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Online vs. Offline

mark_biasottimark_biasotti Member Posts: 123 ✭✭✭
edited November 2014 in Product Feedback
You cannot use OnShape if you are not connected to the internet. This currently is a fact.

I would like to continue a discussion that I had with an Onshape employee yesterday during lunch and thought that I would get my thoughts and ideas captured here. I would especially be very interested to hear what other users and OS employees have to say.

I think my issue of online vs. offline is not so much connectedness but rather bandwidth quality. When trying to work remotely I have often run into so many situations where the wifi bandwidth was so poor that it was not even worth it to browse a webpage let along try to do some CAD work. Go to a Courtyard by Marriott, Hotel6 or Residence Inn or coffee shop; they are notoriously cut-rate in the quality of wifi they offer. I've often experienced wifi in these places to be on par with Dial-up speed - it was painful.
I take the VTA train (similar to an above-ground T) everyday into the city of San Jose. They espoused to be the first public transportation with free wifi.  It (wifi on the train) worked for a while, but now I have given up and need to tether my iPhone with my Macbook to get any email or work done all the while draining my LTE minutes.) Besides just not working well, when I did use it, like any public wifi,  every time I got on the train (or in a coffee shop or hotel) I have the interruption of having to login to the wifi agree to the ELUA and/or password and perhaps a minute later, I'm on line. When my train gets to a certain point in my route, the wifi drops and then reconnects (possibly traveling between cell zones?) and guess what? I have to manually connect again by agreeing to the EULA yet again.  After awhile it becomes like "Death by a thousand paper cuts" and I eventually don't even bother in the course of my 25 minute commute.
I'm sure other users that travel, have there own stories when experiencing wifi in public places like Airports and hotels - having to enter your credit card (airport charge) first or dealing with molasses-paced page refresh. 
Here is the point that I am getting to;  I experience a real pain-point on a regular basis. Perhaps I'm the only OS user...?

I love the fact that OS is totally on-line but I anticipate that in my situation there will be sometimes problems when I am not working either at the home or in my office. OS needs to not treat this issue as a minority issue, unless they want to personally go out and solve the public wifi infrastructure. 

So this is what I would like to suggest as a product enhancement that would truly delight customers: When there is no internet connectivity, or the bandwidth drops below a certain acceptable minimum, a local resident .exe (which I optionally downloaded earlier - knowing of my impending predicament) of Onshape can be used to do local work. This local OS works only locally and only results in  making a branch till such time that I regain acceptable internet connectivity and I can merge it back to my online data. This local OS .exe exists forever but is only a snapshot of the current code and capabilities. If a user choses to use it, it can only save the users work with that current set of capabilities. It is much like SW users that choose to discontinue there Subscription support. They have no cloud storage, no collaboration and no access to enhance capability. In other words, it is not a desirable situation to be in because it does not offer the forte' that makes OS compelling.

This is what OS management needs to be honest with themselves: if Online OS is absolutely the best and most compelling solution for users, it shall never loose out (be less compelling) to working offline and the mandate of "you need to be online or the highway" should not be a ploy to hold Onshape customers hostage especially, I repeat especially, when ignoring undeniable pain points of the customer, no matter how infrequent they are. 

Let me add - OS will definitely succeed and thrive and become the overwhelming choice for CAD ONLY if they clear show that they provide value to the customer - forget about online, cloud, branching/merging, ease-of-use, VALUE trumps all.



  • lougallolougallo Member, Moderator, Onshape Employees, Developers Posts: 1,995
    I believe there is always a goal to provide the best performance on the client end of things, especially when the connection state is variable. Being able to handle these situations and communicate and preserve the current state of the application is key as well as syncing the work completed when the connection is restored.

    There are really two things here.  One, make sure that when the connection has issues, catch that issue and not loose work.  The second is when there is no connection.  Some services will introduce a caching/offline mode which might need some sync time and leave the user with a limited set of functions (i.e. Offline Gmail or Docs).  Solving this with Plugins and local installations is never a good solution since it limits this to only certain platforms and introduces a whole compatibility angle that we are trying to avoid all together here.  For example, now on my Chromebook, I am left without a solution while maybe a Mac or PC can function with such a solution. It begins to fragment the user's experiences further.

    I will let others weigh in as well but I think the point is we will be looking at ways to avoid as much inconvenience to users as we can with intermittent connections and continue to look at ways to give offline options if/when possible.
    Lou Gallo / PD/UX - Support - Community / Onshape, Inc.
  • jon_hirschtickjon_hirschtick Onshape Employees Posts: 90
    Yes we'd love to add some offline in the future, and have ideas about it.  The philosophy we have is design/optimize for online, and accommodate offline.  Another request we get is for merely offline viewing.

    So much depends on each user and what their needs and situations are.  If I had your commute and had to pick a system to use on it I wouldn't use an online system either.

    I can assure you that it has nothing to do with business model, merely trying to do the right things first balancing user needs, technology architecture, etc.
  • kevin_quigleykevin_quigley Member Posts: 306 ✭✭✭
    As Mark says, wifi access in many places is patchy, or non existent. Travelling to London by train a few weeks back I tried Onshape. On the train they had a WiFi service, but it was incredibly slow, so I tethered my iphone. On the journey I had patches of 4G, 3G, GPRS and no signal. Highly frustrating.

    in Central London in the meeting I had 4G, 25mb down, 20 up on my phone....then someone closed a door and suddenly no signal. Boom.

    we all know 4 G is coming, but you still get issues with coverage that can mean no access. For web browsing it is an inconvenience. For a live mission critical CAD session it is a disaster.

    Mark makes some great suggestions. My own preference would be a desktop install that automatically kicks in as connectivity drops, then updates online when it comes back, combined with some kind of Dropbox like sync for active projects. The key factor here should be invisibility to the end user. We want to just start up Onshape, then use it. On my train ride it could be local use or online, but I dont care as long as it is working.
  • caradoncaradon OS Professional, Mentor Posts: 300 PRO
    edited November 2014
    My personal stance on this:
    *For CAD authoring, focus on online at least in the first year after release.
    *For CAD viewing, provide an offline solution as soon as possible. Think eDrawings or JT2Go. Simply provide model view manipulation (rotate view, show/hide components, section views, exploded views) and syncing to online Onshape for getting newer versions or specific branches offline for viewing. Single direction syncing: online Onshape to viewer. A syncing capability in itself will put it miles ahead of eDrawings...

    Personally, I don't care much for an offline Onshape for CAD creation. Wifi, mobile internet availability and quality will only improve... 
    I think syncing back offline CAD edits back to online Onshape would add an enormous amount of complexity (platform compatibility, keeping local software up-to-date, data security, merging...) that will only detract attention from getting core and awesome functionality into Onshape.
    I'm more interested in seeing Onshape getting 'awesome' as fast as possible, than having it available offline as fast as possible.

    An online/offline Onshape that is 'similarish' in CAD functionality to the SolidWorks we use today is pretty hard to sell.
    An online Onshape that offers awesome CAD productivity/functionality that pales SolidWorks would be a no-brainer.

    So in short: CAD productivity/functionality first, offline availability second... or third. :smile: 

  • mark_biasottimark_biasotti Member Posts: 123 ✭✭✭

    I'm on this 5 days a week and it's sucks - and this is Silicon Valley!

  • mark_biasottimark_biasotti Member Posts: 123 ✭✭✭
    Hi Dries,

    I don't think it is my place to question development priorities or marketing of OS, but I do know from being in this business that first impressions are everything and one bad experience early with a product often times results in a "love it or leave it" with most not coming back for a very long time (if ever.) Most users do not concern themselves or question how "technically hard" some is or isn't to achieve but rather want a product that meets their needs and then (wish) sometimes exceeds them!  A lot of the apps on my iPhone and iPad are cloud products and services but will work offline - why is that?

  • caradoncaradon OS Professional, Mentor Posts: 300 PRO
    edited November 2014
    Let me first say that this is a very interesting discussion!

    What I said above simply reflects my personal preference. I would rather have CAD functionality developed, than full offline availability of tools. I can absolutely relate to your situation, but it just doesn't apply to me personally. It's totally fine that you or Onshape might have a different view on things, but at least I got my preference out! ;-)

    "A lot of the apps on my iPhone and iPad are cloud products and services but will work offline - why is that?" Most of those apps & services do not require much computation.
    Let me ask you another question: Why isn't there any (serious) MCAD tool for iOS/Android to date?
    And then another question: Could a full cloud-based (online only) approach be the enabler to achieve it?
    An iPad is no Surface Pro. An iPad would never be able to run something as complex as a full-blown MCAD tool at an acceptable performance level. At least for iPad, the only online model makes a lot of sense. IMHO.

  • brucebartlettbrucebartlett Member, OS Professional, Mentor, User Group Leader Posts: 2,126 PRO
    With CAD in the past I have all ways felt I need to have the biggest, fastest computer to get my productivity up for those more resource hungry processes. Replace computers regularly, reformat to clean up system, make sure you don't have too much stuff running in the background. With Onshape your hardware becomes less important, you can run on any old box, I've got my son using it on his $250 school laptop. You just need to ensure your "primary" usage point has the best web access available. I too would love to have offline an app but struggle to see full functionality without computing power. 
    Engineer ı Product Designer ı Onshape Consulting Partner
    Twitter: @onshapetricks  & @babart1977   
  • julian_lelandjulian_leland Member, OS Professional, Mentor Posts: 59 PRO
    I tend to agree with @babart77‌ and @DriesV‌ - I'd imagine that implementing full offline CAD functionality would be extremely challenging, could present problems re-merging data, and would lose a lot of what makes OS really cool - that you can use it (almost) wherever, on whatever system. Especially given that always-on, high speed internet access is only going to grow in prevalence as time goes on, I don't see it as being worthwhile. A limited offline toolset would probably be sufficient to cover situations like shop floor part checks, showing models to clients, etc.. For my purposes, I'd like:
    - View 3D and drawing files, along with whatever supported attachments are in the Part Studio;
    - Allow measurement of 2D and 3D files, along with sectioning of 3D files;
    - Read non-dimensional model information (i.e. part properties, weights; hole or thread callouts, when those are implemented; etc.)
  • mark_biasottimark_biasotti Member Posts: 123 ✭✭✭
    Guys - good points all around - I am not, I repeat not, arguing for OS to be offline app also; I'm simply pleading for OS to solve a pain-point that I see currently exists for anyone who works outside the home or office. I WANT OS to be online 24/7/365 and want to always use it that way  ( I think it's been said elsewhere about OS that it is "On any device, anytime) but in my situation, I am a designer and my mind never turns off (a plague - believe me) and therefore I want to design on the train, in coffee shops, hotels, and airports also.

    to address your points Dries:

    Let me ask you another question: Why isn't there any (serious) MCAD tool for iOS/Android to date?
    MAB - because the hardware interface (size of screen and touch) that runs iOS/Android is not adequate. Also (and probably the bigger reason), Apple has always considered there market consumer and not profession.

    And then another question: Could a full cloud-based (online only) approach be the enabler to achieve it?
    MAB - Yes, most certainly but only for casual viewing and some limited amount of work - because of the ergonomic concerns of working long periods on small screens with stylus/touch interface.

    Be really I do not see how these relate to my original post. The reason that I made the "app" comment is that makers of apps for smart phones are sensitive to the fact that users want to use them (apps) on there PDA (a term no longer used but applicable here) because outages, limited connectivity, bandwidth  and data-minutes add up. Also, to be fair they also don't want to "host" them 24/7.

  • Jim_AndersJim_Anders Member Posts: 24 ✭✭
    How did we ever survive having to travel to a particular building that contained our CAD system hardware and high-speed modems.  Heh.  :)

    I suspect the market forces for ubiquitous high-speed internet access will be so strong that hopefully this will be a short term problem.  But I also agree that some will have nagging concerns.

    Perhaps a joint Onshape and SpaceX presser when Musk announces his 700 internet satellite plan?
  • kevin_quigleykevin_quigley Member Posts: 306 ✭✭✭
    My own preference and experience implies...

    CAD use and creation of data...you need offline capability...because there are places you need to do the work where connections can be flaky or difficult.

    CAD data viewing and markup...online only...because, ideally,  you want control over who sees what and when, and (very important) the viewer can be kept up to date for all formats whereas a local instal requires the user to keep it updates.

    I would suggest within a year or two we will see online only Acrobat Reader and E Drawings. Does anyone actually use the exe Edrawings any more? None of my customers do due to IT security issues.
  • kevin_quigleykevin_quigley Member Posts: 306 ✭✭✭
    In terms of CAD creation...support for iPad...waiting patiently!
  • caradoncaradon OS Professional, Mentor Posts: 300 PRO
    "CAD use and creation of data...you need offline capability...because there are places you need to do the work where connections can be flaky or difficult.@KevinQuigley‌
    Just a side question:
    Does SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual, or CATIA V6 for that matter, support offline use?

  • billy2billy2 Member, OS Professional, Mentor, Developers, User Group Leader Posts: 1,838 PRO
    I want one database that's always correct. No syncing, no merging, no check out, never again.

    I think that's Cloud Cad.

    Don't really care about offline use.

    That's my opinion, maybe I'm wrong...

  • kevin_quigleykevin_quigley Member Posts: 306 ✭✭✭
    @DriesV‌ whenever I actually see either product I will ask! All my CATIA customers are still on 5. I've never seen  live demo of MC yet, just canned videos. Don't know anyone that uses it.
  • mark_biasottimark_biasotti Member Posts: 123 ✭✭✭

    Does SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual, or CATIA V6 for that matter, support offline use?

    SWMC = NO  CATIA = YES ( but you need to know ahead of time and quite a hassle)

  • caradoncaradon OS Professional, Mentor Posts: 300 PRO
    edited November 2014
    Thanks for the clarification on SWMC & CATIA! Interesting that SWMC can't run offline at all. It still requires a client-side install, right? I'm supposed to be seeing/using a live demo on November 25...

    Oh and regarding...
    "Apple has always considered there market consumer and not profession."
    I actually don't agree at all with that statement. There are a ton of professional apps that are used by a ton of professional users.
    What about this?
    And what about the Apple and IBM partnership?

    In my view, this is the perfect time for Onshape.
    If even ('standard' deployment) CATIA V6 is always-online, then cloud CAD is definitely ready for business.

  • mark_biasottimark_biasotti Member Posts: 123 ✭✭✭
    edited November 2014

    Dries - you are correct, Apple is certainly a professional market for graphics, marketing and industrial design - but not for engineering.  I was thinking only specifically about the iPad and the iPhone + platforms.

    SWMC can't run offline at all. It still requires a client-side install, right? I'm supposed to be seeing/using a live demo on November 25...

    Yes, it does require a client side install and as of it's initial release it requires to be connected to a pod (server) to be able to use it.  I've been away from it about 9 months now so things could have changed. Be interesting to hear you option of it - are they going to preview SWIC also?

  • caradoncaradon OS Professional, Mentor Posts: 300 PRO
    "are they going to preview SWIC also?"
    No, just SWMC.

  • andy_morrisandy_morris Moderator, Onshape Employees Posts: 87
    I am reminded of Steve Jobs' quote about consumer and enterprise:  "What I love about the consumer market, that I always hated about the enterprise market, is that we come up with a product, we try to tell everybody about it, and every person votes for themselves. They go 'yes' or 'no,' and if enough of them say 'yes,' we get to come to work tomorrow. That's how it works. It's really simple. With the enterprise market, it's not so simple. The people that use the products don't decide for themselves, and the people that make those decisions sometimes are confused."

    That's a reminder to keep the user as the focal point for design of our applications, they are the best influencers with the purchasers.

    @DriesV I tend to agree that the distinction between consumer and professional is diminishing. Apple have long provided hardware for the creative arts, so why not engineering too, isn't that creating with art and science? As part of our research we asked "what hardware do you currently use?" and "if you had free choice, what hardware do you want to use?". No surprise that engineers use Windows but don't want to use it exclusively.

    DS have a very smart dev team, I am sure that they can make SWMC and SWIC run off-line. DS also have an astute commercial team, I wonder how much they will charge for it? ;)
    Andy Morris / Head of Product Design / Onshape, Inc.
  • pete_yodispete_yodis OS Professional, Mentor Posts: 666 ✭✭✭
    DS have a very smart dev team, I am sure that they can make SWMC and SWIC run off-line. DS also have an astute commercial team, I wonder how much they will charge for it? ;)
    I think this is why Onshape has such a huge advantage.  They can afford to undercut the pricing of the top heavy Dassualt Systems trying to preserve its legacy pricing structure.  I am sure Dassault is very, very capable on the technology side, but they seem extremely vulnerable on the pricing side - and as such they won't do what ultimately should be done and Onshape and maybe others will do it for them.  It will be interesting to watch.
  • caradoncaradon OS Professional, Mentor Posts: 300 PRO
    Just went to a SW VAR event today, where I expected to see a live demo of SWMC. Sadly, all the audience got were recycled videos. Quite disappointing. I think the majority of the audience felt the same way. I don't get why they didn't do a live demo.
    Obvious questions from the audience about collaborating with suppliers/clients (license requirements) and compatibility with legacy SW were largely left unanswered.
    I get the idea that SWMC is simply a technology preview for things to come...

    Regarding online vs. offline:
    I'll be visiting EuroMold in the next two days. That makes for plenty of opportunities to stress test Onshape availability: Liège-Guillemins railway station, ICE train, Frankfurt Messe, hotel... I'll keep you updated!

  • lougallolougallo Member, Moderator, Onshape Employees, Developers Posts: 1,995
    @DriesV That sounds great!  Keep us posted.
    Lou Gallo / PD/UX - Support - Community / Onshape, Inc.
  • caradoncaradon OS Professional, Mentor Posts: 300 PRO
    edited November 2014
    If anyone's interested:
    Onshape works great (and without connection drops) on German ICE trains!

    Funny anecdote:
    I asked about SWMC at the SolidWorks booth on EuroMold. The guy I talked to said "he couldn't show SWMC live, because it wasn't possible to connect to the server from inside Messe Frankfurt". (Onshape worked fine through Wifi.) He also wondered why I would want a conceptual tool beside regular SolidWorks (??)... Maybe they're exceptions, but any reseller I've asked about SWMC off-the-record gets really uncomfortable.

  • andy_morrisandy_morris Moderator, Onshape Employees Posts: 87
    Thanks for the feedback Dries!
    Could that be the fastest land transport connection for Onshape? :) I've tested on the Intercity 125 trains in the UK (only 200km/h).
    Andy Morris / Head of Product Design / Onshape, Inc.
  • caradoncaradon OS Professional, Mentor Posts: 300 PRO
  • mcconnell113mcconnell113 Member Posts: 74 ✭✭
    I'm interested to know what programming lanuages are being utilized when creating onshape. That alone is a huge deciding factor on whether or not an offline version will ever be available. I'd love offline as well, being a mac user however I understand that sometimes its too hard for companies to maintain code for so many various platforms.
    John McConnell - Let's change things.
  • michael_lesliemichael_leslie Member, Mentor Posts: 21 ✭✭

    Going back to the original point offline access would be great. I work for a large organization who for 'security' reasons proxy all my internet traffic through another country this connection is made using a shared ISDN line. Sometime I daydream about a dial up connection whilst waiting for a page to refresh. Anyway my point is I feel an offline option is still essential because if you to show a client your designs and the connection is as good as mine your going to struggle. 

  • andrew_troupandrew_troup Member, Mentor Posts: 1,584 ✭✭✭✭✭
    If the insuperable difficulty with offline working is accommodating all the platforms and OS options out there, I for one would be comfortable with OnS deciding on just one platform and OS, when the time comes to address offline working.

    I personally would gladly front up to purchase a dedicated laptop or high-end notebook purely for the ability to use OnS offline, if it continues to live up to initial promise.

    And I would rather this was dealt with once we have a fully functional package, rather than diluting the early development effort, when so many crucial decisions -- which will permanently shape the "skeleton" to which future "muscle" will attach -- have to be made.
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