make learning it a lengthy proposition. SmartSketch is by far the easier of the applications to use. SmartSketch has a reduced number of commands and tools because commonly used functionalities are integrated into logical combinations in icon-based toolbars.
  • Discovery onscreen and up front – SmartSketch is designed to provide a much simpler approach to drawing for engineers and other non-CAD users. Users can easily key in an exact length, radius, or geometric orientation in SmartSketch's dynamic ribbon bar, or simply draw it using the mouse. SmartSketch also works in a 'mouse down' mode, performing specified commands, such as Trim or Extend, on several geometric elements at one time. MicroStation has little, or at best, an awkward ability to perform commands on multiple elements simultaneously. Trim or Extend operations are multi-step actions, not a simple event as in SmartSketch.
  • Visual cues suggest the next step – SmartSketch's relationship and alignment indicators, displayed at the end of the cursor, lead or guide the next placement point relative to other geometry. MicroStation's equivalent function called AccuDraw does not have comparable functionality.
  • Constraints reduce edits – SmartSketch creates connectivity among elements as they are drawn (relationships). These relationships, such as end-point connectivity, perpendicularity, tangency, and so on, serve as constraints and maintain relative orientations between elements. Thus the user can modify geometry without breaking connecting elements. This parametric capability lets users quickly modify designs without having to redraw or re-connect them.

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Three general areas could be analyzed for feature comparisons: design, drafting, and diagramming.


  • Freedom to design – From conceptual design to final approval, SmartSketch features intuitive commands that allow any user to quickly sketch a design idea and then refine it. SmartSketch's FreeForm and FreeSketch powerfully transform a user's freehand mouse motions or sketched lines into precision geometry. MicroStation sketch ability is limited to placing splines that users must then manipulate.
  • A dimension ahead – SmartSketch's SmartDimension feature accomplishes in six tools what requires close to 100 commands and settings in MicroStation. The SmartSketch user can quickly annotate the design by selecting geometry and placing the dimension. Since SmartSketch uses relationships and constraints (see above), the user can then modify a dimension and immediately see the change reflected in the geometry. This ability to modify designs significantly reduces overall design time.


  • Simplicity for a complex world – Powerful enough for production drafting, SmartSketch was designed for the range of users from non-CAD to power-CAD. MicroStation was designed for production drafting, with a wide draft-specific range of commands and yet, has a cluttered interface requiring extensive training before users are production ready.
  • Interoperability and the power to produce – SmartSketch users can quickly create details, as-builts, bills of materials, HVAC and electrical plans, and other project/construction/field documentation. SmartSketch's dimensioning functionality includes various types of dimensioning capabilities. In addition to creating native geometry, SmartSketch can reference existing MicroStation (or AutoCAD) drawings to create compound documents and save those SmartSketch drawings in MicroStation's file formats. SmartSketch also includes image manipulation functionality, allowing users to combine raster data with vector data for hybrid documents through the Image Integrator module.
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  • Working smarter – SmartSketch delivers diagramming capability, applying the same intelligence found in its design and drafting functionality. Integral to this desktop solution, SmartSketch provides SmartConnectors and an extensive set of SmartSymbols that make diagramming an easy task for either the technical or office user. MicroStation's diagramming capabilities are very limited, since it is designed for drafting.
  • Insightful features – SmartSketch offers a powerful diagramming solution. Dragging SmartSymbols that automatically align, rotate, and snap to other objects provides unparalleled ease of placement. SmartSymbols also display multiple representations of a symbol, accessible by a simple right mouse click. MicroStation symbols or cells are static and have limited placement options, but cannot automatically align and snap to the objects. Once SmartSymbols are placed, users can connect them using SmartConnectors, which maintain their connectivity and clearance around symbols, even if a symbol is moved after it is placed. SmartSketch's SmartLabels display attribute information for symbols and geometric objects, dynamically updating when attribute information is modified.

Other features:

  • Detail View – This ability is similar to MicroStation Reference Files, except SmartSketch allows you the ability to place these detail views on any sheet.
  • Interoperability with CAD Translators – SmartSketch translates and references data from other CAD products, such as MicroStation and AutoCAD, maintaining full visual and data integrity. This allows you to view, edit, or redline CAD data without the expense of a traditional CAD package.
  • OLE Integration – SmartSketch provides cut, copy, paste, and link capabilities among Windows® applications. This allows users to create compound project documentation with graphics, text, and spreadsheets in a single file. Further, OLE integration enables you to customize and integrate SmartSketch through VB programming, with any product that is also OLE enabled.
  • Industry Solutions – SmartSketch offers enormous content through industry standard symbols. SmartSketch provides task and application-specific templates that set up appropriate units, drawing scales, borders, title blocks, and toolbars. Included are 7500 CAD symbols in industry templates for AEC, Electrical, Mechanical, and Diagramming with symbol libraries for AEC (HVAC, landscape, site plans, structural, etc.), Diagramming (org charts, office layouts, networks, etc.), Electrical Schematics (control loops, logic gates, switches, transformers, semiconductors, etc.), Process Design (preliminary P&IDs etc.), Mechanical, and more.


Market surveys indicate that 67 percent of CAD work is 2D. SmartSketch is an advanced, yet cost-effective solution for all variety of 2D CAD. Using associative graphics, symbols, and dimensions, users can improve their legacy and new drafting workflows with fewer steps and better tools than MicroStation at a fraction of the cost.
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