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Bentley Developer Conference 2012 Review
by Jon Summers - 22 October 2012

Bentley Systems Europe hosted the 2012 Developer Conference at their headquarters in Hoofddorp, right next to Amsterdam's Schipol Airport. There are few venues more convenient for transportation.

About fifty attendees from companies all over Europe walked, cycled, drove or flew to Hoofddorp. We were a mixed bunch, speaking a Babylonic mixture of German, Spanish, Italian, Czech, French, Swedish and American English and probably some more I couldn't recognise. There were presenters from Bentley Systems, of course; several from the corporate HQ in Exton, Pennsylvania and some representing Bentley Systems Europe.

The agenda covered, as you would expect, the inner workings of several Bentley products. MicroStation was covered, of course, as were ProjectWise, i-Models, Bentley Map, Point Clouds, 3D Solids and Haested Water Objects.

We learned more about the Software Development Kits (SDKs) for


An i-Model is a container for information exchange. i-Models provide a way to export graphics and data from DGN models and other sources. Other sources include most Bentley applications and third-party products including Revit. The purpose of an i-Model is to supply drawing data that is independent of the tool that produced it.

For example, you can't view a Bentley Building model in an application that does not include the TriForma 3D engine. If you export an i-Model from Bentley Building, however, the graphics components can be reused by other applications.

When an application creates an i-Model, it exports displayable graphic data and also application-specific non-graphic attribute data. Bentley term those EC schema data. The data are in XML format, which is widely used for information exchange.

Bentley Systems provide several data adapters to help extract information from an i-Model. For example the i-Model ODBC driver for Excel lets you extract BIM data from your Bentley Building DGN models and export the attribute data, via an i-Model, to an Excel workbook.

Point Clouds

Point Clouds were developed by UK company Pointools Ltd, which was acquired by Bentley Systems in November 2011. Faraz Ravi, CEO and co-founder of Pointools Ltd, is now Director of Product Management for Point Clouds at Bentley Systems.

Faraz provided a working example of the Point Clouds SDK. He was brave enough to respond to our questions by modifying his demonstration code and showing us the resulting application.

MicroStation: the Core of Bentley Applications

MicroStation continue to be the platform for many applications from Bentley Systems and others to which end, the MicroStation SDK continues to improve as MicroStation itself improves. For two decades the MicroStation Development Library (MDL) has given developers a C-language development tool. With MicroStation V8i, the SDK also provides the C++ MicroStationAPI which enables object-oriented software engineering. MicroStation also provides Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), but that is less suitable for commercial developers. Microsoft .NET is not forgotten: we can develop MicroStation AddIns and other utilities using the rich development tools from Microsoft.

Custom Software Development

If your organisation wants custom software, how would you go about getting it? You could

Contact an independent software developer
Create an in-house development team
Independent software developers (ISDs) provide a service. They develop applications that meet your organisation's requirements. In the context of MicroStation and other products from Bentley Systems, a suitable ISD would be registered with the Bentley Developer Network .

Bentley Developer Network

The Bentley Developer Network is a partnership between Bentley Systems and independent software developers (ISDs). It is for those companies who plan to develop or already have applications complementing Bentley products available for commercial resale or are included as part of a professional services agreement.

BDN membership can also include the internal design teams of large companies. For example, a large architectural practice might have several people writing code for their own use but which is not licensed to other companies.

BDN membership extends world-wide. In the context of bentleyuser.org it includes developers in the UK, Ireland and most European countries.

About the Author

Jon Summers has worked with MicroStation and related technologies since 1990 and is a Be Communities Most Valued Professional (MVP). Jon founded LA Solutions in 1993 and develops off-the-shelf and custom software for customers around the world.