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

eDrawings Browser Conundrum

A common question that is often asked when discussing sharing eDrawings files is "Can an embedded eDrawing be opened in a browser other than Internet Exlorer?".  Without getting into a debate on what web browser is best *Chrome!, sorry*, let's face it, companies are allowing users to choose their web browser and since eDrawings is a tool to communicate, the probability that the recipient is running something other than Internet Explorer is increasing.

If you save an eDrawing into an HTM file and open it in a browser like Chrome or Firefox, the following message will be displayed in the footer:

Internet Explorer 5.5 or higher is required to view this eDrawing file.  Other browsers can be used, if configured correctly.  Generated with SolidWorks eDrawings 2011 SP.

If you click on the "configured" link above, it opens the online SolidWorks Help showing the following:

For those of you who have tried this you know that it will not open.  In some cases like in FireFox it will open up the source of the file and Chrome will display a blank screen with the aforementioned footer message.

Solutions?

Browser IE Extenstions: All of the current solutions to get eDrawings to run in 3rd party web browsers all require you to run IE in some form.  I have personally tried a few extensions on both FireFox and Chome that run an embedded version of IE inside (IE Tab worked well).  Currently the SolidWorks Knowledge base explains in Solution ID: S-07514 that IE is the only browser and to submit an enhancement request.

eDrawings Native Viewer: The other suggestion I often give is to use eDrawings viewer since it is supported on Windows and Mac.  The issue remains though if you were sent the HTM file and need to open it.

Internet Explorer dependency is littered throughout SolidWorks' product line, which a few years ago was almost a non-issue but with the growing population moving to other browser platforms (now more than 50% of the market) this question comes up a lot.  Customers continue to ask me ways around this requirement and I believe that much of this could be answered with the promise of SolidWorks Connect. It may not address the HTM issue directly but it will deliver a solution to share content without the need of eDrawings or a specific browser.  

How do you share your SolidWorks content now and do you care if products require Internet Explorer to function?  Personally, I use eDrawings native files since HTM or even zipped HTM are blocked by most firewalls but I only use IE for one application in house that requires it. ~Lou

iCAD: What Touch Could Bring To Product Development

Using the iPhone for the past couple of years, I have become accustom to having a multi-touch device at my disposal on a weekly, daily, hourly basis. So as you can imagine Apple's launch of the iPad this weekend peaked my interest...sort of. Despite the reasons why I chose not to get one right away, there is something compelling about having a large touch screen device that you can perform certain computing tasks with.  This is similar to the way products are developed and the various tools we use as engineers to develop concepts, and eventually the final product.

Spaceclaim has shown how touch interfaces can be used within their direct modeling tool and SolidWorks 2010 with some minor tool selection capabilities with gestures.  SolidWorks also debuted the SolidWorks V6, a cross-platform technology preview, showing how it could run on the Wacom Cintiq to manipulate the model and queue up menus.

I know there are other examples but you can see that touch makes sense when applied to certain areas of a CAD platform.  Actions like pan, rotate, zoom and tool selection all seem to have intuitive applications when it comes to CAD but there are aspects that are hard for me to embrace for touch.  Precision selection like mating or surfacing operations might be a bit difficult, especially when trying to pick an edge or vertex of a model.  However, that is not to say that a change in approach wouldn't solve these challenges but in many ways it is our own inertia to stick with interfaces we know and have become accustom to that prevent us from moving forward.

When Apple first introduced the iPhone with a virtual keyboard, everyone complained about it due to the lack of feedback and precision typing.  After spending some time using it, it becomes apparent that the keyboard was designed to be used with your fingers (even those of us with hotdog fingers) and tries to predict what you meant to type.  If CAD companies focus on designing the interface around the user, it could be a powerful tool if executed correctly.

So what tools of SolidWorks' make sense for multi-touch now?  I am sure there are a few but off the top I think many of the SolidWorks LABS tools could be a good start.  At SolidWorks World 2009 there were a couple of Microsoft Surface tables with an eDrawings mockup and something that resembled BluePrint Now.  The eDrawings Surface was showing off a pan, rotate and zoom interactions, while the other was a simple 2D drawing tool, allowing multiple users to interact and draw with.  Treehouse, BluePrint Now, and eDrawings all seem to scream out for the ability to run on a device like the iPad or HP tablet.  What better way to "dip a toe" into the touch device world and get feedback from real users in order to apply that technology to mainstream SolidWorks in the future? ~Lou

*UPDATE* Check out Josh's iPad First Impressions post over at SolidSmack

Auto Explode In eDrawings?

Do you remember the old auto explode from the earlier versions of SolidWorks? It was rare when it worked but might be an asset with simple assemblies. Well, there is a great embeded command in eDrawings that can help you when you need to explode an eAssembly. The best part is that this tip works even when it was published without an exploded view. To do this all you need to do is a CTRL E and your assembly will auto explode similar to the old Auto explode in SolidWorks. Learned this tip a few years ago at SolidWorks World Conference.