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Accelerate Pro/E
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  Home  >  Technical Articles  >  Accelerating Pro/E Design - Part 1
Accelerating Pro/E Design  (Part 1)
Speed Shift by Eldon Goates  -  Originally written for Pro/E Magazine January 2002
Caps Modeled in Pro/E.
Speed Enhancement Design faster!  Get through the menus quickly.  Reduce frustration and make tasks easier.  Focus on your work rather than on how Pro/E works.  Sound good?

This is Part 1, see Part 2 as well for the full set of speed enhancements.


This article is about accelerating Your designs.

Mechanical Design  
What does it take to go faster in Pro/E?  Both knowledge and experience.  Knowledge can be found in articles like this; experience comes from trying the ideas.  Here is a list of things we'll consider to increase the speed and ease of your work.
  1. Human Interactions that Limit Speed.
  2. Modes of Pro/E.
  3. Work Around The Bugs.
  4. Mapkeys.
  5. "Quick Feature" Creation.
  6. Mouse Short Cuts.
  7. Customized Window Environment.
  8. Customized Toolbars & Menus.
  9. Options.
  10. Startparts, Templates and Definition Files.
  11. UDF’s, Parameters, Pro/Program, and More.
The key to enhancing speed is understanding how you think and work.  Some topics won't suit your style; some settings may violate company standards.  Skip those.  Use the others.  Most importantly, learn to understand how you work with Pro/E.  Try the ideas then modify your environment to fit.
Human Interaction Aspects of Speed:
User Interface:  The ways software and users interact certainly effects speed -- starting with the presentation or User Interface (UI).  Right now PTC is in the mist of sweeping changes to the UI resulting in a mix and match of confusion.  The root is a paradigm shift from Action > Object to Object > Action.  All CAD programs deal with this issue, and unfortunately, those currently touted as "easy" are Object > Action, most are low-end, and none is consistent.  Should Pro/E follow?
Figure 1.  User Interface Paradigms

The point with respect to speed is the user must learn the paradigms and adjust.  If you recognize the errors in the mixed paradigm it helps patience, clearer thinking and lower blood pressure.  It's not you; it's a less than stellar job with the UI.

Note:  Wildfire does have an improved overall User Interface (in that paradigms are more consistent and some real thought was given to user interaction), but it still suffers from the inability to operate in a single paradigm.  Also, some modes that now suffer most (like sketcher) are not changed much over 2001.

Input Devises:  To communicate with the software the user must provide input through devises like the mouse and keyboard.  As an input tool, the mouse is the most flexible and versatile, yet reliance on the mouse makes some things slower.  The mouse requires position (using both large and small muscle groups), then, in sequence, selection -- making it the most versatile, but ergonomically, inefficient.  With respect to speed, use the right tool at the right time.  Other input devises, like the keyboard, may be more efficient for certain tasks.  (For more on the mouse, read Efficiency and the Mouse.)

The Modal Nature of Pro/E:
Mode Indicators
Figure 2.  Grayed menu options
and depressed tool buttons
indicate present modes.
Pro/Engineer runs in modes -- modes of operation where user actions are bounded by functionality within the mode.  Drawing, Sketcher Part and Assembly are examples of major modes.  Resolve Mode is easy to recognize where certain functions, like Save, are not available.  There are other, more subtle modes within the major ones.

Subtle modes are harder to identify, yet more important to understand.  An example is Model Tree functionality in Modify mode.  A right click on Model Tree items while in Modify mode delivers a different response than at other times.

Another example is Sketchers Select mode (arrow on the sketcher toolbar depressed).  Often users will sketch a line, then try to move it.  Since Move is not available in Line mode, the user must first switch to Select mode.

Modal behavior can cause confusion and slow the user IF they fight it.  To increase speed, learn the modes, learn the clues indicating modes, and learn how to switch between them.  With patience, you can learn to use modes to your advantage.

Bugs in the Software:
Be mindful of bugs in the software -- big or little, they all cause undesirable results.  If something goes wrong or doesn't work as is should, try again.  If the same thing happens, find a different way.  Learning to identify and work around bugs takes time and patience, but it's important in making the software work for you.

If you have problems, call PTC's Tech Support:  1-800-4-PRO-HEL.  You pay for the privilege, so call them.  They will 1) show you the solution, 2) find a work around, or 3) file a bug -- all of which are good in the long run.  It seems to be their only good QA, so help them help us.

Mapkeys:  the Essence of Speed
Use mapkeys to perform repetitive, redundant, frequent, and multi-pick operations rapidly.  This is perhaps the most important topic in accelerating Pro/E because it can quickly move the user to a desired action.  Simply put, mapkeys are macros that execute a sequence of commands.  They can be used for almost any series of menu picks.

Any frequently used operation should be automated.  Mapkeys can be used to switch the display mode to Wire Frame, No Hidden or Shaded.  A Mapkey can set a defined component display scheme.  Here is the code for a mapkey that redefines the last feature:

mapkey rdl #FEATURE; #REDEFINE; #SEL BY MENU; ~ Open 'selspecdlg0' 'SpecifyByMenu';~ Close 'selspecdlg0' 'SpecifyByMenu'; ~ Select 'selspecdlg0' 'SpecifyByMenu'1 'Last Feature'; ~ Activate 'selspecdlg0' 'SelectButton'; ~ FocusIn 'Odui_Dlg_00' '1.a1.optrg.fake_page_na#0'; ~ FocusOut 'Odui_Dlg_00' '1.a1.optrg.fake_page_na#0';
Mode Indicators
Figure 3.  The Mapkey recording tool is
the easiest way to make mapkeys.

The code may look horrible, but you don't need to learn it.  Use the mapkey recording tool to do it for you.  (See Figure 3.)  Here is the code for a mapkey that modifies values of the last feature.  Notice the #Done at the beginning to help set the correct mode prior to starting #Modify.

mapkey ml #DONE; #MODIFY; #SEL BY MENU; ~ Open 'selspecdlg0' 'SpecifyByMenu'; ~ Close 'selspecdlg0' 'SpecifyByMenu'; ~ Select 'selspecdlg0' 'SpecifyByMenu'1 'Last Feature'; ~ Activate 'selspecdlg0' 'SelectButton';

Mapkeys can be used to save views and return to them later.  They can be used to turn layers ON or OFF -- if the layers are always the same name.  This is a good reason for layer definition in the CONFIG.PRO (more in Part 2).  These mapkeys turn ON or OFF the layer "2_DTM_CRVS".

mapkey lvcn %vl; ~ Select 'min_layers' 'AssyTree'1 'node0:2_DTM_CRVS'; %lvo;
mapkey lvcf %vl; ~ Select 'min_layers' 'AssyTree'1 'node0:2_DTM_CRVS'; %lvf;

Notice these mapkeys call other mapkeys.  The designation % calls another mapkey; in this case %LVF runs a sequence that turns the selected layer OFF.  (Note:  In order to use this functionality, you have to edit the CONFIG.PRO in direct violation of PTC's edict.  Make a copy before starting, then be careful and all will be well.)

Mapkeys can be used to initiate measurements.  The first example below starts the default measurement (from any entity to any entity).  The second example initiates a measurement from a plane.  The same can be done for Axis, Surface or any other pick.  If you measure things often, these are extremely useful and quick.

mapkey mdd #info; #measure; #distance;
mapkey mdl #info; #measure; #distance; #absolute; #from plane;

Mapkeys may need to be recreated with new versions of Pro/E.  As menu options change, some mapkeys will no longer work.  On the other hand, you can never tell what will just keep working.  The examples above are from Version 14; the menus are no longer there, but the mapkeys still work .!.?  In 2001 drawing mode, 2000i mapkeys still work -- nearly all of them.

Feature creation is a great place to use mapkeys.  Use them to sort through menus and get down to the meat quickly.  Here are a few examples:

mapkey fsp #feature; #create; #solid; #protrusion;
mapkey fsc #feature; #create; #solid; #cut;
mapkey fr #feature; #create; #solid; #round;

mapkey fsb #feature; #create; #surface; #new; #advanced; #done; #boundaries; #done;

mapkey dft #feature; #create; #solid; #tweak; #draft;
mapkey dfn #feature; #create; #solid; #tweak; #draft; #neutral pln; #done; #no split; #constant; #done;

DFN saves a lot of time by plowing through all the menus required for neutral plane draft with no split.  Try it.

Use Mapkeys to select items that exist in your STARTPARTS like a datum plane TOP for a sketching plane, sketcher orientation, or dimensioning.

Be creative.  Build mapkeys to do the mundane and repetitive.  To create them, use the Mapkey editor (Utilities > Mapkeys).  A reasonable explanation is in Help.

A Few Rules for Mapkeys:
Note:  Check with your administrator and company policies about where personal mapkeys should be stored before creating and saving mapkeys.
  1. In general, anything you can do in a menu or dialog box, can be done with a mapkey.  Be careful that your mapkeys don't select things (or input things) that will not be there the next time -- things like geometry, layers or parameters that are unique to the active part.
  2. Pick key sequences that mean something to you.  (Something like F S B might represent Feature Surface Boundaries.)  That sequence may not be right for you, so make something you like.  If you can't remember the sequence it won't make you faster.  Build mapkeys a few at a time and write the sequence on a reference sheet until it comes naturally.  You'll find they soon come from habit.
  3. Mapkeys can be function keys (like F4), or sequences of keystrokes (like DFN or P23) which consist of letters, numbers and some symbols.  Sequences that require < Shift >, < ALT > or < CTRL > are not allowed.
  4. Mapkeys will not execute functions of an external product like a relations editor.
  5. Pro/E will execute the first complete keystroke sequence it finds.  For example, if mapkeys FSN and FSNC exist, FSNC won't work because Pro/E will execute FSN before you can type the C.
  6. Pro/E will not execute commands that do not match the current mode.  That is, if you type FSP without an active part, Pro/E will ignore the sequence.
  7. Pro/E executes sequences one command at a time.  If a command is valid in the current mode, it will execute; if not, the command will be skipped and Pro/E will go on to the next command.  Use this attribute to your advantage by multiplexing functions:

    mapkey aa #okay; #alignment; #align; #yes; #accept;
    In this example, only one command will execute because only one is valid in any mode.  (Usually none are valid.)  A good example is coming out of Resolve Mode.  Pro/E asks if you would like to finish resolve.  Tapping AA executes Yes.  In feature creation, tapping AA executes OKAY for selecting arrow direction.  To me, AA means "Yea, Yea, get on with it."  (Remember, pick keystrokes that mean something to you.)
  8. Mapkeys can call other mapkeys (nesting) to accomplish even more.  See the layers example above.
  9. When recording mapkeys, don't make selections from toolbars.  If the functions exist in the pull-down or Menu Manager menus, use them.  Sometimes it doesn't matter -- sometimes it makes a big difference for consistent behavior.
  10. When recording mapkeys, don't use right mouse button menus.  Results can be inconsistent or really weird.  As above, use the pull-down or Menu Manager menus.  It's OK to do it the long way once so you never have to do it again!
  11. Before recording Mapkeys, walk through the sequence exactly.  Make sure you know the steps and where you want the mapkey to end.  Avoid unnecessary steps.
  12. Mapkeys can begin and end anywhere.  For example, the feature creation mapkeys above only take the user to the area where the user can choose desired options.  Notice that DFT and DFN begin the same, but DFN, because of its frequent need, takes the user further.  This method maximizes mapkey utility.
  13. If you need to select graphics items (like geometry) in the middle of your mapkey, use Pause.  It works well.  A great example is this mapkey that changes text alignment in drawings.

    mapkey tcm ;#MODIFY; #TEXT; #TEXT STYLE; @MANUAL_PAUSESELECT TEXT TO MODIFY STYLE\nPUSH "RESUME" WHEN FINISHED; #DONE SEL; ~ Open 'dial_txt_sty' 'opt_horjust'; ~ Close 'dial_txt_sty' 'opt_horjust'; ~ Select 'dial_txt_sty' 'opt_horjust'1 'Center for text style dialog'; ~ Open 'dial_txt_sty' 'opt_verjust';~ Close 'dial_txt_sty' 'opt_verjust'; ~ Select 'dial_txt_sty' 'opt_verjust'1 'Middle for text style dialog'; ~ Activate 'dial_txt_sty' 'psh_ok';
    The Mapkey initiates Modify Text Style, then pauses to allow the user to pick text to change.  When finished, the user simply presses the resume button in the dialog box.  (Figure 4)  The mapkey then continues and changes the selected text to center and middle justification.  (Note:  When middle (vertical) justification is not applicable, the mapkey just skips it and continues.)
    Resume Mapkey
    Figure 4.  Dialog box for resuming execution of a Mapkey.
  14. Mapkeys can do limited window movement and modification though it's usually not very portable between machines or across platforms.  However, for a specific machine, it may really help.

    An example is the Model Tree.  A mapkey can toggle the tree ON and OFF; move it to the right place; size it; and load settings from a saved TREE.CFG file.  The only thing it can't do is move the center window divider.  (More on Model Tree in Part 2.)

  15. Be prepared to re-build mapkeys with each new version of Pro/E.  PTC is just brutal in this way even though it alienates their best users.
"Quick Feature" Creation:
Quick Feature Creation
Figure 5.  Drag boxes allow dynamic feature sizing.
Use the newer Insert functionality for quick feature creation - it's easy to learn.  In summary, geometry can be selected (an edge for example), then an option chosen from the Insert menu (like Round).  The feature is then initiated with default assumptions.  After creation, there are little boxes on the feature to drag with the mouse for final sizing - like depth of extrusion, angle of rotation or round radius.  (See a round example in Figure 5)

For a quick example, select a default datum plane.  (It will turn red.)  Then select from the pull-down menus Insert > Protrusion > Extrude. Pro/E will make assumptions for orientation of the sketch based on the default planes then bring up sketcher immediately.  Once the sketch is complete, drag the box with the mouse to define feature depth.

If you select a part surface or datum plane that is parallel, and is defined as parallel, to default datums, Pro/E will usually make an assumption for sketcher orientation (which may or may not be what you intend) that will allow an immediate jump into sketcher.  If, however, you select a plane is not oriented appropriately, Pro won't make the assumptions and you'll need to define the sketcher orientation yourself.  With many things, sketcher orientation is not so important, however, for some things an ellipse or text, or patterns, sketcher orientation is vital.
Proe Toolbars
Figure 6.
Selection Filters on the Toolbar.

As with other areas of Pro/E, item selection is modal.  To select different kinds of geometry use the selection filter tools shown in Figure 6.  Hover your mouse over the icons for help with what they do.

A limitation of "Quick Features" is a lack of control for orientation, depth and options.  You can; however, redefine them later with the regular dialog box.  Try it.  Under the right circumstances these enhancements can be fast.

Short-Cuts - Part 2
Part 2 looks at more go fast techniques.  Also, for more information, use HELP in Pro/E, Services from PTC (, and Resources like Pro/E The Magazine.

If you would like to download the mapkey codes, please visit  You may also enjoy the Tip-of-the-Month Library.


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