Another Las Vegas extravaganza wrapped yesterday, as thousands of PTC faithful headed for the exits at Caesar’s Palace. I’m not a fan of Vegas in general, but PTC made it work. The company showcased its new management team (energetic, visionary with practical bits thrown in), debuted Creo (cool stuff in confusing packaging), showed renewed interest in things mathematical (giving Mathcad a bunch of sessions and announcing Creo Simulate) and spent a lot of time discussing its product roadmap. There was substance and some flash, not at all the typical Vegas ambience.

The overall user impression was positive, with a slight soupçon of nervous. Most liked what they saw, but wondered, “how will my Pro/E on maintenance map to the various Creo role packages? And how much will Creo [insert cool new feature here] cost if it’s not part of my upgrade?” If there was a flaw in PTC’s introduction of Creo to users who had never seen it before, it was this: it’s still not clear to many how they go from where they are, productive and experienced, to where PTC wants them to go. They are worried about the ribbon UI –it seems much more usable to me, but to someone who knows where all the important functions are in the older UI, the change is unsettling. They are worried that their most-used functionality isn’t in Creo 1.0 and that support for Pro/E will dry up before it does appear in Creo –PTC management was adamant that this would not happen, but users need to see to believe fully. They are worried that PTC has created role- or workflow-based Creo packages that will not perfectly map to their jobs and that those jobs may change as a result.

On the (very) upside, users were interested in many of the new things shown in Creo. Direct modeling fascinated many people that I spoke with, as the ability to move between parametric and direct appeals to companies where designers, engineers, analysts and others with varying degrees of modeling expertise need to iterate on a design. The big question for them was about the underlying data. What, if anything, is lost in the transitions? It would appear, nothing, because Creo Direct uses the same history- and feature-based data model as Creo Parametric, but hides this fact from the user so that they can model without worrying about the “overhead” of the parametric user experience. I’ll be very interested in user feedback once this rolls out more broadly — how easy is it to switch between the two modes?

I’m in some ways a math geek and spent my time in the simulation sessions. I was pleased to see that PTC created space on a packed program for a number of Mathcad sessions. For those who don’t know, Mathcad is a great little package for creating presentation-grade “live” mathematical models that are used to document an engineering thought process. Many people were worried that the company had forgotten about Mathcad in the rush to Creo, but PTC is working to bring it into an overall design/engineering workflow with integration to Creo and other important tools like Excel, data management in Windchill and so on. But since many of the recent complaints about Mathcad have been about the product itself and not its ties to other products, here’s a quick list of what I noted as recent/coming soon: improved units and labels, 3D plots, 64-bit multithreading and solver improvements, symbolics, and the ability to map parameters in a Creo model to Mathcad parameters — if one changes, so does the other. That’s cool.

I also attended the Creo Simulate roadmap session. Creo Simulate is in many ways a rebranded Pro/Mechanica, but with added capabilities that are slated to grow over the coming Creo releases. One very interesting thing to note: Creo Simulate runs as an extension to Creo Parametric or as a standalone app. PTC says that, in the latter case, “no CAD experience is necessary”. They are clearly going after the analysts who have embraced a solution like Spaceclaim to quickly create a model for analysis purposes, only in PTC’s scenario, one would use Creo Direct to create the model. I find this fascinating, since it signals that PTC is interested in going after the analyst community that before would never have considered Pro/Mechanica an appropriate solution. I’ve got briefings in the works to learn more about PTC’s plans for Creo Simulate, but learned in Vegas that it has the same UI ribbon interface as the other Creo apps, with a number of enhancements such as units support, moments and rotations active only where valid, and the ability to create process guides or templates for repeated processes. There was quite a list of other enhancements, too, including modeling contacts and plasticity in large displacement analyses and load histories to order nonlinear loads, new fasteners, preloaded bolts, meshing thin or prismatic regions with bricks and wedges, displaying a mesh in an exploded view, default results visualization templates, multibody dynamics enhancements — lots. Does this rival what is offered by ANSYS or any other focused CAE vendor? Not yet but I will be very interested to learn what PTC’s overall intentions are with Creo Simulate.

And that brings me to a final quibble about PTC World — and it really is a quibble, a minor point: PTC did a great job in laying out a grand vision for Creo and Windchill, with timelines and roadmaps aplenty at the very highest levels. Missing was the same level of vision for the many products under that umbrella. Where is Creo Simulate going? What’s the overall plan for Mathcad (beyond integration)? What about Creo Direct (besides eventually getting to all of the functionality of CoCreate)? The user community right now is struggling with the grand vision of it all, but soon they too are going to need to see to the next intersection on the road.

What did I like? A great deal. PTC is emerging as a new, modern, lighter version of itself. Creo appears to do a good job of balancing old (legacy data and functionality) with the new (UI, bite-sizing huge monolithic products) while introducing some cool new stuff (Creo Parametric Freestyle, Sketch and Illustrate). But now it’s over to the customers: seven of the new Creo apps became available earlier this week. How’s it going? Are you liking what you see? Is Freestyle as much fun as it looks?

For a complete list of the new Creo apps, go to — there is supposed to be a mapping between Pro/E to Creo and a grid mapping Creo apps to Creo role-based packages, but neither is there as of 10AM ET on June 17, 2011.

Note: PTC graciously covered expenses and registration for the event but did not in any way influence the content of this post.

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