Overview of user interface updates in MicroStation V8 XM Edition

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By Mike Arroyo, Axiom Product Manager
How would you redesign MicroStation’s user interface so that it increases the productivity of a designer? That is the challenge facing Bentley as they work on the MicroStation V8 XM Edition.

Exploring the XM interface
Where the old MicroStation Manager used to be, XM now opens with a Windows-compliant MicroStation Manager dialog box, similar to Microsoft Outlook, with icons along the left side, providing quick links to History, Desktop, My Document, My Computer and My Network. This is a familiar dialog box layout for anyone that has used Windows 2000 and later.

New MicroStation Manager dialog box

Additional icons along the top edge replaced traditional pull down menus for creating a new file, selecting specific Bentley tools or accessing directory history. The preview window appears on the far right. With this update, you will be able to work inside this dialog just like any other Windows applications.

Open a design file and you will see how the MicroStation environment has been updated. With Windows-XP-looking (bubbly, with rounded corners and shadows) icons, the new layout promises to be a welcome change. Take a closer look at these updates.

The MicroStation V8 XM Edition beta user interface. Since this is a beta version, the user interface may change by the time XM is released.

Main toolbox

XM’s Main Toolbox

The Main toolbox (labeled 1 in figure 1) has been slimmed down to a single column (or row, as it can be moved) of icons. Observe how numbers and letters appear in the lower left corner of most icons. These are keyboard shortcuts that, when pressed, up pops the associated menu at the tip of the cursor. Hold the cursor down on the icon inside the Main toolbox and the toolbox cascades open.

After a few minutes of getting acquainted with the new Main toolbox, you’ll be less tempted to dock toolboxes. Not only will you recover screen space, but also the keyboard navigation allows for increased productivity, as the user becomes more familiar with XM.

View controls

XM’s View Controls

Notice the new view controls (labeled 2 in figure 1). View control icons now appear along the top of the view. With a right click, you can configure which tool to display just like any toolbox. Don’t worry. These tools may be set to display along the bottom edge of the view as well (for those of you that don’t like change!).

Task List

XM’s Task List

A new concept in XM is the “Task List” (labeled 3 in figure 1) icon and a docked toolbox along the right side of the interface. The Task List consists of a hierarchical list of grouped toolboxes. To expand the list, double-click on a selection and the associated tools appear below the Task List icon.

Spend a few minutes going through the Task List and you’ll find many of the toolboxes that were previously located inside the main toolbox. The Task List gives users the ability to easily customize their workspace to only display the tools needed to accomplish a task that is at hand. For example, you will notice that the Dimensioning tools are not in the main toolbox, but in the Task List on the right side of the screen. When you select Dimensioning from the Task List, the toolbox on the right side of the screen is replaced by the Dimensioning toolbox. This is part of the new design workflow of XM. When you are ready to change to another function or process simply choose a new task. This activates a new set of tools below the Task List icon. What a fantastic way of swapping out toolboxes without requiring additional screen space!

Moving across models

XM’s “All Models Visited” icon

Left of the View Groups box, just above the Status Area are three icons (labeled 4 in figure 1). The “All Models Visited” icon (sundial) allows you to view previously opened models from a recently-viewed list. Or use the left or right arrows next to the sundial to move between those same models, whether they reside in the same design file or in different ones. No longer will you need to use “File | Open” to access previously-opened models, making it faster to move in and out of project files. That’s hot!

More useful icons

XM’s Status bar icons

The Status Area on the lower right corner displays several icons (labeled 5 in figure 1). These include:

  • The active fence icon (clickable icon with the following options: inside, overlap, clip, void, void-overlap, void-clip),
  • The current workmode icon (display-only icon that is empty when working in DGN workmode and shows the blue DWG icon when in DWG workmode),
  • The save file icon (display-only icon that shows if the design file has been saved since its was last modified.),
  • The design history status icon (clickable icon that allows users to initialize or delete the file’s design history),
  • The active focus icon (display-only icon that shows whether the following commonly-used dialogs are active — has the focus: the Tool Settings window, the Key-in window or the AccuDraw window).
  • And a digital rights icon (clickable icon that allows you to see if the design file has a digital signature).

Conclusion
Since XM — at the time of the writing of this article — is still in the beta testing stages, these interface changes may become more refined, based on tester feedback. At first glance, these changes may appear superficial. In practice, the XM interface makes it easier to focus on design tasks (making users more productive), which is the very reason we use CAD in the first place! My hat’s off to Bentley!

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