I’ve progressively moved towards less and less steps for a person to have to perform in order to complete a CAD upgrade. Over the years, I’ve been through CAD upgrades and have talked to friends where the upgrade has ben riddled with so many steps and instructions that it’s almost guaranteed to cause support questions. Download this from Vault, copy the file from here to there, change this setting from this to that. It’s numbing. Most people just want to get to work and not be bogged down with steps that should be automatic.
I’ve been a big fan of Inno Setup and the add-on Inno Script Studio. This setup tool allows for easy creation of executable tools to perform all sorts of operations that would otherwise need so many manual steps.
Inno Setup allows you to copy files and folders of files, create directories, update the registry, run auxiliary applications and do things like request user input through text fields. One of the cool things is also the ability to copy files to specific locations without having to compile the files into the executable. The external flag on a file allows for the file to be copied from a local or network location to its final destination. This allows an administrator to change files later if needed without having to recompile the executable. I’m now using this method for tasks like getting the latest Inventor Project file from Vault. A copy of the .ipj file resides in our Box Drive team share used to deploy the templates, styles, material libraries and everything else needed to run the CAD applications. The exe grabs the ipj file and places it into the users Vault workspace folder. This saves the last step everyone always seems to forget of getting the updated project file from Vault.
I’ve also used Inno Setup to create patches for users to run when I needed to adjust settings. For a previous deployment, I opted to have a scheduled task created using Inno Setup that checked for new files on a network share and copy them to their computer. This worked great for a few years but as most users worked over VPN during the pandemic, it added extra burden to the network. Inno Setup was then used to delete the scheduled tasks from the users computer as a patch. All of these executables are also designed and intended to be run without our users having administrative rights to their own machines. Creating scheduled tasks and copying files into folders such as %appdata% does not require administrative rights.
Some of you may be reading this post and asking, why not just perform these operations using your software SCM tools? For many reasons. If your SCM deployments are for your entire corporation and you need to configure differences for just your division, department or team. SCM tools can require a time consuming sync to all locations. You want your CAD configurations to be nimble and flexible enough to make changes quickly if needed. If a material is requested to be added to the Inventor material library, you certainly wouldn’t want to have to wait days or weeks for this to happen.
So, what tools or methods do you use to layer on your CAD application configurations? Find me on Twitter at @cadtoolbox and let me know!