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  Home  >  Technical Articles  >  Accelerating Pro/E Design - Part 2
Accelerating Pro/E Design  (Part 2)
Speed up Design 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?

In Part 1 we discussed mapkeys and the human interaction aspects of speed using Pro/Engineer.  This is Part 2, a continuation, with more ideas to Accelerate Design.


This article is about accelerating Your designs.

Mouse Short-Cuts:
Mechanical Design Mouse short cuts are very mode dependent (or context sensitive).  If you do not get the desired result, it may be the mode, not the mouse.

Middle Mouse Button (or Enter Key):
The middle mouse button can be used to accept the default action of menus and most dialog boxes.  This is handy when creating "standard" features where most of the menu picks are default actions.  The default actions are the Bold (or raised) commands in the Menu Manager or the button with the darker shadow in dialog boxes.
(Don't forget:  You can change the default menu items.  See Menu Customization below.)
Modify by Mouse Drag
Figure 1.  Modify with dynamic drag in Part Mode

Right Mouse Button Menus:
In most areas of Pro/E there are context sensitive (read "mode dependent") menus available with the right mouse button.  These menus appear after holding the right mouse button for a second or two, and they offer options based on the current mode.  (Note:  Several bugs exist with right mouse menus.  Be aware that erroneous options may appear (2000i2 & early 2001) - though they usually don't work.)

Dynamic drag - in Sketcher and in Modify:
When the cursor changes to a hand, (assuming it's not a bug) you can select an item and drag it to a new size.  Though not precise, this can be handy for checking robustness of a sketch or evaluating "what if" scenarios.  Figure 1 illustrates this technique.  Notice how changed dimensions turn white from yellow.  This function works in Sketcher as well as in regular Modify modes.

Figure 2
Selection Filters on the Toolbar
Double-Click a Feature to Modify:
This is a great shortcut.  Simply double-click a feature in the model to modify it's values.  This is very modal, so you must be in a correct menu mode, then select just right.  If you have trouble selecting a plane or an edge, try using the selection filters on the main toolbar (see Figure 2)Query Select is not available.

Mouse Short-Cuts in Sketcher:

  • You can disable assumed Sketcher constraints with the right mouse button  or  lock them ON with Shift + right mouse button.  (See the November 2001 Tip-of-the-Month for more information about locking Sketcher constraints.)
  • Use the middle mouse button to switch to the select mode.  This quickly changes modes to where Move and most right mouse menus are available.
  • Double-click Sketcher dimensions to modify them.  (This does not have the full functionality of the modify dialog box, but it's good to type in a new value.)
Customize the Windowing Environment to Fit Your Work:
Using the CONFIG.PRO and CONFIG.WIN files, users can customize the way Pro/E looks and the availability of the tools they use.  Starting with the screen and display, examine the CONFIG.PRO options effecting the windowing environment.  If you're like many users, you have a big monitor for a better view.  The graphics area of Pro/E is the focus of your attention, and it's nice to see as much as possible.  Toolbars, Dialog boxes and menus that take graphics space are annoying.  If this describes you, try setting the CONFIG.PRO options:
reserved_menu_space 1
windows_scale 1

These options make the main window as large as practical.  There are still overlap issues, but the graphics area is functionally larger to make better use of the screen.

Placement of the message area of the graphics window is next.  This area is used for messages, editing, and data input so it's important to show enough to be useful, yet not consume too much space.  Set its location with Utilities > Customize.  If it is placed Above the graphics area, the right hand side may, at times, be under a dialog box.  The Below placement also has issues, so try both and see what works best for you.

Save your settings in a CONFIG.WIN file in the start-up directory so it will be read automatically each time Pro/E is started.    (Note: There is a bug with CONFIG.WIN files for 2001 - they have to be built in 2001, they can't come from previous versions.)

Set the size of the message area with the CONFIG.PRO option:

visible_message_lines 3

The 3 defines how many text lines to show.  It can be any number you choose.

There are many other CONFIG options to consider.  If you want the most from the CONFIG, look through Help and evaluate which options best fit your needs.  There is a section of Help that lists the CONFIG options and what they do.

Toolbar Customization:
Toolbars around the graphics window can be customized for efficiency.  Use Utilities > Customize to open the dialog box to add or remove tools and change locations with respect to the graphics area.  Most toolbars are modal so they only appear when modally appropriate, so for customization, the mode must be right.  In other words, you have to be in Sketcher to customize the Sketcher toolbar.

Position toolbars for efficiency in the way YOU work.  For example, if you find it annoying that the dialog boxes cover the Sketcher toolbar when it is placed on the Right side of the screen, move it to the Left.  If the order of the tools in a toolbar doesn't fit your way of thinking, change them.

If you like using toolbars, another fun thing is to build your own.  You can include any tools from other toolbars and assign mapkeys to icons as well.  Use Utilities > Customize.  It's pretty easy to figure out, but use Help if you get stuck. (Also see the February 2002 Tip-of-the-Month for more toolbar fun.)

Pro/E Menu Customization:
Changing the menu options is another trick in customizing for speed.  This is done in the "Customization" dialog box for the pull-down menus and with the MENU_DEF.PRO for Menu Manager menus.

Use Utilities > Customize to modify pull-down menus.  Although it fails the "intuitive" test, once you get the hang of it, it's not too bad.  The Help for this is also sad, so call PTC (1 800 4 PRO HEL) for assistance.

Use the MENU_DEF.PRO to Control the Menu Manager:
Modified Menus
Figure 3.  Add and change menu options and behavior.

Pro/E has a startup file that can be used to manipulate commands in the Menu Manager.  The MENU_DEF.PRO is like the CONFIG.PRO because it is read during startup and it effects the way Pro/E looks and acts.  Use HELP to learn about it.  It's a great way to add commands to menus -- like adding the Modify command to the Feature menu as shown in Figure 3.

Also with the MENU_DEF.PRO, the default commands (Bold) and the automatically selected commands (highlighted) can be changed.  To streamline your menus, explore and experiment with the MENU_DEF.PRO.  It's a great tool for accelerating Pro/E.

Figure 3 shows examples of how the menu options were changed using the MENU_DEF.PRO.

The Model Tree:
The Model Tree is fantastic for selecting and working with features and components.  It's graphical organization assists in finding, selecting and getting information fast.  You can customize the display in a number of ways then save the settings to retrieve them again for later sessions.

With respect to ease of use and efficiency, the Model Tree has 3 problems.  First, the default size is never correct; Second, the settings don't persist in a session.  The third problem is really a function of the windowing environment -- the Model Tree gets stuck behind things making it annoying to use.  These issues can be solved with some cleaver mapkeys.

For example, use a mapkey (for our example, EE) to toggle the Model Tree ON and OFF. A second mapkey can place the tree in the right location, size the window and restore the display settings.  Instead of chasing the tree around the screen, if you need it, press EE.  If it doesn't appear (meaning it was under another window), type EE again and it will appear.  Type EE again, and it will go away.

For consistent presentation, use this CONFIG.PRO option so Pro will read a Model Tree settings file at start-up each session.

mdl_tree_cfg_file < path >/tree.cfg

These tricks make working with the Model Tree easier and more pleasant.

Effective use of the Model Tree is a lengthy discussion, so we'll leave that for further investigation.  It's mentioned here because the Model Tree is a great tool for increasing speed and efficiency.

Speed Enhancing Configuration:
The CONFIG.PRO file sets many of the behaviors of Pro/Engineer.  Take some time to learn the options available, and what effect they have on the way you work.  Some key options effecting performance are listed here.  Use them as your needs dictate.
feature_create_auto_begin   -  immediately initiates feature creation.
feature_create_auto_ok   -  automatically presses the OK button when feature definition is complete.
provide_pick_message_always   -  messages to indicate the selected feature.
max_animation_time   -  sets time allowed for animated re-orientation.

If typing is your game and you don't want to create mapkeys, use the keyboard to execute Menu Manager commands.  Just type each command.  The CONFIG.PRO option:

kbd_cmd_abbreviation on
will execute menu options by typing only the first, unique portion of the command.  If you like this, read more in Help(Note:  Typing commands can interfere with mapkeys if you have them.)
Other Keyboard Short-Cuts:
Newer versions of Pro/E use the typical windows < ALT > key shortcuts for access to pull-down menus.  Basically, the < ALT > key is used with the underlined letter of the menus.  An example is < ALT >, F, S  for  File > Save.  Try it.  It's easy to use and it's available across all platforms.
Directories in Pro/E:
Organization allows simple, fast access to information.  Again, the CONFIG.PRO offers options that set how Pro/E looks for files.  An example is:
search_path_file /share/pro_opts/

A list of directories in this file tells Pro/E where to look for models that are not in the current working directory.  See Help for details.

Organize where Pro/E looks for other items -- like materials, drawing formats, symbols, libraries, etc.:

PRO_MATERIAL_DIR /share/pro_opts/materials
PRO_FORMAT_DIR /share/pro_opts/formats
PRO_SYMBOL_DIR /share/pro_opts/symbols
PRO_MF_PARAM_DIR /share/pro_opts/mfg_param

Perhaps the most important is the Start Model Directory:

START_MODEL_DIR /share/pro_opts
Modified Menus
Figure 4.  Use the File Open pull-down directories for quick access.

Why is this most important?  It appears in the pull-down list of the File Open dialog box.  See Figure 4.  Selecting this item puts the user in the directory defined in the CONFIG.PRO.

For me, since I rarely use it for STARTPARTS (mapkeys do that), this option points to the spot just above a host of directories accessed frequently as directories for configs, libraries, UDF's, thread definitions, formats, notes, etc..  Since this directory always appears in the dialog box, setting the CONFIG option appropriately helps find needed files quickly.  Other pointers don't appear every time.

Another way for quick access is through "Favorites".  They can be defined in the CONFIG.PRO (Unix & Windows) or in Windows Explorer (file manager not Internet Explorer).  "Favorites" can accessed from the pull-down list in the File Open dialog box (see Figure 4), or by using the little folder icon with the plus on it: Favorites also seen in the top toolbar of Figure 4.

Options for Layers:
CONFIG options can be used to automatically create layers and set specific feature types on them.  PTC's default layering system is far to complicated to be useful, so make your own using the CONFIG.PRO to regulate layering.  Make it suit your needs.  Get rid of the junk.  It makes working with the model easier and faster.  A couple examples are:
def_layer layer_datum 1_dtm_plns
def_layer layer_curve 2_dtm_crvs
def_layer layer_surface 3_surf

With these options, Pro/E will automatically create a layer called "2_dtm_crvs" and put each newly created curve feature on it.

Getting the most from a layering scheme comes when using mapkeys to access the layers -- that is, a couple keystrokes can instantly turn ON or OFF a layer with given name.  (See Part 1 on Mapkeys and layer control.)

Supporting Files for Consistency and Speed:
Support files can be used in Pro/E to enhance speed, consistency and professionalism.  A few examples are listed, but a thorough exploration is left to you.  Again, they are mentioned because they are speed enhancing and stress reducing.

Why use START PARTS and ASSEMBLIES?  1) They define consistency,  2) They set the stage for efficiency,  3) They reduce repetitive operations getting started, and  4) They keep you out of trouble by always starting with proper planes, views, parameters, etc..

STARTPARTS and START ASSEMBLIES should contain datums (including names, coordinate systems, axes, etc.), defined units, views, relations (like Mass or Weight), common parameters, layering, etc..  START ASSEMBLIES can also have common parts, layering schemes, etc. - perhaps with blank parts or skeletons already assembled.

DRAWING TEMPLATES and FORMATS can contain pre-defined views, locations, parameters, tables, note blocks, etc..  With drawings it's easier to delete than to create - especially if it's done over and over with each new drawing.

Part libraries are another area to seriously consider.  If you build similar parts frequently, consider a different kind of start part.  Consider making a "generic" version that can be used to build others.  It may contain only 25% of the required features - all of which may need modification - but it's faster than starting new.  Also consider creating a library of common parts.  Fasteners are the classic example, but examine the way you work and you may find others.  Standard Libraries can also be purchased.

As with many elements of this article, there is not time or space to discuss all the uses, but recognize that there are numerous support file types (like material definitions, and pre-defined notes) that can be used to enhance speed.  If this is interesting, learn more about it.  Support files are a great way to accelerate design.

More and Complex Speed Enhancements:
If you want to get hard core with speed and streamlining, there is lots more to investigate.  Here are some suggestions for a deeper look:
  • User Defined Features (UDF's)
  • Parameter Functions
  • Relations & Relation Equations
  • Pro/Program
Most of these are best applied to specific applications, and all can be made extremely complex.  Most have been addressed in lengthy articles, so these are listed for reference and left for you to explore.

Looking for More?
For more information see PTC's Web Site, Pro/E Magazine, Pro/files (now gone) and other magazines.
Also see our Pro/E Tips Library , and the other Pro/E Tip sites we recommend.

Return to Short Cuts Part 1.Pro/E orPro/EngineerGo to our Technical Articles main page.


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