Peter De Vlieger

Toolbars, Command Manager and UI design intent.

Discussion created by Peter De Vlieger on Apr 1, 2018

To whomever it may concern at SolidWorks


Grab a cup of coffee or even better a cup of herbal tea this will take a while. For the record, I'm using 2018 SP2.



I believe in 2016 the lock the CommandManager (&toolbars) became an option. Set the lock and the Command Manager would no longer be accidentally moved from it's spot. Sounded great until you realized that this didn't mean that it wouldn't move at all, just that it wouldn't by accident get moved by the user. In my experience it meant that if you didn't dock it on top (standard) but for instance to the side of your SW or on a secondary screen then don't be surprised if it ended up in the top docked position after a hard crash or a forced quit.


The same applies to the toolbars. As long as you only use a toolbar or two docked next to the Command Manager on top one is probably safe. However dare to put a dozen toolbars in any other location, let alone if they are in multiple rows or columns, and you're in a world of hurt.

The amount of fiddling to get the toolbars actually head to tail with each other without it jumping, and creating, a new row, is unbelievable. But when all is actually set up as the user wants, locked the toolbars in place and change to a different screen, be it PRT, ASM or drawing, all has been for nought more often then not. Just fiddle again, and again, and again until finally they seem to stick, for the most part. Until a crash or a forced quit a day, a week or a month later and it's all over the place. It has even happend to me that they're all in the top position with one toolbar per row all neatly left aligned.

Why a crash means that the location of the toolbars get reset instead of them staying in place doesn't exactly sound like stellar UI design. If it's because the registry keys get messed up by a crash then guess what? How about not storing the data concerning toolbars in a place that gets so easily overwritten.


I for one don't like spending my time trying to figure out where something is . I expect that the functions that I need are in the place that I choose for them seeing as that I seem to have a choice where to put them.

As someone mentioned in a different thread, it's not unlike somebody every so often re-arranging your tool chest so that instead you just being able to blindly grab for your socket wrench you have to start opening drawers, digging underneath stuff and when having a moment setting the tool chest back up per your needs and wants until the next time it happens. It really doesn't create a smooth and satisfactory working environment. Nor an environment where one can concentrate on design intent but instead one has to deal with what looks to me to be the fruits of poor testing.


In fact, it reminds me of Acad 14. In that program version one could place toolbars on top, sides, or bottom. But if something went pear shaped it too would just mess up your carefully and calculated placement of toolbars if they were anywhere but on top. Now Acad 14 was pre-1998. Twenty years later SolidWorks still pulls the same 'spiel' on us. You can place everything anywhere but unless it's in a particular manner that someone at Solidworks think is best and didn't take into account that you the user might actually deviate from that manner then you're on your own.

Look, if we aren't supposed to do something then either don't let us or at least tell us not to do it if it's too much bother to get it regulated by programming.



I've mentioned a few times over the years of tabs relating to routing that one can't switch off on the CommandManager well not in a way that they stay switched of. If it's too difficult to actually making the piping and/or tubing and/or electrical switch off then don't give us the option to do so. Did anyone ever test that? It certainly doesn't look like it. That or they did but just couldn't be bothered.



Now, after trying the 'ribbon' since 2009 I'm so done with it. No, I never believed the MS BS about the ribbon to be the next best thing but I stuck with it even although anyone can see that it means more mouse clicks and more mouse travel to do things that one used to do quicker. Now in some programs I deal with it mainly because I don't use those programs that often or that intensely so the handful of commands I do use I just deal with the ribbon. In fact the big selling point of the ribbon was that the user would explore and stumble on functionality that he didn't know was present gets undercut by the fact that some functions that are standard on toolbars don't seem to be in the Command Manager. So yes, Command Manager makes you discover stuff by searching the pull down menu's, the toolbars or digging in the list of commands. I guess someone didn't get the memo about the ribbon being customer friendly and helpful in discovering new functionality without having to dig.



What I also find  customization unfriendly is that certain functions that are standard on the Command Manager aren't in any available toolbar and although making a custom Command Manager tab from scratch is no issue making a custom toolbar from scratch is not built in the program. If it is, it's pretty well hidden. Then again, that plays into the entire ribbon mindset because why would anyone want to use ol' fashioned toolbars if one has a ribbon (yes sarcasm).

If we're not meant to use something then don't put it in.



There's a button to switch off the Command Manager. A button that clearly isn't supposed to be used because replacing it with toolbars has been made difficult, tedious and as I've tried to point out, a rather unstable experience because you can never tell where what toolbar will end up being.

So yes, theoretically it's possible to revert to just toolbars but unless you're willing to spend lots of time to get it to your liking and are prepared to revisit that quite often it just doesn't seem practical.



Just as one can choose not to have text in the Command Manager below the icons. Yep, it's there but few are those that indeed don't use it because lots of people actually rely on the text and if you show Solidworks without the text in the Command Manager many are those that have difficulty to actual recognize the icons. Just look at any Solidworks presentation by a VAR, or on Youtube...  everyone leaves it on.

In other words it seems to be a choice for choice sake and if it was taken away most wouldn't even notice it.



The program does many things right but it also has lots of baggage that could be streamlined, redesigned from the ground up so that it would be more easy to manage and far less likely to have those long lists of bugs that get fixed year after year without it being more than a drop in a bucket. Are there things that users just do wrong, that I do wrong, no doubt of course there are. But it doesn't help if the creators of it all obfuscate what is and what isn't kosher to do. Creating a maze of functionalities items and choices that in some cases get abandoned leading to dead ends or having stuff that everyone says is great but nobody can explain how to actually use it for anything else then a demo. Not to mention things that just don't seem to work in a real practical environment. Or, to get back to the subject matter, UI choices that are nonsensical, badly implemented or give a distinct impression of being insufficiently well thought out.


While a finely tuned UI isn't something that the boys in marketing would be interested in I would think that it would help customer satisfaction and all that without risking devolving actual code or, inserting bugs, concerning the handling of the 3d model.


If there's anything truly quintessential American it's the yes-we-can attitude. Would be great to see that in practice on this program. It makes not only the people working on it proud but also those that have to work with it.




If anyone cares to show me where my views are wrong or where certain things could easily be fixed then I'm all ears.