Ask for What You Want (MCAD Modeling Column)

31 Oct, 2008 By: IDSA ,Mike Hudspeth

By requesting a software enhancement, you can help improve products for yourself and fellow users.

How many times have you heard someone say, "There are two kinds of people in this world . . . "? Usually the statement is followed by something either humorous or scary. The humorous statements generally are based on some aspect of human nature that we all can recognize and laugh at. The scary statements sometimes are based on cold, hard fact, but more often they're based on cold, hard ignorance. Either way, we should be very careful with the scary statements because they are the ones that can come back to bite us.

No matter which kind of statement follows, it inevitably will be a broad generalization. But you must remember that although the statements are general (and as such inherently inaccurate), they aren't necessarily false. Take for instance these two groups: the active and the passive. One group makes things happen; the other watches things happen. Depending on the circumstances, either group might have its advantages. Which group would you like to think you're in?

Get Active

Okay, we all know that no one is perfect — least of all companies that sell 3D modeling software. I'll go out on a limb here and tell you that no matter how good an application is, it can always be better. No matter what 3D modeling package you use, you will eventually find something wrong with it. It won't do what it's supposed to do or what you want it to do. Invariably, you will find yourself wishing it would do X, Y, or Z. What can you do? Fill out an enhancement request.

The software enhancement request (figure 1) is your opportunity to voice your desires to your software developer. Companies use it to see how they are doing and what their customers want. If you've never filled out an enhancement request, you're in the majority. When most people find something in their software they don't like, they just grumble to whomever is sitting near them, then learn how to get around it or live with it. Those are the passive folks. If you who fancy yourself the active sort, you can visit your modeling vendor's web site and fill out a form to enact the change.

Figure 1. Here is an example of a software vendor s enhancement request form.
Figure 1. Here is an example of a software vendor s enhancement request form.

Most software vendors' web sites have support sections. There you'll find things such as tips and tricks, tutorials, FAQs, and links to users' groups. You'll also usually find a link to an enhancement request form. You may have to dig a little, but it's worth the effort. Note that most developers will also take enhancement requests by phone.

Perks vs. Problems
Perks vs. Problems

Why Do It?

You have two reasons to write an enhancement request: to fix a problem or to make your life easier. We've all asked, "Wouldn't it be nice if my software did this?" After all, we reason, the other guys do it. Take SolidWorks' nifty Dome feature. Often I've been modeling in another software package and really wanted to use that command. Make suggestions to your software vendor. What's it going to hurt? You might even get what you want! Be sure that when you send an enhancement request you also send along a picture to illustrate it. You might think your words adequately describe your intent, but the idea might lose something when heard over the phone or read from a text document.

A lot of companies nowadays produce multiple software packages. I find it interesting when features in one 3D modeler don't migrate into another within the same corporate stable. Take, for example, Siemens PLM Software. Its Solid Edge software has a Crown feature that works pretty much like the Taper command common in other 3D MCAD products, except that instead of a straight transition from one end of a face (or faces), you get a nice curving face. It really softens the look of a design. It's a great feature! I asked my NX representative at Siemens if NX would be incorporating the feature, and the representative didn't know what I was talking about. I'm not trying to cast stones, but rather to illustrate that changes you'd like to see in your software might never happen if you don't ask for them. The enhancement request is your chance to let software developers know what you really want.

Will It Work?

When you fill out and submit an enhancement request, what are your chances of getting that big corporate entity to do what you want? That depends on two things: what you want and how many other users request the same thing. Software companies generally don't have the manpower to do everything people ask. Companies tend to act on enhancement requests that are the most practical and that they get from multiple users. If yours is the only request for particular change, don't hold your breath.

Make a Difference

The average person gets very few chances to influence what a big company does. That's what the enhancement request is all about. By offering the enhancement request, software developers are literally asking you what you want them to do. Don't miss your opportunity to contribute. Use it, and make a difference.

About the Author: IDSA

About the Author: Mike Hudspeth

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