Try SOLIDWORKS 2019 Beta… Without Installing It
As someone who has written software, I can tell you there may be inherent dangers in installing software considered to exist at a “beta,” or unfinished, level.
Sure, every software package is different. Generally, we can rely on reputable software manufacturers when they recommend how and where to install their software.
When it comes to beta versions of new SOLIDWORKS releases, the temptation to install as soon as possible can feverishly overshadow warnings to proceed cautiously. Any software package lauded by its CEO as an “innovation platform” is bound to be pretty sizable. And by sizable, I mean complex.
As such, SOLIDWORKS reasonably recommends we install beta software on non-production machines, using only copies of our production data. As the software is still in heavy testing and development at beta and pre-release phases, I agree that this is the best way forward.
Here’s the problem with that: How many of us have spare engineering machines hanging around to casually perform testing on? In my experience, most don’t.
In the past, I’ve dealt with this conundrum by installing beta software on a virtual machine. SOLIDWORKS supports several virtual environments. Most recently, Windows 10 began considering (rather conveniently) its Hyper-V virtualization platform as a Windows feature. This means it can be used by any Windows 10 user with the need for additional purchases.
I mentioned this on my Twitter page back in June. You can easily: 1) turn Hyper-V on, 2) install a separate instance of Windows on it (Microsoft provides a free term development license), and 3) install SOLIDWORKS Beta software on that instance rather than your local instance of Windows.
This method should soothe any worries you might have had about “messing with” your existing SOLIDWORKS installations. A core benefit of using virtual machines in any context is that they’re easy to provision. The software they run exists mostly autonomously from your core OS/software installations.
The truth, however, is that many of us won’t, or can’t, pursue such a solution. I might think it’s “easy” to work with Hyper-V. I’m also fortunate to have complete autonomy over the setup of my PC. You might not feel comfortable with virtual machines. You also might work for a company with an IT department and/or contractor that has you on “lockdown” in ways that inhibit you from using solutions like Hyper-V in the manner described.
What if you just don’t feel like downloading and installing a large software package purely for testing purposes? That’s totally understandable. Trying out the latest and greatest tools in the forthcoming release of a CAD package can be fun (for me, anyway), but the time it takes to download and install can feel like a lot.
So, what then?
There is a fairly new option that flies under the radar. It’s readily accessible to you, me and any other SOLIDWORKS customer. That option is the ability to stream SOLIDWORKS 2019 Beta at the click of a button, which is powered by MySolidWorks.com.
When I told most of my colleagues this option was available, they seemed fairly surprised. Most of us, after all, have historically known SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD to run as a desktop application installed locally on our Windows laptops or desktop machines. The concept that we can practically click “go” on a given version of the application and almost instantly see it in a ready state is a relatively foreign idea.
Really, though, that’s all there is to it. If you sign into MySolidWorks.com using your SOLIDWORKS ID, you should have access to the link pictured above.
Clicking this link takes you over to a splash page detailing the benefits of this approach. Some of these benefits include:
- Pre-loaded sample files for quick and simple testing
- The ability to upload your own files (that new pattern feature might sound cool in theory, but you can test it with your own filesets!)
- Cloud storage compatibility, so you can connect accounts like Google Drive and Dropbox
If you aren’t used to streaming applications over an internet connection (i.e. if you have not used services like Frame, XenApp/XenDesktop, etc.), you might feel a bit speculative about all of this. You might be asking yourself, “How can it be possible to open SOLIDWORKS that quickly when I haven’t installed it anywhere?”
When we stream applications, this essentially means the application is installed somewhere. The key difference is that the application is installed on a PC that is not your own. This means you don’t have to worry about maintaining it, and—here’s a secret—you don’t really need anyone’s permission to install it since you aren’t really installing anything.
Another great part of this approach is that you can get a clean workspace simply by closing the session and re-opening. Any changes you make to the 2019 interface during your streaming session can be discarded by exiting the session. If you’re looking to keep interface changes across multiple sessions, you might want to consider using a Copy Settings Wizard file upon session startup.
Once you’ve logged into a session, you’ll notice that you’re really, REALLY streaming the application. That’s all you’ll see. You won’t see a Start menu or a Desktop area, but you can access most folder locations you’d ever need/want to access for usability testing by going to File>Open.
On the bottom left-hand side, most of the statistics you’ll see are connection related.
The gear icon provides shortcuts to other SOLIDWORKS products you might be interested in testing.
My guess is that most of you won’t care to know about your connection settings, such as your current latency and distance to the physical machine running the application. If things are running slowly, it could be nice to know why that might be.
Let’s not discount, however, the much cooler settings in this area. Having the ability to hide these stats is nice if you aren’t looking at them. The ability to change your resolution can prove useful as well. One of my favorite optionsis the abilityto share your session with someone else.
You can have someone join you to take a look at a new feature or a new way of doing things that you’ve just discovered. When you click “Share session,” you’re given a link that can be shared with a party interested in viewing your session.
You can, of course, opt to do a screen share using join.me or a GoToMeeting-type product. I feel having this ability native to the session itself is a remarkable nicety.
On the bottom right-hand corner, you have a couple more options. Many of them are related to external file access. For example, if you have a file you’d like to bring into the current session for testing, you can use the button below:
You also have options to show your clipboard and/or an on-screen keyboard, if needed. The full screen button is naturally useful; this is pictured to the far-right. The greyed buttons correspond to personal file storage access, which conveniently cover most of the major players in that space—left to right, Dropbox, Google Drive and Box.
In terms of general usability, you’ll need to know what’s changed in order to look for these new items and try them yourself. The “What’s New” PDF is in its usual location on these streaming sessions: “Help>What’s New.”
If nothing else, using the streaming option I’ve described here at least gives you super-quick access to the What’s New documentation. You can read up on what has improved well in advance of the production release of the document and software itself.
In conclusion, I hope this article has enlightened you with multiple ways one can access the SOLIDWORKS 2019 Beta software. If you’re responsible for installations at your company, you might want to give the virtual machine idea a shot this year. Since you’ll need to do the download and subsequent installation yourself, you’ll get the full experience.
If you’re, instead, just looking to test and use the software prior to its production release date, I believe streaming via MySolidWorks.com may be the best way to go.