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@%#&! Autodesk Vault just overwrote my file

Recover Overwritten Vault CAD FilesIf you’ve used Autodesk Vault at any time, then its highly likely you have downloaded a file you already have checked out and overwrote a chunk of your work. Unfortunately that’s just one of several scenarios, which can result in you losing your work. The real trick to preventing this of course, is to check your work into Vault every couple of hours (similar to continually saving within your CAD application). Nevertheless, there could be a number of reasons why checking in your work continuously isn’t feasible. I often hear the comment “I wish Vault had a recycle bin”, I’ve even murmured those words myself and you know what it’s a reasonable request. Why can’t Vault create an old version of the files it’s overwriting? Although its likely possible, it could get mighty confusing.

Just over a year ago, one of my staff downloaded a skeletal / master model from Vault while trying to work around a problem he had, the problem was he already had it checked out, but worse he hadn’t checked in the file for a couple of days. He had created components, built a main assembly and even produced a drawing. Needless to say overwriting his skeletal model with what was essentially a template file, was highly undesirable. Don’t judge him though, he’s new to this Autodesk Inventor / Vault game, all while dealing with a temperamental VPN connection & a new replicated Vault, so he’s been doing a grand job. All of my staff and myself have all made this mistake once or twice.

Autodesk Vault Inventor Project File Old Versions Setting

In the past the Inventor Old Versions folder has been our first port of call, depending on how your Inventor Project File is setup, these folders can be a gold mine during these arse puckering moments. The project file setting I am referring to is shown in the image above, I like to set Old Versions To Keep On Save to equal 5 on all Vault project files. Of course, this tactic is of no use to AutoCAD users, but it does have some of it’s own backup treasures which may or may not be useful within any given situation.

This time however, I’m glad he made the mistake, because it prompted me to ponder if some of the new Windows Explorer features in Windows 7 on wards would help out here. The particular feature which inspired me to Google for a solution, was the undo tool. In Windows 7 or 8 if you delete a file in a folder, then press Ctrl + Z, it will undo the delete command and restore the file. In this case the file had been overwritten by an application and not as a result of the user interacting directly with the folder. So I took a punt and searched for:

“Recovering an overwritten file”

The first search return took me to this site. Method 3 of 4 was a particular surprise, I couldn’t believe it, I’d seen this tab in the Windows 7 Property menu before but I’d never realized it’s impact. The command worked perfectly, the 2 days of lost work was returned thanks to this hidden gem. You can even open or copy the previous version to a different location if you aren’t confident it’s the right way to go. Be warned though, this isn’t a fail safe, but this is always worth a check in this situation. The best part though? This is handy for all Windows users, not just Vault users.

Windows 7 Restore Previous Version Tab

Then I went and took a look at Windows 8 to make sure this behaviour still existed, it turns out it doesn’t and this article explains why. Thankfully Microsoft just improved it out right, the only catch is you have to enable it and point it to a non system drive. Take a look at this well written article explaining how to do that. Another bit of good news is Windows 10 has maintained the same system as Windows 8, so we are looking good into the future. If you are the owner of your Autodesk software, then you could re-purpose your Autodesk USB installation media, to leverage this native Windows benefit.

These tools for Windows 7 & 8 are cracking little gems, lurking in the background, rarely used but invaluable all the same just waiting for the opportunity to shine and save your butt. The best part is they can be used on any file stored on your hard drive and not just those your use for CAD. Check them out and if you need to, enable it. With respect to the title of this post, I haven’t really shown you how to prevent it happening in the first place, I will do this in an upcoming post covering dialog and prompt suppression within Vault and it’s application add-ins.

Will Autodesk Inventor Install on Windows 10?

Following on from my videos investigating the installation of AutoCAD and Revit on Windows 10. I finally got around to knocking together a quick video covering the installation of Autodesk’s Inventor and Vault Basic applications. The installation was carried out on a bare installation of Windows 10 Technical Preview, with all the available updates applied. I also made sure Inventor Service Pack 1 was downloaded then installed during the installation. So yup, it’s a super short post, but the video speaks for itself. Next up is SolidWorks 2015.

InterCAD SolidWorks 2015 Launch Event

SolidWorks_2015_Energy_chain

Today I had the opportunity to attend InterCAD‘s SolidWorks 2015 launch event. With part of my current role involved in supporting HSMWorks, I was eager to see what was new and if any of the those features could help CAM users. There are a few promising features, but until I get my hands on a build of SolidWorks to try them myself within some workflows it’s hard to know for sure. With this post I’ll highlight a few of the features which caught my eye or impressed me from a pure CAD standpoint.

The event was opened by Jason Gannon, Business Development Manager at Intercad NZ, he laid out the format for the afternoon ahead then introduced Chris Bowman, Channel Marketing Manager – APAC, Dassault Systemes. Chris talked predominantly about the community, the strength of New Zealand based companies using SolidWorks on the global stage and how prolific SolidWorks is within the educational establishments around the world. Of more relevance to the users in the room was the message regarding MySolidWorks, he provided a summary slide showing the features of the 3 tiers available, MySolidWorks, MySolidWorks Standard and MySolidWorks Professional.MySolidWorks Oct 2014On point I thought was particularly valuable was the Manufacturing Network Partners program, it sounds like a great idea, and you may need to forgive me here, since I’m still learning about the SolidWorks ecosystem. I can’t seem to find much mention of it on the SolidWorks site anymore, so if anyone knows where I can find more information about this for our readers, then please let us know in the comments. The last time I came across something like this which works was with the Thermwood eCabinet Systems community. eCabinet Systems, in my opinion, was way ahead of its time and is the best thing about Thermwood.

Moving on from the Sales & Marketing portion of the event, InterCAD’s main technical and training application engineer, Stuart (sorry I’m missing his family name), got stuck into the meat & potatoes. He did a great job of getting through a lot of content, while making it entertaining for the audience and reacting to questions from the crowd, as well as the odd technical hiccup. So which bits did I think were the best?

2D Sketch Improvements

SolidWorks2015_sketch-shared-endpoint-pop-up

Now when you draw a tangent arc between two lines, you don’t have to worry about trying to invoke tangency at both ends of the arc during creation AND you don’t have to select the arc & the line to get the tangent relation to appear in the pop up menu. Instead all you have to select is the coincident point between the two sketch elements. A subtle but vital addition in the CAD users quest for reducing mouse clicks. Having not had the opportunity to test this yet, I can only assume this will work with points between two elements, rather than 3 or more.

SolidWorks now also provides Mid point lines. This means you can start a line from its center point, which its ultimate length growing out from there. If you have ever used a center point rectangle tool, then you can imagine it working in much the same fashion.

SolidWorks 2015 rectangles

Rectangle enhancements – You can now include various types of construction center lines during rectangle creation.

Much more worthy of note than the previous enhancement is the new Segment tool. This becomes available on the CommandManager once you select a sketch object. From there you are able to chose to either splint the element into equidistant segments or place evenly space points along it’s length. This is very reminiscent of the Divide command found in AutoCAD. I know how handy that was then, so it will be for sure here as well.

Patterning

SolidWorks 2015 Pattern to Reference

In previous releases of SolidWorks, if you have defined a pattern to create a given number of instances, at a certain offset distance. Then you later reduced the overall dimension of the component, if any of the features dropped off the edge of the component, the pattern feature would fail. 2015 now allows you to select a reference face to pattern to instead, then all you need to do is either chose an offset distance or the number of instances. If think this will be particularly handy for configurable ‘stock’ parts with an integrated CAM solution.

Just briefly, here are a few additional pattern tools which are often missing from competing CAD products:

  • Switch between patterns of features to bodies.
  • Fill pattern quantity is validated and associative. Which means you can manually remove a few instances and re-validation updates the quantity value.
  • Variable table patterns – This tool set can produce quite complex feature pattern results. Although you can use on screen objects to configure and build the table, it looked a tad non-intuitive to use. Nevertheless, it looks like the kind of tool a select few would thrash the living snot out of. As an example, you can now create pattern styles for things like football (Soccer) boot soles.

SolidWorks2015 Pattern Tables

 Take note of how the handy little dependency arrows in the model browser. I look forward to seeing how extensive they are.

Assembly Mates

SolidWorks_2015_Profile_Center_mate1

Advanced mate has now been blessed with a Profile Center mate style. This slashes the number of clicks you need to join two component faces together at their center. The faces don’t have to be the same profile either and you can flip orientation etc.. This results in these types of mates being applied with a similar level of productivity as using Joints in Autodesk Inventor.

I think this is one of my favorite usability features ever! If you have ever worked within a team which collaborates on designs regularly, you will no doubt have been in the situation where, one of your esteemed colleagues have decided the quickest course of action was to delete a feature to enact a change. Instead of massage it’s foundations to maintain the faces for down stream model dependencies. The SolidWorks team have hooked their users up with the Globally Replace Failed Mate References tool. Which means you only have to repair or redefine the first mate, then propagate the selections to all the other mates with the same error. Choice!

Worthy of note:

  • Width mate condition improvements: Free move (but stops on interference), distance or percentage.
  • Move components – temporarily fix components to stop others from moving. Handy when grabbing and dragging components to test mate conditions are working correctly.
  • Interference check. Group by type and hide interference’s of specific sizes, such as seals and o-rings etc.
  • The new chain pattern means you can drag chains around corners now. Very swag!

Treehouse (odd name)

SolidWorks_2015_Treehouse

This post is starting to get a bit lengthy now, so I don’t want to dwell on this too much. However, I’m really intruiged by this tool and want to give it a decent kick about in time, so I will cover it in more detail in the future. But I love the idea of being able to visually layout your model structure up front. This could be epic if it has good API support as well. You can even define configuration requirements, which you can then reuse during configuration creation.

Existing assemblies are supported, so if you aren’t clear on a components file dependecies, and you need to know more, this could be your solution. Finally, as you can see in the slide shown below, you are able to define component properties and quantities on each individual element as well. How extensible those property dialogs are, I don’t know yet, hopefully they support custom properties.

SolidWorks_2015_Treehouse_Slide

Surfacing & 3D Sketches

SolidWorks_2015_ Compond_Flatten_surface2_white

In addition to compound flat patterns, 2015 users also get a deformation plot analysis tool.

I was stoked to see SolidWorks now natively supports flattening of compound surfaces. In the image above, a 3D spline has been drawn across the brown surface, then used to trim the surface itself. In previous releases, users needed to place spline control points on edges as it passed from one surface / face to the next. 2015 shuns that requirement, which instantly makes the creation of these types of splines far more fluid.

Worthy of note:

  • Asymmetric fillets.
  • Surface patch curvature display and bounding curve option.
  • Open sketch profiles now support boolean subtractions of a specified distance.
  • Work Planes can be created which are parallel to the camera lens.

CAM user goodies

Given my strong connection to HSMWorks, I’m keen to see how many new features can benefit CAM users. Again this will be something I cover in the future. But for now here is a list of some I anticipate will be put to good use.

SolidWorks 2015 Selection Sets

  • Selection filters & Sets are available in the context menu.
  • Select previous.
  • Save selection sets - These could be VERY handy with HSMWorks if they are accessible while in ‘CAM’ mode.
  • The Pop Up menu is now customizable, which means CAM users can select a face or edge and have HSM commands instantly at their cursor tip.
  • Dependency arrows in browser will help CAM users establish design intent within the model structure. Just in case any Change Orders fall on their desks….

The BEST PART of the day?

I was extremely honored and blown away to met a relatively young chap called Darren Lomman during this event. Darren founded the Dreamfit Foundation a number of years ago so he and his team could apply engineering and creativity in ways to truly make a massive difference in the lives of people with disabilities. The range of solutions, from super simple to in some cases rather complex, was breath taking. I hope to ge the opportunity to interview Darren in the future and share the story here on D&M, but in the meantime, please take the time to watch the following video and check out the Dreamfit Foundation website. They’re also HSMWorks users, so I’m looking forward to helping them out in the future with their CAM needs.

Autodesk Revit install on Windows 10

Last week I successfully installed AutoCAD onto Windows 10. I was going to install Inventor next, but I decided I should give Revit a crack instead. I used the Plant Design Suite Ultimate installer to get hold of Revit Structure. So while it’s not a standalone installation, and not the base edition of Revit, it should still be representative.

Everything fundamentally installed fine, but the missing templates error upon launching Revit is related to my error in deselecting the installation of the Revit Content. I’ve since installed that and mapped the template path correctly which dealt with the issue.

Revit Windows 10 template error

Will AutoCAD install on Windows 10?

Installing Autodesk’s AutoCAD CAD product on Windows 8 or 8.1 really wasn’t all that fun in some cases. We wanted to make sure ahead of time if there were any issues or not. As a follow on from my initial review of Windows 10 Tech Preview, I’m going to perform a trial install within my test environment. I decided to record the affair rather than write it all out.

The good news is, it looks like installing on Windows 10 is smoother than it was installing on Windows 8 or 8.1. There may have even been some improvements. Now I haven’t put AutoCAD to work in any arduous kind of ways, but from what I can tell from a quick poke about, all seems well. I cut all the really boring waiting time out, but all up, installing from my USB 3.0 external hard drive, vanilla AutoCAD took around 15 minutes to install.

Windows 10 Tech Preview Reviewed | The best new features

Windows 10 New Old Start MenuI couldn’t help myself, I had to sign up to the Technical Preview and get Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 10, installed in a virtual machine immediately. Ultimately I will try out some CAD software to see if it will install and run appropriately. I will try out AutoCAD, Inventor and possibly even SOLIDWORKS. In the meantime, I thought I would share some initial observations.

Installation

To get started I swung over to the Microsoft Insider Program website and signed up. Super easy, especially since my browser was already logged into my account. After accepting the agreement, I had my pick of which installer language I needed. 4GB later, about half an hour, the ISO file was ready to be mounted to a VMware instance. Once that was configured, the install process was no different to the Windows 8 process. I had the choice of upgrading or installing a fresh copy. Since it was a VM, I went with a fresh copy. I have my VM’s running on my local Samsung EVO SSD drive, so the installation was done in just under 10 minutes.  From booting the ISO image to logging into Windows within 10 minutes!!! It wasn’t that long ago with Windows 7 where you would easily be waiting nearly an hour to get the operating system installed. Once I gave the install my Microsoft credentials, it asked me which PC I wanted to copy my settings from, or if I wanted to create an independent computer. That isn’t something I’ve seen with Windows 8, and to be honest, it’s a welcome addition. I wonder if there is a setting somewhere to retrospectively ‘detach’ the PC from your group of sync’d devices.

Windows 10 PC Sync SetupFrom there, Windows does it’s usual setting up routine, then within a few minutes I’m in. I have to say, it was the easiest operating system install I have ever experienced.

Naturally I started poking about, so what’s different? At this early stage, I can only hope to discover some visual changes and areas of the system I use regularly. Let’s get cracking.

Start Menu

Context Menu

The first thing I did was check the power user context menu on the Start Menu button was still in place. Thankfully it is. That in my opinion is reason enough for people to upgrade to Windows 8.1 from 7, so I really didn’t want to lose that. If you aren’t using it already, direct access to useful tools such as; running the Command Prompt as Administrator, Programs and Features, and the Run command mean you are missing out big time. Get in there.

Search

Windows 10 Start Menu SearchStart Menu based search in Windows Vista and Windows 7 is woefully underutilized by the vast majority of PC users. In my opinion it was that skill / habit gap which made the Windows 8 user experience so many pundits refer to as ‘Jarring’. The reality was, if you were half decent at typing, pressing the Windows key on your keyboard, then starting to type what you wanted is a far more productive way to work. The Windows team knew this and enhanced search brilliantly in Windows 8.1. The Start Menu, yes, a Start Menu, because that’s exactly what the Windows 8 start screen is, has now become a one stop shop to acquire whatever you need at any time from any where within the Windows operating system. Windows 10 brings this functionality to the forefront by placing a Search button smack bang on the taskbar, right next to the much loved Windows icon. I can only hope this encourages more users to take advantage of the excellent search tools within Windows. I’ve already noticed the search results favoring recently used files, which is handy indeed.

The ‘New’ old Start Menu

It’s baaack, but frankly I don’t care, I’ll still be pressing the Windows key and typing the same way I did with Windows 7.Windows 10 Start Menu All Apps I am glad they have updated it though, and it does look pretty swanky. Tacked onto the side of it, is a hark back to the Windows 8 Start Menu, with a Live Tile section. This can be fully customized by pinning anything you turn up in the left side of the Start Menu or via a Start Menu search. At this stage, you can’t pin any results via the aforementioned Search button on the task bar, personally I will be turning that off if I can. Admittedly, I am happy to see a folder based hierarchy return, just for when I need to rummage for Apps of the same name, but different release years. For Autodesk Inventor users, that will be things like Task Scheduler and the Styles Manager.

Going back to the Live Tile section of the Start Menu, you can move the tiles around and choose from four different sizes. Some people don’t like the constant movement of Live Tiles, so Microsoft have provided the ability to turn that functionality off on a tile by tile basis. As you add pin more tiles, the width of the Start Menu grows. I haven’t tried to overflow the menu yet, but I will eventually. If need be, you can increase the height of the Start Menu in the same way you can with a normal window. So essentially you could almost create a full screen ‘New’ old Start Menu which.. at which point you may as well revert to the Windows 8.1 Start Menu, which can be done within the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog. Accessed from the taskbar context menu.

Snaps & Apps

Alt + TAB

It works the same way it always did. Except now it has to consider the Virtual Desktop feature. As a result all the open apps and applications currently running within the operating system are displayed when you press this age old key combination. Personally I barely use it, but I know others love it, so it’s good to see Microsoft have preserved its behavior.

Virtual Desktops / Task View

Windows 10 Task View - Virtual DesktopsThis is a biggy. At first I thought, meh, I kind of wanted it to allow me to have work and play desktop layouts. But I quickly realized it had precious little to do with the desktop itself, rather it’s all about grouping open applications together. One of the reasons I didn’t like using Alt + TAB in the past was for when I had applications snapped side by side. As soon as I Alt tabbed, I would lose my layout and find a need to keep mashing my TAB key until I got back to it. With this, I can just switch between organized app groups. I will share some CAD related productivity thoughts on this in a later post.

However, I’m not a fan of one feature here. All running apps still appear along the taskbar, only the ones available in the active Virtual Desktop appear to be running. The rest just look like they have been pinned to the taskbar. Upon closer inspection you will notice, the ‘running’ version of the icon is hiding just off screen, with its edge just poking up. I think this makes the taskbar look a tad messy, but at this point I can’t think of a better way of handling that, other than removing it entirely. Having them, does mean you can quickly switch to its Virtual Desktop just by clicking on that edge, instead of having to click on the Task View button just to the right of that handy new Search button.

Snaps

Windows 10 Snap AssistI’ve always liked using the Windows Key + Directional arrows to evenly dock windows around my screen. With Windows 10 that has become enhanced. You can now dock / snap windows into the corner of your screen as well, meaning you can have four apps evenly docked on your screen, perfect if you have a mahoosive monitor dominating your workspace. There has been talk of Snap Assist suggesting apps to fill in the spaces, but in my testing that only seems to be the case when you snap a window full height to the right or left of the screen. It doesn’t appear to be working for the four corner snap yet, hopefully that is on the way.

Charm Bar

Windows 10 App Charm BarIf you have a keyboard and mouse, and an ‘old skool’ sticky finger free monitor, like my Gen 1 HP ZBook 15, then mousing over the right side of the screen won’t reveal the Charm Bar. The little flyouts in the top corners and bottom left corner of the screen are no where to be seen either. However, the Windows + C Keyboard shortcut will force the Charm Bar to reveal itself within some installations, as it did mine. One aspect I do like, is if you have a modern app window open, and you press Windows + C a mini charm menu appears in the top left corner of the window. You can also access this by clicking the ellipsis button found up there. This is handy because you get access to a few other commands, Play, Print and Project… now project is nice to see. I can’t wait to get a WiDi Miracast enabled TV for my lounge (living room).

Command Prompt

Windows 10 Command Prompt Experimental SettingsAutodesk power users will be very familiar with Windows Command Prompt, they will also know how dated it is. Surprisingly, even in the presence of the much vaunted Windows PowerShell, the lowly old Command Prompt has received some attention. I didn’t even realize this until today, but you can access the Command Prompt Properties dialog from the Title bar context menu. In there Windows 10 has an Experimental tab containing a host of new goodies. As you can see in the image above, we can now control the opacity of the window, which is rather swanky. But the big win is the ability to highlight text like a normal person and when you hit Ctrl + V on your keyboard, you aren’t greeted with ^V. THANK YOU Microsoft!

Verdict

Yes please! I liked the progression of Windows 8 from 7 and I really like this update as well. At this stage it feels a lot more like Windows 8.2, but there is nearly a year of further development here. There will be a lot more going on in the background here with respect to harmonization across devices and being more sympathetic to enterprise admins and users. I’m pretty stoked to see Microsoft are being sensible here and I can’t wait to see how Windows Phone 10 shapes up.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for a couple more Windows 10 posts from me over the next week. Cheers for taking the time and I hope you have found this useful, have a good day.

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