First Impressions

no "in" or "out" of sketches

The first thing that you notice, speaking as a SolidWorks user,  when walking through the basic tutorial is the lack of a “sketch” environment. You just start sketching. You don’t have to pre-select or post-select a plane or a face, and start a sketch, you just sketch.  When we start talking about ordered sketches vs Synchronous sketches, the value of it will jump again, but for right now, 2 minutes into the first tutorial, Solid Edge has already made the 1 thing I do most easier than it is in SW.

And the second thing doesn’t take long to hit me either. The Command Bar. The Command Bar doesn’t take up a huge amount of space. It doesn’t cover over the FeatureManager (Pathfinder in SE) exactly when you need to select something from it. It’s just unobtrusive, easy to access, full of options. Maybe a little cryptic. SolidWorks PropertyManager is too cumbersome and verbose, and the Command Bar is maybe kind of sparse. This is the kind of thing that you’ve got to learn to get the value from it. If you don’t use it much, you will wind up relying on tooltips, which is fine, but it doesn’t play to its strengths. It condenses the interface, and makes it quick for experienced users, but it may be a little too sparse or cryptic for new users. Are there any options for display of tooltip data?

Solid Edge Command Bar doesn't take up a lot of space

 

 

 

I guess you’re only a noob for a short time, though, and after making a couple of parts, you understand that the items are: (Excuse the sloppy powerpoint capture here)

Not to pick this to pieces, but drop-down interfaces always require additional clicks. The advantage is that they are compact. Maybe there could be some additional options such as expanded by default, or auto-expand so that it would expand when you mouse over it. Or even an “icons with text” option. Each of those options has drawbacks. This thing is tiny compared to the mess that is the PropertyManager, it could afford a little extra bulk if that improved usability. What do you guys think?

Updated: April 3, 2012 — 9:28 pm

10 Comments

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  1. Good observations Matt, I agree 100% regarding the Command Bar. You do have the option of having it at the side (like SW) with text by the icons but for me it misses the point as everything is still accessed via a drop down which is maybe ok for infrequently used commands but becomes very tedious for those used a lot.

    The hole command is a good example of this behaviour. After you invoke the command you then have to click a drop down just to enter the the size plus another for hole type (it would even help if it remembered the last selection).
    I get the desire for a clean interface but I’d prefer some compromise to reduce wrist pain.
    Roger

  2. SE does have a vertical property manger that is more like the SW interface that is pretty efficient and easy for a noob to use. It can be docked on the side above the feature tree. Since I run win xp I don’t have the tree displayed in the model so I like to use the vertical mode.

  3. Hello Matt. Nice new space here ;)

    Yes I must admit I found the bar a bit fiddly and enigmatic when I tried out SE last year.

    One of the things I experienced as a newbie with SE is that often stuff you think is missing is actually around somewhere but its just not very obvious. If you rifle through the sock drawers -ribbons-  intent on doing something you are familiar with in SW you come across something you believed should be there but couldnt find.

    I’ll be following along here with your journey in anticpation of more tools arriving for ID people at some stage. SE still seems to be the most likely candidate to replace SW for me.

    I think you are sensible to expand your CAD horizons. Good luck with it. :D

     

  4. Matt, first of all, welcome to the SE community. Your topic on Command Bar is a good one. I think we actually call it “Quick Bar” these days, but it originated as “SmartStep” back in 1996. We really should have patented it — it came out of the idea that Window’s is a handy UI, but they had never dealt with multi-step commands like those required in CAD — except via a screen-hogging wizard. So we felt we needed to invent something that was concise, but wizard-like in it’s behavior. Thus SmartStep was born.

    We went through a period of temporary insanity with ST and ST2 a few years back when we went totally to the vertical pane format like SolidWorks. The rebellion from users was earthshaking! They LOVE their SmartStep ribbon bar and the space it provides for graphical interaction. We ended up going with “both” so that you can use either Vertical (ala SolidWorks) or Horizontal (Smart Step/Quickbar) format, which is the default.

    My belief is that SolidWorks users coming to Solid Edge may use the vertical format for comfort in transition, but once they use the concise QuickBar they will never go back — and will wonder how they got along without for so long!

  5. Roger,

    I have had the same thoughts before. I use the radial toolbar and then have to go to a pull down menu. Just for the heck of it today I went to the extrude command and counted at least 22 seperate commands related to it. Thinking about it I suppose radial menus after radial menus would be possible but it could sure get complicated quickly. Beyond a certain level I don’t think you can reduce clicks without reducing the power choices bring.

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  6. Hi Matt,

     

    I’ve seen some screen captures from fellow Solid Edge user, Bob Milleti, where he has constructed, or rather, reconstructed, almost the entire UI layout…creating his own new environment specific TAB[s] with individual command buttons layed out as needed, thereby eliminating drop downs. He does boast a 30″ monitor, and I don’t know the specifics of his (hopefully he chimes in on this) exact setup, but it seems like it should be a simple enough task to achieve, in the area that Carlos pointed out.

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