This morning, I read a promotional email from the new CAD kids on the block, Onshape.
I usually scan through these types of emails quickly and then move on. This time, however, I actually paid attention. And as I'm reading the information, I found myself asking some questions.
But first, I want to congratulate Onshape for releasing their product. It seems like they did it overnight, but that's just because my sense of time is totally off. Jon Hirschtick (of PTC and Solidworks fortune and fame) has assembled a great team of knowledgeable experts. And it's great they are looking at ways to make design and manufacturing more effective and productive. That's why we're all here, right?
But anyway, back to my story. I found that I had a lot of legitimate questions bouncing around in this noggin of mine. So I wrote them down.
I find this one pretty ironic. And quite honestly, it's my biggest concern.
If Onshape provides full cloud based modeling on a web browser, what happens if you have poor internet connection?
The irony in my questions lies in this: as I'm trying to view their informational video, my internet connection was so poor that the video actually cut-out. I had choppy audio and no visual other than fuzzy lines on a black screen. No joke.
And since I'm assuming CAD files and modeling are on par with 2 minute marketing videos, how do you cope with poor connection speeds? Do you just have to work at excruciatingly slow speeds?
Or what happens if your internet connection just suddenly drops? Do you lose your work? Or do you only lose the work completed after the last auto-save. (Their video explained that they are constantly saving your work as you go. I assume this is an auto-save feature, so that's what I'm calling it.)
Internet speeds vary widely across the country (and sometimes across the office). My biggest concern with using a cloud-based modeler is speed and connectivity.
The Onshape information I received says you can "...work without worrying about overwriting someone else’s work." But can you simply break someone else's work? While you're both working on it? At the same time. I'm imagining rebuilding errors the likes that history-based CAD users experience.
Another huge pet-peeve of mine. I spend a lot of time crafting something. Mulling it over. And when I finally figure out what I want to do and then..."Sorry, your session has timed out due to inactivity." And so you go through the log in process again. Argh. And there goes your great idea. Just curious. Will your sessions ever time out due to inactivity?
I've received two emails from Onshape with the following subjects: Are you frustrated with Desktop CAD and Frustrated with CAD file incompatibility?
Please explain what you mean by frustrated. Frustrated how and with what exactly?
And how does Onshape address CAD file incompatibility? I assume you mean that will go away once EVERYONE uses Onshape? Because other than having your entire design team, vendors and customers using the same product, I don't see how Onshape addresses the issues of a multi-CAD environment. I see it as just another CAD tool. Maybe even something similar to Adobe Acrobat.
I know your website says everyone can share your files with anyone, who can then freely view/edit the file, or download it to another format. I'm also reading this to mean everyone has to become proficient with your program to make this scenario work, right?
Onshape mentions over and over how it improved processes over "traditional CAD." I dig that. But maybe I'm reading between the lines. Is Onshape really just cloud-based traditional CAD? Or history-based CAD with some streamlined features and a different naming scheme?
With all the new technologies and know-how available today, I hope it's more than just the same old stuff re-purposed and put on the cloud. With the fire power the Onshape team seems to have, that's what I would expect.
If your subscription runs out, do you lose access to your old files? Where do they go? If all your files are stored in the cloud, how do you access them off-line? Or do you? I assume you can save them locally, but you won't be able to do anything to them unless you're connected. Or have files saved-off as another format so you can edit them on a different software. I'm thinking there are still going to be people and places that just don't have access to the cloud for a variety of reasons.
My two cents.
Onshape is a full cloud based system. They should be able update their product on a frequent basis. Being able to deliver product updates periodically can be very helpful. In my experience, it can often be maddening, too.
I use cloud based systems every day (I can name 4 of them, at least), and I'm used to having new features being introduced suddenly that just totally screw up my productivity. Sometimes things get moved, sometimes features go away completely.
Deep down, I know they are trying to fix things and make them better. However, they just totally screwed my process. It can be frustrating and frankly breeds mixed feelings about the products' companies. Some days I hate them. Other days I love them.
I also know that using cloud-based programs comes with the risk of outages, slowness, madness, etc with the reward of being able to access data from anywhere, on any device. Like I said, I use several cloud-based applications and I use them often. So, perhaps some of my questions to the New Kid come out of my experience and wish-list of what cloud software could/shouldn't do.
If anyone else has received emails from Onshape, or read any articles about them, did you think the same things?
PS. Given the time, I'm sure I could really dig deep into Onshape information or sign up to get access to their product. But I need to get a few more things done first...