BatchProcess 2 Product Review

For people that frequent the SolidWorks Forums and the SolidWorks area on, the name Luke Malpass is likely familiar.  Malpass is the founder of and the author of several SolidWorks API books.  He developed a powerful, yet simple SolidWorks add-in called BatchProcess.  This add-in was recently updated as BatchProcess 2.  The new version is fully integrated within the SolidWorks task pane.

What does BatchProcess 2 do?  It allows the user to quickly perform and repeat complex tasks on any number of SolidWorks documents with very little set up.

Full disclosure

Before I get into more specific details and opinions, let it be known that Luke Malpass has provided me with licenses for BatchProcess 2.  The licenses give me full access to the functionality of the software in real world usage.  This allows me to write this review as accurately as I am able.  No request for content within this review (favorable nor otherwise) was expressed or implied by Luke Malpass.  The content of this review is solely my own.


User Interface

The user interface for BatchProcess 2 is unique in the SolidWorks realm.  It seems to be vaguely reminiscent of colorful flowcharts.  The interface is attractive and flows well with the workflow of the add-in.


BatchProcess 2 requires that Microsoft’s .Net FrameWork 4.0 and SQL Compact 3.5 are installed.  The BatchProcess 2 installer will notify the user if these applications are missing.  I have found that tracking down the correct versions of .Net FrameWork  and SQL Compact on Microsoft’s website can be a cumbersome task, even when URL’s are provided.  I realize that Microsoft controls the distribution of these files.  Even still, it would be nice to have the installer be a bit more proactive in acquiring and installing all software required for BatchProcess 2.  However, once the pre-installations are complete, [T]he BatchProcess 2 installation is a breeze [and it no longer requires the user to perform any pre-installations as of 6/18/2010].  The installer even activates BatchProcess 2 within the SolidWorks Add-ins list.


As with any batch application, before any batch activity can be started, the user is required to select the documents that are to be affected.  In BatchProcess 2, this is done by building a project (a list of documents).  Single files, whole folders, open and recently open documents may all be quickly added to the project.  This may be accomplished by clicking on the appropriate button in the Import Document into Project List row.

Projects may be saved and loaded for repeated use across multiple sessions.

Project Toolbar Strip

Once a project is built, there are functions in the Project Toolbar Strip that allow the user to add associated documents (assembly components, drawing references) and remove specific documents in the project.  Other toolbar tools are also available.

So far, my favorite toolbar tool is the powerful Print button which will automatically print all highlighted documents from the project.  Other tools allow the user to open, preview, and check-in/out files in Enterprise PDM.



For more complex tasks, BatchProcess 2 has a multi-layered job building tool.  What’s a job?  A job is a list of tasks that execute on every document within the open project.  Jobs may include tasks for:

  • Complex printing options
  • Custom properties (add, delete, or modify)
  • Exporting models and drawings into dozens of file formats (such as DXF, IGES, STEP, PDF, etc)
  • Drawings templates (reload, set, or replace)
  • and the execution of API macros

Once a job is created, it may be run.  While a job is running, other activities in SolidWorks are generally not possible.  This is because a running  job makes changes directly to documents within a project. For example, if a job task says “Open”, then each document is visibly opened within SolidWorks.

Once a job is complete, BatchProcess 2 provides a detailed report of the completed tasks for each document in the project.

Functionality improvements

I’ve noticed that BatchProcess is constantly being improved.  New functionality is added regularly.  For example, BatchProcess 2 has a new minor release pack that allows the user to send all jobs to any other instance of BatchProcess 2 that is running on the network.  With this new feature, a CAD administrator can install one extra copy of BatchProcess 2 on a server and have all other seats send their jobs to that one to do their work.

There is one apparent drawback with BatchProcess 2.  There is no access to BatchProcess Help within SolidWorks.  Users have to go to the BatchProcess website to view a written tutorial.  Malpass has stated there are plans to integrate Help at a later date.

Purchase options

Currently, the only purchase outlet for BatchProcess 2 is on the BatchProcess website. Purchases are made in British Pounds.  There are two product options available.  Option 1 is a one-time purchase of BatchProcess 2 for 235.00 Pounds (about $345 as of 6/1/2010).  Option 2 is 525.50 Pounds (about $775.00 as of 6/1/2010) and includes BatchProcess 2 with one year maintenance.  Maintenance includes minor and major updates to BatchProcess for one year, and preferential handling of technical support requests.

With the US Dollar being so strong against the Pound right now, this is a great time for American companies to buy this product.  However, I would like to see a North American purchasing outlet for the BatchProcess line.


I found time and labor is saved when using BatchProcess 2 in real world scenarios.  The time it takes to set up and run a job on many documents is almost incomparable to the time spent manually completing those same tasks.  Particularly, I’ve found the Project Toolbar Strip printing function to be very useful. 

One function that I didn’t get to test yet is BatchProcess 2’s execution of API macros.  Hopefully I’ll provide a supplemental report on that at a later date.

With BatchProcess 2, a ROI report should very easy to create (even with a currency exchange rate to consider).  Simply compare how long a user takes to complete a series of tasks on a batch of documents with how long those same tasks can be completed in BatchProcess 2.

Overall, BatchProcess 2 is a good SolidWorks add-in that has accessible functionality and may provide significant cost savings for many SolidWorks users.

Office2PDM review (E!PDM for MS Office)

The power of SolidWorks Enterprise PDM has given many users streamlined solutions for CAD file management from within the CAD applications.   Enterprise PDM is also capable of managing documents which are not CAD.  Unlike its support for CAD applications, Enterprise PDM interface is not available within other types of applications, such as Microsoft Office.  Office2PDM by Extensible CAD Technologies has changed this.  Office2PDM is an add-in for Microsoft Office that offers access to Enterprise PDM functions within Word, Excel, PowerPoint and even Outlook.  I recently got a chance to see a demonstration of Office2PDM.

With Enterprise PDM, beginning a change to a MS Office document usually involves closing the Office application (or at least closing the document to be changed), opening the standalone Enterprise PDM application, navigating the vault to the location of the document and then reopening the document from the vault.  Office2PDM allows this to occur within the MS Office application.  A side pane includes information about the MS Office document’s local version, revision, status and workflow.  Many Enterprise PDM functions are also available, including access to any version of the document.


Enterprise PDM vault functions are also accessible from the menu ribbon within each MS Office application.

Ribbon Menu

Additionally, each document’s data card is also accessible from within the MS Office application.


Within MS Outlook, Office2PDM includes a lite version of the Enterprise PDM Dashboard.  This add-in is not limited to documents handled via Office2PDM.  It shows information about all documents in the vault.  One example for its use may be a manager who wishes to see what documents are currently in a workflow.  Also, reports about document status may be generated and emailed without the use of an Enterprise PDM license.

Dashboard-icon Dashboard email with history link-icon

Speaking of licenses, for each user of Office2PDM, one Enterprise PDM Contributor level (or above) license is also required.  However, this license is only used temporarily when specific tasks are underway.  This helps keep Enterprise PDM licenses free and readily shared among more users.

For all this functionality, the price per Office2PDM license seems like a good value.  For 15 concurrent licenses, its at about $200 per user for the first year; maintenance each year after would be under $50 per license.

If a company wants to leverage their Enterprise PDM install to cover non-CAD documents, Office2PDM appears to be a safe bet to save money.  It will streamline use of the Enterprise PDM vault for MS Office documents.  It may also allow small companies to put off investment into bloated PLM applications until a later time.  Use of Office2PDM in a larger company may allow its Engineering Department to control their internal documents, such as test protocols, procedures, and reports without getting tangled up in the corporate PLM.  Though Office2PDM isn’t for all situations or customers, companies that can use it will benefit.

Take away this from SolidWorks World 2010: Cloud

SolidWorks World 2010 Convention Banner
SolidWorks World 2010 Convention Banner

The buzzword at SolidWorks World 2010 was “cloud”.  There was a running gag at the convention, take a shoot of “espresso” (or whatever else your mind can imagine) every time someone uttered the word “cloud” in a presentation or speech.  If this game was real, we’d all be dead from alcohol poisoning, er I mean caffeine overdose.  All this talk about cloud computing involves creating a new SolidWorks branded interface that uses Enovia technology as its backbone.

According to Bernard Charles, CEO of Dassault Systemes, and Jeff Ray, CEO of Dassault Systemes SolidWorks Corporation, this marriage of SolidWorks with Enovia will bring new functionality, capabilities, and advantages to SolidWorks customers.  The first product of this new approach is the brand SolidWorks PLM.  The first release of a SolidWorks PLM product will be later this year, according Ray.  I’m not sure of the exact name for that first product, but they did use SolidWorks Product Data Sharing at one point.

SolidWorks Product Data Sharing

It’s my impression (at this point in time) that the initial release of SolidWorks Product Data Sharing will not have the full functionality that many users need.  A demonstration showed some of its capabilities, which are very rudimentary when compared to Enterprise PDM or SmarTeam.  The main focus for the new application appears to be an advanced communication tool, and not an actual functioning PDM or PLM.

The user interface will take on two forms: web client and SolidWorks add-in.  In the add-in, users may upload files from a window pane within SolidWorks.  They may add comments.  If more than one person is logged-in, the comments can function as a real-time chat. Functionality will allow users to invite other non-SolidWorks users via the web client version.  Files will have previews, including assembly trees that graphically layout relationships between files.  In the web client, 3D viewing of files will include on-screen commenting (redlining) within the view.

Security of the Cloud

Jeff Ray claims the workspace of the new cloud applications will be secure.  In fact, Jon Hirshtick is adamant in his belief that cloud computing is far more secure than having data on local hard drives.  This doesn’t come from opinionation.  It actually comes from experience.  SolidWorks is currently fighting a person who stole the source code for a SolidWorks application and is trying to sell it.  The person was a former employee in India who stole the code by simply copying from his hard drive and walking out with it one day.  Having this data on a cloud network with encrypted access may’ve prevented this theft.

Going the course

Ray pounding the pavement at a Reseller lunch
Ray pounding the pavement at a Reseller lunch

Charles and Ray pounded the pavement at SolidWorks World 2010 to get their message across.  Despite any flak that Dassault Systemes gets for their new direction, they are going to stay the course.  Enovia V6 is the future of Dassault Systemes.  Bringing SolidWorks in line with that future is a priority.  Charles stated that Dassault Systemes is not divided into SolidWorks and Enovia V5, it is united as V6.

I asked Ray a question about which form the new products will take.  The answer, for now, was only that they will offer their customers the choice to remain with their current system or use the new system.  In my view, this is corporate speak for “its going to replace what is currently on the market and although they will not leave customers high and dry, they will likely begin to reduce focus to the current system.”  But I could be wrong.


Now, in this article, I’m simply reporting on the new direction of SolidWorks as presented to everyone at SolidWorks World 2010.  I do have very real concerns about this new approach, which I will cover in a separate editorial (hopefully within a few days).

SolidWorks World General Session – Monday (part2)

Another theme of today’s General Session where potential improvements to 3D CAD, much of which is cloud computing based.  These include collaboration to allow more than one person to edit the same model at the same time.  Searches to use data from the database instead of making models from scratch.  Bring a “lifelike experience” (soon to be trademarked term, I’m guessing) to SolidWorks and other applications.  Predictive Engineering that can do things like calculate interferences or handle material properties before the user even requests such data.  With all these improvements associated with cloud computing, I am willing to predict that there will eventually be no distinction between SolidWorks and Catia.

Up in the clouds at SolidWorks World 2010

A new game has taken SolidWorks World 2010 by storm.  Count how many times the word “cloud” (as in cloud computing) is spoken.  At one point, it might seem that entire speeches consist entirely of the word “cloud cloud cloud cloud cloud cloud cloud cloud cloud.”  There’s a message somewhere.  Oh, that’s right.  Cloud computing is the future of SolidWorks and the rest of the Dassault Systemes applications (maybe even for high security customers). 

Cloud computing has many advantages over traditional installed software, according to Jeff Ray, CEO of SolidWorks.  No matter how good SolidWorks is, it is still limited by the computer upon which it is installed.  A significant investment is required to purchase computers that are powerful enough to get the most out of 3D CAD software.  Also, installed software tends to be limited by computer operating systems.  SolidWorks, in its current form, will not likely to be ported over to run natively on a MAC OS.  Instead, SolidWorks will bypass these limitations with cloud computing.  With cloud computing, “SolidWorks” (in whatever form it takes) may run on any platform.  In fact, the user’s computer power will play very little roll.  CAD files (even hugh assemblies) can be accessed instantly and edited on practically any platform, such as Microsoft, MAC OS, Google OS, Firefox, and iPhone.  This is all accomplished without installing any software.   They even discussed SolidWorks running seamlessly with ENOVIA V6, maybe even sometime this year.

According to Ray, the new cloud technologies will be rolled out as they are ready.  The customer will choose when (if ever) to implement.  These improvements represent a “completely new design environment”.  Ray also stated that these new techologies where developed in secret and “run like a start up”.  Technically, all this cloud talk represents nothing more than vaporware right now.  However, if Dassault Systemes delivers, they may have a massive game changer on their hands.

Enterprise PDM for Word?

Office2PDM logo

Ever wish Enterprise PDM specifically supported Microsoft Office products?  Well, actually, EPDM already does support the files from Word, Excel, etc.  So, of what value is an application that runs EPDM from within MS Office products?  According to Extensible CAD:

Without Office2PDM, Enterprise PDM users who want to manage their Microsoft Office documents in their PDM vault must close their files and then operate on them in Windows explorer. This can be time consuming and requires extra steps.  Office2PDM provides access to common Enterprise PDM functions as well as timely access to document status information, all without requiring you to open up a separate interface.

There’s really not much else for me to say without seeing a demonstration.  I’ll follow up on this after SolidWorks World 2010.

Here’s some press images of Office2PDM:

Office2PDM EPDM Dashboard in Outlook
Office2PDM EPDM Dashboard in Outlook
Office2PDM interface in Word
Office2PDM interface in Word