It is official. There is no need to have “save” button in a modern design software. The software is smart enough to take care of saving your work into local or cloud storage. Actually, you don’t want to take care of that differences too. If you are “connected”, the changes are going online. Otherwise, save changes offline and forget about the rest – system should do it when you come back online.
Think “autosave” immersed with cloud storage
I’m sure, the behavior I outlined above comes with no surprise to you. Google Docs probably was the first application that taught us to stop worrying about how to save data. Actually, “autosave” feature in Microsoft Office was earlier. But cloud storage was the missing part.
John McEleney, CEO of Onshape shared some of his thoughts about the save button, version control and document collaboration in his last blog – How Google Solved Version Control Problem. The following passage about Save button was my favorite:
Have you ever had the miserable experience of your computer crashing before you clicked the Save button and losing 10 minutes of work or more? Once it happens to you, it instills a Pavlovian need to keep clicking Save. Because it automatically backs up everything instantaneously and redundantly in the cloud – almost to the last keystroke – Google Docs got rid of their Save button. According to Writely founder Sam Schillace, who helped build Google Docs, this move strangely felt like yanking away someone’s security blanket.
Microsave is replacing the need to manage files
With abundance of cloud storage and connection to the cloud storage, you can stop worry about how to save your last changes. Onshape is solving this problem. Each change is saved into so called micro-version. Onshape is creating micro-version each time you are making a change.
For a given Part Studio, at each point in time, the definition is stored as an eternal, immutable object that we internally call a microversion. Whenever the user changes the Part Studio definition, (e.g., edits an extrude length, renames a part, or drags a sketch), we do not change an existing microversion, but create a new one to represent this new definition. The new microversion stores a reference to the previous (parent) microversion and the actual definition change. In this way, we store the entire evolution of the Document: this is accessible to the user as the Document history, allowing the user to reliably view and restore any prior state of an Onshape Document.
Data integration becomes easy
So, save button is dead. Now you can ask- what does it mean for rest of us developing variety of software for engineering and manufacturing? Actually, the implication can be quite interesting. As save button as well as the need to manage files is going out of equation, there is an opportunity to streamline process of changes. Before that, file was a center of universe. Many applications in engineering domain were built around file paradigm. File save, open, translate, import, export… That how typical application process looks like. If you forget to save file or override it with wrong changes, you are at the point of now return.
However, the need to save and manage files is only one part of the problem. The second part is the integration with rest of engineering and manufacturing applications. These applications are database driven typically manage database records in variety of forms. The integration between file-oriented world and data-oriented world is painful. To create good integration is almost impossible. It is like to mix water and oil. To make it work, you need to put a person (engineer) in the center of integration universe. Which creates lot of complexity and potential mistakes.
Lifecycle management is key function in a new data driven world
Moving out of the need to save our work in a file and manage its history creates an importunity to simplify the way data is integrated. The key element of that – lifecycle, which manage the state of information in databases. We don’t manage files anymore. We are managing pieces of information. As a result of that, PLM and ERP systems will be able to develop a better connection to design information and streamline process in an organization.
What is my conclusion? Since very first software versions, CAD systems were built around “file” abstraction. It helped to manage information on the disk and share it with other people. But, we are moving in the future with no save and no files. With the introduction of new cloud technologies to save and manage data, we are moving from the era of files to the era of lifecycle. The last is a new way to manage information. It will help to rethink many data management and integration scenarios in existing PLM and ERP applications. Just my thoughts…