Inventor

It's Your Canvas: Customize the Autodesk Inventor 2014 Interface

4 Nov, 2013 By: Mark Flayler

IMAGINiT Tricks Tutorial: Learn how to use the many customization options to streamline your access to frequently used commands.


Editor's note: This tutorial courtesy of IMAGINiT Technologies.

Recent enhancements to Autodesk Inventor have dramatically increased users' ability to make the interface their own. Sometimes these enhancements go against individual users' preferences — that's why customization is so important. In this article, we will explore some of the factors that lead into the interface decisions, and then look at how we can truly make it our own with customizations for items like the Navigation bar, the Marking menu, the keyboard, and even a little ribbon work.

First, let's see how Autodesk gets its data points on how to adjust or enhance the software's interface and command sets.

Autodesk Customer Improvement Program

Autodesk constantly gets reports about everyday use of Autodesk Inventor from users participating in the Customer Improvement Program (CIP). Without interrupting the participating customer, the CIP collects up to 100 K of data daily. This information includes:

  • Total hours product is in use
  • Product commands used
  • Hardware configurations, such as CPU type, memory, and input devices
  • Adjacent Autodesk products installed and used.

Based on this data, changes are made to the interface to enhance the most commonly used aspects of the software — and sometimes, hide away those that are not as frequently used. For more on the CIP program, check out the Autodesk website.

Autodesk also actively engages the community for feedback in programs such as the Inventor IdeaStation, as well as holding focus groups and "gunslinger" events to get a perspective on some of the human factors instead of only looking at these reports.

Customize the Navigation Bar

Our first customization — and the first thing I customize on a new install — is the Navigation bar. This bar sits below your View Cube in the upper right portion of your graphical canvas. By default, it has quite a few commands that are not really needed if you are using your mouse every day. Commands like the Steering Wheel, Zoom All, Pan, and Orbit are not terribly useful to me unless I travel with my laptop and forget my mouse.

Typically, I use my mouse center wheel for Zoom (scroll) and Zoom All (double-click it), and for zoom I have either my 3Dconnexion mouse or I pull out a keyboard trick and hold Shift while holding the middle mouse button. This leaves my Navigation bar pretty useless until I make it my own. The little arrow at the bottom of the bar allows customization of the commands. Here I have added Projection and Visual Styles. Since I do a lot of work in technical publications as well as PowerPoint, these tools are more necessary for me than most.



One item I would like to see here right now that is not available is the Sectioning tools for parts and assemblies. That way I would very rarely ever have to go to the View tab of the ribbon. (It seems like a good thing to add to the Inventor IdeaStation for the community and Autodesk to gauge the usefulness of the change!)

Customize the Ribbon and Quick Access Toolbar

The ribbon was added in Inventor 2010, which is now five releases ago. Over that time, ribbons have been proliferated throughout Autodesk programs, providing a more streamlined feel from one product to the next as well as a familiarity with the newer software programs outside of Autodesk programming, such as Windows 8 and Microsoft Office. The AutoCAD ribbon has the greatest amount of customizability over the other software products, since it has the largest amount of commands available to it and such an expansive user base. When you look at the Inventor ribbon, there are nowhere near as many commands as in AutoCAD; that's due to the advanced nature of Inventor compared to a simpler vector-based system. In general, these ribbons grant more discoverability to the commands than interfaces of the past.

 

Customizing the ribbon was a very big deal when it was first introduced, because users wanted all the commands they use every day on the first tab of the ribbon rather than clicking around for them. In order to assuage this type of request, you can add a custom panel in the ribbon.



You can also move commands in and out of expanded panels and command groupings.



The latter of these two images is quite easy to do inside Inventor right on the ribbon by clicking or right-clicking appropriately. For the Custom panel, we have to go somewhere else. On the Tools tab, there is a command called Customize. This dialog has three tabs inside it: Ribbon, Keyboard, and Marking Menu. On the ribbon tab we can easily find commands on the left, add them to the right, adjust their size and text, and also add separators for the commands.



You'll notice I added the Visual Styles here as I did in the Navigation Bar. My intention here is not to duplicate commands all over the place, but to show you that you can make a user decision based on where you want to access commands.

Customize the Marking Menu

The marking menu that was added in Inventor 2012 really started to open my eyes to the customization possibilities in the interface.



I felt like I was finally able to take control of the interface that focused around my cursor and took up so much of my valuable eye attention in any given day. That Marking menu got better in 2013 with updates to cleaner in-command access to Cancel and Approve, and even better with the ability to have my own completely custom sub-marking menu. This latest enhancement is triggered by holding down the Ctrl key and right-clicking. This menu is pretty much empty until you fill it, with the exception of the sketch environment one that houses all your 2D sketch constraints.

The last tab in the Customize window is the one responsible for adjusting this to suit individual needs. From the figure below, you can see that with just one environment how much there is to customize about the Marking menu in general, as well as the new Ctrl right-click menu. For the most part, the other sub-environments are set pretty well. I usually only change one or two things on Standard Component, and then I go right into my Ctrl menu.

 

Here I have added some really helpful commands that keep me away from the ribbon almost entirely in any given session.



I have my Bill of Material command that Autodesk moved away on me, the new Constraint visualization tools for showing and hiding constraints on screen, Analyze interference for those modeling issues that arise from time to time, my iLogic triggering, and even a productivity tool for saving and replacing a component all at once. I even added the Open Drawing command so that when I have a component selected I can open its associated drawing right from the graphical canvas.

Customize the Keyboard

The Keyboard customization is quite easy to set up; you simply have to assign a key to a command, and that's about it. If you assign multiple characters to a key, you may have to use the Enter key in conjunction with the shortcut to start your commands. For instance, in the figure below you will have to press B then Enter to start Balloon, or B then D without Enter to start a Baseline Dimension.



While you are inputting the keyboard shortcuts, you will see a command alias input in the lower area of your interface to help you with the keyboard selection. You can use the up and down arrows to browse through the various autocomplete aliases, and use Enter to choose what you want as well. Due to some of these complexities and the general mouse selection nature of Inventor, this will probably be the least common customization you perform.



Year to Year

If you read these tips and are seriously considering taking a half-hour out of your day to apply them, you will see some really nice improvements to your mouse movement and interaction with the software.

But some of you are probably thinking, Great, but what about next year? Well the answer to that is that you can export these settings as an XML file and reimport them next year, or if you have to do a reinstall of your software. I have yet to have them degrade on my since Inventor 2012, when I first started adjusting the interface. When new commands come out you may have to square them off against one another for the honor of being in your Marking menu or ribbon, but either way you will come out the winner.


About the Author: Mark Flayler

Mark Flayler

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