SW Dwg ER Blitz: Dwight Livingston Interview

Dwight Livingston is an Industrial Designer who participates on the SolidWorks Forums.  A couple of months ago or so, he took on a cause that hits close to home for many of us.  A discussion was started that asked the question, “when is solidworks ever going to focus on drawings for a new release?”  Mr. Livingston answered this call to arms by taking on a new project in the Drawings Forum called SolidWorks Drawing ER Blitz, where many people have come together to bring up drawing functionality that needs improvement, such as missing features, bugs, nice-to-haves, and more robust capabilities.   The purpose of this is effort is to compile a list in which all of us are welcome to vote.  The list will then be submitted to SolidWorks Corp, who have expressed interest in the results.  Stay tuned for more information on when and where to vote.

In the meantime, I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Livingston about his project. 

Dwight, you are running a project in the SolidWorks Drawings Forum that has generated a lot of attention. You named it SolidWorks Drawings ER Blitz.  Please, tell me about this project and how you got started with it.

Dwight LivingstonThe effort grew out of a couple of frustrations. One is with the current Enhancement Request system. I’ve put in a few enhancement requests, but I never felt it worked for me. When I look through the listed ERs, none seem to be those that people are talking about on the forum. Some of the ERs did not make sense. If I added my own ER, it would not show up. I wanted a better process, one that would engage people and encourage critical discussion.

The other frustration has been Drawing Tables. Vertical padding in tables has never worked right, ever since I started using SolidWorks in 2004. Every year I expected it to be fixed, but the fix never came. I have been involved in writing CAD procedures for our shop, and they include table formatting for our drawings. With the current versions of SolidWorks, the tables often look like crap. The work-around is a lot of manual fussing with row heights. I had to include a little table in our procedure that shows proper row heights for how many lines of text. It’s embarrassing.

When the Eddie Cyganik started the forum topic “What Drawing Functionality Does SolidWorks Need to Improve?”, I thought that was a good way to address the ER process. Other people had similar ideas. Steve Calvert suggested an Enhancement Request Forum, which I think would be a great thing to have. Users could have a dialog with each other and with SolidWorks people, focusing on a specific ER. There’s be a chance to improve the ER, get people to understand what the ER is all about, show perhaps that SolidWorks already had the capability requested.

The other part was establishing the importance of an idea. It’s frustrating to see SolidWorks come out with enhancements that I can’t use, rather than add the things I need. The users need to provide SolidWorks with priorities. Voting is a way to do that. So we’re doing a big voting survey to choose which of all the enhancements we came up with would be the ones most people really want.

What was the inspiration for the name SolidWorks Drawings ER Blitz?

Not much inspiration. I wanted a term that would be easy to search. I was thinking of football, I guess, and a play where the defense concentrates their forces on a limited objective and takes the issue to the other side. That’s instead of spreading out and waiting to see what gets tossed our way. In can’t say “blitz” describes the speed of the process; it seems too slow.

The project is feed by individuals posting responses in the SolidWorks Forums.  Posts related to this project now approaches 200 (possibly already more).  What do you think of (or feel about) the responses and participation so far with this project?

It’s been good. Some of my own ERs got shot down – that’s a good thing. People explained some existing functionality that made the ERs unnecessary, so we weren’t clogging the process with requests that don’t need solutions. Some of the other ER schemes evolved as people commented and improved over time. That’s how I think it ought to work.

I wished we could have had more people making critiques. There may be ways to draw people into the discussion, make it easier for people to join in. I think the process should be more competitive. There should be feedback to tell people that their favorite idea is going down unless they improve it. Matt Lombard’s current column has a nice example of using polling tools, placed right in the discussion. After reading a couple of paragraphs you get to fill out a poll. You pick if you think a feature should work this way, or that way, or it doesn’t matter. I can see adding some additional choices, such as “I don’t understand what you are talking about”  and “What we really need is. . . .” That way we might get more people involved in the process.

What are you getting about all this?  🙂

We’ll see. I’ve received emails from SolidWorks, with interest in the ERs and in the process. That’s what I really hope for, is an improved ER process, one that engages more users, is more competitive, is more open, and encourages evolution of the ideas.

Direct input to the list of items within the project has now closed.  It has entered the voting stage.  What is your plan for the vote results?

The results will be posted on the forum. The plan is to list popular items as official ERs, which people may then go and support. That stage may be unnecessary, as the survey will go directly into SolidWorks evaluation process, in some manner.

Author: fcsuper

As a drafter, mechanical designer and CAD engineer, I've been in the mechanical design field since 1991. For the first 8 years of my career, I was an AutoCAD professional. I utilized AutoLISP and many other AutoCAD customization features to streamline drafting activities for 6+ drafters and designers. I authored several custom functions, one of which was published in the March 1997 issue of Cadalyst Magazine. Since 1998, I've been used SolidWorks non-stop. I've worked to utilize the SolidWorks' user environment to simplify drafting and design activities for 20+ engineers. I've created this website to provide current information about SolidWorks from a variety of contributors. More recently, I am now employed by Dassault Systemes as SOLIDWORKS Sr. Product Definition Manager to improve drawing, annotation and MBD related areas.

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