Solid DNA blog

Blog about stuff on Solid Edge CAD software

SEwST Interface

2008 was the year where CAD industry receives two major cultural shocks.

  1. Introduction of Solid Edge with Synchronous Technology
  2. Adoption of Microsoft philosophy surrounding Fluent interface with its Ribbon

Global Concept

Over the year, software have seen their functionalities explode, burying some fonctionality inside the classic drop-down/cascading menu.

Recently we saw the introduction of a 22/24/30 inch affordable monitor with higher resolution.

These push the classic drop/down/cascading menu to the edge. Software developers must find a way to express this exponential growth of functionalities.

When we look at a simplified map representation of the functionalities inside a CAD software.

Functionalitytree_thumb3

We can easly understand, that the software developpers  need to do something to help them better organize this spagetthi of commands.

With few steps back after years of usage, it is easy to say that having menus as the main interface approach was a lazy decision. So like any lazy decision we had to pay one day.

How do we represent those functionalities and keep a visual presentation interesting?

After a few years of research, Microsoft Fluent interface with the Ribbon was born.

This could bring back the competition between Apple and Microsoft for the most efficient interface.

Right under our nose we have some early concepts of the Ribbon.

Does the taskbar mean something to you?

Apple_thumb1

windowsxptaskbar_thumb1

Ribbon

If you’re one of  those people who always yell at new stuff,  the type of traditional person who thniks less is always better and why make more, why reinvent the wheel or one of my favorites if it’s not broke don’t touch it…..stop reading here.

If you’re the kind of people who likes to understand, explore and appropriate/master new concept …

To make it simple, if  you are part of the group that likes to learn new stuff, who likes to be proactive when facing challenges or new opportunities….. Continue reading.

What’s the logic behind this new ribbon?  How is the Ribbon organized? 

First I would like to show behind the screen shoot.  You will have an idea of  the SE windows (12801×720) I use relative to my screen size(22 inch – 1680×1050)..

I also increase DPI to have the text larger because I am not the only one using this PC :-).

Desktop_thumb1

Ribbon – Tab

Ribbon is divide in tab.  Those are the visual equivalent of the old menu.

Each tab represents a field of activity inside the environment you are working.

If you read one of my last articles  where I introduced the concept of human cognitive factors, you will see tab falling in this category.

Even if this could happen at the speed of light, when you think about drawing a line, your mind has previously switched into the sketch mode ready to anticipate your action. If you we could replicate the same path in our mind, I am pretty sure it will be similar to the tab.

The Same applies when it comes time to create surface. You think about extruding a line, but your brain has switch to surface, then extrude, then line. We could compare this to looking at a wheel and seeing the spokes going backwards.

There will always be a function that could fall in many activites. This will be seen in the next section about group.

Tab_home_thumb

Tab_Sketching_thumb 

Tab_surfacing_thumb

Tab_PMI_thumb

TAB_Inspect_thumb

Tab_tools_thumb

Tab_Views_thumb

Ribbon – Group

Each Tab is sub divided into groups (sub activities). Since we can reuse a group inside many activities, creating groups helps to keep the homogeneity among activities.

Groupeaccueuil_thumb1

Groups can have advanced options. These groups are identifyied by a flag in the bottom right corner.

Signet_thumb

Ribbon – Command/functionality

At the end we have command use to manipulate our design.

Function_thumb1

So for those of you who are nostalgic about the 90’s, when CAD was chosen based stricly on the number of clicks, remember those shot out some of the competitors where fan about, well now “90 %” of the time you are at two clicks of any command.

When looking for fewer clicks, simply hover the ribbon with the mouse and spin that wheel on the mouse. You may save one click.

Quick access toolbar

Quick access toolbar is located on the top left corner

QAT_thumb 

For this first release of SEwST, this is the only place where you can customize the layout.

This QAT retains the icon you placed on this toolbar per environment.

Black arrow on the side gives access to other options.

Check the command you want to show on the QAT.

 QATO_thumb2

Middle section allows more options:  

  • «More command» for keyboard shortcut. Those will be discussed further down.
  • Display QTA under the Ribbon at the bottom, SE will minimize the ribbon when not in use.

QAT – Group

  • To place a group on the QTA RMB on the group name
  • To remove RMB on the icon of the group in the QTA

QAT – Command

  • To add a command RMB on the command
  • To remove RMB on the icon in the QTA

Menu application

Application menu merge «File», «Tools – Options», along with some of «Edit» menu

Black arrow indicates a cascading menu

Application_thumb1Properties menu:

  •  File properties
  • Material
  • Property manager

Manage:

  •   Where use
  • Binder
  • Edit links

 

«Solid Edge Options» located at the bottom.

SEoption_thumb

General options are always available. Specific environment options are available only when a specific environment is launched.

Menu application – Solid Edge options

Once the option window is open «User profile» allows you to select the modeling type you would like available.

userprofile_thumb

Helpers section allows you to set other general options.

Helpers_thumb

Panels

Solid Edge panels helps users interact with the software.

One of the most important panels of SE the «Ribbon bar» has been redesigned to fit the new vertical approach.

The new interface paradigm integrated the concept of Docking/floating/auto hide. Even if this was present in older versions or in other software this wasn’t  an explicit functionality.

My belief is this could reflects the switch to a more SharePoint oriented programation. Who knows panels may become a web part…. 

Panel – Docking/Floating

If you click and drag the title bar of a panel,

Titlebar_thumb

you will be able to place panels anywhere on the screen or even on a second monitor.

As you drag the panel around, blue indicators guide you to drop panel.

Blue_01_thumb2 Blue_02_thumb2

  • Arrow tells you that the panel will be docked on one of the four sides.
  • Center of the blue indicator indicates that the panel can be tab.
  • To make it float, just place it anywhere else.

You can even dock it outside Solid Edge windows, this is really interesting if you have 16:9 or 16:10 format (panoramic). In my mind this is a clear commitment from the editor towards the future. It also opens the door to speculations about multiple screen support in the future.

Ok I may be a little enthusiastic, but seeing how much customers have requested multiple monitor support, this is a start.

outsidepanel_thumb1

 Panel – Auto hide

Rolluppanel_thumb1Once the panel is in position, use the pin in the title bar to activate the auto hide feature.

  • If panel is placed floating, it will roll out under the title.
  • If docked on the side, it will roll out to that side showing tab.

 

Panel – Maximize/minimize

If a panel is place on top of another one, two more symbols will be available on the side of the pin.

controlevoltt_thumb

  • The small «square» or the two «overlap square» allow users to maximize or minimize the panel.
  • «X» allows you to close the panel when it is places as a tab.

If the panel is closed by error, use the black arrow to focus the software on it (open).

Panel – Prompt

PromptBar_thumb

Like its name, users are invited to look at it. Existing users of Se will probably dock it at the top, where it was located prior ST.

PomptBar broadcasts information about the task needed to be done in order to complete the function. Existing users will probably use the auto hide.

If panel is docked on the side, text might not have enough room. Use « A A» to resize the text.

Panel – Status Bar

Status panel will be the last stop to this interface tour.

It contains search sections to help users from another platform migrate to SE.

Commandefinder_thumb

Simply enter the command name you are used to working with, command finder will bring the result box showing the equivalent in SE. Editor has done its best, but seeing the vast amount of softwares and how fast things go, it might happen that some terms are not listed. Simply send a note, and I will forward this to the editor.

Visualization tools

Visualizationtool_thumb

Command needs to look at the part, if need more simply RMB and activate command thru the contextual menu.

Zoom level

Zoom_thumb

What can we tell for this one…. slide and the zoom level will increase or decrease 🙂

QuickBar

In Sychronous modeling, the floating quick access toolbar propose action to the user.

Keyboard short cut

the predefined keyboard shortcut allows users to use the keyboard right out of the box.

By pressing the ALT key you enter into the keyboard mode.

Keyboart_thumb1

Visualization tools

Some studies have shown that using both hands makes you save up to 20 percent.

Solid Edge is already configured to help you reach that gain.

When the left thumb is extended towards the exterior, the left hand forms an L shape. This shape blends with the bottom left corner of the keyboard.

The Index and middle finger fall on top of the ESC and TAB.

Visualization tools work on top of any command and are accessible at anytime, in the process making them transparent to other features.

  • HIFT + RMB access at anytime 3D rotation
  • CTRL + RMB access the dynamic zoom with the focus on mouse click
  • SHIFT + CTRL + RMB access the pan
  • ALT + RMB click will fit the design in the working area
  • ALT + RMB drag will create the zoom windows
  • ALT + F5 brings back the last point of view.

Those last two are more common among CAD software.

  • Rotate command acts like any 3D device
  • Look at face brings face parallel to the screen.

Conclusion

Instead of trying to copy Microsoft fluent interface and its Ribbon, Siemens PLM Software decided to license it. Those who copied it may not have understood the philosophy behind it.  This is typical of those who propose a destination and not the travel.

For those who complain about using a Word interface to do CAD, remember that we have used the Office menu for the last 10 years+.

Future development of the software promises to have more features. This interface allow  a higher feature density  per pixel without  making the interface unreadable.

Synchronous concept will also help lower those functionalities and make some of the work more fluid.

Is there a place for enhancement? Yes.

  • An icon mode only for advance users,
  • Redefine the default keyboard shortcut
  • The creation of a travel profile that we could bring with us
  • some cannot be discussed in the blog, we need to keep some secrets 🙂
  • etc…

What I am afraid of when we talk about customization, and I have lived it many times while training or making technical support, are those people who customize the interface to a point where they hide features/options. They place themselves self in a situation where they neglect other features, making them less efficient in order to design more quickly.

The new interface offers a wide range of tools/features to help users be efficient in their day to day work out of the box.  The learning curve when we take time to understand the logic  is very short.

This reinforces that training is essential. At least you tooke time to read me up until here, I  thank you for giving me this time.

Interface Video

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