PTC Launches Creo 10 and Cloud-based Creo+

The popular CAD software is both upgraded and released as a SaaS version enabling real-time collaboration.

Two Creo+ users collaborating on the same model. Image from PTC video.

Two Creo+ users collaborating on the same model. Image from PTC video.

It’s not every day that a CAD program is born. But at LiveWorx, the company’s annual user conference in Boston, PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann announced Creo+. This is not merely an update of Creo —that’s Creo 10, or what the company is calling “on-premises” Creo. Creo+ adds cloud-enabled functionality via Atlas, the software as a service (SaaS) architecture.

Creo+ is still the same code base as Creo, PTC’s flagship CAD program, and has every feature, every menu choice and every icon of its desktop-bound counterpart. It could be argued that Creo+ is not a new program at all, and looks every bit like old Creo. But PTC insists that what’s under the hood makes it different. Creo+ has been rearchitected with Atlas technology and adds two important new functionalities:

  1. Collaboration. Multiple users can work on the same design simultaneously. All users will access the latest version of the model on the cloud.
  2. Administration. CAD administrators will be able to monitor use, grant licenses as needed and issue updates from a central console.

A Single Source of Truth

Designers and engineers will benefit from all having access to the latest version of a design. Users of the on-premises version of Creo may have to find out who has the latest version of a design and then request it. Creo+ users can be assured that they will always be able to access the latest version, not an outdated one, with no confusion over having multiple versions siloed on individual workstations. SaaS programs employ the “single source of truth” concept. It makes total sense once you have it and makes “checking out” a model to work on it sound archaic.

Creo+ supports versioning. Should you want a previous version of a design, you can retrieve it in a way that is similar to how you can retrieve a previous version of a Google Docs or a document saved on Microsoft OneDrive.

Creo+, similar to other cloud-based programs, has no Save button. You don’t need it. Cloud-based programs could sell themselves based on this one aspect alone. Never mind collaboration. You’ll never hear the heart-rending “Oh, nooooooo” when the power is lost and the lights go off—always hours since the last save. Cloud-based programs save frequently and automatically. You’ll not lose more than a few seconds of work when the lights go off.

Currently, Creo+ can only be installed on a Windows-based computer. A browser-based version that can work on any device is being planned for some time in 2024 “give or take a year.”

Creo+ is installed, a “thick client”—as opposed to Onshape, PTC’s other CAD program, which runs on cloud servers and requires no installation whatsoever.

Even though Creo+ is not installed on the cloud, PTC requires a continuous connection so “it can check for a valid license.” Doesn’t this remove the big advantage of having Creo+ installed locally—that it will continue to function and you can continue to design if you are disconnected? This happens more often than PTC may think: in flight, spotty coverage in-home Wi-Fi setups, areas with little Internet coverage, and so on. Continuous connection to the Internet is the Achilles’ heel of Onshape and it’s odd that Creo+ requires it as well.

There was a little confusion on how long Creo+ would work without a connection. “You can use it for a half hour or so,” said one PTC employee doing a demo.

Creo+ will require a separate subscription. On-premises Creo users will have to pay again if they want Creo+ or to switch versions. Creo+ will read on-premises Creo files, but it is not backward compatible. In other words, Creo to Creo+ is a one-way trip.

Although pricing has been determined, PTC employees were told not to disclose pricing and I was referred to my local reseller. When pressed, they said, “Expect to pay more for Creo+ than for Onshape because Creo+ is a high-end CAD program.”

Onshape is available for $1,500/year for the Standard version and $2,500/year for the Professional version, but I doubt PTC will charge much more because its main competition (3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS) was going for less than $3,000/year.

No User Left Behind

PTC respects its existing user base, which is composed of some of the largest manufacturing companies in the world, some with thousands of Creo licenses. These customers aren’t expected to switch to Creo+ overnight—or even in the near future.

“Big wheels turn slowly,” I suggest. The PTC employee agrees.

“We cannot leave the customer base behind,” says Heppelmann during a Q&A. “We have to bring them along.”

PTC is comfortable keeping two versions of Creo going—one desktop and one cloud-based—at least for the foreseeable future, and two CAD product lines with Creo and Onshape.

Creo is positioned as the CAD tool of big manufacturers and Onshape is for more “agile” manufacturers, which seems to apply to startups, small companies and those with infrequent CAD users.

“We’re focusing on Onshape and Arena cheap and arena as a pair on this concept of agile product development for companies who are trying to develop new things very quickly. And with Creo and Windchill, we’re trying to focus on the digital thread concept and a platform, a much more comprehensive solution for a company that’s well developed, has more products and is more vertically integrated in manufacturing and service.”

Asked to defend having two CAD product lines, Jim Heppelmann drew a parallel with an automobile company.

“It’s like Toyota. They don’t have just one vehicle. They have sedans, SUVs and pickup trucks. Because not everybody prioritizes the same way. With vehicles, gas mileage is really important. But if that’s the most important thing, you’re going to buy a Prius. But if you buy a pickup truck, it still might be a little important.”

CAD Admin Made Easy

CAD administrators can juggle licenses, do software updates and monitor usage from a centralized panel. Image: PTC.

CAD administrators can juggle licenses, do software updates and monitor usage from a centralized panel. Image: PTC.

It is expected that CAD administrators at the large installations will be more motivated to migrate to Creo when they upgrade to the latest version. However, Creo+ should be an easy sell for new Creo users—especially those who are already cloud native, like those entering the workforce for the first time or Onshape users who are seeking a more robust CAD program.

CAD updates can be trying experiences for users and CAD admins. Users can find their customizations and integrations broken after the software is updated. Admins have to install updates locally. There was a lot of downtime, even with all IT hands-on-deck loading workstations one after the other with CDs or DVDs, and these days with software downloads. Annual updates of AutoCAD were so onerous that companies would skip the process for years, citing odd years as problematic, a belief that may have gained credibility with R13. The pandemic brought different challenges as IT staff, unable to make house calls, had to instruct users over the phone—or postpone updates.

By comparison, the Creo+ updates are downloaded every quarter and install themselves at the push of a button from a CAD admin’s screen. It’s relatively painless. A Creo+ user may not find out that the software has been updated until logging in to work the next day.

Heppelmann thanked his employees for getting Creo+ and Windchill+ ready in time for LiveWorx. Going SaaS for all PTC products is Heppelmann’s goal. Atlas is the platform of the future, he stated again.

“No big deal,” says one PTC employee on the show floor. “We’ve been using it for months.”