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Productivity Enhancements on Windows Explorer Integration for Windchill Desktop Integration 10.2, Part I

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Productivity Enhancements on Windows Explorer Integration for Windchill Desktop Integration 10.2, Part I

In Windchill 10.2 a lot of effort has been made to enhance and simplify the user experience when working with WTDocuments from your Microsoft Windows Desktop.

In this blog I will show you some of the enhancements and how they can significantly simplify your interaction with documents stored in your company’s Windchill system.

 

Windows Explorer Integration

 

The PTC Windchill Desktop Integration plugin adds the Windchill Documents system folder to your local environment. You can you use that Windows Explorer Integration to find, open, access and download Windchill documents without the need to open the Windchill web application in a browser.

 

DTI.png

This will give you a variety of ways to easily access and interact with documents just like they had been stored on your local system:

 

  • by double clicking on a file in the Windows Explorer
  • by using the context (right mouse button) menu on the Windchill node, any context folder or document in the Windows Explorer
  • by the File > Open dialog of any local application (like Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat…)
  • ...

 

But I do not want to miss the (in my opinion) most natural way of interacting with documents in Windows – Drag and Drop.

As working with the Explorer Integration should just feel natural, Drag and Drop capabilities have been integrated and with Windchill 10.2 M010 these have even been enhanced.

Dragging a document file from your local system to a context folder under the Windchill Documents node will trigger one of the following actions (depending on the area where you drop the document):

 

  • New Document / New Multiple Documents
  • Check In
  • Replace Content

 

The other direction is supported as well:

Grabbing a document from a Windchill context folder and dragging it to your local system or another Windchill context will trigger corresponding actions depending if modifier keys (Shift and / or Ctrl) are applying and the target the document is dropped (possible actions are copy, move, create shortcut…).

 

Access to Windchill Functionality

 

Starting with Windchill 10.2 F000, the right-click menu in Windows Explorer includes a wider range of Windchill actions. While in previous releases only actions such as Open and View Information were available, this expanded to the most commonly used actions on the Windchill web application (even multiselect for Check in, Set State… have been implemented in 10.2 M030).

The right mouse button menu is context sensitive and the actions availability will change depending on the object you open it on. Additional restrictions like access permissions, preferences and so on can have impact on the availability of actions.

WCUpgradeCFTR_DIChangesWindchillActionsAddedtotheRightClickMenu.png

My personal highlight is the introduction of the Compare Document functionality in the Windows Explorer integration with Windchill 10.2 F000.

 

Compare Documents

 

Starting Windchill 10.2 F000 (and enhanced in 10.2 M010) the Desktop integration added compare capabilities. But different to the compare functionality available in the Windchill web application this will concentrate less on comparing metadata but more on comparing the content of the documents.

Out of the box Windchill supports Microsoft Word 2007 and 2010 files and had been extended to Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint in Windchill 10.2 M010 (dedicated support matrix below).

 

Office Version Microsoft Excel Microsoft Word Microsoft PowerPoint
2007 No Yes No
2010 No Yes Yes
2013 Yes Yes Yes

 

Additional file compare tools can be registered based on the file extension in the Windchill Desktop Integration Configuration menu.

 

There are two different compare actions available:

 

  • Compare Document Versions

This will allow you to compare the file content of two different versions of the same document (see screenshot)

  • Compare Documents

This will allow you to compare the content of two different objects, which need to be of the same file type.

 

WCUpgradeCFTR_DIEnhancementsDocumentComparisonActionsandOptions.png

 

Going forward

 

This was the first part of my post about productivity enhancements on Windows Explorer Integration.

In the second part I will show you how easy it is to access Windchill Meta data in the Windows Explorer, how this can be adjusted to your needs and how simple it is to find any document with the integrated Windchill search.

 

If you are in the meantime interested in additional details on the Windchill Explorer Integration, you’ll find further information in the Windchill Help Center.

 

And as always any questions and comments are appreciated but I definitely would be very interested in your ideas:

 

  • What do you think about the enhanced functionality? Which functionality you like best?
  • For which things do you use the Windows Explorer integration?

 

Please let me and the community know about it.

27 REPLIES 27

Re: Productivity Enhancements on Windows Explorer Integration for Windchill Desktop Integration 10.2, Part I

Hallo Björn,

Excellent initiative to create such blog.

Non CAD Document Management is often overlook by management when implementing Windchill/PDMLink.

PTC has made great progress in recent years but there are still room for improvement

One thing I am very keen of is to explain users the difference between file management and document management. Everyone comes from an "office" environment and call a file a document. So for them a  myfile.docx is a document. When using a document manager myfile.docx is only a file or the part of a content of a document.

I always find it difficult to make people understand the different between the two and that a document is more "powerful" than a file. It would be a shame to reduce the functionality of a document to a file only.

Something, I would like PTC to promote is the difference and should not introduce confusion. Using Windows Explorer to manage Document (aka Windchill Document) will lead many users to believe they are manipulating files and reduce the power of a document into a simple file. You do not really see the difference if you look at a Windchill Folder or a Windows Folder but the difference is huge.

This said, the ability to access the Windchill contexts directly from Windows Explorer is a great opportunity to increase efficiency of the users.

I was disappointed when implementing 10.1 (moving from 9.1) that the IBA parameters could not be read from Windows Explorer but it is corrected in 10.2.

I think part of user's training should include (and insist) educating people between the differences of Documents and Files and using Windows Explorer to access Windchill is not only about dumping files in a folder.

I appreciate the difficulties to move "office" users to more advance capabilities.

As additional enhancements, I would say that generally the more document management functions are available via Windows Explorer the better. This can list document structure, where used, linkage with WTpart, discussion, mass edit attributes, Change Management etc.... (some displayed info eg I could imagine an icon for pending change or other warning (as you have in Windchill webbrowser) that would take the user to a webbrowser to display additional information directly to Windchill)

The interface should make people understand/see while what they see looks like any Windows Folder, they are actually in a document manager (while I am at it,  a document manager much more powerful than sharepoint) but can manipulate the files the same way than in Windows.

I look forward to your part 2, 3 etc....

Best regards

Re: Productivity Enhancements on Windows Explorer Integration for Windchill Desktop Integration 10.2, Part I

Thanks Björn

I know some users do love the Windows Explorer Integration. I don't! Why? Because PDMLink is a Product Data Management system which stores Items (WTParts) and the described documents.

As soon I can search for a WTPart and get the related documents or can connect a WTDocument with a WTPart then I consider my DTI denial again.

The user don't search for a document, they search for the WTPart and they want to open then the document.

It looks like the Windchill 11 unified search does that in the web browser. Hopefully it does it also in the DTI.

It's the same for the office integration. Why I can map all the document metadata, but I'm not able to add some WTPart attributes or at least the name and number?  Or the very least to have a attribute delegate service like for the CAD Document. This would be a great feature a lot of my customers would like to see.

I'm exited about your next blog part!

Regards

Björn

Re: Productivity Enhancements on Windows Explorer Integration for Windchill Desktop Integration 10.2, Part I

Hi Björn R,

i entirely share your view.

But I see it in two groups.

On one side you have the "experts" those who understand document, data, product, file , change mangement and the like and on the other side you have the Lambda users who just need and will only need to modify a text in a file.  so if we move "their" file into Windchill they want to keep things still simple....

The number of support calls we had in the past of people not being able to upload their change (they find the document, download, open the file, make changes locally and could not check in. It was greyed out) to find out that the document was either not checked out, or even better Released!!!

It is difficult to marry both worlds together....

Best regards

Re: Productivity Enhancements on Windows Explorer Integration for Windchill Desktop Integration 10.2, Part I

Bjoern Saupp‌ thank you for posting! This is a great blog topic.

I agree with Chris C‌ on this one. It's really tough to work with folks who do not have a deep understanding of the operation and value of a true document management system. They all want the same thing; all their "documents" in a shared drive/folder. They are only interested in File Management, not Document Management. This is a BIG implementation hurdle. Users are looking for one step; Save. When you try to introduce the concept of a Windchill Document as the "container" holding the related files, managing the history, hosting all the comments, creating PDF, they get confused right away.

In this example, its not just Windchill., its any true document management system. They all want to portray the simplicity of File Management while providing the depth and power of true Document Management. I always explain DTI as a tool to help these users continue a common workflow, but work within the context of Windchill so their content can be used and referenced by others. The light bulb goes off when they can see the downstream use and application of their content in business processes, workflows, deliverables and products.

Show them how it adds value and you'll have a more productive conversation about the how and why of what they're doing.

Re: Productivity Enhancements on Windows Explorer Integration for Windchill Desktop Integration 10.2, Part I

Bjoern Saupp‌,

Maybe I'm missing something, but with the previous comments about single files vs. Windchill documents actually being collections of files, does DTI allow the user direct access to ALL content in a Windchill document (additional attachments), or only the primary object?  Thanks.

Re: Productivity Enhancements on Windows Explorer Integration for Windchill Desktop Integration 10.2, Part I

Hi Chris

I have no customer which stores all their documents in PDMLink. We have the philosophy just to store article relevant data in PDMLink, so only documents which are connected to a WTPart are stored in the database.

A PDMLink license to just store documents is much higher then e.g. SharePoint. So most companies using SharePoint for all other like project documents.

Re: Productivity Enhancements on Windows Explorer Integration for Windchill Desktop Integration 10.2, Part I

Only the primary content and latest.

Really, while I want further development of the tool (including the integration with Windows Explorer),  to be the Windows Explorer integrations are for guys who either comes from Sharepoint, or can't understand a document manager so they want to stay in their well known yet very inefficient file storage location.

At least with the Windows Explorer Integration, they make a step forward document management.....

Re: Productivity Enhancements on Windows Explorer Integration for Windchill Desktop Integration 10.2, Part I

Hallo Björn.

I agree if you have one user with one unique requirement which is managing file. sharepoint is cheaper. However, it is likely that this user needs:

  • product data,
  • to participate to the life of the product,
  • to perform tasks related to some workflow in PDM
  • to be part of a project

Therefore, that user has already access to Windchill and in that case it would benefit of the document manager capability.

If you really manage a hand full of people who really do not need access to Windchill then really the cost of the licence is less than the cost of having documentation everywhere.

In addition, many file managers forget an important aspect of managing document instead of file.

Many files have links (aka reference) to other files. for that reason, I see no reason, we should not handle files the same way we handle CAD files.

Files have structures, have relationships etc... People do not see it like this but that is a fact.

I really do not see any differences between a CAD file and a offfice file.  Both have to be managed.  During an impact analysis of a change for file, how quickly can the user understand the impact when the files are simply stored in Windows Explorer or in Sahrepoint vs when stored in Windchill (and of course managed properly ie with restructure and relationships as and when required).

I think it is a mistake to say that only files related to WTpart should be stored.  What about files which are related to a file related to a WTpart. You just broke the relationship and make change management harder.

I personally consider Windchill more as a Knowledge Work Management system than just a PLM. It has the potential to do and deliver a lot more but unfortunately, through marketing and what certain resellers present, Windchill is only seen as tool for engineering.

You also have internal politics too.....   the engineering director wants to keep control of that system so he only says it is just for product data nothing else. If it is understood it is an enterprise system, IT will want to take ownership. That is why I like roles which are not engineering nor IT but business driven such as Business System Director/Manager (unfortunately such title is misleading as many think it is about ERP only........)

I am yet to find the dream company lol

Have a good day all.

Re: Productivity Enhancements on Windows Explorer Integration for Windchill Desktop Integration 10.2, Part I

Yes, Chris C‌ is right. Internally, we've discussed making a Windchill document similar to a folder in Windows Explorer. An item that can be opened showing all the content; primary and secondary. It was an interesting idea, but a confusing UX that does not really follow the Windows Explorer UI. I've always thought it would be better to extent the HTML5 interface in the browser making it easier for people to drag-n-drop add/remove primary and secondary content for a document.