Saturday, February 11, 2012

Understanding Autodesk Inventor User Interface


* I'm beginning a series of lesson tailored for my friends out there who are learning Autodesk Inventor from the scratch. The lessons are going to be arranged in sequence so that the reader can grow in confidence with each lesson.

*I'm assuming that the reader is new to the world of "digital prototyping" or is migrating from a non-Autodesk product. Whatever might be the case, I'm wishing you a happy learning experience.

*I would also encourage the readers to post comments about the articles. Comment about my methodology, content, useful, in fact anything on your mind. You are also free to suggest to me topics to write about. Thank you.




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Hello! Welcome to the series of lessons tailored for our friends who are seeking for extra materials to enlighten them as they begin their journey into the interesting world of digital prototyping.

In this lesson, we are going to discuss the various parts of the Autodesk Inventor user interface with the aim of knowing their names and understanding what they do. This lesson is suitable beginners and even those experienced CAD guys who want to know the real names of the various components of the user interface.
At the end of the lesson, the reader should be able to:
  1. Know the names of the various parts of the Inventor user interface (UI), and
  2. Know the functions of the various parts of the Inventor UI,
This lesson is based on the interface of Autodesk Inventor Professional 2011 and is applicable to the interface of Inventor 2010 and Inventor 2012. Autodesk Inventor is a very large application consisting of so many modules or environment. The modules or environment available in your application depend on the type of Autodesk Inventor you installed. We have:
  1. AutoCAD Inventor Suite;
  2. AutoCAD Inventor Professional Suite;
  3. AutoCAD Inventor Routed System Suite;
  4. AutoCAD Inventor Simulation Suite; and
  5. AutoCAD Inventor Tooling Suite.
[The AutoCAD prefixes signifies that the Suite is bundled with both Inventor and AutoCAD.]
Also the interface might vary based on the current task being performed. Extra tools will be loaded into the application when you are carrying out routed system design, sheet metal design, simulation, or weldment designs.

Before we start, I advise that you download Fig. 1 and Fig. 2 to your local computer for easy reference. Simply right click on an image and select Save Image As.... Let's get started.


Let's begin by discussing the various areas of the user interface. Fig. 1 shows the Inventor user interface when a part file is opened (i.e. the model environment). The figure has been divided into areas are numbered. A schematic of the interface is shown in Fig. 2.  The legend shows the names of the various parts.

Figure 1

Figure 2


Figure 3The Application Menu or Menu Browser is found at the top left corner of the Inventor user interface. When clicked on, it display a fly-out that with menus and tools for file operations. The fly-out is shown in Fig. 3.

Figure 4

As shown, we have the New, Open, Save, Save As, Export, Manage, Vault Server, Print, and Close menus plus the iProperties tool. Each menu contains tools with related functions, however, they all typical operate your files.  The Menu Browser also stores the a list of recently-opened files so that you can easily reopen a file. At the bottom is the Options button for launching the Application Options dialog box and the Exit Inventor button for closing Inventor.

HOT TIP: Double clicking the Menu Browser icon closes Inventor. Try it out!


The Quick Access Toolbar (Fig. 4) is strip containing tools that are frequently used during the design process. It is found at the right of the Menu Browser. Tools like New, Open, Save, Undo, Redo, Local Update/ Global Update, Selection Priorities, etc are displayed on the Quick Access Toolbar.

Figure 5

So you can save yourself some sweat by using the Quick Access Toolbar. The downward-pointing arrow at the end of the Quick Access Toolbar can be used to load more tools on the strip.


The Title Bar (Fig. 5) is the by the right of the Quick Access Toolbar.

Figure 6

The Title Bar displays the name of the application being used and, if there is sufficient space, the name of the file currently being used.


The Info Center is found by the right of the Title Bar. The Info Center consists of tools that can be used to obtain information about Autodesk Inventor both locally and over the internet.

Figure 7

The tools available on the Info Center are the search bar, Subscription Center, Communication Center, Favorites, and Help. You can type in keywords into the Search Bar and hit enter on your keyword and Inventor will display topics, from the local help system, related to those keywords. The Subscription Center can be used by users who have subscribed for Inventor to access the online Subscription Advantage. The Communication Center is can inform the user about news, software updates, and blogs about Inventor. The Favorites tool is used to access your favourite or saved topics. When you search for an article with search bar, click the "star" icon by the right of the topics to add them to your Favorites list (See Fig. 7 & Fig. 8). The Help tool is used to open the Autodesk Inventor Help browser.

Figure 8

Figure 9


These buttons are found at the top right corner of the Inventor Window, and are used to minimize, restore down/ maximize or close the application.

Figure 10


The Ribbon Tabs (Fig. 10) are the found just below the first row (containing the Quick Access  Toolbar, Title Bar, and Info Center). The Ribbon is the user interface element that replaced toolbars in almost all Autodesk applications. The Ribbon is divided into Tabs, Panels, and Icons. The Ribbons Tabs are collections of Panels. That is each Tab contains a unique set of Panels. For example, when you are in the model environment, you will see, by default, seven tabs: Model, Inspect, Tools, Manage, View, Environments, and Get Started Tabs. When you click a tab, a set of panels is displayed which is different from those of other tabs.

Figure 11


Ribbon Panels are used to group Icons or tools that perform closely-related functions. The Model tab consists of the Sketch, Create, Modify, Work Features, Pattern, Surface, Plastic Part, Harness, and Convert panels. Each of these panels contains tools (represented by Icons) that are closely related e.g. the Sketch panel contains tools for working in 2D and 3D sketch environments while the Create panel contains tools for creating model features.

Figure 12


The Tabs, Panels, and Icons or tools make up the Ribbon (Fig. 12). The Ribbon is a very nice way of compressing hundreds of Inventor icons (tools) into a small area of the UI thereby freeing valuable real estate for your graphics area. The Ribbon can further be displayed in various modes to free even more space for those who are not satisfied with the present space. When you click on the downward-pointing arrow beside the last tab on the Ribbon, you can display the Ribbon in three modes:
  1. Minimize to Tabs,
  2. Minimize to Panel Titles, and
  3. Minimize to Panel Buttons (See Fig. 13).
Figure 13

Figure 14


These set of buttons are found at the top right corner of the Graphics Area (12) and just below the Ribbon. They are used to minimize, restore down/ maximize, and close the current file. See Fig. 1 & Fig. 2.


The Viewcube is a UI element that used for changing the views of the model in the Graphics Area (12). The Viewcube is a cube with hotspots at its vertices, edges, and faces. The hotspots are clickable and will pre-highlight when you hover the cursor over them. Clicking on any of the four faces of the Viewcube changes the view to the corresponding Orthographic views: Front, Back, Top, or Bottom. Clicking on the corners, or vertices changes the view to the Isometric views. You can also use the Viewcube perform Orbiting operations by clicking and drag it.

The Viewcube options can be accessed by right clicking the Viewcube. On the shortcut menu are tools for displaying the model in perspective or parallel projection.

Figure 14

Figure 15


The Navigation Bar (Fig. 16) is found just below the Viewcube. It contains all tools for model navigation: Zoom, Pan, Orbit, SteeringWheel, and the View Face tools.

Figure 16


The Graphics Area (See Fig. 1 & 2) is the big space at the middle of the UI. It is the area where your models and drawing sheets are displayed. The appearance of the graphics area be set in the Application Options dialog box.


The Model Browser (Fig. 18) is a critical part of the Autodesk Inventor UI. It usually docked by default by the left of the graphics area. The Model Browser displays the features, components, parts, and other information about your designs. The model browser typical displays the features, components or parts according to the order they created (though they could be rearranged).

The model browser for an assembly file is almost identical to that of a part file but for its top row. At the top of the model browser for a part file, there are two buttons: Browser Filters and Find. The Browser Filters button is used to hide some details like Work Features, UCS, Documents, Notes and Warnings in the Browser. The Find button opens the Find Part Sketches dialog box that helps in locating and modifying sketch elements and features.

The model browser for an assembly file has four buttons: Browser Filters, Design View Representation, Modeling and Assembly Views, and Find. The Design View Representation button can be used for easily switch between user-created design views. The Modeling and Assembly Views button is used to switch between modeling and assembly views. A major difference between the modeling and assembly view is that the modeling view puts all the assembly constraints in a folder.

Figure 18

Figure 19


The UCS Icon is found at the bottom left corner of the graphics area. The UCS Icon indicated the default directions or orientation of the default work axes (X, Y, and Z axes). The UCS Icon has three axes that are color coded with red, green, and blue. The red, green, and blue axis represents the X, Y, and Z axes respectively.

Figure 20


The Status Bar is used to display message, tips, or information to the user. It is found at the bottom of the UI. When the user is idle, the status bar displays "Ready" meaning that it is ready to perform any task assigned to it.

Figure 21


The Document Switching Tabs are found at the bottom of the Graphics Area just behind the Model Browser. They are only displayed when more than one file is opened in Inventor (Fig. 22).

Figure 22

On the Document Switching Tabs are buttons for cascading, tiling, viewing, and switching between multiple windows.


The Capacity Meter provides very useful information about the amount of memory used by Inventor. The meter has three indicators: total number of occurrences in the active document, total number of files open in the session, and amount of memory used by the session.

Figure 23

Fig. 23 shows a typical capacity meter from an assembly file. It indicates that total number of occurrences of components in the active assembly is 13, and there are 10 unique files opened in the assembly. The color changes from green to yellow when more than 60% of the memory allotted to Inventor is used, then red once 80% has been used.

So that is all. If you have any questions let me know.