RealView on a Mac...Secrets Revealed!

Transient

When Apple switched their architecture from PowerPC to Intel in 2005 the race was on to get Windows running on Apple hardware without emulation.  Since then we all know the story and anyone can get Windows running on a Mac in a number of configurations without much effort.

I have been doing this since 2006 and have run all the SolidWorks products on 4 different Apple Macbook Pros from the first Core2 MBP in 2006 to the newest Macbook Pro Retina now running Windows 8.1.  Over the years I have gone to great lengths to run SolidWorks on my Mac without limits, including support for RealView.  Apple has changed video cards, video card manufacturers and Microsoft has shipped 32/64 bit XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and now Windows 8.1.  Saying that the playing field has changed a bit would be an understatement to say the least!

On the first builds I had to use Riva Tuner from Guru3d.com to build a hacked or "tuned" driver that enabled the pro series features on my "gamer card" that ships with the Macbook Pro.  This method was necessary to meet the requirements on the "Approved" SolidWorks video card testing site in order to unlock the RealView functionality.  The other issue was simply the earlier video cards in the various Mac lines were very under powered and tuning was necessary to handle the graphics load of SolidWorks.  

The good news is the hacking is over and there is a simple way to enable RealView on your Mac.

Disclaimer...

A word or warning though, as you all know SolidWorks still states very clearly on its system requirements page that:

Apple Macintosh®-based machines running Windows using Boot Camp are not supported.

I think it is also safe to say that someone whom uses a Mac has it for reasons beyond just using SolidWorks and want the ability to use the same machine for any application, Windows, Linux, or Mac.  If you don't have a need to use a Mac, don't buy one.  Alright.  Now that that is out of the way, here are the bits you were after...

Transient
  1. You must be running SolidWorks 2011 or later (might work on earlier builds but have not tested prior to 2011)
  2. Close SolidWorks... 
  3. Launch regedit and go to key:   HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\SolidWorks\SolidWorks 2012\Performance\Graphics\Hardware\Gl2Shaders\NV40
  4. Under the NV40 key (This will work for many of the nVidia line for ATI the RV420 key works for many of them) create a new key called GeForce (you can use the full name shown in your device manager as well)
  5. Under this new "GeForce" key create a new DWORD (32-bit) Value called "Workarounds"
  6. Double click the "Workarounds"  and enter a hex value "40008" (without "") (this is the setting for the nVidia card, ATI is typically 0 but it varies)
  7. Launch SolidWorks... (Should see the RealView gold ball now)

Keep in mind...

There are a few things that I have noticed since using this registry tune for displaying RealView.

  1. Editing the registry can cause OS level damage so make sure you know what you are doing...consider yourself warned
  2. Typically I have to reset this reg key after installing a service pack so you may want to right click on your key and export it for a simple double click after a patch.
  3. This step by step is my procedure for the last 3 Macbook Pros that all were running nVidia cards so if you have the ATI version, make sure you use the RV420 key instead to add your generic key to. 
  4. This does not work with virtual machine solutions like Parallels or VMWare Fusion (Only booted into Windows native via Bootcamp). 

I get 20-30 emails a year asking me how to do this and I wanted to share it with all of you that are using a Mac and running SolidWorks.  It's understandable that SolidWorks has to limit the scope of support to exclude this configuration from its supported list (as they do for some builds of Windows).  However, I can personally say that I have been able to successfully do this since 2006 and my Mac laptops have been some of the fastest systems I have owned to date.

I have spoken to hundreds of people that are already running SolidWorks on their Macs via Bootcamp or even using Parallels or Fusion to get their jobs done. Whether you have a Mac for  "religious" reasons or require the platform for similar reasons as I do (hardware quality and application preferences only on OSX), this solution will make the SolidWorks experience in Bootcamp at par with most Windows-based laptops.  If you run into any issues trying to get this to work, please leave a comment or drop me a line and I'd be happy to help out.   ~Lou

It's About The Little Things..

For the past three weeks I have been showing off all the new features in SolidWorks 2012 products to a bunch of users and it is always interesting what they really get excited about. Despite what gets the "orange star" in the What.s New PDF, users will let you know in their simple smirks or confident nods what is really an "enhancement" and what is demo candy. When I think back through the past 10 years and all the 200+ enhancement releases, there are always the handful of useful updates that can make a new release worthy enough to migrate to.

Many people in the CAD industry (corporate and resellers) start to believe that their CAD Product is some sort of religion or way of life but the reality is CAD is nothing more than a tool. As a long time user myself and maybe a crumugin of sorts due to the amount of time I have been in the channel, I look at the SolidWorks line of products the same as I did when I built homes for the family business, tools of my trade. Because of that, I often admire the competition when they do something better than SolidWorks does because, again, it is just a tool. When the tool gets out of the way and lets the real magic happen, that is an "enhancement"!

After rolling out 7 SolidWorks 2012 events, each 3 hours in length, I am convinced that SolidWorks 2012 is a release about the little things. After showing all the big market features like SolidWorks Costing and Large Design Review (LDR), which were well received, the most applause and smiles of "Finally!" came when a small tweak or adjustment to existing functionality was pointed out. Here is a small list of the "little things":

- Blank custom properties

- Unit switcher (bottom right in the status bar)

- Tab to hide (assemblies)

- Discard changes (when editing a part when the assembly is open)

- Sheet Metal exclude features (modified select tangency to select up to bend faces)

- Control A to select all parts in an assembly or all entities inn a sketch

- S key cursor focus for command search

- Delayed clocking on SmartMates

- Initiate SmartMates with ALT key anytime (not just on initial drag)

- Modify dimension name in Modify dialog

- Highlight dimension from part changes in drawings

- Insert center marks on view anytime, not just when adding the view

- Diamter dimension lock in sketches (dimensioning to centerline locks similar to ordinate dims)

- ESC key in dimensions undoes last selection instead of canceling the command

- Hole Wizard not adding a "default" hole where face was initially selected

~ the list goes on and on...

For me, the little things are those features that we touch everytime we fire up the software.  The little things are also the features that can bring the greatest frustration when they don't work the way we want so it is no surprise the excitement when they are improved.  Even though Equations in SolidWorks 2012 are my favorite new enhancement, many of the above list get touched more often and have a bigger impact on my daily usage. So the "little things" end up being the big things and ultimately become the decision maker/breaker when the question "Do I upgrade?" is asked. ~Lou

3D Printing From CAD To Cloud?

The ability to have a 3D part in hand for design validation is something most would not argue is extremely valuable.  If you are fortunate enough to have a 3D printer in house, the process is fairly easy to go from CAD to the print software.

For those of you who do not have the luxury of an in-house 3D printer or need to print something in a form or size that your own printer can't handle, Shapeways wants to help you out!  Shapeways, an online 3D printing service bureau, allowing it's customers to upload, choose material and order models online.

Today Shapeways is making this process even easier for SolidWorks users by partnering with Design Solutions who have built an add-in for SolidWorks to submit models directly to your Shapeway's account.

The SolidWorks add-in is currently in beta and you can download it from Design Solutions' Shapeways page.  The addin is about 1.3MB and is supported on both 32 and 64 bit operating systems.  Once installed you will need to run a .BAT file in the install directory and detailed instructions are on the Shapeways Blog post.

The service works with solid geometry, so surface geometry and/or models are not uploaded to the Shapeways' servers and assemblies will need to be saved as a part.  The add-in also gives the user STL settings (this is the format that is uploaded) but the actual STL file is not stored on the local machine.  All the specifics about the add-in are in their blog post.  

Shapeways offer a number of 3D printing services and technologies such as SLA (Sterolithography, FDM (Fused deposition modeling) and LOM (laminate object manufacturing). Once you are uploaded, can log into your Shapeways account and finish the process to get your part in hand! ~Lou

SolidWorks Auto-space For Linear Patterns?

Circular patterns, on most platforms, have the ability to equally space when adding patterns around an axis but what about linear patterns?  Linear patterns in SolidWorks have some very powerful tools to vary the sketch and omit instances but lack the check-box option "Equal spacing".

A few releases back, SolidWorks introduced the Fill Pattern tool that populates an open field with a feature, giving options to control various spacing criteria.  Although useful for creating cutouts for venting, the tool does not address patterns along an edge or situations where the fill needs to equally spaced or split on the border, as pictured to the left.

Solution: Curve Driven Patterns!  Who says a curve can't be a straight line, well in SolidWorks at least? This option will allow an edge to be selected and, similar to it's Linear counterpart, enter the spacing increment in addition, have the option to select an edge and check "Equal spacing".  Now as the size of the model changes, the pattern will maintain the population count but keep the spacing equal without having to manually adjust the increment or write an equation to control it.

I used this approach for a local customer trying to automate a grate design and having the requirement of the cutout to be not only equally spaced but bisected along the edge for aesthetic reasons.  It was then automated using DriveWorksXpress and rules were written in order to control the number of instances based on the size without requiring multiple rebuilds using equations in SolidWorks. ~Lou

SolidWorks Patch Diet?

When SolidWorks 2010 was in Beta, the release notes stated under "Technical Alerts" that support for parallel installations of service packs within a major release would be discontinued beginning with SolidWorks 2010 (ie. 2010 SP0 & SP1 in parallel on the same system). This decision was made in order to "reduce service pack size and download time" according to Release Notes and I am sure I was not alone when I thought this sounded like another potential promise that was going to be hard to deliver on. A similar statement was made back when SolidWorks switched from InstallShield to Windows Installer and touted the capability to "Rollback" a service pack.

2010 SP1 came out in early December and upon going through the usual screens in the SolidWorks Installation Manager (SWIM), the service pack payload showed a respectable 230MB for patching SolidWorks 2010 Premium with all the Simulation packages! This was approximately 1/5th the size of the equivalent SP1 patch for SolidWorks 2009 which was nearly 2GB. A few days ago, SolidWorks pushed out SP2 for 2010 and the service pack "diet" continued yielding only 200MB!

Reducing the download size of these service packs has made patching the install take less time and something that I can actually do during work hours again. When the patches were more than 1GB, I would begin the download at the end of the day to spare the bandwidth and hope that nothing happened when I returned in the morning. This made the entire patch process more painful and something I knew would take a chunk of time to complete. Out of all the hundreds of enhancements SolidWorks 2010 has brought, this is the one I know I will continue to enjoy for the remainder of this release! ~Lou

Beta Testing PDM: SOLVED!

When it comes to beta testing, it takes a certain user to willingly dig into a known buggy software product in order to determine the new features that will warrant an upgrade. Beta testing software that runs on a single sysytem can have it own challenges but this is only magnified when the software in question is distributed among various clients and server machines.

SolidWorks Enterprise PDM can be a solution that falls in the latter category, making testing for larger installs difficult, since it typically requires you to upgrade not only the clients but also the archives, databases and replicated servers as well. Seems like a lot of hard work to create a test environment or take a chance on moving a production system to bata-based backbone.

This past week, SolidWorks is offering an easier way to those who want to take part in the SolidWorks 2010 Beta program, to test the coming release of Enterprise PDM without all the headache. To do this, SolidWorks is hosting the archive and database servers on their infastructure in order to provide a hosted vault, requiring only the end user to install a beta client on their local system. This eliminates the hassle of locating an additional system, installing all the server-side components and simply allows customers to test out what 2010 EPDM will bring to the table.

In order to take advantage of this offering you must email "epdmbeta@solidworks.com" with the subject line "EPDM BETA SIGN UP". The retuned email will contain instructions to get started with your hosted testing environment. Currently, there are two options for beta testing via the "SolidWorks EPDM cloud":

1) Connect to an existing vault using the server name (IP address) and Username provided in your invitation email and connecting the the "Betatest" vault that has been created.

2) Create your own vault on the hosted server, allowing an import of your current vault settings and essentially replicating your production setup. This option requires a bit of host file configuration but overall the process is standard operating procedure (SOP) for most who have setup any multi-site server configuration.

For many, this will lower the barrior of entry to beta testing Enterprise PDM 2010 and hopefully allow the evalution procedure to upgrade to be started much earlier than it would otherwise. ~Lou

The 5 Prongs of SolidWorks 2010

This week SolidWorks' 2010 beta program moved into it's third round (Beta 3) of testing and with this usually follows two waves of pre-releases and finally FCS (first customer ship). Beta testing is somewhat of a cult at SolidWorks, pulling in dedicated users in droves to play, test and bug squash everything in sight. Many of us testing SolidWorks' newest creation are looking at as many of the hundreds of enhancements and trying to determine which ones will actually play a role in "enhancing" our use of SolidWorks on a daily basis! Since SolidWorks 1999, I have watched the new releases roll out of Concord with "Over X hundred New Enhancements", however each release has a handful of highlights that leave their mark.

SolidWorks 2010 follows suit, bringing hundreds of new enhancements, all of which bring different levels of impact and importance to the variety of users in the community. This year there are 5 that mark SolidWorks 2010 as a release to pay attention to.

Assembly Visualization:assemblyvis1

This new capability was first debuted at SolidWorks World 2009 and expands the ability to filter

components either by their display or order based on a number of customizable properties. This sorting capability can display components either in a nested view (indented sub-assemblies) or in a flat view (parts-only) driven by a single property. Included as "default" sort criteria are the usual suspects: mass, density and volume, however the tool go to another level of effectiveness when you begin to customizing.

Properties driving the filter can be either numeric or non-numeric and once sorted, the graphical display can be customized with colors to give visual clarity to the assembly. By right clicking on the color gradient on the left you can add sliders to change the scope of that color spectrum. This color control can also be coupled with component visibility by using the horizontal drag bars located at the top and bottom of the list. Similar to the Rollback Bar in the SolidWorks FeatureManager, these bars allow the user to focus in on the components of interest.

The filtering properties also can include equations (i.e. multiplying the quantity by a numeric property) as well as allowing the user to change property values, i.e material selection. These criteria lists can also be saved out to a separate file (text or Excel) for outside manipulation.

Configuration Publisher:
SolidWorks 2009 brought the Property Tab Builder, streamlining the way users add file properties (metadata) to their parts, assemblies and drawings by providing a graphical form building application. In SolidWorks 2010, a similar interface has been integrated into SolidWorks configurations. In addition to the previous capabilities, Configuration Builder gives the user the freedom to build configuration options without having to explicitly specify every possible combination. This makes SolidWorks do the work on the fly, modifying your part or assembly and generating new configurations as they are built.

This capability also seems to fill the gap between using SolidWorks configurations and DriveWorksXpress. SolidWorks configurations add variation to existing documents however many users want a way to add additional configurations to those files without creating new documents (DriveWorksXpress). Now using Configuration Builder, the user has the ability to create configs on the fly and then use them in design automation with DriveWorksXpress.

Not only can you use this with parts that have existing design tables but as an added bonus, this new interface give a streamlined conduit to submit your generated models up to the web-based model sharing site, 3D Content Central.

Sheet Metal Enhancements:

Hands down, this release has more sheet metal enhancements than any other since maybe SolidWorks 2001Plus. SolidWorks 2010 finally extends the multi-body environment to sheet metal that was given to parts back in 2003's version. This gives users more flexibility to design sheet metal similarly to the way the actual design has to be manufactured. A great example of this would be using the edge flange in a "bridging" maneuver to join two parallel, same thickness sheet metal bodies into one. These bodies could be created individually or mirrored then joined and even welded to complete the finished design.

I remember back when SolidWorks 2003 shippe and how the impact was not just only that it now supported multi-body parts, but how that brought about a whole line of features that could harness the multi-body environment. In this case many of the common part, multi-body tools are also utilized like mirror, split, and even insert body.

In addition to multi-body support, 2010 also brings improvements to an area that lends itself to challenge, closing corners. Closed corners now can support cuts across flanges, large radius bends, closes on parts created from the Insert Bends commnad or the 2009 tool Convert to Sheet Metal as well as faces of large cornered parts. Hems have also been improved to handle a number of complexities and flat patterns bring additional clairity to self-intersection and inner/outer faces.

A big enhancement for sheet metal is flat patten output. Typically manufacturing requires DXF/DWG files of the flat pattern and this process used to require the SolidWorks user to create a drawing for DXF/DWG export. SolidWorks 2010 adds this as a right-click menu from the Flat Pattern feature, removing the drawing step completely and replacing it with a DXF/DWG Cleanup preview window. This dialog allows for common view manipulation and the ability to remove any superfluous entities without leaving the part mode.

Event Based Motion Analysis: (Simulation Professional)
Hints of this were also debuted at SolidWorks World 2009 but it wasn't until I tried this new capability that I started to think about the impact this could have with some creative 3rd party applications. Being a robotics and automation engineer in my previous life, this new capability intregued me. Many dynamic simulation tools on the market follow the same approach as many animation tools; the Timeline. Timelines are great for making something look good but when it comes to tuning an automation system, timing registers are not reliable and that is why sensors are a key to today's automation. SolidWorks 2010 ups the intelligence of Motion Simulation with event based motion analysis, creating motion triggers with interference, proximity and dimensional sensors as well as completion or start/finish times of previous tasks.

Complimenting these real-world triggers that are incorporated into the motion, drivers like constant speed & servo motors, forces and torques can start, stop or be changed on the fly based on other triggers in the analysis. This complexity mimics that of real automation systems thus allowing users to "tune" tasks to increase things like thruput.

What further interests me is the integration of SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Aquisition) programming tools like LABView and Rockwell Software's RSView. This would extend the ability to virtually test a PLC program with a virutal model inside of SolidWorks without having to hook it up the actual automation system for testing.

Simulation Design Studies: (Simulation Professional)
The goal of virutal testing is to come out with an optimized design that fits the scope of the product. Bringing clairity to this goal is key to using a simulation tool like SolidWorks Simulation. For the past few years, Simulation (formly COSMOSWorks) has had a few nice tools for optimizing deisgns, one of which was Design Scenerios. Design Studies in 2010 combines that of Design Scenerios and Optimization (shape optimization) into a single interface. This new interface integrates nicely into the now standard lower-tabbed area where Motion and Simulation studies already reside and give access to both design scenerios and optimization studies alike. The new interface also has three distinct views: Variable View (above), Table View and the Results View.

Optimization studies add parameters that contain a range of values, descrete values or a range of values with a step. This enhancement gives the user much more flexibilty since the previous version only allowed range, which doesn't lend itself well to stock sizes. Design Scenerios works similar to previous releases except that 2010 does add real-time previewing of geometric changes (i.e. scenerios involving dimentional change).

Overall the most power part is the result viewing, which has been completly redesigned to not only show graphical feedback for the scenerios and optimized designs but a tabularized resultant area containing a visual pass/fail (green/red respectivly) of each itteration.

These are just 5 of the enhancements that are coming in SolidWorks' lineup in 2010 and there is no shortage of goodies. I am thrilled to see that Spilt Line will now allow multiple entities to be split in one command and that Simulation brings back the ability to select faces as shell elements without having to do a number of surfacing commands as it did back in 2008.

Overall the release looks strong and promised to be more efficient with common tasks and to boost performance as it does in every relase. In premininary testing, SolidWorks 2010 seems to run fine on existing hardware and does not require any major upgrades to hardware from what I can see. The 2010 beta program is still going on and Beta 3 has just started so if you want to test this fucntionality for yourself, go sign up! ~Lou

Network resources: The New Super-Computer

Many of us have heard of terms like cluster computing or server farms and once you begin to apply these resource harnessing techniques to CAD and CAE tools, you end up with a huge amount of CPU capacity at your disposal. A couple of weeks ago I did a revised show on the SolidWorks Task Scheduler since in the most recent build (2009 SP4), SolidWorks introduced a new sub-toolset called Network Monitor (NetMon). NetMon essentially deligates tasks to "node" computers on the network to participate in tasks that might consist of many sub-task routines. This coordinates the efforts in order to allow each system to utilize it's own resources and SolidWorks license to complete the large task in a fraction of the time. Currently this new feature can only partipitate in the "Convert Files" task, which consists of opening an older version and saving it in the current version. This repetitive task is perfect for deligation, however I hope to see more tasks added to NetMon's feature set.
This "cluster conversion" routine has existed for a while in SolidWorks Enterprise PDM, under the "Support/File Version Upgrade" folder in the install files. Once this utility is installed, it coordinates systems on the network, much in the same way NetMon does, to convert files inside the vault the the current version of SolidWorks.
Another front that has been utilizing the cluster format is SolidWorks Flow Simulation (previously called FloWorks). Within the "Batch Run" dialog, not only can the solver take advantage of the various CPU's on the local system, but also other systems running Flow Simulation as well, creating a CFD server farm within your organization.
Many task oriented procedures are responsible for causing our productivity to go down or at least bring it to an annoying crawl. These are some techniques that might be a solution to take advantage of standby CPUs that are already on the books. Even if you can offload these CPU intensive tasks to anthoer "speed challenged" system, it will enable you to continue on without watching the simpliest applications drag while a task is being run locally! ~Lou

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

SolidWorks Labs Adds More Features

SolidWorks Labs had a nice update and if you have never visited SolidWorks Labs site you are missing out! SolidWorks Labs is a site that is hosted by SolidWorks R & D and displays some of the projects that they are working on. Those of you that fall into the "Geek" or "Early Adoptor" category would be very interested in the products that post up here. This site was launched at SolidWorks World 2007 and had not been updated for about 4 months or so. I recently was looking for tech news for August and checked the site to find out they had refreshed the site with a new look as well added to this library. Here are the products up there thus far:

Drawings Now: This is an on-line hosted service that is very Web 2.0 that allows you and others to pan, zoom and print your DWG, DXF, and SLDDRW files. You just upload them to this service and everything needed to view them is hosted so nothing needs to be installed on the computer! I love on-line services for this reason and it makes the ability to share these with others much easier. Sending people to download viewers and have to install applets is a pain.

COSMOSXpress Now: If you have used COSMOSXpress inside of SolidWorks you will love this! This is also another hosted service that only requires a web browser. Whether you want to determine the Factor of Safety (FOS) or share your results with an HTML report or with eDrawings this is the service for you! Besides the fact that you don't have to install anything, the best part of this service is that it works for SolidWorks, Pro/E, Inventor, Parasolid or ACIS parts.

ZoomIn: This is eDrawings on steroids! This is a down-loadable program that is focused on presentations. ZoomIn allows you to open up SoliWorks documents, DWG, DXF as well as Pro/E files and add materials, textures and even music! The most compelling part is that you have dynamic camera views as well as the ability to create fly- through animations. They have also updated this product to have a simple sharing ability to save out the file as a WMV and save it up to CADJunky which is the new social CAD network hosted by SolidWorks. This is one of the applications that you need to download before you really understand how it works.

DWG Navigator: This a flashy DWG viewer that reminds me of SolidWorks Explorer for AutoCAD users. DWG Navigator has many of the same file management tools like SWE like relationship management with XREFS (I really didn't want to dig up those old acronyms!!) as well as searching, copying and renaming of DWGs. This is another addition to the DWG Gateway of products to give AutoCAD users a reason NOT to upgrade their outdated software.

Supplier Source: This is the next revision of an alpha project that used to be up on the Labs site called Slide Rule. Supplier Source is an on-line service to search for manufactures and other service providers. It can help engineers find manufacturing companies and as a service provider it gives a landscape to grow your business. The unique features include ways to organize and manage the suppliers in your network as well as streamline the RFQ process and any other communication between the requester and the provider.

3D Content Central Search: Like your search bar in your browser? Use 3D Content Central often? This little add-in to Firefox, Internet Explorer 7 or your existing IE Google Toolbar is a great shortcut to searching for 3D models quickly. It basically shows the SolidWorks logo as a drop down inside your search toolbar. I love using 3DCC so I thought this was a great idea!

Watch It: This little app really caught my eye and not because of it's name! This is a widget that runs on top of the Yahoo Widget Engine. If you are using any other Yahoo widgets then you can just download this and enjoy. This utility monitors changes to files located in local and shared folders. Once it is installed you can simply drag the folder you want to monitor on top of this widget and vola! I like tools like this when I am working with a few people on the same group of documents and it doesn't have to be just SolidWorks. If you need the Yahoo Widget Engine you can download it from a link on the Labs site as well. Overall this is a great site for those of you on the bleeding edge. I also noticed that the site itself is now RSS fed so you can subscribe to get your updates and they have added a Labs Blog to the site as well. Currently the blog contains tips for SolidWorks 2008 and will be a good source for cool little tid-bits. For example, there is a cool little reg file you can download to add your own custom logo into the SolidWorks 2008 ribbon bar. ~Lou