Offline mode is a very useful feature that most users enter once in a while. Some of those users are road warriors who may need to work on files while away from the office while others accidently enter the mode and aren’t quite sure how they got there! Let’s look at a couple advantages of this mode and what it really does for us.
SolidWorks Enterprise PDM typically exists in a networked environment where all of the machines can communicate with a server that stores historic versions of a document and important information about files. When files are modified, checked-in, or updated, a line of communication is created to allow others to recognize these changes. In a sense, we’re “on-line” with everyone else and communicating with one another.
Sometimes, we may need to take an assembly on the road (for those working on a laptop). This might be for demonstration purposes at a client’s location or maybe to continue work while traveling. As stated before, Enterprise is typically looking for the server to grant permissions and visibility to files. In the case of a road warrior, however, you don’t necessarily have the opportunity to connect into the network. Here’s where “off-line” mode is useful.
There are a few ways of entering and leaving off-line mode. When logging into the vault from Windows Explorer, the login window has a third button that allows a user to enter into the vault in “off-line” mode. This method is most-likely how users enter off-line mode accidentally. Alternatively, you can enter into or out of “off-line” mode at any point by clicking Enterprise ‘Tools’ – > ‘Work Off-Line’. This will change to ‘Work On-Line’ if you are already in “off-line” mode.
At this point, we’re in “off-line” mode. We can tell by a few differences illustrated below:
The first indication will most likely be the colors of folders within the system. While in normal day-to-day operations, the folders are green. Typically, the green folders are a great indicator that we are working on files within the SolidWorks Enterprise PDM vault as opposed to the yellow system folders. Now, while working in “off-line” mode, the folders take on a blue color.
The second sign of working in “off-line” mode would be the columns. While in “on-line” mode, we’re connected to the database server and Windows Explorer can have custom columns that allow us to display variables, states, and other vault-specific information. Above, we can see the “on-line” mode screen capture has a Revision, Description, and State columns that are tied to SolidWorks Enterprise PDM variables. We also see a Checked Out By column, which lets us know whether we have modify rights to a file. In “off-line” mode, there is no communication so the columns are stripped down to standard Windows Explorer columns with one exception – the Checked Out By column is replaced with a Writeable column.
The last noticeable sign of being in “off-line” mode will be what types of actions are available to us when interacting with objects. Actions like ‘check-in’, ‘check-out’, and ‘change state’ require a connection with the vault in order to copy files or update the database. These typical SolidWorks Enterprise PDM options are swapped out with Windows Explorer general commands such as ‘open’ and ‘edit’.
So now what? It may seem like most of your functionality was taken away and your typical view has been paired down to something that isn’t quite as useful. This is all necessary in order to allow you to continue working on a project while unable to connect into your network. What SolidWorks Enterprise PDM now allows you to do is work with the files you have cached locally on your machine without the need of communication with the vault.
Whenever you get or check-out files from the vault, these files are copied locally to your machine to allow for greater speeds when working in applications such as SolidWorks. In SolidWorks Enterprise PDM you would check out files you want to modify, which tells everyone on the network you are making changes. When switched to “off-line” mode all of your cached files are still at your disposal and the files you had checked out are still writeable. While you are away, you can modify the local files that you have the rights to write to as well as reference these locally cached files. You will only see files that are cached on your machine and you will not be able to get other files until you return to “on-line” mode. You also will not be able to change the read/write permissions on a file while in “off-line” mode. Ensure you have the files you require as well as write permissions on all files you may need while in “off-line” mode.
When you return to the office, you simply toggle back to “on-line” mode and you can check in all of your work. SolidWorks Enterprise PDM has kept the files you checked-out in your ownership and no one else could have modified them in your stead. While you may not typically work in “off-line” mode, it’s nice to know the functionality is available should you need to be more mobile with your work.
Until next time…