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.

Turn Toolbox parts into regular parts

Management of Toolbox parts can be a headache, especially if they are used in a PDM/PLM environment.  There is a little known fact that may help some CAD administrators with their Toolbox file management issues.  By default, any files from the Toolbox are flagged with a hidden property called “IsToolboxPart”.  To make SolidWorks forget that a part is from the Toolbox, this property must be set to “No” for each individual file.  SolidWorks has a small utility buried deep in its folder structure that does just that.  It’s called “Set Document Property”.


To access it, run the file at this location “C:\Program Files\SolidWorks Corp\SolidWorks\Toolbox\data utilities\sldsetdocprop.exe” in most cases.  Once the program is open, it’s fairly self-explanatory.  Good luck!

SolidWorks is talking to the Internet

SolidWorks communicate to the internet all the time.  Most users may not even realize just how often this happens.  There is a Community heading under the SolidWorks Resources tab in the task pane.   This area has links to the Customer Portal, User Groups, SolidWorks forum.  It also has an RSS feed labelled Technical Alerts & News.  I’m not sure how often this feed is refreshed by SolidWorks.  There is an option to turn it off if it happens to be unwanted or generating errors (due to the lack of Internet access).

Click to see System Options window

In Tools pulldown>Options>System Options>General there is a toggle setting labelled Show latest news feed in task pane.  Simply uncheck its box to turn off SolidWorks’ RSS feed reader.

Another similar option that some may wish to turn off is just underneath the RSS reader toggle, labelled Enable performance feedback.  This feature is needed once in awhile to help SolidWorks Corp understand why SolidWorks crashes.  However, I think most users would rather just have this turned off.

Unless a computer has serious limitations, neither of these settings should cause performance or stability issues if turned on.

(Thanks to Charles Culp for bring identifying these settings in a recent SolidWorks Forum discussion.)

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.

SWUGN Summit San Jose coming up quick!

If you are in the Northern California area, you’ve may have already seen an email from one of the SolidWorks User Groups about the upcoming SWUGN Technical Summit at the Embassy Suites in Milpitas.  SWUGN Technical Summits are day-long SolidWorks based conferences scheduled about once a month at different locations throughout North America.  Each summit generally offers the choice of 10 sessions within 5 time slots.  Each session offers a detailed look at particular SolidWorks related topics which are geared towards all levels of experience.  The San Jose summit is on March 23, 2010 and will feature presentations by SolidWorks Product Managers, local independent SolidWorks and VAR experts.  Among the presenters are a couple of first-timers, Gabi Jack (Bay Area) and Alex Ruiz (driving up from SoCal).  I’ll be presenting a session on advanced customization techniques.  If you’d like to see a particular customization topic covered in my session, leave a comment here.  Right now, I plan to talk about customization of hole callouts, Hole Wizard holes, Shortcut Tool, Mouse Gestures, and Sheet Metal Gage Tables.  (I’m also thinking about the Custom Properties Tab Builder, but that is a topic all to its own, so I may save that for another time.)

The cost to attend the SWUGN Technical Summit is only $40.  This is a bargain by almost any measure.  Similar types of conferences can cost $800 or more.  Check out the SWUGN Technical Summit website for session details and registration.

OK, and now for some fun.  At the San Jose summit on March 23, 2010, the first person to come up to me and says “SolidWorks Legion is awesome, dude” will earn a free CSWP test of their choice (does not include the new CSWE test).  The second person who says that line to me will earn a free SolidWorks hot-cold insulated mug.  Don’t try to be the first person and repeating the line twice. 🙂  Also, SolidWorks employees, VAR employees and other presenters are not eligable to earn these items.

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).