Being self taught kind of sucks. I know. I was self taught in SolidWorks. I worked at a company that bought the software, had me scheduled for training, and then at the last minute, cancelled the training. So I still had to deliver a project, I just didn’t know the software I was supposed to do it on. I taught myself using the help files and by filing bug reports.
Thankfully, Solid Edge ST4 is well ahead of where SolidWorks 97 was in terms of power and documentation. I got away with being self taught 15 years ago, but I don’t think you could do that now with any CAD tool. There is too much to learn now to teach yourself by fumbling through the software. The penalty for missing some valuable piece of information is just too great.
Fortunately, Solid Edge has a number of nice training aids that organize the information you need to know in order to run the software efficiently. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
On the Solid Edge Start Up screen you see when SE has finished opening, you see the options shown up above.
The Part Modeling link sends you to a pretty basic tutorial that introduces sketching, dimensions, and simple features. The point isn’t making the part, which is pretty uninteresting, the point is to get your feet wet in the Solid Edge workflow. The specific tools are less important than the overall workflow.
Going through this tutorial you learn about the interface, a little about the differences between Synchronous and Ordered workflows, and some of the ways you can use the concept of Regions, even with open loop sketches, which SW users will see as a bit of a time saver. (Similar tools exist in SW, they are just not as easy to use).
This kind of step-by-step tutorial is something that beginners really need. If there is a criticism here, I do find the pace of this tutorial, even for a beginner, a bit slow. If I were rewriting the tutorial, I would write it in two levels – a fast track that just shows you the steps needed to get to the end point, and a deeper track, that includes a lot of the explanation included in this tutorial. For more advanced topics, I might even include an expert deep dive which might for example include a topic like BREP manipulation, which will be important in Synchronous mode.
It’s hard writing tutorials for mixed audiences – rank beginners and more advanced CAD switchers. Beginners really need to see the same information several times, adding a layer of info at every pass. You can’t give them the full depth in just one shot. None of it will sink in. Paint it on in thinner layers. Repetition of simple concepts adding something each time.
The next heading is Solid Edge Learning Tools, which sends you back through the part and assembly tutorials.
The Self-paced training courses include powerpoint and pdf documents meant to be used by an instructor with a class. They include the Solid Edge files to be used during the exercise. There are a couple dozen of these covering topics from sketching to rendering. These look quite useful, and have more in-depth information than the beginner tutorials.
The Solid Edge help appears to be more useful than the SW variety has been. In particular, the functionality of the Solid Edge Command Finder, at the bottom of the screen has been copied by SW in the 2012 release, but I can tell you that the copy was poorly done and did not capture some of the best aspects of the Solid Edge implementation. Solid Edge Command Finder not only lists the results of the command search, but also highlights the locations of the item in the interface. This is a nice touch. Check out this little movie to show this function, which a static screen capture could not do justice. In the movie, a SW refugee is looking for the equivalent for Tools>Options.
There are additional Help topics if you click on the Help icon. This includes stuff for AutoCAD users and for Solid Edge programming. There is also a list of sources for where to get Solid Edge tech support. This is a nice list to have available right up front in the Help documentation. I haven’t been through each of these in detail, so maybe someone who has used these could comment on how useful you found the various links.
I can’t comment on the Solid Edge forums because I don’t have access. Maybe one day they’ll give me a read-only account. I’d be quite satisfied with that for the time being. I can see in the statistics for this blog that (after the Dezignstuff blog) the Solid Edge forum is the second largest referrer of traffic. So there is some activity in the Solid Edge forum. In fact, the very first public mention of On The Edge came from the Solid Edge forum. I’m a big fan of forums in general as a way to share information and meet people.
So overall, there are several places right within the installed software where you can find help at various levels. On the forum I’d be willing to bet that you could find expert help on just about any SE topic you could think of.