Template Wizard is a relatively new application from SolidWorks Templates by Kevin Van Liere. He spent about 2 years developing and improving it. It is designed to work within SolidWorks 2008, though it does have some limited functionality in SolidWorks 2007 SP4.0 or higher. This part of my article is a critique of Template Wizard’s specific functions and workflow. Ultimately, the most important question will be answered “42”. How easy is it to make a new Drawing Template with Template Wizard?
General Description and Workflow
This review is based on Template Wizard Version 2.5.3088.23714. As stated before, Template Wizard allows for the creation of SolidWorks templates. It is an add-in that runs from within SolidWorks. When running, its interface occupies the Property Manager in what is commonly referred to as the FeatureManager or Feature Tree Pane, along the left side of the open document. Settings and features are all selected from within this pane.
Once it is installed, Template Wizard appears as a pull down menu by the same name. Two options appear in the menu. “Create/Modify Templates” and “Help”. This is very simple and to the point. When selected, the Template Wizard pops up with some options to start a new template or modify an existing template. These options apply to drawings, parts and assemblies. However, if one selects anything other than Drawing Template first, the software gently reminds the user that it will work best if a Drawing Template is created first.
Template Wizard takes a step by step approach. As one goes through the nine general steps for creating a Drawing Template, Template Wizard establishes its settings and allows the user to build what will become the Sheet Format and Drawing Template. After that, it also flows right into the creation of part and assembly templates. One minor drawback to this step-by-step approach is that the arrows which take you from step to step (backward and forward) are small and barely noticeable in the upper right corner of the pane. The size of these arrow is controlled by SolidWorks itself (and not the fault of Template Wizard), but that doesn’t make it any easier to recognize. However, once one is familiar with the interface, there are no usability issues due to this minor detail.
Creating a Drawing Template
Step 1 is the Template Wizards start-up form itself (where the user is wisely guided to first create a Drawing Template). Once the choice is made and “Begin” is selected, a blank drawing is opened with Step 2 the Template Wizard appearing in the Program Manager.
Step 2 is very logical. It requests sheet size, type of projection, unit system (in/mm, etc), dimensioning standard (ISO/ANSI, etc) and other fundamental settings. As choices are made, they are immediately implemented.
Step 3 creates the border for the Sheet Format. I’m not sure how much work went in to designing and programming this step (great or slight?), but in my opinion, this one step makes the whole Template Wizard package worth its price tag! All the user has to do is set the margins, determine the number of zones and zone marker lengths; then click “Create Border”. This step allows the user to generate a fully defined and complete border in seconds! Advanced options also exist that establish other several settings. The border can also be saved as a block for use elsewhere.
Step 4 allows the user to add title block elements to their template. In my opinion, Step 4 is by far the most complex portion of Template Wizard. It may even be a little scary at first. There is a large selection of title block elements to choose from. One must select each element from a drop down list box and place it on the drawing using the element’s insertion point. It is fairly simply, but not immediately obvious, even with the on-screen description. Before attempting to use step, I highly recommend reading the Help. I especially recommend looking up “Pre-Designed Title Blocks” or “ASSY LOGO” in the Help to bring up images of the title block elements. Once the user has the hang of how to pick and place the title block elements, this step easy and extremely powerful. Template Wizard functionality does appear to be bumping into limitations of SolidWorks itself in this step. One example of this is that if the user attempts to directly edit text within the template (instead of using Template Wizard functions to make such edits), SolidWorks will crash. According to Kevin, this is a flaw in SolidWorks, but it is a flaw that pops up when using his application, so that may be a moot point. I will say that if Template Wizard is used as intended, such issues should be minimal.
Step 5 directs the user to pick the Revision Table anchor. Given SolidWorks 2008’s little quirks, I HIGHLY recommend choosing the upper right corner of the border. It seems for some reason some functionality for creating Revision Tables has been reduced in 2008, making this necessary. Very poor decision on the part of SolidWorks Corp., but I digress. Template Wizard does insert the Revision Table once this anchor is selected.
Step 6 is a small step in which the user makes selections regarding fonts, annotations and display of tangent edges. This step almost feels like an after-thought. Perhaps these choices could be moved into Step 3 instead, or perhaps expanded to cover more settings that users may be interested in controlling?
Step 7 allows the user to save the drawing template (as it appears on screen) as a Sheet Format. My only complaint here is that non-standard nomenclature is used. Instead of referring to this function as “Save Sheet Format”, it has a button to “Save Page Design”. I asked Kevin about this. He made the choice to use this terminology because inexperienced users did not understand “Sheet Format” and how it is different from “Drawing Template”. However, this choice may be confusing for experienced users. Perhaps a statement in the on-screen help may allow Template Wizard to make this matter clear, especially if new terms are being created.
Step 8 is where the user actually saves their Drawing Template.
Step 9 allows the user to continue on to create templates for parts (models) and assemblies. Template Wizard can carry over some information from the Drawing Template to these templates, such as unit settings and custom properties. It also allows the user to control several other settings. This function uses an intuitive and straightforward step-by-step approach to create those templates similar to how it works for drawings.
Template Wizard is a very well researched and useful product with a very low price tag. Overall, it is easy to use and very comprehensive. Kevin states, “I really put my heart into it to make it as good as I could.” This dedication really shows in the end product. The software is still a little rough around the edges in some places [as of 2008], though much of this seems to come from limitations or bugs within SolidWorks itself. Given all factors, Template Wizard is well worth its price. New and experienced users will benefit from this application. Really, in my mind, the best customer for this software is anyone who has the responsibility to create templates for a new company or a company that has just started using SolidWorks. The next best customer is one who wishes to improve already existing Drawing Templates. I recommend Template Wizard for all such cases.