4 workflow roadblocks in SolidWorks

roadblockIn general over the last 15 years, the workflow of using theSolidWorks software has improved. The left click context toolbars, middle mouse button rotation and view manipulation, the interface remembering my last used settings, using Enter to repeat commands and the detachable PropertyManagers have been my favorite workflow related enhancements. These are the changes that do the most to allow me to plow through modeling tasks faster.

But when the workflow doesn’t work the way you expect it to, it’s just like running into a roadblock while driving. If you know that neighborhood well, you can find an alternative route (workaround) or detour. If you’re not familiar with the area, you may be lost. What is most annoying about  some of these bugs is that they are deficiencies to new functionality thatSolidWorks knows about but has not fixed yet. Two steps forward one step back.

Dual Monitor bugs

There are some crazy bugs that seem to show up only with dual monitors in the particular set up that I use. I have a 24″ widescreen on the left, and a 21″ normal aspect screen on the right. I use the screen on the right for my Windows desktop. You can only do this in Vista and Windows 7, I believe. In this configuration, when you use Alt in combination with scroll wheels on the Modify dialog (to divide the spin increment by 10), the cursor is sent all the way to the right hand side of the right hand monitor, regardless of where you are working. This is a silly bug, and has lasted now for a couple of versions. To me its inexcusable to allow stuff like this to hamper workflow. Fixing it is almost free. Users have identified it. Anyway. I’m sick of it. You want to help users by minimizing mouse travel? This would be the single most effective way to do it for this user.

There’s another very weird dual monitor bug where you can’t resize the S toolbar if you use dual monitors and Solidworks is on the second monitor. Thanks to Charles Culp on identifying that one for me.

Another one that seems to only affect dual screen users is that tooltips very often cover over parts of the interface that you want to use. (this one seems to be fixed as of SW10 sp1).

Windows-type functionality bugs

The first bug on Windows-type functionality implemented in SW10 is that when you click on a feature in the FeatureManager that is already selected, SolidWorks automatically kicks you into rename mode. That’s just too much of a good thing. Yes, I’m aware of the Windows functionality where if you slowly click something twice you get put into rename mode. That’s the way it should work, but in Solidworks, if you just click something that is already selected (technically a very slow double click where the second click can come at any time in the future as long as the item is still selected), but this isn’t that. Notice that if you’re using Windows 7 or Windows Vista, you can’t accidentally rename a folder in the left panel of the Windows Explorer window. So even Microsoft has seen a problem with accidentally getting into rename mode, and has done something to fix it. In Solidworks, say you select a feature in the tree, and then a minute later, you select it again (maybe to get the left-button context toolbar back). What happens is that the context toolbar flashes then immediately disappears as you are pushed into rename mode for that feature. There should be a time limit, say 1 second, for that second click to be considered a renamable event.

And then there are the ones that are software design bugs instead of implementation bugs. By that I mean when they did something intentionally, and it is wrong. When I first learnedSolidWorks, it was a selling point that SolidWorks followed Windows conventions. That paradigm, for better or worse, is crumbling. Maybe they have new developers or product managers who don’t remember or don’t value that goal. One case in which not following Microsoft is a good thing is in the Ribbon interface. Solidworks CommandManager is infinitely superior to the Ribbon. I know a lot of people don’t like the CM, but I do.

And then there’s the click-click vs click-drag sketching business. It used to be that SolidWorksstrove to make the two methods equivalent, but that idea has somehow ended. With the dimension input, it only seems to work with click-click. I believe this is a conceptual software design bug. Maybe the people who specified this only sketch with the click-click method and forgot that there was another way to do things. This is why SW needs someone internally to look at new functionality with a critical eye. I think that is lacking right now. Who checks concepts for completeness?

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