SWX Documentation-Matt Lombard Nails It

For those of you who do not read Matt Lombard's blog
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his latest entry covers a topic that has
upset me for years, the lack of documentation on the software that we
use. Our site has been using SWX since '97 and in that time we have
seen the quality of the documentation steadily decrease from a
complete manual to this last release, which came with a small pamphlet
and a pad of paper. We have 15 seats of SWX plus a few seats of Cosmos
so our yearly maintenance fee is quite considerable. Would it kill SWX
to at least create a .PDF file that would explain how to use SWX and
maybe some direction as to how to get the most out the software? Every
time I go to SWX World I ask for the same things when I fill out the
questionnaires (less bugs and a complete set of documentation) but
nobody seems to care. I do not need a new interface I just want to use
what is already there. I hope Matt does not mind me including an
excerpt from his blog but what he says needs to get out and hopefully
if enough people talk to their VAR's or anyone else that will listen
maybe the message will get back to SWX headquarters.
A quote from Matt's blog dated June 27th
"Selling productivity would mean that SW comes with a complete set of
documentation. I don't care at this point if it is printed or
electronic, I just want the information in whatever format I can get
it. Holding back information - essentially holding information hostage
- in practical terms means that SW users everywhere are frustrated
with the tool because they don't know that the power to do ______
already lies within the grasp of their mouse. There should be no
"hidden functionality". This is not some video game where a sense of
wonder at finding a secret room is reward enough, we are talking about
people's livelihoods here. Full disclosure. I bought something. What
is it that I bought? Oh, I have to figure it out for myself what I
bought? I have to in essence reverse engineer the software to figure
out how to work with it?
Paying customers are entitled to full documentation. "
Until SWX does come out with a user manual I recommend buying The
Solidworks Bible from Matt. A book like this shows how ineffective the
help files from SWX are.
Buddy Jim
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Buddy Jim
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Amen, nothing like searching the help file for a known command name and have it return nothing, at the minimum command names and their function should be included in Help files.
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Or even worse it be there but be incorrect...oh wait a minute maybe that's why it's so sparce!
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Let me see if I have got this straight.
If I had a full set of documentation then I wouldn't need to pay the yearly extortionate fees for tech support.
Getting the idea yet....?
Due to cutbacks the light at the end of the tunnel has been switched off!
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Reply to
Phil Evans
The knowledgebase used to be pretty good, but it isn't what it used to be.
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I do not usually read or write blogs, but this one nails it...
I need to respond. - This is important to even more than SWX users!
I wish to have tools at my disposal (CAD software SWX and an Operating System) that have little or no frills - I do not need or want that (Vista for example), I want it to work quickly and I want to use it - period. Unless I am showing or demo the software to someone I could care less about the "visual appeal" I just want it to work. I have had clients come to the office and "sit in" on a session of SWX designing their products and on quite a few occasions SWX will crash. At that point do you actually think the client is more worried about the look or the function? I use those times to try and explain to my client why I have to take more hours to do a job, because of software "mishaps", and it is hard to convince some clients - is there a telephone number or a "client justification letter" that I can give my client to talk directly with SWX and have them explain these software issues (or bugs)? They do not happen a lot, but they do happen, and often when the software is taxed with large files being open, or complex mating of parts, etc.
I also want a manual (or the ability to look at one) on how to use what I just bought. When I purchase parts for the products I design for example, I like to see them arrive with all the pieces-parts labeled and in little bags - i.e. organized. It saves me time when I or another worker goes to assemble them. It is efficient to have documentation to allow me to use what I just bought - I may for example know about an optical encoder for example, but not the details of the companies version I just bought or its precise mounting method - I know it fits, but not how to precisely mount it. I would stop buying from that vender if I then had to go to a class and buy information on how to install the device - it is not efficient. Is the information that secret for SWX not to let us see it - no it is not. It just makes a few more dollars, and the price of that extra material is balanced on what we are willing to pay for it and how badly we need it. I.e. SWX gives us 80 percent of the puzzle, and asks us to get training and manuals for the other 20 percent... I do not need the documentation often, SWX is very user friendly, but at 10PM if I am having a problem and am on a deadline I really want to get at a manual ASAP. I have all of the 2006 Manuals from SWX, and use them on occasion. They are references - like the machinist hand book(s).
How about including online access to the SWX Training Manuals with a valid Subscription Service? That makes the $2000.00 a year for each premium seat a little more palatable, at least for me.
Look and Feel...
Eye candy is useless to me especially when I am on a deadline for a customer, making a sheet metal box or machined part that needs to get done ASAP - all the fancy software crap gets in my way and wastes time. Even when I am not on a dead line, the eye candy is just a toy. But when the software has substance, that is when it has value to the customer. I.e. a beautiful woman is great, but if she is all show and no go - what is she worth. Look for brains too, the looks come second - but then again every one knows that. We as humans understand that at a primal level. We seek out physical attraction but if there is nothing else we move on. Think about it... Companies put on bright red lipstick so they get noticed - sales increase. Glitz and Eye Candy only get you so far - at least in engineering! Can you imagine Paris Hilton's version of CAD software!!!
My company excels at designing products of a utilitarian nature - i.e. it works well and looks and feels like it works too - said another way form follows function. In contrast, Windows over the years has going the other way - function following form. If SWX is going down this path... it is the wrong path, very wrong. If an interface makes fewer mouse clicks then good, but if that interferes with or makes other features of the software cumbersome then it might not be the best solution.
I believe that one of the main reasons AutoCAD has been such a successful program (even in the different flavors, MDT, regular, LT, etc) is that the user interface has basically remained the same - no skins, user can make or change menu items for his or her needs for example. Simple and to the point, anything more in my opinion is unnecessary. It is great to have a look for "brand recognition" it makes good business, but not when it interferes with the product itself.
It is great to have something cool, or cool looking, but if it does not work, it is useless - it is that simple. I use Win XP Pro with no fading, shadows, effects, etc. because it works better and it saves me time. We all have less time than ever before, regardless of the studies. My former employer would jump at the opportunity to get more work done - wouldn't you if it meant more money? The moral, do your work efficiently, and you will get more work, the company will be successful, and everybody wins. I think America is loosing this concept in a big way... look around - do things in the world seem any better than when we were young? We have cool stuff, but the problems are still there. Another generation (or service pack!) wasted, and yet the real problems were never solved - things look cooler... but all in all, what a waste of time.
THE SAME GOES FOR any add-in manufacturer (3D Connection, adobe, Microsoft) - make sure your software WORKS first- only then should you worry about cool and looking good.
Back to work... Happy Designing!
P.S. Watch "John Ratzenberger's: Made in America" it helps paint a picture of where we as a nation have been, and where we are headed. A great show for all ages! The show features a few companies in each program - I personally love to see building and manufacturing. Nice to see the manufacturing we still have in the US, and sad to learn of the demise of so many others, and the jobs that go away to foreign lands. I sure hope we as a nation do not get dependent on any other country to survive as a country and protect and serve our own.
Reply to
Aron (bacsdesign.com)
Thanks, Buddy.
SolidWorks has been cutting the wrong corners (documentation) for too long, and what finally sent me over the edge on this issue is the 2008 software. There is a lot of good stuff in there. I need to be fair in this respect, because I think for assemblies and sketching there are some really excellent improvements. But there is also a LOT of fluff (pretty images), and frankly some of what I personally think are really bad ideas being passed off as good ideas (again mostly in the interface). To me, this reflects decision making that is out of step with my priorities, and I would guess also the priorities of many existing users.
Fewer options, lame documentation, and a negative effect on interface usability and speed is what 08 is all about.
I don't want to start a flame war here, but we should be talking rationally about concrete reasons *why* some of the changes are so bad. Specifically *what* areas of the help are the lamest?
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But with an electronic .pdf or .chm, it can be updated, corrected, added to easliy. Just think how long it took Matt to write the first version of his book, to publishing it, and making sure everything is correct. I'm sure he used an electronic version before going to print.
Searching an electronic version is way faster, and provides more links to other topics. I used to like hard copy books, still have their place, but in SW, to carry around Matt's bible is not feasible, or just have one copy sitting on a shelf somewhere, or on someone else's desk.
I do agree that the documentaion should be more elabroate, maybe that's where SW should hand it over to people like Matt, to write the electronic version to be included with SW. I wish they would put the effort into expanding the Help in SW with the savings not going to hardcopy.
The good thing about a book is they are hard to copy. But an ebook can be bought/sold on ebay, emailed, etc. That's bad for Matt.
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My 2 Rants Of The Day are inadequate search methods in digital manuals and help.
Searching only words it is still sometimes difficult to find what I am looking for.
It would be nice to place limits by searching only the chapter you need like "Surfaces" or "Loft", so you get rid of all the other garbage results.
The human mind is set to recognize visual patterns. SolidWorks' Help file list of Help Results search shows "Title" but has virtually NO VISUAL CLUES. Even Acrobat pdf files have thumbnails of pages, and those are often the clue needed to get to one of 15 or 50 pages I need.
Ideally, the thumnail goes half or full size if I were to put my cursor on the thumbnail for even faster searches.
Meanwhile, you can imagine why I still work happily mostly on SWks 2006 because I have so few slowdowns, and limited amount of learning I must do to keep doing work.
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If SolidWorks wants to really let the help file be usable particularly in larger groups, then allow the user to put in new content or corrections or warnings in the Help file.
Computers are supposed to do what WE WANT, for our benefit, not the other way around.
Have some companies forgotten that?
Has Apple's capitalization exceeded Dell's recently because Apple HAS NOT forgotten the user?
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At least the licence would be free for the homeless.!!!!!!
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I keep hoping that someone who owns a kernel will do a knockoff of SWX, et al, and bundle it with Linux, OSX, whatever. I'm thinking CAD people would jump onto it in droves. Maybe the CAD software itself could go open source to some extent? You'd think with all the outsourcing, much of the software is available and pretty much ready to go.
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bill allemann
They must be a wee bit upset about this 'press' at HQ I think we can say this is probably the last advanced review Matt will do for SW ;o)
Seriously though The realview graphics stuff is ok in my book just a release or 2 too early - nice to have but not something to rush out and buy a new top line card for... and I think reflections are a bit over the top but the shadows definitely are nice..yeah so cheaper cards in another generation and everyone will be happy enough to have it and not think too much of it...doesnt mean everyone has to use it though..posssibly it interests ID people more The question is: Should it have been hung out front as a big feature of 08? and I think this is where they messed up. Really they should be advertising new sketch tools or whatever as being of the most interest to users. Along with the conspicuous and controversial UI changes it just reinforces views that things are going off road at SW
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part 2
The manual isn't that hot on completeness but its format/style is ok The reluctance to include how to use it stuff and surfacing explanations is really not good enough though. In my mind this is all to do with looking after VARS or at least looking after them in the way the business model functions up to now. I think we will see a redefinition of what VARS do , how many there are locations etc and a pull back from this situation in the near future. In some ways this reminds me of the situation we had here in NZ where just about every suburb had a Post Office. Its an old way of functioning especially in the days of the internet.
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"Buddy Jim" a écrit dans le message de news:
And you guys have it written in your native language. Imagine translation of such a technical stuff is not all that easy, and we got "pearls" here of error messages that mean the opposite of the intended. (knock your head on the wall 'till you find that one out) Even if the overall job is not that bad.
Reply to
Jean Marc
Hello Everyone,
I just wanted to say that what Aron and Matt have put so well into their comments hits the nail on the head. Solidworks is loosing focus of what engineers really do and how they earn their money to pay for software and subscription. One can only hope that more people read these comments and look beyond grafic gimmic and demand proper functionality.
P.S. If it was not for people here in this group, people like Matt, Ed, Stefan I would only know 10% of what I know now. Thanks to all of you.
Note to Solidworks, sit back for a moment and think about the complete picture. Modeling 3D, pretty pictures etc is only the first couple steps in designing, you are missing the importance of drawings and reliability.
By the way, lets give the programers a heads up too, you guys do good stuff, you just want to do too much in too little time. Take a step back and into the right direction, quality will always trum pretty colours.
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I'm not so sure it is gimmick. Firstly graphics and graphic cards capabilities if an area of ongoing development just like perpendicular recording to disks or parallel processing ( anyone seen the review of the Intel V8?). The realview stuff now in SW is just keeping up with the times...no need to be worried about that..some day we will have real time raytraced models on the screen...and renderers as we know them will disappear. If you saw my recent post with a video of accessing a large data set of images you might realise that in the future how you interface with assemblies and drawings might change quite a bit. Is CAD a static tool or an evolving one? ...sliderules anyone? will 'drawings' still be important in the future?
In the matter of the appearance its a matter of product distinction I think. I complained as far back as SW2004 eDrawings that the icon style was the wrong way to go but no one was listening then...so now we have something that people dont particularly like and has the wrong emphasis. Well ok they made a wrong call and committed a lot of resource to it and now we have it even if we didnt want it Is there a better alternative to the command manager if they wanted to change for productivity? dunno..maybe not maybe there is but it can only come if other bits are in place first.
Reliability is really just a matter of management willing to commit resource to it - not much sign of change in that area..all sorts of beliefs and cultural factors in there...maybe an earthquake in awareness could happen some day..hers hoping :o)
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OK, then I think that with all the fancy graphics stuff, that the user ought to have a menu slider or whatever device is good, and if the user needs more speed, he slides it towards the word "Performance" or if he needs graphic sophistication, the user slides it toward "Hi-Res" or similar.
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Hello Neils,
Please show me where this resource intensive graphic display helps speed up projects. Maybe in the future resource hogs are no issue, at the moment it just slows you down. What good is it if doesn't help. If they need it for marketing & research reason, than I agree with Bo, give me the option to turn it off.
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AFAIK you can still turn realview off in 08 (or now the aspects you dont want) as you can in 07. I imagine it will stay that way in the future I admit for a whole lot of folks out there they just have no interest in this stuff or cant envisage how it might help them. Indeed unless I was in the R&D department trying some of these ideas I dont think I could actually concretise the benefits until I finished experimenting. Will pulling up a drawing and specs and any other notes/sketches in full detail in seconds and in relation to any other part as you traverse and rotate an assembly have benefits? dunno? will it be just a useless reskin of explorer and design binder we dont need? The challenge is to keep looking at the smart ideas out there and bring them into CAD for its benefit. You could argue that SW have failed in that crutial screening process so far. For instance although MS did a lot of research on their ribbon toolbars etc is that a good soln for CAD? or because we can make a real nice pretty icon is that appropriate for CAD..is perhaps it symbols people work with and not images... Same for realview - clearly if you can set up realview properly then linking to PW means no set up of materials etc. That would save time. You can alter your scene in real time and get a very good idea of how it will look actually rendered. If you could record from the window it might make very nice presentations without rendering animations - time saver. If you are in ID being able to pull on some point and immediately get feedback as to how it looks in a real environment might be nice.Should everyone use it then? no obviously a lot of folks dont need to. Most likely there are users out there who never touch sheetmetal tools and yet others do just about only that. Computers are going parallel SW is mostly set up for single processor. At the moment your graphics card is under utilised. There is a lot of parallel processing power in there. Its hard to say how it all might look in 10 years There are possibilities of realtime physics solving as well using a seperate card on the new PCI implementation after PCIe2... some work already done in this area was seen at SWW I think...
anyway there are a few quick thoughts people who only want to deal with electronic versions of a drawing board are going to struggle in to the future IMO ( and yes you are talking to someone who used ink pens and compasses..)
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