What is an API?
API Stands for “Application Programming Interface”. The EPDM API allows a programmer to hook directly into EPDM to automate just about anything you can dream up. It is possible to create the perception of new functionality into the software that does not exist today. For example, let’s say we want to rename a file in EPDM but we realize that we have a field on the data card that is linked to the file name when the file was originally created. If we renamed the file, we would then need to check out the file and update that new name in the data card field. One could use the API to automatically update the field in the file data card so the user is able to do this in one operation. Either method gets the job done, but automating it via the API makes sure the data card gets updated and also reduces the chance of human error.
There are basically two main methods that can be used when implementing the EPDM API. You can either create a standalone application or you can create an add-in to EPDM. Standalone applications run within their own process. An add-in for EPDM means your code is running inside the EPDM process, i.e. explorer.exe. This is very powerful because it enables us trap different events or triggers. Let’s take the action of an engineer performing a state change for example. If we want to perform some work after the user invokes the state change but before the state change actually occurs, we can do this with an API trigger. When the event or trigger is invoked, one example could be checking to see if the files moving through the state change are valid part numbers.
In conclusion, the only limitation of the API is your programming skills, your knowledge of the software and your imagination.
What do I need to create my own applications or add-ins for EPDM?
For starters, you will probably want some basic programming experience. If you have no experience programming you will want to start by picking up a basic programming book or taking a basic programming class at your favorite technical school. In EPDM you have several choices as to what programming languages you can use. Choose from C++, C# or VB.NET. Personally, I like VB.NET but you will find C# is very popular as well. I feel that VB is very easy to read and understand. If you are just getting started you will find there are a plethora of online resources available when it comes to programming in general. In order to start programming in these languages you will need to get an integrated development environment (IDE). The IDE you will need to get is Microsoft Visual Studio. You can think of this as software that helps us write software. If you are just getting started you may want to consider downloading Visual Studio Express to begin with. Visual Studio Express is free. If you are going to start writing production grade code or code that other people will rely on, you will want to upgrade into a more robust version like Visual Studio Professional. You may want to consider a MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) subscription as well. This will ensure that you have access to the new releases of Visual Studio as well as downloads to different Microsoft operating systems and more depending on the level of subscription you get.
How do I start learning the EPDM API?
Assuming you now have a basic understanding of programming you can begin to learn the API. As with any API, the better you understand the product the easier it will be to understand the products API. You will want to have a strong understanding of EPDM from an end user as well as an administrative perspective. If you possess these understandings then you are in a good position to become an EPDM API expert! Your first point of reference will be the programmer’s reference guide. You can also find a lot of example projects out on the SOLIDWORKS customer forums at https://forum.solidworks.com. I suggest you start very simple especially if you are fairly new to the world of programming. Start by trying to do something like check out a file. Don’t assume that there is only one way to check out a file using the EPDM API. Once you have started getting your feet wet you can opt to take a SOLIDWORKS Enterprise PDM API course at Symmetry Solutions Inc where I will be your instructor!
Stay tuned for a deeper look at some fun things we can accomplish using the EPDM API!