Cadalyst MCAD Tech News #130 (Oct. 7, 2004)

6 Oct, 2004 By: Joe Greco

Cadalyst MCAD Tech News

Worthy Competitor

In the well-populated world of file viewing and markup software, Informative Graphics' Myriad v6.2 offers some stand-out features

Back in my May 6, 2004, column, I reviewed SpinFire Professional, a powerful viewing and markup program from Actify. Like Actify, Informative Graphics, out of Scottsdale, Arizona, also has several products for digital design communications. For starters, the company develops ModelPress for compressing CAD files by as much as 50 times. It also has Brava! for 2D viewing and mark-up, and Net-it for publishing almost any type of digital content to the Internet. However, another of the company's products, Myriad, has components of all these applications, plus 3D view and markup capabilities, so I selected it for review.

Myriad v6.2 opens to a blank screen with only a few icons displayed and only three available menus. One of these menus, File, contains a standard Open command, and once you open a file, the program's tools appear.

I call the Open command standard, but there's really nothing typical about it. That's because the system supports more than 100 file formats, from neutral and native CAD formats to non-CAD files such as Word, Excel, PDF, and more. In fact, the system presents so many options that it would help if Informative Graphics figured out a way to organize the formats into categories, such as 2D CAD, 3D CAD, Office, and so on, so you could more easily locate the one you want.

I started by opening a native SolidWorks 2003 file, a 784KB assembly. The first thing I noticed was that the program starts out in rotate mode, which is nice, and zoom controls are conveniently located on the right mouse button. Myriad retained the individual parts of the assembly I opened, as well as the original part colors, which you can edit if desired. Like SpinFire, Myriad houses a browser-like tree reminiscent of those typically found in today's MCAD programs. Via the tree, users can hide and show individual parts of an assembly or set different degrees of transparency.

One of the first tools I employed was Cross Section, which I found easy to use, but it would be nice to be able to rotate the model when this dialog box is open. To switch to a different cutting plane, Myriad doesn't employ the nice dragging tools that SpinFire has, but it is still easy to have the software flip to a different plane. The program features all the standard annotation commands, including tools for measuring and adding dimensions and notes. Measurements don't appear on the screen as dimensions do, but they do provide a quick way to find out anything from the length of an edge to the volume and surface area of a single component or the entire model.

When measuring and adding dimensions, you can rotate the model. You do this using a button in the dialog box that toggles between Orbit and Measure or Orbit and Dimension. Placed dimensions are 3D entities, meaning they rotate when the model rotates. Notes you add are also 3D, and a powerful feature is the ability to add a hyperlink. Such links are ideal for pointing users to Web sites where they can find more information about a certain material, for instance.

One command I had mixed feelings about was Explode. It's easy to use because it does its thing automatically, but unfortunately it causes you to lose all your annotations. It does first warn you to this fact, but once you hit OK — even if you later cancel the Explode dialog box and undo the explode operation — your annotations are permanently lost.

Myriad also houses a mode for adding markups, called Redline View. Functions here include useful tools for adding freehand curves for highlighting an area and clouds that can hold text such as revision notes. One interesting function is the ability to place symbols. These include standard symbols such as break lines, mechanical parts such as nuts and bolts, and even feature control frames. I have never seen access to symbols like these in a viewer program and imagine they could come in handy. However, it would be nice if Informative Graphics provided a preview of each symbol before placement.

Because the Redline View mode is separate, it even has its own Undo command. While this could come in handy, I found it a little annoying that Ctrl+Z doesn't work while in Redline View; the only way to undo something is to use the special Redline menu that appears upon entering this mode.

In Myriad's familiar browser tree, you'll find tabs at the bottom. One of these tabs stores all the separate markup sets you create. This is a good idea, because you may have a set of markups for one user and a different set for another. To edit an existing set of markups, simply select this tab, then double-click on the markup view you wish to change. You then can save each set of markups as a separate file. However, when I did this and opened the file, my computer launched Pro/E Wildfire, because it has an application that uses the same MRK file extension. The solution is to tell Windows to change the association of these MRK files.

Besides saving the markups as a separate file, you can save the entire Myriad file in Informative Graphics' ISF (Informative Stream File) format. Because Myriad uses the ModelPress algorithms, it compressed my 784KB SolidWorks assembly down to only 31KB. It also saves as STL for rapid prototyping, and 3DS (Autodesk 3D Studio) for users in the 3D DCC (digital content creation) business. And you can save still images of a model as JPEG or PNG files.

After I got fairly familiar with the program, I tested other file types. I tried a Wildfire assembly, which imported fine, but the program couldn't open anything created in Wildfire 2. While the 2003 version of SolidWorks imported without a hitch, the colors and textures in a SolidWorks 2004 file didn't come over, and I couldn't open a 2005 model. An Informative Graphics technical support person told me the company just recently received libraries for Wildfire 2 and SolidWorks 2005, and Myriad v7, which will be available in November, should support both formats. While just about all the neutral files I opened in IGES, ACIS, Parasolid, and DWG formats imported perfectly, Myriad does not handle STEP files, and it made a mess of one CATIA IGES file that has some complex trimmed surfaces as well as a few known problem surfaces. The software had no problem opening any of the non-CAD formats, including large PDF files.

Myriad 6.2 is a very good program for viewing and marking up drawings, models, and office documents, and its advanced compression scheme facilitates sharing large CAD files. Because it costs only $595, you should consider it along with products such as SpinFire Professional when you're in the market for a viewing solution.

CLOSING on a light NOTE
Many of you responded positively to the light-hearted piece I wrote for the September 2, 2004, issue, "What's in a name?" So in an attempt to continue to inject some humor, I decided to begin including a CAD Joke of the Month. I'll need your help to keep this going, but in the meantime here's one that, I must admit, is my own:

Q: Hey, did you hear that the University of Pisa in Italy has purchased 500 seats of SolidWorks?
A: No, but I heard they were leaning that way.