The Fuss About Creo's Old UI

Today a reader left this comment to my post titled “What Exactly Is Creo? – Part 1” reminding me of something he wrote eight months ago on the Planet PTC blog:

“Yes, Creo might be the best move in CAx industry in the last 20 years, but if PTC do not put the crap GUI code in the trashcan and start over, this will be for sure their last chance. Their credibility will be incinerated if Creo do not address these issues.”

First things first. Creo is not a rewrite. PTC has been very clear about that. Some are of the opinion that Creo amounts to putting lipstick on a pig. The lipstick in this case being the ribbon UI and the pig being Pro/ENGINEER. Now PTC still won’t let me write about Creo. So I’m not going to agree or disagree with that assessment. However, I am going to make a more general point by using a similar analogy – the screen menu in AutoCAD.

Recently Autodesk decided to retire the screen menu in AutoCAD. The screen menu was how we used to do it back in the good old days. This is what an AutoCAD user wrote on the AutoCAD discussion groups:

I understand Autodesk is trying to phase out the screen menu. I have the screen menu turned on in 2012 and use it everyday. If I go to the CUI to edit the screen menu, it is no longer listed for editing under Legacy. Anyone know where the screen menu is located in the CUI in 2012 or is this Autodesk’s way of delivering a subtle message?

For some time now AutoCAD blogger Steve Johnson has been posting articles on his blog titled “Putting things back to normal” every time Autodesk releases a new version. It has turned out to be quite a series and has posts for AutoCAD 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. He claims that the posts in this series are the most popular in terms of hits and comments. Why? Well, because CAD software is basically a tool that people use and people want to use their tools the way they want, which more than often turns out to be the way they have been using the tools for all these years. Typical human tendency is to resist change and people making tools need to respect that.

That’s why, at least in AutoCAD 2011, users can start commands from a number of places – command line, menu, ribbon, screen menu, context menu. Users get to choose the way they wish to use their tool. What can possibly be wrong with that?

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This is more like damned if you do and damned if you don’t kind of situation for PTC. If PTC removed their old UI completely and started with a blank sheet of paper there would be customers who would have throw a fit. And for good reason. We already see AutoCAD users begin to complain about Autodesk’s decision to retire their beloved screen menu. If they leave the old UI intact, we have people accusing PTC of fraud.

Again, Creo is not a rewrite. Creo is not like SpaceClaim which had no existing customers to take care of. Had PTC claimed that Creo was a rewrite then yes, one could expect it to have a completely overhauled UI. Maybe people are confused by all the noise and fanfare by which PTC announced Creo. Maybe they think Creo is something totally new. It is not. Creo is basically the same technology with enhancements packaged in a new way.

Actually I commend PTC for not doing away with the old UI. And frankly, I don’t know what all this fuss is about.