Friday, August 12, 2016

GoldSim 12 Preview (Part I): Updated Graphics and User Interface

Posted by Rick Kossik

We have spent the last two years working very hard on the next major GoldSim release: GoldSim 12. Our goal is to release this in February 2017.  There are many exciting features in the new version. Over the next several months in this blog I will start to briefly describe the most important of these.  Today's blog will discuss several of the key features of the updated graphics and user interface for GoldSim 12.

The namesake for GoldSim 12
Before doing so, however, I thought it would be fun to note (particularly for our long-time power users) that internally (before it is released), each GoldSim version has a code name. The code names proceed alphabetically, and the theme changes from time to time. Early versions were named after Formula One drivers (e.g., Ascari), golfers (e.g., Daly) and mountains (e.g., Fuji, Hood, K2).  More recent versions were named after cars (e.g., Lamborghini).  For the next several years, we will be honoring physicists.  The GoldSim 12 code name is Newton (and the following version will be Oppenheimer).

In this blog I will highlight perhaps the most noticeable thing about GoldSim 12 - the totally updated graphics engine and user interface. Although changes like these don't actually affect how GoldSim carries out simulations, they have a significant affect on how your models look.  Although such changes are easy to discount, their importance should not be underestimated. Being able to explain a model to others is critical, and a clean-looking model with nice graphics simply is much more effective and easy to communicate.  Frankly, it is also much more enjoyable to work with a tool that has nice graphics and a clean and powerful user interface.

One of the key user interface changes in GoldSim 12 is the improved graphics rendering engine. This not only improves the appearance of GoldSim icons themselves as they appear in the graphics pane (more on that below), but perhaps more importantly has a significant impact on any graphics or text that you insert into the graphics pane to help document your model.  The best way to appreciate this is to simply compare screen grabs of models in both GoldSim 11.1 with GoldSim 12.

Improved Rendering of Graphics

GoldSim 12 implements GDI+, an enhanced version of the graphics subsystem provided by modern Windows operating systems. The Graphics Device Interface (GDI) is responsible for low-level tasks such as drawing lines and curves, and rendering text and images. GDI+ complements GDI and adds anti-aliasing to basic drawing functions and graphics, gradient shading and support for RGB/A (full color, anti-aliasing) images. The graphical canvas of a GoldSim Container relies heavily on the capabilities and performance of the GDI/GDI+ subsystems. GoldSim element icons (implemented as EMF+ vector drawings), labels and text objects, influences and basic drawing objects all benefit from much improved rendering capabilities and quality.

This has a number of impacts on the appearance of a model. First, the icons themselves now render in a much nicer way in the graphics pane:
Expression in GoldSim 11.1
Expression in GoldSim 12






We will discuss the new images for all the GoldSim element icons in more detail below.  But for now, it is sufficient to note that the rendering is significantly improved in GoldSim 12, and this will have a tremendous impact on the appearance of your models.

The impact of high-quality rendering will be particularly apparent for users who create customs icons for elements (which must be EMFs). The example below shows some custom icons that were used to replace the Container icon:

GoldSim 11.1

GoldSim 12
                                                   
EMFs allow you to create transparent backgrounds. Because GoldSim 11.1 could not render EMFs well, if you wanted an image with a transparent background, you could not do so.  You either had to use a raster image (with no transparent background), or a poor quality EMF:

GoldSim 11.1 (raster)
GoldSim 11.1 (EMF)
GoldSim 12 (EMF)






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Pasted graphics and the standard graphical drawing objects that you can use in GoldSim to document your models also render much more nicely in GoldSim 12:


GoldSim 11.1
GoldSim 12
GoldSim 11.1
GoldSim 12













Updated Icons for All Elements

All of the GoldSim element icons have been replaced in GoldSim 12.  The new icons are not only much higher resolution, but they have been redesigned using a new color scheme to provide additional visual cues when viewing complex models.  In particular, you will note that all elements of a specific type share the same color scheme (e.g., all input elements are green, all stock elements are orange). They also have a uniform size, which makes aligning elements much easier and results in cleaner looking models:

One additional critical change in the graphical behavior of the new icons is that the input and output ports are hidden (but accessible).  The combination of the new port behavior and the new graphics rendering makes the graphics pane less cluttered and much more attractive:

GoldSim 11.1

GoldSim 12

We will discuss the new behavior of the ports (as well as a number of additional user interface features) in future blogs.

Next GoldSim 12 Preview -  Part II: Updated Behavior of Input and Output Ports

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