Made in Boston

eDrawings for iPad: The Difference 3 Months Can Make

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As most of you probably already know, SolidWorks has finally released a mobile eDrawings Viewer. It came hot on the heels of the widely disappointing mobile n!Fuze app, and many would agree it’s been a long time coming. But those people would also agree that it’s better late than never.  It’s ironic, though, that SolidWorks’ tagline for this product is “You asked. We answered.”  We all hope that this is SolidWorks’ first foray into a true mobile CAD platform.

Get it on the App Store ($1.99)

I was actually lucky enough to get to alpha-test the app during a Product Dev session at SolidWorks World 2012. And believe me, a lot has changed. First, and most obviously, every other action made the thing crash, and from what I can tell, that doesn’t seem to be a problem anymore. (My copy seems to have trouble dealing with files larger than about 4 MB, but I think that says more about my iPad 1 than the app itself. Moving on.)  Secondly, the layout is completely different, and much cleaner. In the original version, several buttons performed the exact same command, and the labeling was much poorer.  Now each button has a unique function, and a symbol that follows either the SolidWorks or Apple standard.  One tweak that I especially like is the Home button. It used to return the model to an isometric view, but now returns it to whichever view the model was in when it was imported.  It also wasn’t possible to hide the upper bar (CommandManager?) and side window (Task Pane?), and the UI felt much more cramped. 

A problem that has plagued eDrawings since I can remember is still present: Edited appearances are not carried over (such as brushed aluminum with a color added in, as below) 

SolidWorks Original: 

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eDrawings for iPad:

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Finally, the most important change is the ability to import models into the app.  When I was testing the early version in January, it was hinted that the ONLY way to get models into the mobile viewer would be to go through n!Fuze. I stopped the testers right there and asked what they were smoking and where I could get some.  I would LOVE to be that far removed from reality for a day.  Thankfully, that’s not the case, as the app allows iOS to recognize SolidWorks, eDrawings, and AutoCAD files, and they can be opened from any app that hosts them, such as Mail, Dropbox, Evernote, etc. Even models embedded in Powerpoint can be opened.

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Overall, the app could prove to be very useful. The motion is smooth and the UI is easy to use – especially with the addition of a short help section – and  overall the app looks very professional. I have a feeling that the app will continue to grow over the next few months and years, as SolidWorks realizes that it’s users need more mobile functionality. A few consistent gripes among the rest of the SolidWorks community are the lack of markup, measure, section, and other basic review tools.  SolidWorks needs to realize that the goal of any mobile app, however unattainable, is to replace a computer completely, and if some brave engineer is going to bring only his iPad to a design review halfway across the country, he’ll need more than rotate and explode. 

Keep up the good work!

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