SolidWorks On Vista?

I am asked frequently from various users about what my advise is about SolidWorks running under Windows Vista. I have been running Vista since Beta 1 was released and still have the Business version installed on a desktop at work which forces me to use it every day. I mainly run it in order to support our customers that are running it but I also cannot control myself when it comes to new technology. SolidWorks tried to be proactive about Vista, unlike many other software developers, and get a 2007 version out as soon as possible, however it never survived past pre-release 2 and never was worthy enough for production use. SolidWorks has since abandoned Vista on its 2007 version and has announced that SolidWorks 2008 will be the only version that will be supported under Windows Vista. What reason would someone move to Vista? Well there are a few that stand out. Many smaller companies whose owners are technology focused will move to it because they want the latest and greatest operating system available. On the other hand, many new computers available for purchase are pre-installed with Vista so some users won't realize it may be a concern. You have to realize that Microsoft has come up with an operating system that is very appealing at a glance and sometimes that attractiveness is enough to lure someone to buy it over the out-dated look of XP. Every major release of an operating system notoriously comes with some pain since compatibility sometimes take a hit. What I noticed myself doing is using it and making excuses why I thought it was better than XP when something would happen that I didn't like. In the long run, my excuses were just that and I was not gaining any real productivity that I didn't have in XP.

What are the concerns? This really depends on how you use your computer and what other applications need to be able to run on your Vista system. SolidWorks 2008 SP0 seems to run pretty well on Windows Vista but is noticeably less stable than my XP install. Since the source code of SolidWorks has been written on XP for the past six years and has the most production time, I would expect it to be more stable. This concern was also very prominent when I used the x64 version of XP. For example, I could not get my XP x64 machine to print to my Xerox printer since there were no drivers available for it. In the case of x64 XP there were some major advantages of moving to it like its ability to address more than 4GB of memory which was a limit of its 32 bit counterpart. However when it comes to running Windows Vista I have not found a compelling reason that I would switch from XP especially in a production environment where up-time is crucial.

What versions of Vista are supported by SolidWorks? Since there are seven, yes seven versions of Windows Vista it is important to understand which ones are viewed as supported by SolidWorks. Currently only three of the seven are supported and those are: Windows Vista Ultimate, Business and Enterprise versions. This doesn't necessarily mean it will not run under the others but SolidWorks will not be able to support the other versions since they will not have the other versions installed in their support centers. This same view was shed upon XP Home when XP shipped but I know many users that run on XP Home without a hitch. Another question that does come up is about the x64 version of Windows Vista which is not currently supported by SolidWorks yet. I have been told that it maybe supported later in the 2008 release but specific dates or services packs have not yet been released.

So for those of you who have Vista, you can use it and it will run as long as you are running SolidWorks 2008. If you are a technology person, like myself, then you will figure out how to make it work for you and you won't get too upset if it is less stable. So setup your auto-recovery options and enjoy the "WOW" with Aero glass and the new interface, which I must say is very slick. When it comes to XP, I never thought I would hear myself say that it is the "Rock Solid" choice for an operating system, but when it comes to Windows this is most certaintly the case. SolidWorks 2008 has a Vista look and feel even when running in XP so I have noticed my "need" for that shiny new environment is now satisfied with the new additions to the interface of the 2008 release.

This is not to say I have lost my confidence that Windows Vista will eventually come around and work with a majority of the applications and drivers out in the market. However I am curious what will become of Vista if Microsoft sticks to its plans of shipping the 7th version of Windows currently known as Windows Vienna which has been said to ship in 2009! ~Lou