Pro/E, My love-hate relationship

Pro/E, My love-hate relationship

PTC’s Pro/Engineer (now called Creo Elements), in my humble opinion, is a terrible software. I say this as someone who used to have a lot of experience with it. I started using Pro/e during my UG freshman year. During my sophomore year, I started being a TA for the class. During that year and the following 3 years, I TA’ed between 4 and 8 sections of Pro/e (and Pro/e2 and Pro/e Wildfire), to hundreds of incoming freshman, getting to the point where I was going over the design lectures and the main prof for the class only showed up for tests.

In general, being a TA and pseudo-lecturer gave me some good exposure to how lectures really work in college from the other perspective and it got me over my fear of public speaking. So the intangibles associated with the position were pretty good. But man, Pro/e is a terrible software.

For anyone that’s used a CAD program (probably everyone reading this right now?), Pro/e was clunky, slow, and required too many button clicks and constraints to make useful parts. And don’t even think of using it’s FEA companion Pro/Mechanica. You’re wasting your time. Also, when you’re using it via a remote-desktop-like network on a university campus, it’s even worse. Maybe it’s gotten better over the years (I haven’t used it since 2005) but those incarnations were ghastly.

This was compounded because a colleague introduced me to DDS’s Solidworks, which is absolutely fantastic and seamlessly integrates with COSMOS, their FEA package. I remember once I tested making a 1″ cube with both softwares. It took 3 times longer for Pro/e to start up and took 4 times as many button clicks to actually draw the damn thing.

Yet, at the same time I endlessly bash Pro/e, I basically owe my whole career to it. You see, this week’s theme is the “thing that got you to where you are in your career”, and while I’d like to think I got to this point via hard work, determination, and persistence, I know luck probably had a lot more to do with it.

You see, I was lucky enough to get an email over the summer between Jr and Sr year from the prof in the class who had a small startup company looking for someone to translate Pro/e parts into drawings for manufacturing. I decided to take the job basically because I needed money. And I didn’t think much of it until I started asking questions about the actual parts I was drawing. They were totally cool and it looked very interesting. And when I finally saw the final parts after manufacturing, I was totally set on working in this field (sorry, being vague on purpose).

In the span of a few short weeks, I went from having no direction for senior year project and post-graduation ideas to having a senior project working in this field. That year long senior project turned into a summer position with the company before going back to the university for my MS. Through these same contacts, I met my wife and decided to get a PhD with the hopes of eventually pursuing a faculty position.

Some say 90% of life is showing up. Others say it was 80% effort and 20% luck, but without that luck, you would have ended up with nothing. I say 60% of all statistics are made up on the spot. In any case, maybe there was a chance I would be in this exact same position if I didn’t use my Pro/e skillz to my advantage, but I doubt it. As it stands, I owe basically everything to Pro/e, no matter how terrible the software really is.


Hi. I like the restrospective you provided on how you got involved with engineering software. Everyone takes a different path, and they are all interesting. If you get a few moments, take a look at what Pro/ENGINEER is now (now known as Creo): It’s come a long way since 2005, and last year, we (disclosure: I’m a PTC employee) announced an overhaul of the UI and the basic way the program operates. Take a few minutes and look around – I think you might be pleasantly surprised.

Thanks for your full disclosure. I will indeed give Creo a second chance. Actually, I don’t have much choice as it’s the software that’s used for our UG design at SnowU.

Ok, I’ll stop poking fun. In all seriousness, I’m willing to keep an open mind and give it a fair trial period. I was pretty against Inkscape for a while but now that I know it’s ins and outs, I can deal with it and even recommend it for some things. Plus, keeping up with the latest software is critical for academia and, to tell you the truth, I’m always looking for a more efficient [whatever].

Do you know if Creo has an integrated FEA package for modal analysis? JW and too lazy to search the interwebs right now. Any other resources you can point me to?

I am a long time ProE user, since version 17 if I recall correctly (it was on a Silicon Graphics workstation). In my experience, Parametric is sometimes dragged kicking and screaming into making any meaningful UI improvement. Case in point: PTC reps at that time routinely dismissed any advantage of having a context sensitive graphical user interface, “our customers already know the existing menu structure.” When PTC finally did provide a GUI and migrated to Windows, the menus were not context sensitive. This resulted in excessive mouse clicking. At about this time, I learned Unigraphics, which did have a superior menu and selection routine.

Then came Wildfire, which improved the menu structure and reversed a lot of the selection syntax. The reversal of syntax was a little frustrating at first, but that was quickly overcome. Wildfire was clearly superior to earlier releases in just about every way (I can’t think of any exceptions).

There is a lot to like in Creo, but the menu is NOT one of them. The menu tabs are a continually frustrating nuisance, and seems to have been designed by a team that completely misunderstands the meaning and intent of context sensitivity. I also don’t like that the interface is much less customizable – why fix the Message Log to the top of the screen?

Please PTC, get it right next time.

Due to SnowTech’s ties with certain corporations, I was trained on what used to be Unigraphics NX, which has since been bought by Siemens. It’s somewhat amazing how fast the capabilities have changed in the last 5 years or so, as design software starts to take advantage of the ubiquity of multi-core processing. There also seems to be a tendency towards Adobe-like toolbars, so that once you’ve configured your workspace, you can do things efficiently, but it does take awhile to get to that point.

Remote desktopping is rarely the most efficient way to do anything interactive: I’m a bit surprised that your undergrad university did it that way. License checkout systems have been the norm in my experience. These can still have problems, especially at the end of the semester, when *everyone* wants to use the same software, but at least you’re running locally.

I agree with Remote Desktop issues. Basically, if you were using it for research, you could install it on your PC (or as a TA). But when it was in the computer lab (ie what the students used), it was pretty terrible.

And it was probably a combination of software bugs, the remote desktop tool, bandwidth issues, and computing power, with an equal distribution among the 4.

Lately, I’ve just used my own money and bought the student version. Can’t really be bothered to deal with it and I just chalk it up to the cost of doing research.

Depends on what you’re trying to make as well. If you’re working in small assemblies, solidworks is probably fine. I actually like a lot of the Mechanica analysis features and find them pretty easy to use. And ProE kills when it comes to complex assemblies. Especially because it forces you to make it right. Yeah bad designers can still get around it, but it’s difficult because once you use it it can make everything else work seamlessly. I think teaching CAD to undergrads is an incredibly difficult undertaking period because it doesn’t start to make sense until the person has a real understanding of machined parts and assemblies. Teaching CAD first is like teaching someone to draw horses before they’ve ever actually seen more than a still photo of a horse.

Very good point about when to teach undergrads CAD. It probably makes more sense to teach it simultaneously with another course.

I download pro/engg student edition and work on it too, but when i start analysis of that model, i got message like”model contain 424 surfaces and it can not open with mechanica lite as limit of 200 surfaces…then i again open this model without ‘mehcanica lite check out box’ then i got message like””unable to get mechanica license “…then i ‘check out the fea box’, but same massage i got”unable to get mechanica license ,contact your saler”….but this is free how can i work with my project…i need to submit to my professor within 10 days …please help

Mike, if you’re having those problems, then you should talk to your professor. Any prof worth a damn will be willing to help if it seems like it’s structural problem with an assignment that they’ve given and isn’t compatible with the software.

ProE or Creo is the worst CAD software ever. It doesnt leave a trace of logic and i actually denies offers, if ProE is used (i work as an consult). I will never ever use it again!

You are simply out of your mind.Pro/E is the most logical software ever built.And almost none can match the depth of functionality that Pro/E can offer.

Having LEARNED Pro-E and Solidworks simultaneously and side by side, I’d prefer Solidworks anyday of the week. FAR more user friendly, Pro-E is user hostile. PTC designs their products the way they want and doesn’t care how their customers feel. DSS uses customer feedback to make improvements to Solidworks. Also, the only people who prefer Pro-E are the old dinosaurs who don’t know how to use anything else. The young upcoming generation of engineers and drafters absolutely hate Pro-Engineer and prefer Solidworks. ‘Linked In’ reported Solidworks users being up 13% in 2011, while Pro-Engineer users are down 11%. I told a head hunter that I wouldn’t be interested in any drafting jobs that use Pro-E, she replied that most companies in my area already use or are switching to Solidworks and very few use Pro-E anymore. So if that’s any indicator, hopefully DSS puts PTC out of business and spares us sane thinking designers the agony of wasting time trying to get Pro-E to do the simplest of tasks.

Solidworks vs. Pro-E is a lot like C programming vs anything else. Or MS Word vs. Wordperfect. Pro-E will lead you to do most anything you want, and will let you go to some very frustrating places. It will willingly allow you to choose badly, and then harp on you for trying to make those choices.

One of my largest gripes is with the ability to create features that they software knows are invalid or dodgy, and they whine about it in the ‘Geometry Check’ dialog. Why not just bring up a warning upon creation?

Having lived with Pro-E since rev-19 (1998) to CREO 1 and Solidworks since 1996 to 2012, I could not recommend Pro-E to anyone other than to improve their resume. For large assemblies, use CATIA, for everything else use alsmost anything but Pro-E.

CREO1/2 has somewhat better help files and the ‘Learning Connector’ seems to be an honest effort, but they don’t understand the Ribbon interface, and have miles to go to approach the usability and flow of Solidworks.

But, YMMV.

While I don’t agree with all the comments above, I can relate to how people feel. I have used both ProE an SolidWorks for several years. I first learned ProE as an undergraduate, then learned SolidWorks and got an internship because I knew both. In graduate school I taught the SolidWorks class for several years, and now am working with a company that uses ProE Creo.

The two most common areas of focus when I hear people debate SW or ProE is performance and useability. The classic debate is that ProE is more powerful and SW is more useable. In the most general terms these are true. However, I have worked with very large assemblies in both and I honestly do not see any performance difference if you know what you are doing. Solidworks is more forgiving to bad designers, which can easily lead to a large assembly of poorly created parts that will seems much slower then ProE. However, that is because ProE forces you to do things the hard way.

However, most designers are not designing very complicated parts or working with large assemblies. Personally, I prefer SolidWorks still. The error handling is much better. SolidWorks will tell me what is wrong and offer suggestions about how to fix it. The errors are always displayed in the same location and the dialog boxes are always in the same place. It drives me insane how Creo still has messages in different places. Sometimes the top left, bottom left, right, a pop up window.

Another issue is that Creo will not let usually let you continue with an error. You must stop and fix it now, before you do anything else. While it is good to fix errors early to avoid propagation, sometimes the correct way to fix an error is not available. I change a early feature and it causes error in later features. ProE makes if difficult and sometimes impossible to go back and undo my change in the early feature (because that will fix the later feature too). The undo command only works about 50% of the time. I can not express how annoying it is that very simple things can not be undone with Ctrl+Z.

If you open a drawing that has a broken link to the part you get an error and it closes the drawing immediately. How am I supposed to fix the link?

These are just a few of my annoyances with ProE / Creo. I honestly do not believe Creo is a major improvement. From what I can tell it is Wildfire wrapped in a pretty skin. A lot of the old menus pop up when you get past the first level of pretty UI. I am happy to see PTC recognizing that the UI is important. Once you do figure out the nuances Creo is very powerful. But is it worth the time I spend dealing with the program and not focusing on design. In my opinion it is not. (I am however stuck using it for the foreseeable future.)


I will challenge Creo is the best software.
I will explain new capabilities of Creo.
If you are using any other software other than Creo…I will ask few of questions..
1] Did your software have light weight graphics capability? [which will helps u lot while opening large assemblies]
2] Did your software have flexible modelling capability, which will be used extensively, when your are working on non-parameterized data?
3]Did your software have AUTO ROUND capability
4] Did your software have free styling capability? and many more…….


I give you credit for having the guts to claim that one software is the ‘best’. But I am gonna have to knock the wind out of your statement.

1. Solidworks has multiple lightweight graphics capabilities, lightweight assemblies (does not load mass, flexible components effects and other processing hungry things that are not used often in large assemblies), and speedpack. Speedpack allows you to define a dumbed-down version of a part, which you can switch between quickly. For example, you can use speedpack to turn off the teeth of a gear, or remove all the internal parts of a subassembly. This is very, very, very powerful in large assemblies.

2. SolidWorks expanded the Direct Editing capabilites in 2010 to allow you to edit imported or complex geometry in the same way that Creo does with Flexible Modeling and Direct Modeling. The following video shows how you can use those tools.

3. SolidWorks added the filletXpert (not sure why the spelling is dumb) in 2008 I believe. It does the same thing as AutoRound and more. Here is a video that shows how it works. Again these tools are not identical, but achieve the same thing.

4. Solidworks added ‘Free Form’ modeling in 2007. The two are not identical tools, but the basic idea is the same. I don’t actually do very much free form surface modelling because the parts I design are not well suited to it. However, I wanted to point out that these tools have existed for 5 years in the SolidWorks world.

5. I already discussed this one. I have only been using Creo for about 6 months, so I did not spend a ton of time trying to find the differences between Flexible and Direct Modeling. A quick google search and watching 2 min of youtube videos to see what the terminology means to each company.

Here is my point, saying that Creo, SolidWorks, or any other software is the best is a bold statement. I am very happy to see PTC update the user interface and add these new features. However, SolidWorks added them several years ago. Also, PTC just dropped their prices to be more competitive with the much cheaper cost of SolidWorks. Currently SolidWorks has 19% of the CAD market, and PTC has 11%.

PTC initially released in 1985 and had 10 years to build up market share before SolidWorks came out. In the past 10 years SolidWorks has outsold PTC and now there are more SolidWorks users and companies.

Additionally, the community for SolidWorks is much more active. I don’t see a IRC channel for PTC where I can chat and get help. The SolidWorks forum is huge and I find tutorials and examples much easier on the web for SolidWorks then for PTC. If there are some good places to chat and learn from other users for PTC products please let me know. Honestly, I would use them.

I also have not seen anything about certification from PTC. SolidWorks has a great program to certify users in one of three levels of skill. This is very helpful for employers because it quantifies your skill. I know tons of people that have ‘used the software for years’ and can hardly open the program.

That being said I think CREO is a huge step up for PTC. But I have yet to see it do anything better, faster, easier than SolidWorks.


Dear writers of Pro E, I would like to inform you that Pro E is the most worthless program I have ever used! Pro E is about as user-friendly as an alligator with barbed wire wrapped around it’s… anyway, Pro E should be declared a “clear and present danger” to U.S. corporations! All Pro E developers/sellers should be arrested and charged with fraud because they are trying to pass off Wildfire 4.0 as an engineering aid! If you are a Pro E developer, I encourage you to gather all material related to Pro E and recycle it. Do NOT try to FIX it! Throw it away and start over. I suggest calling Dassault and getting some tips.

So I stumbled across this article, and decided to throw in my three cents (adjusted for inflation).

Background: Started learning Autocad Inventor freshman year of college. The following summer I had an internship based around Solidworks, that I used for the next two years. I currently am employed by a company that uses Pro/E wildfire 2. (yeah, the old dinosaur). I currently own both Solidworks 2012 and Pro/E Creo.

Here’s what I think on the Solidworks Vs. Pro/E argument. (Two main Differences)

Solidworks is a more user friendly, easier to learn, and easier to model software. Between the fantastic UI and how forgiving the modeling environment is, designing both complex parts and assemblies is straight forward and easy.
Pro/E on the other hand is not user friendly. The software takes some getting used to, I agree that the younger generation (me) has a harder time getting used to the numerous steps it takes to get even simple models built.

However, modeling for most engineers is just half the battle.
Drawings and Detailing is a whole different beast.
Solidworks, although intuitive, has trouble pulling out some of its features and dimensions because all that easy modeling does not define all the specific features individually all the time. The smart dimension tool is useful, but I find that editing the drawings to fit company spec can be a real pain.
Now all that time spent making the Pro/E drawing becomes worth it. Again, it takes time to learn how to use the detailing tools, but once you know them, making a drawing that is accurate, includes all features, and is to spec is fast and easy.

So is there a better software?
Because, Solidworks, Creo, Inventor, and other CAD softwares are all headed in the same direction. So much so that models can now be imported and exported from program to program with features and dimensions still editable. For those who used to shift objects over as useless blobs you know how awesome this is.

That is All for now.

To Jim
I never had to laugh this hard before, while reading any CAD comments.
You are absolutely right about ProE. I started working in ProE , then switched to Unigraphics after 2 years. Worked in UG for 6 years, now I am back to ProE for last 8 months. Oh boy!!! I feel like jumping out of my window than dealing with ProE.

To my dear MDM:
Please challenge your experience and knowledge before challenging the entire CAD world. My experience with Solidworks is limited. But Uni graphics can do all that you can, want and wish to do in ProE/Creo.

Thats right Pre-E,
Now you can check out Creo Parametric 2.0.
I am not saying UG is bad.
Just compare the functionalists between Creo Parametric 2.0 and UG.
You will come to know the developments made in it and much more user friendly.

Excuse me boss,
I give you credit for having the guts to claim that Pro/e software is the DANGER.
But I am gonna have to knock the wind out of your statement.
By the way on which CAD platform you are working?
Each and every software has its own drawbacks.
Now you can check out Creo Parametric 2.0, latest version and then put your comments.
I challenge, lot of enhancements are made when compared to earlier pro/e versions. Wanna check comparison videos, click on link

I’ve used both SW and Pro/E, but I find that while Pro|E’s UI is definitely ‘user-hostile’ (a great description), the geometry engine kicks butt. But where as in Creo Parametric 2.0, GUI is enhanced and much more user friendly.
Coming back, In SW, every time I blink features are failing. I can build a multi-part, top down design assy all driven by one skeleton part in Pro|E, a couple dozen parts, total feature count will into the hundreds and modify an early feature in the skeleton and watch the entire assembly update. In SW, one part with a dozen featuers will fail if I try the same thing.

Maybe I just don’t understand ‘best practices’ with SW, but I find it’s lack of geometry stability surprising. I guess easy to use is a bonus when you have to keep doing it over and over

Been said before by many, and I’ll say it again: PTC Creo/Pro-E seems oversold, at least from my limited experience and research. I would agree with MDM that their software seems ‘user-hostile’, and often their ‘customer-support’ seemed hostile as well.

I am a long time Pro/E user. I never found the software hard to use, in fact, it is hyper logical to me. (You people need to experience CADKEY and AutoCAD if you want to really suffer) However, it seems that most people prefer SolidWorks, so like it or not, Pro/E – Creo will probably eventually go out of business. The thing that I really like about Pro / E is the seamless integration with CAM via Pro / Mfg. Most designers probably don’t care about this. SolidWorks has no solution, other than to go buy MasterCAM, a good product, but not a seamless, bi-directional parametric product like Pro/Mfg.

I first started using pro right before wildfire came out. Man, was that interface bad. Anyway, it remains “user hostile” to this day.

SW is unquestionably easier to learn and bang out straightforward stuffon, but pro still wins for managing assemblies with hundreds of unique parts, lot of top down design, and so forth.

But to be fair, managing changes to significantly complex assembly models, and not making a huge mess, forces you to have pretty deep knowledge of how the program handles the dirty details under the hood, regardless of what program you use, and experience will win no matter what.

An experienced pro user will most likely ruin a complex make a hash of a SW project and an experienced SW user doesn’t stand a chance in pro.

I´ve worked many many years with both SW and ProE.

It depends on your needs. If you design small-medium sized and not very complex products then SW is ok.

If you design, collaborate, manufacture complex products and/or big assemblies then ProE/Creo is your system.

SW is a 3D modeler and Creo is a engineering software. Yes, ProE needs more capable cad heavy users.. but with Creo the user-hostile stuff is done.

SW was easier to use and less powerful. And i want POWER…, Creo is unbeatable (big assemblies, top-down, surfacing, isdx, freestyle, drawings, option-modeler, behavioral modeling, manufacturing, plm, …)

And, one critical thing for the future, SW will be given fewer capabilities than CATIA, as Solidedge is suffering, compared to NX. Just ask a CATIA VAR.

Try this: ask a Solidedge VAR and a NX VAR to make demos for you… you will see astonishing stuff, and unlimited each other bashing… NX saying SE will be underpowered against NX… for ever..

And now, SW switching kernel… good luck…

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