When Autodesk Revit 2012 was released in March of 2011, one of the new features was its support for 3dconnexion devices. To make a long story short, I had the opportunity to evaluate and write a product review for the SpacePilot Pro. From the moment I began testing this top of the line unit, I was hooked. Subsequently, I wrote product reviews for the remainder of their products. Here are the links to these reviews:
- SpacePilot Pro: http://clubrevit.com/2011/06/15/will-revit-users-fly-with-this-device/
- SpaceExplorer, SpaceNavigator, and SpaceNavigator for Notebooks: http://clubrevit.com/2011/07/25/3dconnexion-invasion-of-planet-revit/
In December of 2011, a new 3Dconnexion device, the SpaceMouse Pro, hit the market. Judging from its looks and features, there was no doubt in my mind that this is going to be another hit for the company. At that time, however, a project deadline prevented me from getting a unit for evaluation. Last August, I finally was able to acquire an evaluation unit which I used in the last finishing stages of an eBook project.
This article is about the new SpaceMouse Pro by 3Dconnexion. This model is comparable to the SpaceExplorer in terms of the number of keys. The SpaceMouse Pro, however, has additional features and an enhanced design. This model may very well be a preview of things to come in 3Dconnexion's product line. A number of reviews have already been written by other websites, therefore, the main focus of this review is how to use it effectively with Revit.
The SpaceMouse Pro (SMP) was packaged in a black box similar to the SpaceExplorer's box. Upon lifting the carton lid, the packaging revealed a black flap containing a Quickstart guide presented as images. The flap is on top of a recyclable molded paper pulp container with a lid. Kudos to 3Dconnexion for going green and dumping the hard molded plastic (used in other models) in favor of this recyclable container. The SMP sat snugly inside the container along with a brochure and a DVD containing the driver.
Navigation in all 3Dconnexion products (including the SMP) is accomplished by moving the controller cap, the protruding round cylinder on top of the base. The controller cap in the SMP has a metal ring on top, similar to the SpacePilot Pro's. The overall shape looks like a morph between the SpacePilot Pro and the SpaceExplorer. The hand rest is made of soft rubber-like material.
- Full sized, soft coated hand rest
- 3Dconnexion patented 6Dof technology
- QuickView Keys
- Rotation Toggle Key
- Intelligent Function Keys
- On-Screen Display
- Keyboard Modifiers (Ctrl, Alt, Shift, Esc)
- Virtual NumPad
- 15 programmable keys
- Dimensions: (LxWxH): 204 mm x 142 mm x 58 mm / 8" x 5.6" x 2.3"
- Weight: 665 g / 1.47lb
The layout of the keys are similar to the SpaceExplorer. However, the Menu and Fit buttons are located below the left and right cluster of keys. This location is more ergonomic. The keys can be easily pressed by the pinky or the thumb.
Minimum System Requirements:
- Windows 7 (RTM, all editions), Windows Vista (RTM, SP1 and SP2, all editions), Windows XP Professional x64 Edition (RTM, SP2, SP3), Windows XP Professional (SP2, SP3)
- Mac OS X v. 10.4.6
- Linux Red Hat Enterprise WS 4, SuSE Linux 9.3
- IBM AIX 5.2 ML04, HP-UX 11, Sun Solaris 8 (SPARC), Sun Solaris 10 (x86/x64)
- USB port
An obvious major improvement is the size, shape, and placement of the keys. The keys are larger and have a soft, responsive feel. But what sets the SMP apart from other 3Dconnexion devices is the On Screen Display and Virtual NumPad. The On Screen Display is a visual reminder that puts an image of the four function keys on the screen together with their assigned commands. This feature can also be useful in cases where a user has more than one button configuration. The On Screen Display image appears in about a second after pressing and holding down any of the four function keys. It can be activated from any view and can also be turned off from the 3Dconnexion Properties dialog box (system tray>3DxWare).
The Virtual NumPad displays a numeric keypad on the screen whenever the number 1 function key is pressed quickly. For example, when a temporary dimension value is selected for editing, pressing the number 1 key displays the Virtual NumPad at the bottom right of the selected value. Thereafter, the cursor can be used to enter a new value. The left pointing bent arrow at the bottom right is the Enter key. The arrow to its left clears the selected value, should a value needs to be retyped again. The resizable Virtual NumPad can be activated from any view and can be assigned to any of the 15 programmable keys.
Being an experienced user of all previously released 3Dconnexion devices, I was able to quickly and easily navigate a model using the SMP's controller cap. The cap has the same feel as the controller caps found in the SpacePilot Pro and SpaceExplorer.
The Programmable Buttons
Programming the buttons is pretty straightforward. First, make sure the keyboard shortcuts of the commands you want to associate with the buttons are assigned in Revit. Next, open the 3DxWare software from the system tray (taskbar). In the 3Dconnexion Properties dialog box, click the Custom Functions button. In the Custom Functions dialog box, click New. This opens the User Macro Editor dialog box where a descriptive name can be typed in the Macro Name text field. In the User Macro panel, type the keyboard shortcut assigned in Revit then click Save. Click Done in the Custom Functions dialog box. Back in the 3Dconnexion Properties dialog box, the assigned Revit command becomes available at the bottom of all the drop-down lists. Choose the button you want to assign the command then select the Revit command from the drop-down list. Finally, save your configuration (Option>Save As).
Assigning which button activates a particular Revit command is subjective and depends on a user's preference. In my setup, I reprogrammed the QuickView buttons for frequently used commands in the family editor. Since I often switch from any view back to the Default 3D View, I assigned the Menu button to activate the Default 3D View. I also find it useful to assign the Alt key to invoke the common function of pressing the Esc key twice. The image below shows the Revit commands I assigned for the SMP.
At 3Dconnexion Shop, the SpaceMouse Pro is priced at $299.00, which is the same price as the SpaceExplorer. However, it is cheaper from two major outside vendors (as of the date of this writing):
- Amazon: $286.06
- B & H: $259.99
After having used a 3D mouse for about a year and a half, it has become an indispensable tool in my Revit modeling setup. Likewise when I'm editing images in PhotoShop. For any serious Revit modeler, a 3D mouse is a must. There are so many maneuvers you just can’t do with the mouse or ViewCube. You become more productive by using the programmable keys. You also become totally immersed and connected with your 3D model. The SpaceMouse Pro is definitely worth taking a look at. It is not quite as robust as the top of the line SpacePilot Pro but it's a step up from the SpaceExplorer!