Solid Edge

Stream/XP Usability

30 Jun, 2003 By: J. Fred White

Stream/XP is more than just a "look and feel." It is a user interface based on the well-known fact that humans process information in three stages: perception, decision-making, and response. By reducing perceptual inputs and focusing on decision-making, it helps users devote more processing resources towards their design problems.

Solid Edge V14 extends the existing foundation with an enhanced screen layout, as shown in Figure 1, taking ergonomic factors into consideration. Through usability tests and user feedback, developers formed a clear understanding of how users interact with the software. As a result the EdgeBar, SmartStep ribbon bar, and Prompt Field are now in closer proximity to one another.

Figure 1. Developers of Solid Edge V14 considered ergonomics as they revamped the user interface. An example is the enhanced screen layout, as shown here.

To increase productivity and decrease fatigue, the enhanced screen layout is centralized to reduce cursor travel. The Prompt Field is relocated directly under the SmartStep ribbon bar, and EdgeBar is now docked to the left, near the toolbars. This layout gives the user all the information needed in a compact area.

In addition to the new screen layout, as shown in Figure 2, SmartStep now has a new look that helps users more quickly identify and move through the different steps required to create and edit features, models, and drawings. The new SmartStep look also includes enhanced Command Button Hot States to allow quick identification of the active command step.

Figure 2. The new SmartStep look helps users quickly identify and move through the steps of a command.

The SmartStep ribbon bar is the cornerstone of Solid Edge usability. Let's examine, for instance, the Protrusion command (which constructs a protrusion by extruding a profile along a straight path). First the user needs to select either a plane to create a profile on or an existing sketch to use as the profile. If a plane is selected, Solid Edge automatically places the user into sketch mode. Once the desired profile is created, the user is automatically returned to part modeling in the extrude step, since he or she is ready to extrude the profile. If the user selects an existing sketch as the profile to extrude, Solid Edge automatically places the user in the step to extrude the profile. Within the SmartStep paradigm, the user does not need to navigate across the application to determine what to do next. SmartStep guides the user interactively.

Beyond the new ergonomic screen layout and SmartStep enhancements, Solid Edge V14 offers numerous usability advancements, a few of which I have listed below. For a full list of enhancements, please review the "What's New in Solid Edge" help topic.

Place Part Enhancements. In earlier releases of Solid Edge, when applying a mate or planar-align relationship that conflicted with an existing relationship, the relationship placement would fail. You would then have to select an alternate relationship and restart the positioning process. When relationships fail in V14, Solid Edge will automatically try to position the part using the other relationship. For example, if the planar align relationship fails, Solid Edge will try to apply a mate relationship.

Scroll Wheel to Change Dimensions. You can now use the mouse scroll wheel to change a driving or system dimension. As you scroll the wheel, the dimension value will increase or decrease in 5 percent increments. For example, if a dimension is 100mm, the dimension will increase or decrease by 5mm. To use the mouse scroll wheel to change a dimension, click the dimension you want to change and scroll the wheel forward or backward.

Define, Edit, and View Formulas. Several new commands make it easier to define, edit, and view formulas between dimensions. These commands are available in all environments when you are working with dimensions. The Edit Formula command allows you to define a formula for a dimension. In previous versions, this functionality was only available using the Variable Table. The Show All Formulas command displays all dimensions in a Name=Formula format. If no formula has been defined for a dimension, it is displayed in a Name=Value format. The Show All Names command displays only the names for dimensions. The Show All Values command displays dimensions in their traditional value-only format.

Full Control Over Profile Element Colors. You can now use the Line Color Option on the element selection ribbon bar to apply colors to profile elements. To change the color of an element, select it and click the Line Color option on the ribbon bar to set the color you want to apply to the element. You can click the More option on the Colors dialog box to define custom colors.

Shading During Locate/Select. A new "Use Shading on Faces and Features" option on the View tab of the Options dialog box allows you to highlight faces and features in the locate color. This is very helpful when selecting a part in such operations as mating faces between parts in an assembly.

Fence Select Capability. The Select Tool has been enhanced in the Part, Sheet Metal, and Weldment environments to provide the capability to define a fenced area by dragging the cursor to select multiple elements in one operation. For example, you can now use a fence to select multiple features or surfaces. Two new options on the Select Tool ribbon bar allow you to specify whether elements that are inside the fenced area or elements that overlap the fenced area are selected. Similar functionality has been available in the Draft and Assembly environments in previous releases of Solid Edge. You can also use the SHIFT and CTRL keys to add and remove elements to a fenced select set.


Stream/XP helps users more rapidly learn Solid Edge functionalities via its interface and learning aids. Solid Edge users can become productive quickly with tools such as SmartStep. See you On the Edge next month.