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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.

3Dconnexion SpaceMouse® Pro Wireless Review

SpaceMouse Pro Wireless Female hand

Around a month after 3Dconnexion announced their latest product, I received a test unit of the new 3Dconnexion SpaceMouse® Pro Wireless. I’ve only ever owned and used the entry level 3Dconnexion devices in the past and always thought the professional series, although nice to have, really were a little bit over the top. Admittedly, if I’d had some spare cash lying about or I could have written off the purchase cost against my business taxes, I probably would have at least purchased the SpaceMouse Pro. I am a tech geek after all. With that in mind, I was keen to see how this shiny new toy? shaped up over the next couple of months. I decided on roughly two months, since that was the stated battery life. So how does it stack up?

Stated Benefits

  • Complete Wireless Freedom — Real-time 2.4 GHz wireless connection and a two-month battery life. When it does need recharging, for uninterrupted productivity simply connect one of the supplied USB cables.
  • Professional Performance — SpaceMouse Pro Wireless automatically recognizes your application environment and based on your personal configuration, maps commands to its four Function Keys.
  • View Your Work From Every Angle  Detect errors, explore alternatives, and present your work more effectively for review with SpaceMouse Pro Wireless’s 6DoF navigation and QuickView Keys.
  • Minimize Hand Movements —Conveniently positioned keyboard modifiers provide quick and easy access to Control, Shift, Alt and Esc functions, reducing the time you spend moving your hand to the keyboard.
  • World-Class Ergonomics And Build Quality  Full sized, soft-coated hand rest for maximum comfort.15 tactile, fully programmable buttons.
  • Flexible Connectivity  With a choice of two USB cables, either plug the USB receiver directly into your workstation or use the included Twin-port USB Hub.
  • The 3Dconnexion Experience – 3DxWare® 10 allows you to customize and optimize your SpaceMouse Pro Wireless for peak performance. Easily tailor settings and buttons to your application and needs.

Connectivity

The wireless benefits are clear, if needed I can re-position the device anyway on my desk unconstrained. I have enough cables kicking around my desk as it is, so this was a welcome addition. As it was with the SpaceMouse Wireless when it landed on my desk. I did find it curious that 3Dconnexion provided the Twin-port USB Hub, they mentioned it would come in handy during meetings in the board room where the PC being used for the presentation maybe be stashed away somewhere. The 1.5 meter cable would to expose the USB receiver in those instances. I honestly have never had any issues with connectivity, although to my surprise a couple of CADPRO’s clients have suffered some issues. They were each solved by moving the USB receiver away from the metallic casing of their workstations. I’ve since heard of people having connectivity issues with 2.4 GHz wireless keyboards and mice as well, again extending the receiver away from the case solved the problem. I’ll chalk that up as a win for 3Dconnexion.

3Dconnexion USB-Hub Right-Iso_Receiver

But, there is a less obvious, albeit inconvenient benefit, of 3Dconnexion providing this Twin-port USB Hub. I now have access to two 3Dconnexion space mice, this puppy and the SpaceMouse Wireless I received last year. While I’m at my primary desk I now use the SpaceMouse Pro Wireless exclusively, but with the SpaceMouse Wireless hard sided Carry Case, I’m able to safely cart that about with me on my travels each week. So what’s the inconvenient benefit? 3Dconnexion haven’t managed to unify their USB receivers yet, and although there are a decent number of USB ports on my HP ZBook 15 mobile workstation, they aren’t in abundance and certainly not enough to justify taking up two slots for 3Dconnexion. I need to keep one USB port spare so I can plug in devices Ad-Hoc. This is where the Twin-port USB Hub comes in handy for me. I have both receivers plugged into that, then it plugs into the slot which used to be exclusively occupied by the SpaceMouse Wireless receiver. A bit of a pain yes, but all I have to do is hide it around the back et voila, no big deal. Of course, 3Dconnexion’s well established attention to detail dictates they wouldn’t be happy about this either, I’m sure they have their reasons and I have no doubt they are working to rectify the situation in the not too distant future.

Alright, enough of the moaning. There are two great things I have discovered about using a Professional 3Dconnexion device. They are both the reason why the SpaceMouse Pro Wireless has earnt it’s permanent space on my desk, it’s not small, so it does need a right to be there.

6DoF navigation and QuickView Keys

SpaceMouse Wireless 6DoF navigation and QuickView Keys

This collection of buttons were the ones I was most eager to get my thumb on. While the Autodesk view cube is pretty handy, there are times I find it fiddly to get to the view I need. I’ve been using SolidWorks a bit as well recently as a result of supporting Autodesk’s CAM product in Australia and New Zealand. So this has been my savior, because, well, the SolidWorks view cube sucks in comparison to Autodesk’s. However, it wasn’t any of the four peripheral buttons in this set that I have found the most useful. It’s the Axial Rotation lock button which sits proud, all important like, just above all those around it. That self confidence justifies this little buttons power… I’ve often found myself having to go back to my keyboard, or regress to the orbit command just so I can rotate and pan my 3D view or 2D sketch without tumbling the view away from the orthogonal elevations. It really does break your train of thought, you don’t realize quite how much, until you are able to tap that button and nudge the puck to pan around the sketch you’re trying to manipulate.

Keyboard Modifiers

The next major realization I had with the SpaceMouse Pro Wireless was the collection of four buttons on the left side of the device. The Keyboard modifiers. Honestly, I haven’t used 3 of them all that much… yet. SpaceMouse Pro Wireless Keyboard Modifier ButtonsI’m sure I will get to using those more as time goes by and my hand relaxes into using it more naturally. But it’s the very real benefit of using the CTRL modifier button with Autodesk Inventor and SolidWorks when orbiting around your model and selecting multiple and possibly random objects. In the past I would orbit my model, then move my hand to press the CTRL key on my keyboard, left click on my mouse to add that object to my selection set, theeeen back to my 3D mouse… urgh. It’s hard to read, let alone do. The crazy thing is I thought it was acceptable until I’ve experienced this first hand in a few different situations. Not only is it more productive (the most important part after all), but I can now create way cooler tutorial videos for Inventor, Inventor HSM and HSMWorks. I only have to pause orbiting momentarily now, just enough time to position and click my mouse, then immediately start orbiting onto the next object. I love it, and so will you, if you get to sit down and use it this way for an hour or so.

Battery Life

I’ve had this productive belle sitting on my desk now, for just over two months. I think I’ve turned it OFF a few times overnight. I didn’t put it on charge as soon as I received it and started using it immediately. I’m NOT designing 8 hours a day, but I’m in and out of Inventor and SolidWorks a number of times a day and generally that means I’ll have a fiddle and poke. So in all reality, I’m not using it anywhere near as much as a full time drafter should be. I’ve charged it twice. So my particular version isn’t really meeting the numbers stated by 3Dconnexion, but it has been on, albeit inactive, 24/7 for most of that time. In all reality, I still think that is quite impressive and it seems to recharge pretty damn fast. It just hasn’t bothered me in the slightest.

Final Words

Once again 3Dconnexion have turned out a fine product. The versatility of having a wireless device is a no brainer, you can move around the office with it far more easily, either collaborating with colleagues or presenting in the boardroom. The SpaceMouse Pro wasn’t a broken product, it’s proven and well designed, there really wasn’t a need to deviate too far from that. So would I pay for one out of my own pocket now? Yes! The prices have come down for these devices compared to a few years ago and I think once you have spent a little time with one, most people will realize a ROI pretty quickly. If not it simply makes using CAD more fun and precise. For those bouncing between multiple CAD products, the SpaceMouse Pro Wireless means they can force a consistent navigation and interaction experience across all the applications, when the standard user interface methods are completely different from one another. That’s a huge boost and has certainly proven useful for me now, switching between Inventor and SolidWorks so often.

It still surprises me that most CAD users still have no idea these things exist! Virtually every time I go to see a customer, one or more of their staff will be immediately intrigued by my SpaceMouse Wireless when I pull it out of my laptop bag and place it next to my workstation with a satisfying thud. We need to find ways to get the word out there further and get more CAD users buying and making use of these wonderful tools.

Why is everyone going head over wheels for Keyshot 5?

A render of Dino-bike created using Keyshot 5“Dino-bike” (Model Credit: Flying Kiwi Motorcyles)

It’s hard to imagine how you could take the most loved-up rendering software of 2013 and make it better. But they have, and they’ve done it in style. I’d buy it just for the new user interface, but there’s so much more in this release. Is it perfect yet? Well, you’ll need to read on to find out, but if you’re looking for a canned demo of what’s new, there’s a video further down this page that wraps it all up nicely.

The rendering software market is a crowded and often confusing place but Keyshot pitches itself as “fastest and easiest to use 3D rendering and animation software available” so I’m going to take a look at both claims. Keyshot 5 is the “fastest” – at what? Fastest at sucking you in with its new slick new user interface – yep. I’ll give them that one. With most rendering solutions, you can quickly lose your model under a pile of dialogs and windows, but the new UI in Keyshot 5 keeps these windows in check by allowing you to stack, dock, stack-tabbed and so on. It makes focussing on the task of say lighting, or texturing, an absolute joy without having to close a bunch of other windows. But you’d hardly describe the product as being the “fastest” when discussing model import workflows. You’ll very quickly discover that the importers for mainstream CAD products like Solidworks & Inventor are 2 years out of date, Alias needs to be installed, Maya needs to be licensed… (Hang on – Maya? Why would you render in Keyshot if you already have Maya installed and licensed?) So if your CAD software is up-to-date, you’ll have to export your models as an alternative format, then import them into Keysot. That’s not particularly “fast” in my book. If you are lucky enough to have either an old copy of your favourite CAD product, or other geometry-creation software that’s one of Luxion’s favoured partners, then the new “Live Linking” your models will certainly be of interest. Change the CAD model and the Keyshot scene updates – I would describe as “fast”. Bring on some updated importers and this might catch on!

“Easiest to use”. Let’s be honest, “easy to use” usually translates as “limited features”. But Keyshot really is superbly easy to use: Import – wait – image! You can then spend some time lighting and texturing, but that almost-instant image surprises you every time. So if you want an image-in-a-can, then I really can’t argue, it’s certainly down there with the easiest of all the rendering software. If you want a bit more, then you need to go digging. Software only becomes “easy to use” as you become familiar with it. It’s not a living organism that changes between uses, you just get used to where the buttons are – so “easy” is a bit of a meaningless quality here. Sadly, this is also where I started to find some limitations. Functions like motion-blur and caustics are on/off toggles. To blur one object more than another becomes a complex task of animating objects at different speeds. It’s time consuming and certainly not “easy”. There’s a collection of canned animation cycles, but if you want to get a bit more advanced, it’s certainly not the animators dream. To be fair though, I don’t have the $500 Animation add-on, I’m only driving the “Pro” version so I know I’m missing out on some more goodies.

Looking at the marketing images, the target audience appears to be existing CAD users, or creative media-types who’ve probably already invested in good hardware. So why is “CPU rendering only” a good thing? There isn’t even an option to invoke the 600 Cuda-cores on my laptop’s standard graphics card. It seems a bit of a “missed opportunity”, not a feature. Sure it makes sense on a consumer-grade computer that only has basic on-board graphics, but even the most basic gaming graphics cards have GPU capabilities begging to be used.

Dino-bike rendered in Luxion Keyshot 5“Dino-bike” (Model Credit: Flying Kiwi Motorcycles)

Getting back to the good stuff (because there’s plenty of it), if you watch the video at the end of this post you’ll appreciate the ability to wind back the number of CPU cores used for the real-time rendering. (It’s a handy way to regulate the temperature of your coffee if you leave the mug by the vent on your PC.) Importing models can be a disappointing exercise if you’ve already textured it in the host application, but the new Keyshot library of physically accurate materials, coupled with the scene tree, makes texturing easy. It’s actually fun watching the model come to life as you drag and drop the materials into place. The library has a good selection of pre-built materials that you can tweak, and then there’s always “Keyshot Cloud” where you can upload your hard work and share it with others.

Lighting in Keyshot 5 received a boost with the Sun and Sky System (Pro version only). There’s plenty of granular control in this lighting system and when you’ve created your perfect daylight, you can save it out just like other HDRI’s for re-use on another model. On the subject of HDRI’ – there’s now an HDRI editor (in all versions) that make tweaking the scene illumination quick and easy.

Perspective Matching (again only in Pro) is so easy it’ll make you laugh – watch the “What’s new” video to see it in action. (Was this tool lifted directly from last year’s Autodesk 3d max? It’s almost identical!)

NURBS Ray Tracing (Pro feature) is a very clever addition in this release. Prior to this tool, you would typically have to strike a compromise between mesh quality and rendering time. The finer the mesh, the better the curves on your model look, but the longer it took to render. The NURBS Ray Tracing tool reads NURBS data from your model (the actual curves – not the faceted approximation) and then renders stunningly smooth curved edges.

Scene sets (Pro feature again sorry!) It’s an update on last years “Model Sets” and lets you switch between various setups within a single file. The scene sets remembers camera views, object visibility, environments, and back plates.

There is something curiously appealing about Keyshot 5 that quickly draws you in. Maybe it’s that damn good UI, or the rave reviews it gets in online forums, or the almost-instant renderings, but once you’re in, there’s enough to keep you busy for quite a while. There is a lot to like about it. But if you already have experience with other rendering products, or you’re looking for something that’ll let you choose how to utilise your hardware, or give you super-high-level control over all rendering elements, then maybe it’s not quite ready yet.

If you are coming from the dull-grey world of your existing CAD system and looking for something to motivate you to get into work early, then Keyshot 5 really is hard to beat.


Keyshot 5 “What’s new” video

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Free your forms with Autodesk Inventor 2015

Blob House With Door OpenImage Credit: Forgemind Archimedia

Recently, Mike started off our Inventor 2015 Deep Dive series with a great post on the new sketch features in Autodesk Inventor 2015. You can find that post here. He made reference to the “sexy” new Direct Editing and Freeform surfacing tools but didn’t elaborate as he wasn’t the lucky author who drew the longer straw, I was. So here we have it, the second post in the series which explores the new features that Mike finds…… sexy.

Now unless you’ve had your head under a rock for the last little while, you’re bound to have heard that Autodesk have thrown some great new toys in the Inventor box this year in the form (no pun intended) of Freeform bodies and Direct-Edit model manipulation. We covered the announcement right here on Design and Motion, but in this article we go a little bit deeper and take these new technologies for a spin.

Freeform

T-Splines technology, in the form of Freeform bodies, has given us an entirely new way of creating organic forms (like the one in the title image) in Inventor. The tools that Autodesk have built allow very simple conversion from the t-splines body to a solid body, which you can perform all of your normal solid editing operations on. You can also go back and edit the original freeform body just like you would with any other history-based feature.

In the video below, I’ll take you through the basic tools and how to use them.

Direct Edit

Direct edit opens up a whole new set of workflows for Inventor that transform it from a history-based modeller to a true hybrid. The implementation of this technology has been well thought out, and combinations of multiple Direct Edits as well as the way they affect each other, behave in a logical way. This video demonstrates the new Direct Edit technology with a simple example.

Stay tuned for more posts on the other new tools in Inventor 2015.

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Getting Sketch-y with Autodesk Inventor 2015

Engineering drafting room 1962

Bicka bow bow bump bump
What, what, what, what
Hah hah hah hah Unh,
On your mark ready set let’s go
3D Modeling pro I know you know
I go psycho when my Inventor hit
Just can’t sit
Gotta get sketchy wit it

Or Will Smith sang something like that.

There are a lot of new and improved tools in Inventor 2015, something for everyone. With all the glitz and glamour, the changes to the sketch environment could go unnoticed, especially since it isn’t as sexy as the new Direct Editing and Free Form surfacing capability. But make no mistake, there are some significant changes here, so much so we thought it should be the first of our deep dive posts covering Inventor’s key new features.

Sketch is always visible

First change you’ll probably notice is that the Sketch tab is always visible. If you pick a sketch tool without having a sketch active, Inventor will start the new sketch process and once you pick the sketch plane the command you selected becomes active.

Autodesk Inventor 2015 Sketch Tab is Always VisibleMaybe my favorite enhancement.… drum roll please…. While creating sketch geometry, endpoints are created on the mouse down instead of mouse up/release! halleluiah! I can’t believe after all these years I don’t have to slow myself down while sketching to not miss points and get the accidental gaps. 

Consolidated and New Sketch Options

All 2D sketch constraint related options are consolidated into one new Constraint Settings dialog. Autodesk has also introduced two new options: Show constraints for selected objects and Display constraints on display.

Inventor 2015 Constraint SettingsWith Display constraints on creation enabled the last constraint created by the sketching operation will appear, slightly ghosted, on the screen.

Inventor 2015 Display constraints on displayEnabling Show constraints for selected objects means that by selecting objects in the graphics window the constraints applied to those objects will appear. By right-clicking on one of these constraint icons you can delete the constraint. No more Show all Constraints to delete just one or a couple constraints.

Inventor 2015 Show constraints for selected objectsNew Constraint Scope option [Found in the expanded portion of the Constrain Panel] is used to set the which objects Inventor will automatically infer constraints from.

  • The new option Geometry in current command will only infer to the objects created during the current operation, unless you hover over the object.
  • If you have a lot of sketch geometry the Select option is a nice addition in that you can set the focus in which Inventor will infer constraints, meaning no more parallels or perpendiculars to sketch geometry off the screen.

Inventor 2015 Constraint Inference Scope
When applying Horizontal and Vertical constraints as you hover over the object a dashed line indicator will appear to show the direction the object will be rotated. This takes the guess work out of which direction you are looking at is the horizontal

Inventor 2015 Horizontal Constraint PreviewLook at me

Look at Sketch behaviour has been expanded with two new settings, found in the Application Options – Display tab

  • Perform Minimum Rotation – Rotates the sketch at a minimum angle, reducing that amount of eye strain following your sketch rotate in space. The X axis of the sketch will become horizontal or vertical, depending on what’s closest.
  • Align with Local Coordinate System – Orients the X axis of the sketch horizontally and goint to the right so that the Y axis points up (positive). This is the legacy behaviour.

Relax Mode

You can use the new Relax Mode chill, hang out, kick it back… uhhh, kind of. While in Relax mode you can modify constrain geometry by applying new constraints and dimensions. The existing constraints are removed and replaced with the new ones.  With Relax Mode turned ON, you can also drag the constrained sketch geometry to make adjustments.

Inventor 2015 RelaxMode DraggingWhich constraints are replaceable is controlled in the Constraint Options

What Else?

  • Delete Constraints – new right-click option removes all constraints, except for the Coincident constraints
  • Delete Coincident Constraint – new right-click option removes all Coincident constraints
  • Inventor 2015 Delete ConstraintsSketch Offset improvements – zero length offset segments are automatically removed, meaning no flipped objects and the ability to create offset geometry not possible pre-2015
  • Integrated Text Styles for sketch text, something to add to your templates
  • Create point at virtual intersection of two sketch elements… I know, I know something AutoCAD has done since the 80′s, but Inventor creates constraints.

Image Credit: Seattle Municipal Archives

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My time with 3Dconnexion’s SpaceMouse Wireless

Old 3Dconnexion Navigator Vs New 3Dconnexion SpaceMouse Wireless

Back in October 2013, 3Dconnexion announced the release of the world’s first wireless 3D mouse, utilising 2.4Ghz technology in combination for the first time with their patented 6DoF sensor. I’ve had the privilege of using one since late September, so this review is long overdue. A number of things got in the way of writing this up, initially 3Dconnexion‘s Release 10 of their 3DxWare software & driver was buggy. I wanted this review to cover some of the excellent changes in that driver, so I felt it was only right I waited until it had a fighting chance. In 3Dconnexion’s defense they fixed those bugs by Christmas, by which time I was swamped. Last week they released a new version of the driver in readiness for the 2015 release of Autodesk products, interestingly it contains some lovely additions.

Hardware

The 3Dconnexion recipe is a successful & well respected one, their hardware is rock solid & performs flawlessly. I owned the SpaceMouses’ predecessor the Space Navigator for 5 years & it never missed a beat, not even once. Bearing this in mind it’s clear they didn’t want to change too much here, while being extremely keen to change things up. The key was to change just the right amount. So have they?

3Dconnexion SpaceMouse Wireless - Low Isometric

They’ve retained the base quality & functionality of the Navigator, but modernised the look & feel of the device. It now somehow feels as if its build quality has surpassed the Navigator as well as having a far more ergonomic product. The 2 buttons are larger, with a more comfortable contact point for your thumb and ring finger. I think that contact surface helps to improve the feel of the click, it’s smoother while being more positive, over time it just makes the device more enjoyable to use than its predecessor. 

You don’t realise how much of an inconvenience the old cable was until it’s gone. Once you have used a 3D mouse it’s extremely hard to do without it, so there was always a degree of comfort in the knowledge the device was wired. Wireless peripherals of years past, have been notoriously battery hungry and there simply isn’t anything worse than sitting down for a day of mouse jockeying to find the darn thing is flat (dead). So, have 3Dconnexion got the wireless setup sorted for this 3D productivity puck? YES! I nearly always forget to turn it off, admittedly I’m not using it 8 hours a day in my new job, but I am probably using it ~10 hours a week. I’ve charged it twice since September. I’m also secure in the knowledge that if the battery does die, unlike some hardware companies, 3Dconnexion weren’t d*cks about connectivity. They used a standard USB mini port, so you could always nick one from a nearby electronics device when you find yourself in a bind.

Beyond these points, the SpaceMouse Wireless still navigates around 3D space in much the same way as its predecessor. 3Dconnexion devices are a balance of highly functional hardware and intuitive productive software. So let’s see how that performs.

Software

3Dconnexion 3DxWare Config

With the release of the SpaceMouse Wireless, 3Dconnexion released 3DxWare 10. It brought with it a brand new architecture. They rebuilt the application and drivers from the ground up, so they could start from a fresh foundation. The Inventor add-in reflects this, gone is the configuration dialogue of old. You now have to configure everything via the 3DxWare dialogue running in Windows. At first glance it appears the contextual options have been removed, but digging deeper you realise they have created an even more powerful setup. You can now choose to assign up to four contextual commands to each button, which you can then click or configure it in a more traditional single contextual command manner.3DxWare Radial Menu config

With an Inventor Assembly document active, swing over to the 3DxWare dialogue, click on buttons, then you are able to assign one of the preconfigured radial menu’s to either or both of the buttons.

3DxWare Assembly Radial Menu

Here is a more detailed walkthrough for customising the SpaceMouse Wireless buttons in a single contextual manner:

1. With a part open launch the 3Dconnexion Properties tool from the taskbar.

2. Make the following changes in the 3DxWare dialogue, make sure you leverage the excellent search tool by typing in ‘2D Sketch’. Once selected click close

3DxWare Config 2D Sketch

3. Create a 2D Sketch in the part and the 3DxWare Buttons menu will now show Inventor – Sketch

4. Make the following changes using the same method as previously. This time customise both buttons. Notice I have ‘Finish 2D Sketch’ on the same button as ‘2D Sketch’ in the Part environment:

3DxWare Config General Dimension

5. Now you can quickly create 3 driven dimensions to drive the overall size of your component in all 3-axis for your Parts List & BOM. Bish, Bash, Bosh!

At first the setup of the driver seems weird, but it all makes sense once you poke around a bit. Autodesk’s command naming still doesn’t help matters when it comes to finding commands to assign to buttons. The Measure command for example, lists half a dozen results all called Measure, why it doesn’t say Measure Distance, Measure Angle etc.. is beyond me. Fortunately a bit of trial & error sorts it out.

I would use the Radial Menu’s extensively if 3Dconnexion enabled support for selecting the commands in the radial quadrants by moving the 6DoF puck in the appropriate direction. Having to move the mouse to click seems like an inefficient way to do it, I’d like to be able to do it exclusively from the SpaceMouse, rather than having to include the traditional mouse as well.

Summary

It Rocks! What are you waiting for? Go buy one.

disclaimer: 3Dconnexion provided Design & Motion with a sample of the SpaceMouse Wireless for the purpose of testing & providing product feedback to their team. I offered to write this review of their product & in no way have they imposed any restrictions on this article.

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