The future of CAD Without Files?

No files any more. Period. I hope I’ve got your attention. File system is one of the most stable paradigms for storing data for the last 20-25 years. However, here is the question – do we really need it? Take a look on the following quote fromWikipedia:

Programs do not necessarily require file names or directories to access data, and direct data access is possible by hardcoding programs to directly access data regions on a storage device. Similarly, directories or folders are technically unnecessary, and all data could be arranged in a flat-file manner, identifying data using some external locating method such as typed pages in a binder. Such a system would be extremely difficult for day-to-day management and organization of data by human users.

We use files almost everywhere. However, stop, for the moment. We actually are not using files on the web. The meaning of files changed when it comes to the web-like organization of things.

I was reading Alex Bowyer on O’Reilly Radar Blog – Why Files Need To Die? Take a moment of time and read that article. Make your opinion. How much of your everyday lifecycle is dependent on files and what is completely file-less. I found the following passage inspiring:

The file folder metaphor makes no sense in today’s world. Gone are the smoky 1970s offices where secretaries bustled around fetching armfuls of paperwork for their bosses, archiving cardboard files in dusty cabinets. Our lives have gone digital and our data zips around the world in seconds as we buy goods online or chat with distant relatives.

The complexity of folders and files these days is similar to paperwork in the example above. Alex is coming with the idea of streams and related information. I found it interesting since it actually eliminates the need for files. You are just browsing through the information.

CAD with No Files?

Now, let think about CAD/PLM world. The fundamentals of CAD and design systems are files. We use them to store assemblies, parts, drawings. In addition to that, we use them as a reference in many places. Do think “file” paradigm will live with CAD and other design systems forever? The movement of CAD vendors seems to me the obvious application of modern web principles to the world of design and engineering. The initial signals are here. CATIA V6 pushed the limits and eliminated files by connecting CATIA system directly to Enovia back-end. Autodesk cloud experiments with systems like AutoCAD WS made existence of files on the disc obsolete. PTC introduced Creo Apps. It will be interesting to see if PTC will come with the future idea of eliminating files.

What is my conclusion? I think the computing and information paradigms are shifting from file-oriented to data (and web) oriented. The initial signs are here. The speed of this movement is questionable. Manufacturing is slow changing environment and engineers are very reluctant to changes. Just my thoughts. What is your take on the future without files?

Best, Oleg

8 Responses to The future of CAD Without Files?

  1. CADWatcher says:

    History is constantly repeating itself: i remember the switch from Catia V3 to V4 when changing from a obscure proprietary storage system to the file system was seen as a progress…

  2. CADWatcher, thanks for this comment! Actually, I’m very much agree. I remember the shifts from proprietary databases to SQL and now back to somewhat XML/noSQL.

  3. Ajit Kini says:


    I believe file system will remain here for many more years. I hope the difference would be only in terms of where or the way the files are getting stored. Few years ago we saved files on our desktop and now we see value in saving them into the object along with its metadata.

    Just My Thoughts !


  4. Vvagr says:

    IT is quite ready for life without files. The problem lies in the design process, its organisational and legal aspects. You have to structure design and configuration management to function without documents (to be data-centric instead of document-centric). Then you’ll truly benefit from contemporary IT.

  5. Vvagr, I agree, there are many processes and arrangements that need to be done to make a switch to file-less.However, it comes slowly, in my view. More and more people are switching to cloud-based systems in their everyday life and in business. Thanks for commenting! Oleg

  6. A late comment, When CAD system derives its model from a data base, the CAD file is obsolete, Plant4D is such a system, what is in the data base drives the model, project delivery is simplified

  7. Patrick, you are right. People started to interest how to build CAD system without files. Ironically, the idea is not well supported by users. The main reason is because RDBMS system is less transparent and users are afraid of to be locked by software companies. -Oleg

  8. Cars Fan says:

    Cars Fan…

    […]The future of CAD Without Files? « Daily PLM Think Tank Blog[…]…

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