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SolidWorks Catches Mobile Fever! eDrawings Pro for iPad

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This morning, DS Solidworks released its fourth new mobile app of the year. In the last 8 months, they’ve released n!Fuze, the wildly successful SolidWorks World 2012 app, and an entry-level version of eDrawings.  After that initial release of eDrawings, there was plenty of excitement, but also lots of room for improvement, and the community didn’t hold back.

“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.”

“…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. “

“Personally I would like to see more focus on the features that made eDrawings my de-facto tool for communication by adding markup and measure capabilities. There are a number of things that are missing from the iPad.”

Within 4 months, SolidWorks delivered. Today, eDrawings Pro for iPad was released, and has many of the features that the community has been asking for, including measure, markup, and section view. I could gripe about the fact that they’ve saved the best features for the more expensive version, but honestly it’s just good business.  

I was able to test the three major enhancements of eDrawings Pro:

Measure

To measure, you drag a cursor to the appropriate spot, and tap it to select a point, edge, or face. The mouse-like interface is useful for selecting small details of complex models, but not exactly intuitive on a multi-touch device. Luckily, the help section is easily accessable and explains everything well. Filtering is completely intuitive, since the filter toolbar appears whenever measuring. There even appears to be a distinct filter for holes, but it was consistently greyed out for me (even when viewing parts with holes). This is also the feature that caused the most crashes. Although the iTunes description promises increased speed and stability, my ancient iPad 1 crashed constantly.

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Markup

I was pleasantly surprised with the wide functionality of markup. It’s so much more than adding standard text, but even that part is well done. You can type text and enclose it in a box, ellipse, or cloud, and edit the text by double-tapping. You can add multiple leaders to a note, and the drag points of the leaders are a good distance from the arrowheads, so you can actually see where you’re dragging them. A nice little feature that could have easily been overlooked. What I’d like to see next is automatic text wrapping for long comments, based on the current field of view.

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You can also add markups using multi-touch. Using your finger, you can draw out your suggestions and revisions. However, this feature isn’t yet sensitive enough for writing out text, even with a stylus. It came out jagged, like it was only capturing input a few times a second. You can even choose your markup color using RGB values from the settings menu.

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The next markup tool is a dimension marker, which works in much the same way as the measure tool. However, there seems to be a couple big issues. Since markups have to be in one distinct view, you can’t rotate the model one you start this command. This makes it difficult to measure from the front to back of a part. Also, there is no filter toolbar for this command, even though it’s so similar to the measure tool.

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The next two markup tools are my favorites. eDrawings Pro allows you to insert pictures directly into the file you’re viewing, either from your photo library, or using the camera on late-model iPads. So if you find inspiration for your design while looking at funny cat pictures on your iPad you can just save it to your library and insert it into your model. Or, if you drew a napkin sketch during lunch (while also looking at lolcats), just take a picture with your iPad camera and put that in the model.

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Finally, you can delete any of your own markups by tapping the trashcan symbol, and then the markup.

Section View

Section view, while trapped on the three orthogonal axes, still has a moderate number of features. You can choose the section direction, show the cutting plane, and show or hide the endcap, and drag the section location using either a slider in the control panel, or the section plane in the graphics view (section plane must be shown for this). What it’s missing is a colored section cap, and the ability to adjust the angle of the plane.

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So there you have it, SolidWorks’ next big step in mobile computing. Does this downpour of mobile apps mean that something bigger is over the horizon? Only time will tell. Until then, if you want to get your hands on eDrawings Pro for iPad, it’s only $4.99 on the App Store for the next 90 30 days, before reaching its regular price of $9.99.

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