Posted by: Andries Koorzen | July 9, 2013

The datacard vs the property tab builder

Property tab / EPDM datacard

Property tab / EPDM datacard

The (often underused) property tab builder has been around for a number of years, and the functionality has really eased the manipulation of custom properties / configuration specific properties for SolidWorks files.

Compare this to the vastly greater functionality of the data card in Enterprise PDM, you would be well pressed for an answer on the question: “Well which one do I use, and when?”

During one of our EPDM installations I realized that there is a specific time and place for the SolidWorks property tab builder…and you should really only use it only when you’re NOT already using Enterprise PDM.

The property tab builder has some great functionality, such as:

  • being able to select rows from an Excel file,
  • selecting from a predefined (custom) list
  • using radio buttons to hide or show other sections of the property tab
  • using checkboxes to get a yes / no value
  • and more…

But it lacks the full featured functionality of the data card rules that might have been setup by your Enterprise administrator, such as unique values for configuration properties, the concatenation of multiple fields into a single value or controlling input using input formulas. It also has the ability to show certain properties to certain groups of users, while with the Property Tab builder, what is in the tab is visible to everyone who uses it. There is no way to limit what the end user sees.

Another shortcoming of the property tab is that it only works for SolidWorks files (Parts, Assemblies and Drawings), which means there is simply no way to guarantee uniformity in the information that is contributed to different types of files (e.g. which custom properties are to be filled in for Word / Excel files?). With EPDM, the implementation is across the board, setup once for the whole organization for all of its files. When the time comes for customization, from an administration point of view the customization is a lot easier, and roll out is just that much faster.

For the programmers among us: There is no API for the property tab builder, only for SolidWorks files / properties. For EPDM, there is a very good API which I have used extensively to customize / automate custom properties (more on that in another upcoming post )

(My) The verdict: Use the property tab builder only when you’re not already using data cards / Enterprise PDM. Or if you really must, have it setup in such a way as to compliment EPDM. What I mean by that is that if you’re frequently working offline, it isn’t always practical to try and fill in the values on the EPDM data cards only once you’re back online. In such a case, a property tab could be value, hosting only the most important properties to be populated. In my experience, I would still try and restrict this as far as possible as the end user is left to his own interpretation of what is necessary data and what is too much work.

What is your opinion?

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