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?

Click to enlarge

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.

  • Apple

    what do you mean “PTC still won’t let me write about CREO”? is this because you are a PTC Partner?

    • I wear two hats. One as a developer and PTC Partner and the other as a member of the CAD media. I get access to PTC software due to my partnership with them. But that is covered under an NDA and I cannot use those PTC licenses or the any information about the products to write about the software here on this blog or anywhere else. I have yet to receive my media licenses.

    • I wear two hats. One as a developer and PTC Partner and the other as a member of the CAD media. I get access to PTC software due to my partnership with them. But that is covered under an NDA and I cannot use those PTC licenses or the any information about the products to write about the software here on this blog or anywhere else. I have yet to receive my media licenses.

  • Jason

    I know what the fuss is about. Sure, options are nice but it
    can get ridiculous. I worked for a company that used UG NX. The old time users
    used the “curve” tools which were in the software prior to the sketcher. New
    users used the sketcher. Imagine users in the company accustom to one way
    trying to switch back and forth. Not to mention compatibility problems and the
    fact that the old tools lacked the parametric power of the sketcher which we
    needed as our products were driven by equations. Sure, curves could accept some
    equations but you had to have a degree in math to make it work. 

    I’m all for options, but at some point, consistency is more
    productive, even if it amounts to someone having to relearn something. Usually
    it amounts to better productivity later and less problems


    I also imagine this is a development maintenance headache
    for the software company as well.  
    Now maybe the GUI is less of an issue since each user isn’t affecting the other directly, but again, this just one more thing development has to try and support and spend resources on.  

    • These old things are pretty much baked to perfection and rarely need to be messed around with. So its really not that much of a pain to keep these legacy UI’s in place. If it was, trust me, they would have been long taken out.

  • Moriarty Chch

    Not sure you’ve got to the heart of the problem here – CREO is NOT offering a UI choice – Ribbon, Wildfire or Menu Manager(MM). 

    You get what your given and now its mainly Ribbon and some very old Menu Manager. The WinXP pull-down Menu system has basically gone but MM lingers on.  It would be interesting to know how much is still left in MM.

    This is most noticeable in the drawing side of the package – theres still plenty of Menu Manager. This interface was ribboned in Wildfire 5 with plenty of controversy but the job of removing MM is still unfinished in CREO. Sad because CREO is actually a big leap forward and in a good way.  

    There’s also some interesting UI stuff going on with some of the feature generation tools – if you open up old models you sometimes get the old MM interface – if you create the same feature new you get the ribbon interface. There’s actually two interfaces hiding in there for legacy reasons I guess. You have to manually rebuild the feature in the new interface to transfer it.

    All this is good and dandy if your users know both interfaces – try training some new to it all !

    • Michael Campbell (PTC)

      First off, the last comment is correct. We (PTC) are not offering multiple UI choices. We have a clear strategy around what UI paradigm and user model we would like to see throughout Creo, and we are implementing that.

      Are we done? No. Keep in mind, what we announced in October was a vision and strategy for The future of CAD. What we delivered in Creo 1.0 is the first step on the path toward that vision. While the Ribbon UI has been out in place for *accessing* all commands, the UI for *Executing* all commands has not yet been modernized.

      Much of it has, but there are some places (probably Cross Section creation, most aggregious among them) where the legacy Pro/E-style menus may still appear. With Creo 2.0 and subsequent releases, we’ll be modernizing those as well.

      Finally, let me say that if you really want to, you’ll always be able to find the Menu Manager, either by redefining features in very old models (which are always guaranteed to be 100% upward compatible), or accessing rvery arely used, or very high-end functionality.

  • Jeff Kunkler

    If you are a serious user of ANY software, and you want to get fast, then you  will be using hot keys (Mapkeys in PTC). To me the interface is nothing more than what I have to use to make my mapkeys. Granted, there are still things to pick with your mouse, but fingers on a keyboard pressing one or two keys is and always will be faster than “move mouse, then click”.  (with my occasional bouts of CT, the less mousing the better…)

    The key is this: does the UI enable new users to find the tools in a natural and intuitive way. No doubt that the ribbon is better than Wildfire at at doing this. This change now allows our company to get our product designers on Creo and start surfacing earlier within our production ecosystem and allow for 360 review more easily. I like the creo vision of having the right set of tools for different roles (industrial design vs. concept engineering vs. production engineering vs. review/analysis, etc.) AS LONG AS THEY DO NOT CHARGE MORE. and it is transparent to slip from role to role ( I often do ID as well as concept engineering). 

    It would be cool if there was some latitude regarding what tools were available in each role as every company has their own boundries between roles that may or may not align with Creo.

    Lastly, I would agree with those that say Creo was over-marketed by PTC, but the changes they are making are in the right direction. This is NOT lipstick on a pig… regarding “lipstick”, the ribbon is just a convenient way to implement a UI, no big reinvention here but makes it easier to learn. regarding the “Pig”; I have used Pro/E since 1991 and I used to say “no matter what you want to do it is only 7 mouse picks away!”. So was it sometimes a pain to learn and use? absolutely, but it was robust and there was always a way to get what you wanted. so it was more like an Ox, big, strong, sometimes unwieldy, but if you had to plow the field you were glad to have it. Hopefully Creo will keep moving away from the Ox and become more agile and intuitive, and become more like having an expert at your side helping you do your work.