What Is the Difference Between MicroStation & AutoCAD?

by Luke Arthur ; Updated September 28, 2017

In the area of computer-aided design, MicroStation and AutoCAD are two of the leading programs that designers use. AutoCAD is one of the most commonly used programs for the majority of people while learning design, but MicroStation is preferred by some companies and designers. These programs have some key differences that separate themselves from one another.

Command Line vs Key-In

One of the features that most AutoCAD users are familiar with is the command line. In AutoCAD, the command line allows you to type specific commands into a text box to complete tasks in the design area. MicroStation does not have a command line, but it has something very similar with the "key-in" feature. With MicroStation, you open the key-in box and then have the option of typing commands. When you start typing, a list of potential commands appears so that you can choose from among them.


MicroStation and AutoCAD are very similar programs that allow you to do many of the same things. However, the visual layout of the programs differs significantly. If you are used to the way AutoCAD is laid out, you may not like working with MicroStation. If you learned how to work on MicroStation, you may not be able to easily find the tools you need when working in AutoCAD. If you get used to the look and feel of both programs, you should be able to use them interchangeably for most projects.


Even though MicroStation and AutoCAD are very similar, they use different terminology to refer to many of the same features. For example, in AutoCAD, you use "blocks," while MicroStation refers to them as "cells." In AutoCAD, "attributes" are used for items while MicroStation refers to them as "tags." MicroStation uses the term "design model" while AutoCAD uses the term "model space."

Design Plane

Another difference between these two programs is the design plane and origin. When you start working on a project with AutoCAD, the lower left-hand corner of the page is "0,0." This is the origin of the design. By comparison, with MicroStation, "0,0" is in the middle of the page. While this isn't a huge problem, it can be difficult to get used to if you switch from one platform to the other. You might start your design in the wrong place.

About the Author

Luke Arthur has been writing professionally since 2004 on a number of different subjects. In addition to writing informative articles, he published a book, "Modern Day Parables," in 2008. Arthur holds a Bachelor of Science in business from Missouri State University.