UX experience (by FreeCAD newb)

A forum for research and development of the user interface of FreeCAD

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jeffreyarts
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Sep 16, 2021 9:11 am

UX experience (by FreeCAD newb)

Post by jeffreyarts »

Hi,

I am new to this software, and I find it unworkable. This saddens me, because I believe there is tremendous power in the software itself. But I am simply unable to use it. I am a designer with a background in front-end development, and I have experience with 3D CAD modelling in Fusion 360 & I have also experience modelling with Blender. I am also a heavy user of Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator, and a novice user with several other Adobe software packages. All of these applications have required me to first learn the software before I could get really do something useful with it. But the difference between these software packages and FreeCAD is that I can open these tools and get something in the view/canvas without knowing what the hell I am doing. This has to do with their interfaces being intuitive in one way or the other.

When I started with this tool a few months ago, I quit it after I have tried to find a way to create a sketch. I was not able to find the button to create one, but via some documentation - a forum post, documentation, or video (I don't remember how) - I discovered that I had to go to the top banner to change the (empty) start page to some other workspace. My intuition had me select the 'drawing' workspace (since I wanted to draw a sketch, and it was the first thing I read related to this goal). I selected this workspace, and I couldn't find anything. Frustrated I quit the program. Made a new Autodesk account to create a new account for a free (1 month) trial, and made my model via Fusion instead.

Now, a few months later. I wanted to give FreeCAD another try. Now I have figured out that I have to use either the "Sketcher" or "Part design" workspace to create a sketch. With success! Somewhat... First I was not able to create a sketch - I had found the button, but couldn't press it. I then discovered that I first had to make a new empty document (an empty view gave it away, that something was missing). When I did that, the sketch button turned active. I clicked it, selected a plane, and than nothing... I clicked on the top side of the cube in the right upper corner to move to the move the view to a top view. Now I have a flat surface to draw on, I drew a rectangle (I am in the Sketcher workspace). That worked, yay. But now I wanted to set dimension to the lines. I looked for a 'dimension' icon, couldn't find one. Hmmmm. I selected a line, and looked at the left window to see if I can find some properties over here to define the lengths. Couldn't find any. I right clicked on the lines, and the points to see if there is an option to set dimensions, x/y coordinates, or something else that would allow me to set the length of the lines. Couldn't find any. Shift clicked two points/lines, and right clicked to see if I could find some option to define the size between these two object, but no. I still am unable to set a length between two points in a sketch with FreeCAD, a pretty basic and essential feature. The software is not designed in a manner that is intuitive enough to me to find it though.

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Reason for me to share this experience is not to tell you that the software is bad, neither is it to share my personal frustrations of using it. I really like open source, and it doesn't have to be as good as those tools which are being maintained by multi-million dollar organisations (even Blender has an annual budget of over 1 million[1]). I can understand that it is by lack of resources that it is not possible to invest in improving the UX (like the incredible improvements proposed by Aleks. I don't think that such a drastic redesign is necessarily required to improve the UX. But I understand the frustration someone like IlIl has in using this software. But by going through the replies in these topics, I see that there is quite some friction in changing UI related functionalities. Which is understandably, cause the software is so incredible huge. That something that works in one environment, might be super annoying in another.

Because I am a novice user of this software, I therefor don't want to propose any possible improvements. I don't feel like I am in the position to make such proposals, and I don't feel like the resources are there to make them anyhow. Since the focus seems to be on adding new features, rather than improving what it already has. If I'm wrong, please let me know. But for whatever my opinion is worth, FreeCAD looks like an amazing tool, but it has an unintuitive interface which scares some new users (like me) away. One of the biggest CAD tools available (Fusion 360) has dropped their free plans, so a lot of people (like me) are looking for an alternative. I believe that FreeCAD could fulfil those needs, but the steep learning curve should be flattened. Making the interface more intuitive by redesigning the interface is one possible solution, so is making small tweaks in the existing interface or showing a screen in the start workspace with links on how to use the software, could also be a great first step. I hope that this (unrequested) feedback is positively welcomed, and if there is any way that I could help using my own expertises, let me know.

1. Blender annual report 2020 see page 26
chrisb
Posts: 38461
Joined: Tue Mar 17, 2015 9:14 am

Re: UX experience (by FreeCAD newb)

Post by chrisb »

Hi and welcome to the forum!

There is not much to say in addition to other similar topics. You should have worked through some Tutorials, e.g. Creating a simple part with PartDesign. It tells very clearly how to start, how to create a document - and a sketch.
A Sketcher Lecture with in-depth information is available in English, auf Deutsch, en français, en español.
user1234
Posts: 891
Joined: Mon Jul 11, 2016 5:08 pm

Re: UX experience (by FreeCAD newb)

Post by user1234 »

If you use Illustrator and Blender software, then you are here wrong. This is a CAD forum, not a designer. Just said, as i begin with FreeCAD i never had UI problems, since many CAD work in a similar way. And many other people had no problem with the gui.

Greetings
user1234

edit: typo
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JoeKundlak
Posts: 46
Joined: Mon Oct 11, 2021 11:35 am

Re: UX experience (by FreeCAD newb)

Post by JoeKundlak »

You cannot come to a new type of software with preconcieved notions as to how it should work. I could not do anything the first time I opened FreeCAD, but that is why there are Tutorials avialable as chrisb said and also Youtube is full of videos. Learn and grow!
Joe
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adrianinsaval
Posts: 793
Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2018 5:15 pm

Re: UX experience (by FreeCAD newb)

Post by adrianinsaval »

I understand your frustration and agree that FreeCAD's user interface is not the very good but I have to comment that CAD is a complex subject that is not a good idea to try to learn by just trial and error, read the documentation. That being said you probably didn't find the dimensioning tools because the toolbar didn't fit in your screen and was hidden in a dropdown, shitty behavior IMO but coming from CATIA were this also happens I had no issue at all (and creating a sketch works in a very similar way), and that's the thing too, FreeCAD could try to be like Fusion but then someone will come and say "why is it not like this other random CAD that I was using".
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JoeKundlak
Posts: 46
Joined: Mon Oct 11, 2021 11:35 am

Re: UX experience (by FreeCAD newb)

Post by JoeKundlak »

adrianinsaval wrote: Fri Nov 26, 2021 12:38 pm That being said you probably didn't find the dimensioning tools because the toolbar didn't fit in your screen and was hidden in a dropdown, shitty behavior IMO but coming from CATIA were this also happens I had no issue at all (and creating a sketch works in a very similar way), and that's the thing too,
Re: this - would the opposite be possible to hardcode, that when the App is launched for the first time (and until tweaked by the user), all toolbars are arranged according to the resolution in a way, that all of them are visible (even it it means moving them to more rows)?

Not sure if this is an already determined solution, or if it is a "standard" one used in such GUIs, so I might be talking out of my behind here 8-)
Joe
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