Archive for July, 2011

Four Practical Approaches to Improving SolidWorks Performance

July 27, 2011 4 comments

SolidWorksWhat goes into improving SolidWorks performance? Way too much. Really, programs, CAD software should be more simple. Hardware should be more simple, but for the very reason that software and hardware are not developed together, we’re faced with attempting to optimize both and you… are faced with this article.

You can break all the aspects of performance and what goes into optimizing your system into four practical approaches. You can apply these to a large company, small company or an individual. You can use it as a checklist or give it to IT and tell them to get their act together.

Software Performance

SolidWorks is a strange beast. You’ll get optimal performance one time and then something changes to totally confuse you. How you create your model — keeping files together, reducing external references, optimizing relations — helps. These are all things that a bit of training and a solid slap can solve. Beyond that, you can improve performance by going into the SolidWorks options and turning off the SolidWorks news feed, reducing level of detail and setting the search to index only when idle. RealView adds more realistic visuals for material and environments. If you notice lag, try toggling it off under View / Display / RealView. All good things to know, but none of this will matter as much if you have optimized hardware.

Hardware Performance

For best performance with SolidWorks, it’s always best to start with hardware. You’ll find better performance with SolidWorks with a faster CPU. Max that sucker out. Multiple CPUs, even better. Recommended RAM for current SolidWorks versions is 6GB. It’s cheap, toss it in. A 1GB graphics card will provide smoother visuals. Turn off visual effects for Windows. Go to Performance Info and Tools in the Windows Control Panel and adjust for best performance. Keep your computer clean. Use programs like Speccy to monitor your system, Defraggler to keep your system defragged and CCleaner to keep that registry and program list optimized.

Software Life Cycle

Keeping software updated can be challenging, particularly when new versions of software that are used together come out at different times throughout the year. For best performance increases and time to allow testing of new functionality, I suggest a 14-18 month update cycle. This allows for at least one Service Pack (point release) of SolidWorks and provides time for a soft roll-out of the update.

Hardware Life Cycle

I list this last because it’s often the coldest piece of cod to swallow. Hardware is expensive. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare for the necessary upgrades that you will need over the years, especially in light of SolidWorks software updates and the need to keep employees or yourself super efficient. 2-year hardware cycles are often ideal for three reasons. It keeps you apprised of the technology, improves power efficiencies/capabilities and you get a better tax break for donating the old stuff to charity.

We view performance as software that doesn’t crash and hardware that doesn’t make us wait around. There’s always something you can do to make it all run a little better. The bottom line is this: Keep on a clear update cycle for software and hardware. Deal with hardware performance first, maxing out CPU speed, then deal with the intricacies of the software itself. You’ll have a smoother running system and you’ll be a much happier SolidWorks user.

Join Josh Mings for a TwitterChat on Thursday, July 28 at 4 p.m. ET. We’ll be talking about performance on SolidWorks. Follow the conversation at #dellcad and jump in!  Click for more information.

Josh Mings is a mechanical engineer in the aircraft interiors industry. He is a CSWP with certified training and support for SolidWorks. He is editor of covering CAD, design and technology and is co-host of Engineer vs. Designer at Follow him on Twitter@joshmings and @solidsmack or find him at LinkedIn or Google+.

Optimize AutoCAD Civil 3D Performance: Hardware, Operating System and Workflow Upgrades

July 25, 2011 3 comments

AutoCAD Civil 3D 2012Many AutoCAD Civil 3D users are aware that upgrading to a 64-bit operating system, preferably Windows 7 and Windows Vista (in that order), will give the biggest return on investment when looking at improving performance.  Other opportunities to improve performance also exist.

One is multiple or multi-core processors.  For the most part, AutoCAD Civil 3D runs as a single process, which means it will not utilize more than one processor, even if they are available.  The exception to this is rendering, where multiple or multi-core processors can result in as much as a 250% decrease in render time.  Though Civil 3D does not take advantage of multi-core processing, having multiple processors can still be beneficial since it enables you to run processes, such as anti-virus and firewall software, as well as other applications—such as Outlook—on separate processors and provide a more dedicated processor for AutoCAD Civil 3D. If you are a user who multitasks throughout the day and runs several applications at the same time, you may see added benefits in multiple or multi-core processors.

When contemplating hard drives, you should consider the data transfer rate.  Faster data transfer rates will help decrease the time it takes to open Civil 3D, as well as load and save drawings that are stored locally.  In addition, a faster transfer rate can increase performance when utilizing the hard drive for virtual memory, especially with 32-bit operating systems.

Beyond hardware and operating system changes, there are tactics you can implement to improve the performance of your day-to-day work in Civil 3D.  These include

  • Using code set styles with no fill or a solid fill. Stay away from hatch patterns.
  • Avoid using the option to grid clip profile views until producing construction documents.  When working with pipe networks, turn off hatching, pipe cleanup and masking until producing construction documents.  Using the option ‘Display as boundary’ is also optimal.
  • Use single-label components versus multiples.
  • When working with surfaces use 1) external point files versus COGO points, 2) surface snapshots when possible, and 3) Level of Detail (LOD) display
  • When working with corridors, turn off rebuild automatically and don’t display regions you aren’t working with. Additionally, create cross sections in a separate drawing.

This combination of operating system, hardware, and workflow adjustments can help to optimize your experience working with AutoCAD Civil 3D.

Authors: Karen Weiss, Transportation and Land Infrastructure Industry Marketing Manager, Autodesk; Jason Hickey, Senior Support Specialist, Autodesk

Set Up an Online Backup System for Your CAD Data, Part 3 – The Enterprise Solution

July 21, 2011 1 comment

So we established that you need an online backup system for your CAD data, then we gave you some suggestions for solutions if you are a freelancer or small business owner. But what if you work for (or own) a company that is a large CAD service provider?

For the Enterprise

Server roomCongratulations! You’ve worked hard and now your small business has grown into a CAD service powerhouse! Your legions of CAD professionals are plugged into your computer network and depending on your server every day. Your data is as important as ever, but the dollar amounts have inflated! You need to know your data is safe and your employees need access to your data that is a notch above “backup.” It’s time for a complete data backup solution.

A local/off-site backup solution like the Barracuda Backup Service is just what you are looking for. This is a hardware/service solution that combines a backup server to install in your office server rack and off-site storage in a secure data center. The local storage portion of this solution offers lightning fast access to data backup that is versioned by date, while the identical data is available online for access anywhere on the net. Barrracuda offers their hardware and service in various capacities to suit every size company.

Start Up on the Backups

There is no time like now to begin securing that valuable data. Don’t be caught short handed should disaster strike. Whether you are the lone freelancer or the master of a CAD empire, you can see that there is a backup service that is right for you. But the full list of backup choices doesn’t end here. There are many different services across the internet to choose from. If you are using a backup service this isn’t on our list be sure to leave a comment below and tell us about it. However you backup, what is important is that you do backup. So get to it and start backing up now!

Have your own suggestions for online backup services? Leave a comment below!

Author: Curt Moreno

Set Up an Online Backup System for Your CAD Data, Part 2 – The Freelancer and the Small Business Owner

July 20, 2011 3 comments

So we established that you need an online backup system for your CAD data. So, where do you begin?

For the Freelancer

Storage data bankSo maybe you think that you don’t need a dedicated backup routine because you are just doing CAD work on the side. You are the part-time freelancer with only a few jobs on your drive. But data of any kind is important, especially if it belongs to a client. Backing up for the freelancer does not have to be complicated. is a freemium service (a service with both free and premium versions) designed to make backing up as easy as saving to a local directory. Just visit Dropbox and register for an account to get 2 GB of free storage in the cloud. Once you are registered, download the Dropbox application for your desktop or mobile and you are set up. The installation will put a nice little “Dropbox” folder icon on your desktop. Treat it like any directory to save files and create sub-directories. The trick is that everything you put in this magical folder gets backed up to the cloud! Your data is instantly saved off-site at Dropbox’s secure data centers and available anywhere you can use a browser!

For the Small Business

So you’ve been working as a freelancer so long that you are now a small business! Maybe you have a few employees and more clients. Your data storage needs are too big for Dropbox so what now? Enter Carbonite. is a online backup service designed for heavier lifting than Dropbox. Signing up with the Carbonite service will bring automated backups to your small business. Just like Dropbox, Carbonite will automatically backup your data to off-site servers. However Carbonite service plans allow you to back up data from all of the workstations and servers in your small business! Not only will your data be secure in the Carbonite data centers, it is secure on the way there with end to end encryption.

Do you have a larger business and more intensive data backup needs? Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten you. Next we’ll talk about enterprise solutions.

Have your own suggestions for online backup services? Leave a comment below!

Author: Curt Moreno

Set Up an Online Backup System for Your CAD Data, Part 1

July 14, 2011 5 comments

Set up an online backup system for your CAD FilesFire. Hurricane. Theft. Tornado. Grape juice. Electrical surge. Really when you get down to it there is no end to the list of disastrous events that can beginning of the end of your workstation’s hard drive. That may seem pretty obvious, but what may not be as obvious is that there is no end to the dangers that your data must face also! Whether you are a corporate giant or a freelancing CAD professional, the danger is really the same. Any day could be the day that you lose your valuable data!

What can be done to save our precious data from the evils of the world? Should we build hurricane and nuclear proof shelters around our workstations and servers? Should be install wind turbines and storage cells to provide clean, constant electrical currents to our equipment? Should we duct tape our children to cinder blocks whilst they enjoy their afternoon juice box? Well we could do all that or … we could just back our data up.

No Safety in CDs

No I am not referring to that pathetic stack of CDs and DVDs you have haphazardly stacked by your monitor. Half of those things aren’t even labeled! If that is your backup scenario then the things are looking pretty bleak. What would happen if a disaster struck your office and destroyed workstation? If your backups are sitting right next to that workstation, they are gone too! Not much of a system, is it? They probably weren’t up to date anyway.

No, what you need is an off-site backup system. That, of course, is the system where your data is saved securely at a location away from the workstation. This is the only way you can be sure that your data is safe and you can carry on with business in the face of disaster. “Off-site backups” may sound complicated, but they aren’t. In fact there are dozens of services ready to help you get started.

Next, I’ll outline specific services for different types of organizations.

Author: Curt Moreno

AutoCAD WS: Go Mobile and Collaborate in Real Time

July 12, 2011 6 comments

With over 2 million downloads in less than a year — AutoCAD WS has become quite the mobile sensation. Thanks to Cloud technology, you can now upload your drawings to AutoCAD WS — and access them from any iOS  (iPod touch, iPAD, iPhone) or Google Android device.

For the AutoCAD user, that means the ability to take your drawings to the job site, with or without an internet connection, and use the markup features to update the drawings remotely. If you happen to have an internet connection – your coworkers back in the office can actually see your edits in real time!

And did I mention it is free of charge? (and we all love free!).

Alert:  This is how you’re going to get your boss to approve a iPad or tablet!

AutoCAD WS isn’t just for remote use – it’s also a strong player in collaboration.  You can share your drawing files with others (even if they don’t have AutoCAD) and invite them to an online collaboration session. AutoCAD 2012 and AutoCAD for Mac have tools built right into the user interface to managing your drawing and sharing super easy.

Accessing AutoCAD WS web service

Click for larger image.

So let’s say you want to share a drawing file with someone.  Simply select the Share drawing option in AutoCAD and entire the email address of the intended collaborator.  You can decide whether they can edit and/or download the drawing (as opposed to just viewing the drawing file).

Collaborate with AutoCAD WS web service

Click for larger image.

Or maybe you just want a safe and secure place to keep your drawing files.  With security as tight as your bank  (which I like to think is super secure) you can upload your drawing files at the end of your work day and access them from anywhere.  Maybe you decide to work at home the next day – not a problem as you can just grab your saved drawing files from AutoCAD WS.

The online version of AutoCAD WS ( has a decent set of drawing and editing tools for basic markups.  You can even turn layers on and off – or create new layers (great for markups).  I love the Timeline option (and certainly wish AutoCAD had this) that allows you to go back in time and check out the various revisions.

Sharing with AutoCAD WS web service

Click for larger image.

So how many files can you post on AutoCAD WS?  As many as you want! (and did I mention it is free?).  There is a 15mb limit per drawing but other than that the storage capacity is limitless – it doesn’t get much better than that.

Give AutoCAD WS a try — you won’t believe the capabilities you get at such a tiny price tag (and $0 is about as tiny as you can possibly get!)

Did you miss the Dell-Sponsored TwitterChat on AutoCAD WS web service with Lynn Allen last month? Click here for the archive!

Author: Lynn Allen, Autodesk Evangelist. Find more tips from Lynn Allen on

Avoid Common Mistakes When You Set Up Vectorworks

July 8, 2011 2 comments

With any design program, no matter how novice or experienced you may be, you’re probably prone to making the occasional error.  Start off the right way by checking the basic system recommendations before installing Vectorworks CAD software. System requirements can be found on the Nemetschek Vectorworks website. Also spend some time learning how you can optimize your desktop or workstation and get the most out of your Vectorworks experience.

With Vectorworks software, users at all levels have very likely made some common mistakes. All of them are related to settings and shortcuts that are intended to make design work faster and more enjoyable, but for the uninformed user these shortcuts can also cause some frustration. But fear not—they are all very easy to remedy.

Problems with Plug-Ins

Vectorworks is rich in plug-in objects, such as doors and windows, which help users efficiently place intelligent objects in their designs. However, if you’re not familiar with these plug-ins, you might find difficulty inserting doors and windows into your walls. This is because these objects have ‘modes’ which provide several additional controls when using the tools. If a door or window isn’t inserting, it may be because “Wall Insertion Mode” has been accidentally turned off, thus preventing you from inserting doors/windows into walls. It’s simple to fix. Just enable the Wall Insertion Mode by clicking on the icon in the mode bar.

Problems with Plug-Ins

Skittish Selection Tool

Have you ever run into a problem where you suddenly can’t use your selection tool to resize something? If you’re like most users, you probably have. Just like our first common mistake, this behavior is caused by accidentally enabling a mode in the mode bar. In this case, you have enabled the mode “Disable Interactive Scaling,” which means you’re no longer able to interactively re-size an object with the selection tool. Again, this has a simple fix. With the selection tool selected, simply click on the Disable Interactive Scaling button in the mode bar to turn it off.

<Skittish Selection Tool

Cursor Cue Concerns

Keyboard shortcuts can be a very wonderful thing. Once you learn them, they save you time and dramatically improve your drafting/modeling efficiency. But, as helpful as they can be, these shortcuts can sometimes lead to errors. For example, you may have experienced suddenly losing all your SmartCursor Cues (visual screen hints that appear when hovering over specific points of objects, such as endpoint, center, midpoint, etc.). The cause of this sudden loss of cues is quite simple. You’ve likely accidentally hit the “Y” key, which has disabled your cursor cues. The quick fix for this? Hit the “Y” key again.

Cursor Cue Concerns

I hope these tips will help you avoid some of the common mistakes users make and allow you to maximize your efficiency when working with Vectorworks. For more Tech Tips, please visit the Vectorworks YouTube Channel.

Author: Juan Almansa, Product Support Manager, Nemetschek Vectorworks, Inc.

The Advantages of Eyefinity for CAD, Part 3: Rules of Thumb

July 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Previously in this series, we’ve talked about using Eyefinity with older displays and how to find the right adapter for non-DisplayPort monitors.

EyefinityObviously this confusion will fade away as older non-DisplayPort monitors are gradually replaced by new DisplayPort-savvy displays. For reasons of cost though, don’t expect to see that too soon. Until then here are some rules of thumb.

  • A maximum of 2 VGA/DVI/HDMI monitors can be enabled simultaneously by using a passive DisplayPort adapter/dongle on FirePro cards. (about $22)
  • To enable support for more than 2 VGA/DVI/HDMI monitors, active DisplayPort adapters/dongles are required (about $28 but included for free, one for each DisplayPort output, w/ the latest generation of FirePro cards).
  • To support a dual-link DVI monitor, a powered, active DisplayPort to DL-DVI adapter/dongle is required (about $80)
  • DisplayPort monitors of any resolution require no adapters/dongles
  • VGA monitors can be supported via:
    • Native VGA connector from the graphics card
    • DVI-I connector + passive DVI to VGA adapter
    • Active DP to VGA adapter

Eyefinity is a game-changing technology for boosting productivity at very low cost and low power. By including active adapters in the new FirePro line, AMD is making the user experience for Eyefinity significantly better and thus more pervasive.

I actually read a Twitter post the other day that seems relevant here:  “RT @cavemanjim: Biggest takeaway from AMD Fusion Summit is that AMD actually cares about user experience. It’s not a means to an end, it is the end.”

Author: Tony DeYoung