I’ve been tinkering with the SpacePilot PRO. I love customization. The SpacePilot PRO offers a high level of customization. I will discuss different facets of the device in future articles. This time I am writing about the programmable buttons.
The SpacePilot PRO has 21 programmable buttons. Additionally, 10 of those buttons have dual mappings for a total of 31 mapped commands. That is a lot! On top of that, each of the buttons are mapped differently for each program or mode supported by the device. Within SolidWorks itself, there are three different mappings: Drawing, Part and Assembly modes. (There is no mapping just for sketches, but there should be.)
Many of the buttons are directly related to functionality of the device or specific commands that are defined by intuitive icons. Ultimately, I only recommend changing the mapping for the five buttons. These are the dual mapped buttons labelled 1/6, 2/7, 3/8, 4/9, and 5/10. When holding the left hand over the navigation knob, these buttons fall under the pinky finger. Giving the dual mapped button a single quick press initiates the first command. To choose the second command instead, press and hold the button down for a second. These buttons are a little awkward at first (being under the pinky), but I got used to it pretty quickly.
The 5 dual mapped buttons to the right of the knob (accessed with the thumb or index finger) provide quick access to standard model views. For example, one button jumps to the front or back views of the model. Most of the standard model views are covered by this set of buttons. However, one thing that is missing is the ability to save a named view and to return to it at any time. Given the level of detail that has gone into the SpacePilot PRO, it surprizes me that this ability is missing. I think this is one of the points I mentioned to 3Dconnexion back in February.
So, you know what I did? I made up for this missing functionality by writing a pair of macros that do just that. One saves the current model view as a named view. The other returns to that named view. I then programmed these two functions to button 1/6. (I’ve already uploaded these to my resources site here: Quick View Save and Restore. These macros can actually be used with any device with programmable functions, or even just as icons on a toolbar.) Let’s hope that 3Dconnexion covers this basic function in future iterations of their 3D mice.
Hint: for users of SolidWorks 2008 and 2009, I would recommend programming one of the buttons to the letter “S” for the shortcut toolbar. This would practically eliminate the need to touch the keyboard except for typing notes and numbers.
Overall, I have found that the plentiful number of buttons is a big plus for the SpacePilot PRO. These buttons extend the functionality of the device beyond just being a 3D mouse.