eDrawings Meetings - Sneak Peek

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In the excitement of SolidWorks announcing eDrawings Pro for Android, I completely missed another announcement at the very bottom of the SolidWorks blog post.  eDrawings Meetings, a collaborative, real-time markup and interaction mode, is being shown as a sneak peek at SolidWorks World.  eDrawings Meetings will allow remote interaction and utilize the Augmented Reality (AR) as well as other markup tools in eDrawings in real-time.  

The post does state an example scenario between two offices and mentions specifically eDrawings for iPad, so hopefully this not another iOS first feature of eDrawings mobile. SolidWorks is previewing a "pre-Beta" version of eDrawings Meetings and wants to get feedback from the community.  They have not yet released a date for eDrawings Meetings but keep an eye out for announcements soon. ~Lou

 

SolidWorks Recognizes Android As A Platform

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Too harsh?  We Android users are used to having to wait for the next big app to ship after iOS. The fact that SolidWorks themselves stated in the SolidWorks Forums in the Official eDrawings Mobile Wish List thread that there were "No plans to develop for Android", brought customers out in droves requesting them to reconsider.

At SolidWorks World 2013 (January) a glimpse of hope was shown on the main stage when a sneek peek version of eDrawings was  running on Google's own Nexus 7 tablet. Things were looking good...

Yesterday news came down from the SolidWorks Blog that eDrawings had finally made it's debut onto the Google Play Store after being pre-announced back in January. eDrawings for Android, like it's iOS sister, is the only real viewer that can work with the breath of features in native SolidWorks files. 

Here are the details of the first eDrawings release for Android  (From the Play Store):

Features: 
* Intuitive and easy-to-use user interface
* Open 3D (EASM, EPRT, SLDASM, SLDPRT), 2D (EDRW, SLDDRW) and associated files from any source: email attachments, cloud storage services (Dropbox™, SkyDrive®, Google Drive, Hightail®, and others), web and FTP sites and network folders.
* Zoom, pan and rotate your 2D or 3D CAD data using multi-touch
* Animate 3D standard views
* Browse your 2D drawing sheets
* View your designs in full screen and double tap to fit it on screen
* Sample files included

You might remember the launch of the iPad version that shipped on May 1st, updated on June 15 and in September eDrawings Pro for iPad shipped which really made eDrawings on mobile something to envy.  There has been no official word on if/when a pro version will be available for Android but I am sure they are working on it as we speak.

In order to test eDrawings for Android like I did for iOS, I wanted to go back through my test files and see what still applied to the compatibility chart.  I did most of my testing on the new Nexus 7 which shipped on July 24th, 2013. The results were almost identical to the first iOS release except on Android it appears that you can open SolidWorks template files (just like the desktop version), which was not possible on the iOS version. Password protected files and files with markups in them will appear to open but just switch to eDrawings without any content available for viewing.  This is expected in a V1 release and I am sure there will be bug fixes and enhancements to come in the following weeks.  Below is the compatibility chart from my testing... 

At $1.99 this is a "no-brainer" purchase for any Android user and it seems to be compatible on both phones and tablets without issue.  I hope to see a Pro version soon but this is a great first step and hopefully we will see more parity with an iOS release schedule in the future.  ~Lou

eDrawings for iPad Goes Pro

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Back at the beginning of May DS SolidWorks launched the 1.0 version of the long awaited eDrawings for iPad.  This first release was far from perfect but SolidWorks opened up the suggestions box and asked for feedback from the community.  Many of the feature requests were addressed in the 1.1 version that shipped just 45 days after the debut of eDrawings for iPad.

Although the biggest request was a version that would run on Android, which has still not been addressed, the feature list that makes eDrawings useful to a majority of it's users (Markup, Measure, Section, etc..) was still absent from the mobile version of eDrawings.  It appeared that subsequent updates would trickle out but that the buik of what this mobile client would do was somewhat feature complete.

On the last day of August 2012, DS SolidWorks launched another version of eDrawings for the iPad called eDrawings Pro for iPad, bringing almost all the features still missing in the standard version.  In addition to the first generation build, eDrawings Pro for iPad will add the following functionality:

  • UPDATED Interface
  • Read and create markups
  • View Decals
  • Measure
  • Apply cross sections

SolidWorks, on their blog, listed many features that were already in the first version of eDrawings along with the pricing for this new offering.  The official price will be $9.99 but will debut for 30 days at a 50% discount of $4.99.  I think the $4.99 price is probably fair but the $9.99 price tag might me a bit high unless this is a must have app for you.  Some folks seems to think this is a hefty price considering they already bought the first version that does most of what this version does.  Maybe I'd feel that way at the $10 mark however it would have been wiser to make the Professional features available as an in-app purchase in the original version for $4.99.  Perhaps this would ease the pain of buying the first version not knowing the Pro version was right around the corner.  Unfortunately I will probably just delete the original version of eDrawings since it has been obsoleted by the Pro version. ($2 early adopter fee?)  

It's interesting how the mobile app marketplace has changed not only the price point of apps but also the expectations of it's users.  Five years ago, people wouldn't even complain about an application that had a $10 price tag, in fact they probably wouldn't even hesitate to purchase it.  However, today a $10 mobile app brings a lot of  "purchase hesitation" where as a $4.99 price may be still considered an impuse buy.

Below is the updated compatibility chart I built from the first version of the application.  Obviously there are still things that can only be done on the desktop version but overall this mobile client is the one to have of the two.  It is not apparent if the new interface or other pre-existing features will be updated in the standard version of eDrawings for iPad.

As far as plans to eventually support Android, well the stance is the same:

"We opted to concentrate on iOS for the time being because we felt we would reach the most users that way. But as I said earlier, we welcome any and all feedback."  - Matthew West, Social Media Manager, DS SolidWorks

Personally I have purchased a Google Nexus 7 and think it is one of the best tablets I have used to date.  Having owned the original iPad and now the iPad 3rd generation, as a utility device, the Nexus is at par with the iPad and has become my go-to device.  I hope Google entering the market and making a reference design will promote more quality devices to be made by its partners and boost the Android tablet market.  At this point counting out Android on tablets is just not going to happen and more companies have to start giving Android love on day one instead of treating the platform like a second rate citizen.

eDrawings Pro for iPad is the real deal and is the feature set I have always wanted to see on a tablet.  At $4.99, it is worth every penny, even if I already paid for the first version.  I have invested a total of $7 into having this functionality on my tablet and would like to see it make its way not only to Android but also to phones since that is the platform that will reach the masses.  Having this feature set on any mobile device will move SolidWorks in the right direction to addressing what users want in the mobile space. ~Lou

eDrawings for iPad UPDATED...

About a month back SolidWorks released eDrawings for iPad and for a V1 release it was a nice viewer.  I wrote up my thoughts after my initial install and although it was very lacking on the collaboration/markup/measure features, it had some fundamental issues even as a viewer.

Today version 1.1.0 was pushed out on the App Store which has addressed many of the major bugs and added a few nice feaures to bring it closer to par with the desktop viewing experience.  

Here are the additions:

What's New in Version 1.1.0

We’re back ! A great update with many new features and enhancements that you have asked for :

- Transparent parts
- Standard orthogonal views
- Shaded with edges mode
- Perspective mode
- Hide, show & make components transparent
- Select components from graphics area
- Hyperlinked views in drawings
- Sort files by name, extension, date and size
- Leave file open during background execution for fast app switching
- Fixed shaded drawing views during panning and zooming
- Fixed incorrect legends in SolidWorks Simulation files
- Various bug fixes

Here are a few screenshots of the updated features:

The update added filters for the file library, interaction in the UI for hide/show/transparency and nice standard view shortcuts.  It now respects password protection and supports fast app switching so the application doesn't relaunch when you return to the app.

Overall this is a quality update and makes eDrawings for iPad a good viewer.  I have attached an updated compatibility map for the features I have tested. ~Lou

eDrawings for iPad: Better Late Than Never?

Today DS SolidWorks launched eDrawings for iPad, its first mobile app to date under the SolidWorks name, well except for the n!Fuze app…*crickets*…moving on. Up until now, there have been limited resources on mobile to view native SolidWorks files. Some of the viewers currently on the market are extremely overpriced and very limited. We got a taste of how 3D could feel on a touch device when Dassault shipped the 3dvia mobile app 2 years ago, which connected with their 3dvia.com service. Although SolidWorks users could File, Save-As to 3dvia.com, there were security issues with making your content public just to view it on your iPad. The 3dvia app also lacked the important interrogation tools like markup and measure that many of us would like to have for reviewing SolidWorks data.

eDrawings for iPad:

Feature set: ($1.99 USD)

- Open SolidWorks® parts, assemblies and drawings

- Open eDrawings files

- Open AutoCAD® DWG and DXF files

- Supports "Open In" from Mail, DropBox, GoodReader…etc

- Zoom/Pan/Rotate

- Navigate SW assembly tree, drawings sheets and switch configurations

- Play animations

- Show exploded states (assemblies)

As you can see from the list above, this outlines the typical requirements for a viewer, much like we get from the free version of eDrawings on the PC. The interface is clean, supports full screen mode and reminds me of the Mac version of eDrawings with the file properties drawer. My favorite feature is the app supports the "Open In.." function of iOS which makes opening files from Mail or even Dropbox simple. Here are a few shots of the UI:


Although this $1.99 USD app is a no-brainer for a SolidWorks user with an iPad, it is not yet available on Android and is not a universal app, allowing it to run on the iPhone either. Don't get me wrong, having a native viewer is a great start, however practical design review tools are needed to move eDrawings for iPad into the collaboration/design review arena.

Personally I would like to see more focus on the features that made eDrawings my de-facto tool for communication by adding markup and measure capabilities. There are a number of things that are missing from the iPad version like:

- Markup

- Measure

- Section

- Hide/Show/Transparent/Open in Assemblies

- View inserted BOM/tables in parts/assemblies

I do agree that a mobile app does not necessarily have to duplicate functionality of its desktop counterpart but should minimally offer tools that are device appropriate. Many of these missing features, I believe, would be device appropriate since being able to markup and grab measurements off of models are key for design reviews.

I understand this is the first version to hit the public but I have to believe that this has been floating around the catacombs of SolidWorks for quite awhile and there had to be discussions around bringing more design review functions to the app. The price of $1.99 USD is fine and for what it delivers, arguably a fair price. The success of an app in today's mobile market is more than just the local features the app can deliver, but the services they are connected to.

What Version 2 Will Need:

- ANDROID SUPPORT (don't ignore the major share of the mobile market)

- Phone support across iOS and Android

- Markup/Measure/Hide/Show/Transparent tools

Wish List:

- Collaboration with others via Cloud service (shared view/markup/chat)

- Open directly from Cloud services or network shares (Dropbox, Google Drive, Box.Net, UNC path, etc.)

I wrote a while back how to Preview SolidWorks CAD data on Dropbox by using SolidWorks Task Scheduler but now being able to simply use "Open In.." makes Dropbox, or any other cloud storage service, work great for viewing your data on the device. With a few tweaks, eDrawings for iPad/Android could become a great resource for users in the field and on the go. ~Lou

Dropbox Preview for SolidWorks Setup

Dropbox has become the universal tool for syncing data from our desktops and mobile devices for a few years now. Having talked about the topic a lot on the podcast, syncing datasets between not only systems but also collaborators on a project can be quite useful.

With access to almost anything from our phones and other mobile devices has many of us storing 3D data in Dropbox and wanting to see more than the "Unable to view file" screen from our devices.  Until Dropbox enables a way to natively preview our 3D data on their service we are out of luck....sort of.

SolidWorks has a nice little tool that I use for many tedious and repiticious tasks called SolidWorks Task Scheduler (...and yes it appears this utility has been named following the Microft product naming methology, just state what it does as the product name.)  Anyway, this tool can do all sorts of jobs like file conversion, eDrawing creation and, in this case, Export files...

On my Dropbox I have a folder called "CAD" and inside that folder I have sub folders for different CAD projects I am working on.  Obviously I can navigate to these folders from my phone without issue but viewing doesn't work so unless I know the exact the name of the file I want, I have no way of "viewing" what the file contains.  Since Dropbox has a built in viewer for pictures I figured I would just run a task to create a simple image of the cad data automatically so I could preview it on my phone.  So I setup SW Task Scheduler to run daily on my CAD folder to export files to a sub folder called "CAD Images".  

Since the JPG export from SW, by default, uses a screen capture, I wanted to make sure the files would be large enought since SW sessions launced by SWTS are really small so the images would be poor quality.

Here is how you can do it:

1 - Go into SolidWorks and set the JPG Export options: (set to Print Capture instead of Screen Capture)

2 - Launch SolidWorks Task Scheduler (Start -> Programs - > SolidWorks 20XX -> SolidWorks Tools -> SolidWorks Task Scheduler

3 - Click "Export Files"

4 - Select JPG (*.jpg) as the "Export file type:"

5 - Pick your folders and set the file names to use for *.sldprt;*sldasm 

NOTE: You cannot do this for slddrw so I would do another task to export slddrw to PDF with a similar schedule.

6 - Set your Task schedule to "Daily" or whatever interval you would like.

7 - (Optional) Pick a sub folder inside the folder called "CAD Previews" or something that you can preview.  It might be easy to just have it save in the same directory as the original so you can see the names right next to one another on the device.

8 - Click OK! 

  

  I hope that SolidWorks has some good news this year at SolidWorks World about viewing our CAD data on our mobile devices but until then, this will have to do.  I have been experimenting on a little command utility that can be triggered by Windows Task Scheduler that creates a picture with the same name of the file from the Windows thumbnail graphic.  This would work on any files in Dropbox that the local system running the utility would have a preview in Windows Explorer.  Once I finish it I will post it for use for free and post the source on GitHub. ~Lou

SolidWorks iPhone App, Just an Ad?

On October 29th, DS SolidWorks released a free application on the Apple App Store under the category of "Business".  The description of the app in the App Store is as follows:
Download SolidWorks iPhone app now to unveil SolidWorks 2011 on your iPhone and Discover the tips on how you can: 
- Share designs while protecting intellectual property
- Simplify complex analysis with increased accuracy
- And much more!
- Manage data to improve collaboration and productivity
- Create stunning visualization for partners and customers
Download now!
Dassault also released a similar application a few months back that was basically an outline about their products and links to other places within their website.  Solidworks has followed suit with an informational app but does include some content that users might use.  
The SolidWorks iPhone App contains 4 main areas on content:

Products: Outlines the 5 product lines from 3D Design, Simulation, Sustainability, PDM, and 3dvia Composer

Video: Lists of the videos available on their YouTube Channel which are categorized and viewable inside the application.  The categories are:

  • We Are SolidWorks (5 videos)
  • Let's Go Design (5 videos)
  • SolidWorks 2011(9 videos)
  • SolidWorks Innovation Day 2010 (5 videos)
  • Tips for Engineers - 7 Tips for Windows 7 (8 videos)
  • Tips for Engineers - Microsoft Office Excel Sequel (7 videos)
  • Choose SolidWorks Screencast (4 videos)

Most Popular: A list of videos ranked by popularity. Unsure how this is ranked, probably by views from their YouTube Channel.

Event: Shows a mobile flavored webpage of the upcoming SolidWorks event.  Currently the event is for Innovation Day 2010 where you can register and view the event agenda.

Although a majority of this application is for marketing purposes, the video content can be useful for brushing up on new features in SolidWorks 2011.  What I am curious to see is what is to come with the "Event" area of the application.  Maybe this app can be transformed to have SolidWorks World information, breakout sessions and ways to add a social layer to their events.  Currently Innovation Day 2010 is in progress so I wonder what value it can add to a larger event like SolidWorks World 2011.

At first glance, however, the app might suggest there is something useful like a viewer, which I am sure we would all love to see.  This is the first comment on the Apple App store so far:

We do know that there are plans for a mobile strategy for SolidWorks Connect that were announced at SolidWorks World 2010 and on the Innovation Day 2010 site as well.  I hope to see more mobile apps, not only for various areas like viewers and presentation tools but also across more platforms such as Android and Windows Phone 7. ~Lou