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ST6: How do You Use the New Interface Customizations?


Sixteen years ago when I changed from AutoCAD/Mechanical Desktop to SolidWorks, my main advice for other people making the same change was to simply forget everything they thought they knew about CAD, and just start again. A clean slate of assumptions is hard to do, and often trying to compare a new way of doing things to the old way of doing things is just counter-productive.


This newest switch for me, from Works to Edge is somewhat different because the packages are similar in some ways, and yet in other ways they are very different. The big thing to understand in Solid Edge is the workflow, and the Command Bar and Prompt Bar both help you through that. After the workflow, the interface is the next thing to master. The newest version of Solid Edge, ST6, has a lot of interface enhancements aimed at helping 3D CAD users making the switch.


In ST6, the big new thing for the interface is called Themes. One of the goals of Themes is to rearrange parts of the Solid Edge interface to help people migrating from other software. Before I was hired, I worked with the development people on what a Solid Works user would find confusing in the Solid Edge standard interface.


The first thing that I mentioned in these discussions with development was that the Command Bar, while brilliant especially for expert users, can be tough to navigate for a migrating user. Works users are used to an interface that is pretty verbose (lots of words), and the Edge interface is very sparse (very few words). The great thing about the options with Edge is that you can rearrange the Command Bar to be vertical, with words (like the Works PropertyManager) or horizontal with just icons and tooltips.



Tooltip flyouts are very helpful, but they take time, and you can’t see multiple ones at once. The options Edge offers for this part of the interface are very useful.


Another thing that came up during my visits with development was that the PromptBar in Solid Edge is another really nice tool for someone making a transition. What I like most about the PromptBar is that it helps you with the next step in the feature workflow. The thing I didn’t like about it was that sometimes I would forget to use it. One of the Theme options puts the PromptBar in the upper left of the window, right where you can’t miss it. This is my favorite way of using the software. I’ve got the PromptBar in the upper left, with the CommandBar right below it, then the Pathfinder just to the right.


This is really the Some Assistance theme with a little tweak to the CommandBar. The Edge Bar (with the Feature Library, YouTube, Help, Family Of Parts and so on) goes on the right side of the graphics window, kind of like the Task Pane in Works.

You can access all the themes from the dropdown arrow to the right of the Quick Access toolbar (upper left, next to the Solid Edge application icon).


The Solid Edge ST6 Themes are called Some Assistance, Maximum Assistance, Maximum Workspace, and Balanced – Solid Edge Default. If you want to learn more about the advantages of the various themes, follow this link. (Another article is going to make the case for Web Help, but here’s a preview of one of the benefits – I can link to the Solid Edge Web Help directly from any web-based article).


theme5.PNGThe first thing I like about the new theme layout is that Solid Edge seems to acknowledge in the names that interface layout is competition between conflicting goals: access to tools (speed/mouseclicks) and workspace. It lets you make your own decision. Not everyone has the same needs, so nice pre-packaged options are really a great thing for new users who are investigating. Of course the interface is fully customizable as well, once you learn your way around. Themes are just a great way to get started.


For new users, I suggest you play with the Theme settings, to see what suits you best. Again, my favorite is the Some Assistance. I truly envy Solid Edge expert users who can use the stripped-down CommandBar, which is the most efficient use of interface space I have ever seen.


For experienced users, I’m interested in knowing how you set up your interface? Do you customize the QuickBar? What do you find most efficient way to use Solid Edge?


Great article Mat.

Over many years of teaching Solid Edge I have discouraged users from wanting to customise the Solid Edge user interface. I often found that users coming from AutoCad wanted to have keyboard shortcuts for almost everything. My rationale was (and still is) that the Solid Edge developers had built the most efficient user interface in existence and any changes or customisations would most likely degrade that efficiency. Hence as part of the training I would spend a lot of time ensuring that my students understood and used the efficient Solid Edge workflows.

So in my opinion trying to make Solid Edge look like brand X may degrade the overall experience. While the Solid Edge user interface is not perfect it has had a great deal of thought put into it.


Mark Fort



I understand your point of view. I definitely agree that trying to make one CAD package look/work like another is probably not going to work out. But being on this side of things, there are so many things to learn at once. I'm not sure if the transition is more or less difficult because the packages have some similarities.


I've always been a big fan of customization, and truth be known, I do love hotkeys too, but I haven't set any up in Edge (yet).. Solid Edge also has the radial menu, which can save a lot of space. Hotkeys are definitely the fastest way to work as long as you can remember all the key combos, even more so if you have a spaceball or one of those crazy mice with a zillion programmable buttons.


You're right that the SE developers set up the interface the way they did for a reason, but I think they also gave us a lot of options for a reason. There is always a balance that has to be struck, and everyone is going to strike it differently. I've seen people adopt new interface methods just because they were new, even though you could demonstrate that it didn't save keystrokes, mouse travel, time, or space.

Gears Esteemed Contributor

Actually, Themes existed in Solid Edge for a few releases now but they only stored the Ribbon customizations.  What is new with ST6 is the fact that they now also store UI layout, and several default themes are now delivered for particular user type personas.


Ah, thanks. Yes, you're right,the persona part is what was new.


Keyboard shortcuts are great for touch typers but for a klutz like me they are inefficient. The radial menu is great when I remember to use it especially gestures. I programed "hide part" into the NE position and now if something is in my way I just flick it away, it feels kind of good! Mostly I'm too busy thinking about the end result to think about doing it the fastest possible way to get there, but that is the nature of my particular job.

Gears Honored Contributor

Keyboard shortcuts are ideally meant for the most frequently used commands and only an end user knows what his frequently used commands are. Insisting on assigning a keyboard shortcut to virtually each and every command especially those which are almost never used would be an overkill.

Gears Honored Contributor

As an experienced Edger, using the 'Maximum workspace' theme, I would even want the PathFinder to collapse further down to the root node which is the Part/Assembly name.