Need to Use DGN Files? Don’t Insert Them, Connect to Them! Part 2

In part 1 of this blog I discussed how to configure the FDO provider for connecting to a dgn file. Now in part 2 I will go over the actual process for connecting to a dgn file after the FDO provder has been properly configured. To get started, it will be helpful to have Windows Explorer open along with Civil 3D. Why you may ask? You will see shortly that it will make life easier. Ok, let’s get into it! First, In Civil 3D it may be a good idea to change to the “task based geospatial” workspace. You will be able to access some of the Map commands that we will use towards the end. At a minimum, you will need to have the Map Taskpane open.  If it’s not already open, the way I open it is to type in “mapwspace” and choose the “on” option. It is in this palette that we will be able to access FDO.

In the Map Task Pane, click on the “data” button and choose “connect to data” as seen in the figure below.


This will bring up the “Data Connect” dialog box which is also referred to as the FDO dialog box. In this dialog box click on “add OGR connection”. If desired, type in a connection name. This step is not necessary but it makes it easier to identify multiple connections by name. In this example, I have used “Plan From DGN” as the name. Next, you will need to enter the location of your dgn file. Before you do so, there are 2 important things to note about using this FDO provider: 1. the entire path to the dgn file must be entered. This is why I mentioned having Windows Explorer open so that you can simply paste the address in. 2. this FDO provider seems to only work with V7 dgn files. I tried numerous times to connect to V8 dgn files and consistently got errors and could not connect. Paste in the address and then add the file name as seen in my example below.


Click the “connect” button. This will bring open the “Add to Map” section of the Data Connect dialog box. Click on the “add to map” button as shown in the figure below, give it a few seconds and you should see the elements of the dgn file in your drawing as Map layers.


At this point, you can either settle for using this connection to the dgn file as a sort of underlay or you can extract geometry from the Map features which means you will produce dwg linework. To create linework from Map features, you first must check out the features. This can be done by first, selecting the features that you want to extract geometry from in the drawing area, then going to the “edit feature” tab of the ribbon in the “task based geospatial” workspace. Once there select the “check out features” button as seen below. This will check the features out from the “database”, which in this case is the dgn file.


After checking the features out, go the the “modfiy” panel on the “edit features” tab of the ribbon and select the “extract feature geom” button as seen in the figure below.


This will give you linework in your dwg file that can be edited as needed. You could now delete the data connection if you wanted to. Using this method should help keep corruption from getting into your drawings when bringing in dgn data.

Civil Infrastructure software is my main professional interest. Civil 3D, Infraworks, and Recap are what I work with mostly. I have been with CADsoft Consulting for over 10 years now. I got my start using Softdesk and AutoCAD R12 in DOS. My wife and I have four children and I am a die hard Red Sox fan.