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

Vendor tracking with EPDM

A big part of engineering products is sourcing vendors, some of which may be tracked in another system possibility governed by the purchasing group.  This tends to be common practice in large corporations, however many smaller scale companies source thier vendors from within the engineering department and maintaining a list of vendors for BOM management can be a disconnected task.

In SolidWorks, many users will enter the part/assembly vendor information into file properties, which can make this easy to access downstream in drawings and bills of materials.  The issue is keeping a running list of vendors we use, tracking contact infomation and even sharing this list for easy selection in file properties.  When implementing EPDM, this question comes up frequently and knowing EPDM comes with MS SQL, a database, ideas start swarming around build a vendor database.  Although this is quite possible, there are ways to integrate this into EPDM without building new interfaces to talk to SQL or maintaining another system for vendors.

Here is how we can do it using the out-of-the-box functionality in EPDM and make this process simple to add, maintain and share your selected vendor list with the engineering group.

Step 1: Create a virtual document template:

Virtual documents can be a great way to use the SQL database to store metadata but not have to maintain a physical file.  You can right click, new -> Virtual Document in the vault view which will ask for a name and extension.  For this example I used "ven" as the extension which yeilds: FILENAME.ven.cvd.

Step 2: Build a file and template card:

Since we want to have an entry form as well as a display form, we will need to have two cards built in the EPDM system.  In my case I wanted to have a slightly different exterience for data entry than for display so I built the two cards to look a little different.  The file card will be associated to the "ven" extension so it only displays for my vendor cards.

 Step 3: Create "Add new vendor Template:

The last piece of the vendor creation will be to tie the first two steps together in order to add the right click menu and add our vendor files to one spot inside the vault.  In my case I have a folder called "Vendors" that I want all these cards to be created in.

Using Templates in EPDM, here is the setup to use the virutal document (*.ven.cvd) as the vender file created in the vault, using the vendor template card for entry and saving it to the "Vendor" folder in my "Standard Libraries" top level folder.

 Now that the template is created, the creation of a vendor named virutal document containing all the important information is stored in the "Vendors" folder.  If we pull up EPDM search, we can use the vendor file card to search for vendors to get details.

Step 4: Create a list from SQL:

Now EPDM contains a virutal roll-a-dex of vendor inside the "Vendors" folder, which is nice but the goal is to capture this list for selection in the part file card. Time for SQL to be our friend...  Create a new list in EPDM called "Vendors" using the data type "From SQL Database" using the following query: 

SELECT     VariableValue.ValueText
FROM        VariableValue INNER JOIN
                 Variable ON VariableValue.VariableID = Variable.VariableID
WHERE     (Variable.VariableName = N'Vendor - Name')

Notice the 'Vendor - Name' in the last line of the query.  This will be the name of the field you use for the vendor name.  Make sure to also set the refresh options to happen peoridically to a time interval that makes sense for the rate of new vendor entry.

Step 5: Add list selection to Part Card:

Edit any file cards that need to specify a vendor from this list, replacing the text field box with a Combobox and attach it to the vendor list created in step 4 under special value.  Now there is a single place where the vendor list grows and is now accessable from any file card in the vault using this new vendor list.  As vendors are added, the list grows and any file in the vault can access the new vendors.

This seems to be a easy solution to add and maintain vendors if indeed it needs to be done in engineering.  Granted this is not going to replace a sophiscited supply chain management system but is better than having the rogue Excel file floating around with hundreds of copies on the network.  ~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

What Does Windows8 Metro Mean for CAD?

As Microsoft works away on the upcoming release of thier next major version of Windows, the feature that seems to be getting the most mixed reviews is the new Start screen.  The Windows 8 start screen is modeled after Windows Phone's "Metro UI" which is a mosaic of "tiles" that represent applications and shortcuts to places throughout the operating system.  This new "Start Screen" replaces the Start button and Start menu all together, allowing the user to "touch first", which is the motto of the new OS.
There are many other reviews talking about what Metro means (my favorite), outlining the pros/cons of this shift away from the conventional Start button, but I am curious what it means for the CAD tools out in the market. Before I talk about specifics, there are a few things you need to understand about apps that run in Metro:
  • Metro and Metro style apps are Microsoft's attempt to unify their operating system across all devices. (Desktop, tablet, mobile)
  • Metro style apps must be delivered via the new Windows Store, a built in app market inside of Windows 8, vetted by Microsoft, similar to that of Apple's App Store.
  • Metro style apps are full screen and represent a single app per system, not taking advantage of multiple monitors.
  • Metro style apps can be built with a number of languages and APIs including many web-centric technologies like HTML5, CSS and Javascript.
  • Navigation within a Metro style app is different than a conventional desktop application (i.e. Right click will yield options for the app, whereas on a desktop application it reveals the context menu).
There are many other changes to the look and feel of these Metro style applications, some of which I wonder how they can be used in a 3D CAD environment.  Let's take eDrawings for example.  Visually, eDrawings in Metro seems to be a natural choice as a viewer with markup capabilities.  It has big buttons and simple commands that lend themselves to smoother integration into a Metro style app.  Things start to fall apart though when we discuss tools that are buried in the context menu like right click to hide, make transparent and other functions.  
It's not to say that these challenges cannot be overcome with ingenuity and good design but almost every 3D CAD app would need this re-invention, especially on the user interaction front.  Obviously this re-invention is parallel to touch devices, which we have watched some companies overcome the traditional interactions and embrace touch as another option.  With Metro being modeled as "Touch first", many of the same steps will need to be taken in order for CAD vendors to utilize Metro.  There is, of course, the possibility of a revenue stream for delivering viewing tools and ancillary products via the Windows Store.
The Windows 8 Metro interface will make many Windows developers re-think how their applications are built, what technologies are integrated into them, and how users will interact depending on which devices they are using.  Despite the mixed reviews of Microsoft's Metro angle, Windows is a standard and has the potential to disrupt the application market significantly.  
I believe Microsoft's move to Metro is overdue since the Start button has been around since 1995, however it will force one of three reactions.
  • Ignore it (in hopes it will just go away)
  • Embrace it (re-think their apps and build to take advantabe of Metro)
  • Push to the web (re-think their app and go the OS ignostic approach and use the platform that works everywhere - The Web!)
Personally I hope for the latter since the web the only platform that ignores the operating system and puts the focus on the application.  In the end, applications are what we are after, operating systems are supposed to fall away and be transparent to the user. ~Lou

RePlay SolidWorks World 2012

SolidWorks World 2012 has passed and the masses have dispersed back to their homes, families and jobs.  Although SWW12 was 5650 registered attendees strong, that is only a fraction of the millions of users across the globe.

Every year I have a goal to try and get as much of the content out of this show for the rest of those out there who are not able to get to the one major event for SolidWorks a year. So here are a few resources for those of you that fall into this percentage of users outside the walls of the San Diego Convention Center.


Live Blogs:

- General Session Day 1

General Session Day 2

- General Session Day 3 


- SolidWorks Flickr Page

- Google Plus (search for SWW12)


- SolidWorks Youtube Channel

- SolidWorks:HEARD Ustream Channel

- Solidbox - very well produced

Social Networks:

Twitter (search for SWW12)

Google Plus (search for SWW12)

- SolidWorks Facebook Page


- SolidWorks

- SolidSmack

- Rickyjordan

- MichaelLord

- CADFanatic

- Boxer's Blog

- CADCAMstuff

It was a busy week and there is a lot of content out there from SolidWorks World 2012.  I will post some notes and tips that I picked up from this year's sessions.  Many of the responses I got from you is SolidWorks tips so I attended about 4 tip specific sessions and got a few nuggets to share as well.  Next year is going to be in Orlando at the Swan and Dolphin resort at Disney on January 20-23, 2013. ~Lou

SolidWorks 2013 Reveal at SWW12

SolidWorks World general session day 3 is typically the reveal of the next major release of SolidWorks products.  For the past 5 years or so, SolidWorks has presented this in a skit where the guys in product definition will show segments of the new features with some humor.

This year's skit was a parody of "Back to the Future" called "
Back to the Feature" where Marty, Doc, Bif and even a camio of Jon Hirschtick, the founder of SolidWorks.  They should have a video up soon and I will post more pics once that is out.

Here is a quick list of what was revealed in SolidWorks 2013: (listed in order of reveal)

Segment 1:

- Show Hidden Bodies in Parts (parts)

- Assembly Performance Offenders with assembly visualization (assemblies)

- eDrawings markup imports into Drawings (drawings)

- Quick section views (parts/assemblies)

- Revision cloud - a markup tool in Drawings (drawings)

 Segment 2:

- Snap shots in (like in LDR) in any file (parts/assemblies)

- Sub models for Simulation - chop out a focus area to reduce mesh model and is associative to full model (Simulation)

- Bounding box cut-lis creation (parts)

- Multiple camera (3DVIA Composer)

- Multiple camera location on the timeline (3DVIA Composer)

 Segment 3:

- Quick filter in File Open (parts/assemblies/drawings) 

- Envelopes can be any part or assembly and then toggle (parts/assemblies)

- Envelope parts can have phantom lines in drawings (drawings)

- Envelope parts are hidden in upper levels (assemblies)

- Insert multi components at once - Window or CTRL selection in open dialog then drops one, place, drops the next, place etc. (assemblies)

- Multiple explodes in each configuration (parts?/assemblies)

- New favorites folder - acts like Windows favorites (all)

- New mounting boss options and stored in favorites (parts)

- Toggle cosmetic threads or have the graphic threads (parts/assemblies in Options)

- Find common thread types - In interference detection (assemblies)

- Hole wizard has dowel holes 

- Insert dowel annotations in drawings

Segment 4:

- Surface intersect to remove and add - can do both operations cut and up to face (parts)

- Thin extrude supports multiple contours (parts)

- Equation entry everywhere - Even in the PropertyManager (all)

- Vary pattern instance dimensions - can adjust the dimension values per instance (parts)

Segment 5: 

- Collaborate with others  - hover over username tp chat, email call (EPDM)

- DraftSignt integration (EPDM)

- Copy/Paste from DraftSight to SolidWorks - copies into a sketch (parts/assemblies)

- 2012 SP 5 will support backwards compatibility - will open SW2013 but frozen (all)

- Backward compatibility with Configurations - SW2012 could "see" the body and configurations from the future version (all)

- Backwards compatibility supports updates - if changes are made in 2013, the referenced files in SW2012 SP5 will update any visible attributes to impact the geometry and visual effects. (all)

Although SolidWorks has uploaded a lot of videos, I am still waiting for the videos to come out. I will post an update of pics if they publish the video.  

Things we did not see:

Well mobile and SoildWorks V6 platform did not make their presence at any of the SWW12 general sessions and I hope they have plans to share that information soon so we can all get an idea of what that will be like.  Fielder Hiss, VP of Product Management came out and made sure to clear a bad rumor up:



SolidWorks 2013 looks good and some interesting cool features are coming that are additions to part and assembly modeling which I like to see.  I do believe that viewers and collaboration tools on mobile or the web are needed in the SolidWorks portfolio.  Time will tell. ~Lou

SWW12 - The Year for Mobile?

Will SolidWorks World 2012 be the year for mobile?  I hope so!  Last year SolidWorks released an iPhone app that was especially built for SWW 2011 giving users the ability to browse sessions and get valuable info about speakers, partners, maps etc of the event.  After 10 years of thumbing through the little conference booklet and trying to determine where I was going next, this app made navigating the conference simple.  Having a lot of detail, especially of the partner pavillion, allowed me to get more out of SWW than previous years.

The issue that many had voiced about the app was the fact it was oniy on iOS (iPhone) at the time. Considering Android is taking the market by storm, it only makes sense that if SolidWorks is to offer such a great tool that it be available on the lion's share of devices. This year they launched a 2012 version of the app but this time it is available on both iOS and Android and the iOS version is a universal app, giving iPad users full use of the screen real estate.

After navigating around in the app I find that browsing sessions is so easy, especially researching and signing up right from within the app. You can log in with your registration account and see what is is coming up next in your agenda and figure out how to get there.

Seeing the CAD market get more focused on mobile, I hope this year SolidWorks follows suit and offers more mobile options for access and viewing our SolidWorks data.  Expanding this simple conference app made me do some searching on the stores for other SolidWorks apps and I came across another one that was promised a year ago for n!Fuze.  I re-registerd my n!Fuze membership and applied to get another trial because I have not used it since the official/non-official launchin late summer.  The app is simple and crashes a lot, probalby due to some overhauling that I would imagine they have been performing over the past few months.  

If you do any extensive searches on the Android market or the iOS App Store you will find a number of 3rd parties for SolidWorks data viewing, many of which are free to download but come with a in-app purchase of $$$ to get the translators you would want to view SolidWorks data.  Another one was charging a monthly fee to be able to view Solidworks data.  The best idea to date was to use the new Inforbix app but that needs to be crawled by their bots to be usable with your data.  

So what do I want to see?  I want eDrawings on my devices, giving me native viewing of SolidWorks data on the go.  If I get an email with a SolidWorks/eDrawing attachment, I want to view that data on my device.  I would also like to have a way to view this data in a collaborative mannor with other parties, similar to what you can do with AutoCAD data on their AutoCAD WS platform.

Bottom line, users want access to that data from any device they have with them.  Currently I have talked for years about how to bend what tools we have available today but this is a bit limited.  SolidWorks will need to get some headway with apps starting in 2012 or the market will respond and users/3rd parties will begin filling the void with solutions.  SolidWorks World is a perfect platform to launch products and I hope this will be one of the offers.  Only time will tell!  Hope to see you at World! ~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

Enterprise PDM Convert Tree Tweak

Exports out of Enterprise PDM are a common requirement to ensure outside parties are supplied with up-to-date drawings and models for manufacturing and design reviews.  To address this requirement, EPDM added Tasks a few releases ago, allowing a network on connected machines running SolidWorks to perform these tasks easily.   SolidWorks provides the "SWTaskAddin" which enables the common tasks of Converting and Printing documents out of SolidWorks.

There is one major difference between these two tasks besides the fact that one converts files into another format and the other prints them; selecting references.  Baked into the Print task is an option to "Auto-select" files within the reference tree including:

- None

- All drawings

- Parts and sub-assemblies only

- All parts, sub-assemblies, and drawing.

This feature is not part of the Convert task and is commonly requested for creating an export package.  Since this is a current limitation of the SWTaskAddin the only real option was to use the API and build a new task addin that displays that similar reference prompt.  I recently started building this addin and realized how much duplication would be needed just to get this one option so I decided to fiddle first!

Since the SWTaskAddin stores the task settings in the database, it is easy to trick the task to run the UI of one and execute the other.  Here is how you can get the convert task to prompt for references without coding an addin. Before I show the steps there are a few assumptions you have to first understand.

1. The tweaked task cannot have user interactions so you must "Set-it and Forget-it".

2. The reference prompt shows some print options that need to be ignored.

3. I am unsure how resilient this will be to upgrade and or patches (although it should be fine).

Convert Task with References Workaround:

1. Create a conversion task and set all the options like type, location, options etc. (Make sure all options are set to NOT allow users to change since that is part of the Convert UI).

2. Under "Output File Details", click on "Advanced Scripting Options..." and COPY all the highlighted text.

3. Click "OK" to save the task.

4. Reopen the task go back to "Output File Details", click again on "Advanced Scripting Options..." and switch the "Task user interface type:" from "Convert" to "Print".  You will get a prompt to close and reopen the task to let the settings to be loaded.

5. Reopen that task and now go to "Files", click on "Advanced Scripting Options..." removed the highlighted text and PASTE in the script you copied from the task when it was in "Convert" UI.

6. Click "OK" to save the task.

By starting the task as a Convert, all the settings of the convert task are saved into the database after we hit OK. When we go back into the task and switch it to a Print task, all the settings are still stored in the database from the Convert but we have now told the task to show the Print UI.  Replacing the Print task advanced scripting with that of the Convert task allows the print task to execute, using the settings in the database and displaying the reference screen we want from the Print task.

Although I enjoy coding add-ins for this tool, avoiding a lot of duplicate work and staying within the bounds of an out-of-the-box install is always the goal.  Despite the limitations of interaction and the print related interface options, the tweak gets the job done. Enjoy! ~Lou

Backup Simplicity...

Last weekend I did a show on backing up your CAD data and the methodology of 3-2-1 backup.

I talked about my method of backup that I use for a number of our server since we have multiple sites and can build in some offsite storage.  I also expressed my distain for backup tools that create the "blob backup" file that requires an application to navigate the backup and restore a file.  Because of this, I use Robocopy, which is now built into Windows.

Over the past week I have received a few requests of a simple backup script to grab a folder and copy it to another location and make sure that the copy is a mirror of the source so I thought I would share.  To add the automatic component I simply use Windows Task Scheduler so I can "Set it and forget it...".

Robocopy Backup Script:

SET prefix="server_backup"
SET source_dir="C:\CAD Data"
SET log_filename=%prefix%.log
SET dest_dir="C:/backup"
SET options="/MIR /LOG:%log_filename%"
ROBOCOPY %source_dir% %dest_dir% %options%

 In Windows7 and Windows Server 2008, Robocopy is installed by default but you will need to install it in XP or Server 2003.  You can avoid creating a *.BAT file with the above script by simply using the Windows Task Scheduler by using the "Add arguments" area when creating an action to run.  Personally I like being able to edit the script in a text editor, especially if I decide to get creative and want to add a few areas to the script.

This script is simple, fast and I can browse the backups and they are a complete mirror of my original data.  If you have variants of similar methods, share them in the comments!  NOW GO BACKUP YOUR STUFF! ~Lou