What I Learned at SolidWorks World 2018

Fresh off my return from SolidWorks World 2018 in LA last week, here are the most interesting tips, tricks, tools, and tidbits I picked up, which may help my fellow CAD users out there.

Section Views Kill Drawing Performance

Thanks to Alin Vargatu of Javelin Tech and Grant Mattis of Feature Walters, I learned that section views in drawings significantly increase drawing open, rebuild, and response times. Apparently SolidWorks creates a whole new copy of your model in memory, performs a physical cut, and then displays the edges of that model. Having multiple configurations in a drawing similarly increases required resources, but that at least makes sense.

High Quality Views are Actually Better for Performance

While draft quality views can be generated faster initially, they take a moment to update every time you zoom or pan the drawing, because they’re pulling their information from the model data. On the other hand, high-quality views take longer to generate up front, but then don’t need to be redrawn every time the view shifts. High quality drawing views also result in smaller drawing file sizes.

#Task (“SharpTask”)

This batch task manager is infinitely more functional than the build in SolidWorks Task Scheduler. It includes an online library of tasks to choose from, and multiple tasks can be run at a time. Plus, it’s free! There are several tasks I can already see benefiting from:

  • Freeze Feature Tree – Reduce rebuild time to zero for mature models
  • Change image quality – Reduce image quality of model files to increase graphics performance
  • Custom Properties Manager – Add, remove, and change custom properties (client, project description, date, etc.) for several files all at once
  • Rename bodies (such as structural steel members) from custom properties (cut list names)
  • Generate Tube Cut lists – Converts hollow cylindrical geometry to weldment parts, with cut lists and properties like ID, OD, thickness, and length. Then you can create cut tables in drawings
  • Renumber drawing sheets
  • Merge drawings
  • Save PDFs

Check it out here: https://cloud.centralinnovation.com.au/WebSharpSwTask

Lenovo Performance Tuner

Whether you’re using a Lenovo or not, you can download this free applet that lets you control how many CPU cores are used for which processes. From their site:

“For example, when running a single-threaded application, such as Dassault® SOLIDWORKS®, on systems that have a Quad-Core processor, Processor Affinity allows you to designate which core is used for that application, helping to better allocate resources for certain applications while others can function freely on the other cores. This also is beneficial for multi-core applications, like ANSYS®, which can be isolated to prevent it from consuming all of the system resources, allowing other applications to concurrently and smoothly execute on the same system.”



2019 Enhancements

There seemed to be fewer enhancements announced this year than previously, ostensibly due to a huge push to increase stability and performance in “StabilityFest 2019,” SolidWorks’ response to last years “One and Two” kerfuffle. (At SolidWorks World 2017, the two most requested enhancements of the year were “focus more on fixing bugs” and “Improve program stability” even at the expense of new features.)

    Of the few announced, these are the features I think will have the greatest impact:

  • Interference detection in multibody parts
  • Add 3D textures to part using texture mapping

  • Lots of “Newser Interface” enhancements (pen, touch, Microsoft Surface Dial, VR)
  • Group mates by status (overdefined, underdefined, warning, suppressed, inactive, etc.)

  • Assembly defeature

SolidWorks 3DExperience Online Tools

SolidWorks is building an online pillar of product offerings to compete with other cloud-based CAD services. As usual, they stress that this is not a replacement for the current desktop tool, but we’ll see which way the dollar signs blow. The pillar consists of 5 tools so far, some of which are available today:

  1. 3DExperience Social Collaboration Services – A tool specifically for collaborating on rapid design iterations in the earliest stages of concept design. Not meant to be a full-featured 3D modeler.
  2. 3DExperience PLM Services – Basically PDM in the cloud, plus more project management tools.
  3. SolidWorks Product Designer – I can’t tell if Industrial Designer and Mechanical Designer combined to become Product designer, or if this is a third product. According to SW, it “brings a complete set of design capabilities including Parts, Assemblies, Sheet Metal, Motion Simulation, and Drawings.”
  4. SolidWorks Xdesign – The SolidWorks-class modeling tool in a browser or an app. It (supposedly) does everything SolidWorks can do (including open SolidWorks native files), plus some brand new features and tools that the old Parasolid kernel just couldn’t support.
  5. 3DExperience Marketplace – SolidWorks has created a network of dozens or hundreds of fabricators and part vendors to help you get your model made. In Marketplace Make, you can search fabricators based on price, tolerance, turn-around time, capacity and more, and submit 3D files for quote and manufacture right through the UI. However, either it’s being buggy, or the ability to submit RFQs hasn’t gone live yet. PartSupply is a catalog of over 500 component suppliers with easily half a million searchable components. I really like this service, because you can configure each component, view it in 3D, and perform side-by side comparisons. My favorite feature, though, is the ability to search by similar geometry. This give you the option to search for the right part, even if you don’t know what it’s called or who makes it. Just search for a vaguely similar component, and use the geometry search engine to hone in on the perfect part.

Last of all, it was announced that SolidWorks World 2019 will be held back in Dallas, February 10-13!

What’s New in SolidWorks 2017: Chapter 2 – User Interface

The leaves are turning, the air is chilling, and the smell of sweet, sweet CAD is in the air. Welcome to SolidWorks 2017! Take a look below for some of the best new features from the User Interface chapter of the 25th major SolidWorks release. You can learn more at the SolidWorks 2017 launch page: https://www.solidworks.com/launch

I’ll be back every few weeks with more of my favorite new features, but you don’t have to take my word for it. Try SolidWorks 2017 for yourself by logging to your free my.SolidWorks account and requesting a free, cloud-based Product Trial.


Honorable Mentions

Enhancements to Dynamic Reference Visualization

The parent/child relationship arrows displayed for Dynamic Reference Visualization have been redesigned to avoid obscuring other important information. What other subtle UI changes can you see in the example comparison image below?

Dedicated Hide All Types Button

The Hide/Show Items flyout in the HUD has been updated to include a dedicated, one-click Hide All Types command. Click the eye symbol (rather than the dropdown arrow) to toggle Hide All Types.

Enhancements to Breadcrumb Mate Information

When hovering over an assembly component, SolidWorks breadcrumbs will now display information about mates with errors, as well as information on the suppression state of mates.

Breadcrumbs also now include access to origins and reference planes of any part or subassembly selected.


FeatureManager Design Tree Comment Enhancements

The ability to add comments to certain areas of the design tree has been around for a while, but this functionality was so limited and – more importantly – so hidden, that it was nearly useless. While it was easy enough to add comments to part features, other users had no indication that the comment existed without checking each feature manually. Additionally, names and timestamps had to be added manually to each comment.

Comments can be used to explain design intent, guide users through training, or record specific design changes over the life of a product. It’s easy to see, then, why users have been clamoring for this much needed overhaul for years.

In SolidWorks 2017, comments can be added to not only part features, but every FeatureManager item, including mates, folders, materials, blocks, configs, and more. You can also add standalone comments, which are not attached to any one specific item (these comments appear in the Comments folder).

Most importantly, you can turn on Comment Indicators, which highlight any FeatureManager items which have comments. Additionally, usernames and timestamps are automatically added to new comments, and you can even attach images and generate screenshots of your model within the comment.

Better still, you can view ALL the comments that exist within a part, and export them to a single document.

Tune in next week when we discuss improvements to the licensing system.

Chapter 4: Installation »

Capture Some Enhancements! What’s Coming in SolidWorks 2016

On the final day of each SolidWorks World, the Portfolio Marketing team unveils a sneak peek of several new features which will (hopefully) be included in the next major release of SolidWorks. However, instead of a dry technical presentation, the team never fails to put on a show that’s funny, engaging, and only mildly humiliating. This year, David Pattern Borer presents… Designers in our Midst.

Continue reading

Bam! Zok! Poit! Get Hit With What’s Coming in SolidWorks 2015

From the desk of CAD Manager Gordon:

Help us Cadman and Rib-in! The evil Marker is terrorizing CAD City! Only the power of SolidWorks 2015 can stop him!



You’ll have to perfect your equipment…


…Find his lair…


…Defeat his henchmen…





…And unmask the villain himself!



Egads! An exploding BOM!

:Cue Twirly Batmusic:

















Continue reading

SolidWorks 2014 What’s New – Chapter 10: Drawings and Detailing

Hi All, sorry for the delay. I hope you’re all having a wonderful Holiday season – I know I am. This year, SolidWorks’ biggest gift to its community may be the enhancements made to drawings. There are dozens of great new enhancements this year, so if you want to learn about them all, check out the SolidWorks 2014 What’s New Document or the video below.

Honorable Mentions

Reattachable Balloons

If you’ve ever accidentally attached a stacked balloon to the wrong component, you know the only remedy was to recreate the entire stack. Not so anymore. Now you can simply right-click on the offending balloon, and select reattach. Now click any other component in that drawing view, and the balloon updates to reference it!

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Soft  Snaps for Angular Dimensions

This always used to bug me. When an angular dimension is placed next to a linear one, it would look weird if they weren’t aligned perfectly, but there was no way to do this. In 2014, however, the angular dimension snaps perfectly to the end of the linear dimension, forming a continuous line.

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Section Views of Surface Bodies

Previously, surfaces bodies could not be sectioned in drawings, and the surface bodies of mixed-body models did not appear at all. This limitation has been fixed in SolidWorks 2014.

SolidWorks 2013

SolidWorks 2013

SolidWorks 2014

SolidWorks 2014

Force Notes Into UPPERCASE (With Exclusions)

This enhancement is a very close runner up, based simply on the amount of time I’ll save because of it. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve had to retype an entire note block because I forgot to turn on Caps Lock. Or, even worse, I’ve had to go through a convoluted EPDM workflow to change a custom property to uppercase.

In 2014, that’s a thing of the past. Now I can select any note block – even those on the sheet format layer – and check a box in the PropertyManager to force all the text to uppercase. Even custom properties from referenced documents are affected. 

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What’s more, SolidWorks added a global override so all new notes are uppercase, no matter what. You can, however, add exceptions to this rule. The most common exclusions – units of measure – are pre-populated by SolidWorks. You can find this override, and the exclusion list, under Document Properties >> Drafting Standard.

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Angular Running Dimensions

Angular running dimensions are a natural extension of Ordinate Dimensions. You start by defining a zero-degree dimension, and measure any number of angles from that dimension. The dimensions can run on one direction, up to 360 degrees, or bidirectionally, up to 180 each.  12-16-2013 12-02-13 PM

You’ll find most of the options available for Angular Running Dimensions (chain, jog, text position, etc.) to be similar to those of Ordinate Dimensions. Find angular running dimensions under the Smart Dimension command.

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Find Virtual Sharps

This enhancement can be very useful for dimensioning a variety of irregular shapes, finding overall sizes, and determining volume envelopes. To dimension to a virtual sharp, start by selecting a dimension tool. Then, right-click the edge or line you’re interested, and select Find Intersection. Click the intersecting entity, and the dimension is automatically snapped to the virtual sharp. Finish placing your dimension as normal, and you’re done.

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Fixed Shaded With Edges Bleed-Through Issue

By setting the quality of a Shaded With Edges drawing view to High Quality, thin-walled parts no longer show ghosted edges from the back side.

Center Marks and Callouts for Hole Wizard Slots

Continuing the pattern of slot enhancements, any slot created with the new Hole Wizard functionality can now have center marks and callouts automatically applied to them when inserted into a drawing. The same functionality is already available for holes.

Second Sheet Format

The Drawing Sheets document property lets you specify a default sheet format for when you add new sheets to drawing documents. This property lets you automatically have one sheet format for the first sheet and a separate sheet format for all additional sheets.
To specify a different sheet format for a new sheet, click Tools > Options > Document Properties > Drawing Sheets, select Use different sheet format, and browse to select a sheet format file (file ending in .slddrt).

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Improved Symbol Library

The Symbol Library selection window has been completely redone, and is ow easier to use. When inserting a symbol, the drop-down shows the last category of symbols used. To access additional symbols, click the More Symbols button to access the full library.

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Replace Model View

The Replace Model View command allows users to quickly change the file referenced in their drawing. This is most useful when creating drawings of nearly identical parts or assemblies. For example, let’s say you’ve just completed a drawing of a complex sheet metal part. But uh-oh! You were supposed to be working on the sheet metal assembly that included PEM nuts and hardware! Now, instead of doing the whole drawing over again, you can just replace the model view. And, because the assembly contains the part that you’ve already worked so hard dimensioning, all those dimensions, annotations, GD&T symbols, etc. aren’t lost.

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You can even replace a part with a part or an assembly with an assembly. However, if the replacement file is completely different, the dimensions will dangle, and must be reattached.

Check out this video from DS SolidWorks about all the new drawing functionality in 2014:

Accessibility Enhancements: @JeffMirisola Wins victory for the colorblind

An accessibility change which has been championed for years by SolidWorks blogger and Man-stuck-on-the-wrong-coast, Jeff Mirisola, has finally arrived in SolidWorks 2014. From the What’s New document:

“An updated color scheme for certain icons makes the SolidWorks application more accessible to people with color blindness.
Icons in the active PropertyManager use blue to indicate what you must select on the screen; faces, edges, and so on. Adding blue to the icons provides a sharp contrast in colors so that people with color blindness can distinguish one icon from another.
Along with style updates to the main elements of the SolidWorks user interface, there is a new, more readable font.”
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Congrats, Jeff. You finally did it. Now get back to work.

SolidWorks 2014 Beta 1 Now Available!


SolidWorks today announced the release of their latest Beta version, SolidWorks 2014 Beta 1.

The new software can be downloaded through www.solidworks.com/beta or the Customer Portal. As in years past, issues can be logged through the Beta site, under the support tab, or through the Beta section of the Customer Portal, under My SRs. The quality of this product is in the hands of the beta testers, so please take the time to submit any issues you find to the Technical Support team, and you may find yourself on the leaderboard, walking away with some of the great prizes awarded to the most active beta testers.

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I’m installing the Beta at this very moment, and although I’ve already had an incompatibility issue with SolidWorks Electrical – which now seems to share an installer with core SolidWorks – the installation itself seems to use the same smooth functional workflow as the past few years. When the installation is complete I’ll be able to add more commentary.

More more information on what to expect in the new version of SolidWorks, check out my previous articles, and the SolidWorks 2014 What’s New Document, available on the Beta forums or as part of the Beta download package..

Happy Beta-ing!

What’s New in SolidWorks 2013 – Chapter 4: Administration

Chapter 4: Administration

Enhancements for the bosses.

Honorable Mentions:

Save and Restore User Settings

Sort of like the Copy Settings Wizard, but friendlier.


SolidWorks CAD Admin Dashboard


This new tool allows your friendly neighborhood CAD Admin to keep an eye on his kingdom.  The dashboard lets the admin view all the system options for every seat of SolidWorks on the network, and shows if any user’s options differ from the company standards.  The dashboard also collects information about machines on the network, and suggests actions that may improve performance, such as updating drivers, adding more memory, or increasing storage.  

The dashboard can also keep records of every session of SolidWorks launched within your company, and track crashes and terminations that may help detect serious probelms early. 


The CAD Admin Dashboard can even be used to monitor Virtual Machines on the network.


The best part is, since this tool is available through the Customer Portal, it’s available from practically anywhere.


What’s New in SolidWorks 2013 – Chapter 3: SolidWorks Fundamentals

Chapter 3: SolidWorks Fundamentals

A grab-bag of new SolidWorks functionality, from equations to measuring to sounds.

Honorable Mentions:

  • API enhancements, including the addition of APIs to SolidWorks Costing and Sustainability
  • New tutorials and a redesigned tutorial window UI
  • Rotate about scene floor (great for rendering)
  • Searching SolidWorks Options
    • There’s a search box in the top-right of the Options window. Thanks for using my idea!
  • Point-to-point measurements.
  • Quick-Filter Buttons
    • Choose whether to view only parts, drawings, or assemblies – or any combination of the three – in the Open dialog. Also filter only top-level assemblies.
  • Event-Based Alert Sounds
    • SolidWorks can now play an alert sound when certain events occur, such as FEA mesh completion or failure, render or animation completion, or successful file opening. Generally, these are things that may take a long time, and an alert will let you know when you should pause that YouTube video and get back to work.
  • SolidWorks FastStart
    • SolidWorks begins loading components in the background as soon as you start your computer, even before you launch SolidWorks.  I’ll have to use this for a while before I can form an opinion, but assuming it doesn’t kill the performance of your computer, this could be the answer to extreme opening times.


  • Direct Input of Equations into most PropertyManager fields

In SolidWorks 2012, the equation system was overhauled, but direct equations were only available in sketches. SolidWorks has closed the circle and added direct equation input into most PropertyManager fields, such as extrusion depth, draft angle, and offset distance. Users can also toggle between the equation and the output value in FeatureManager fields.

  • Orientation Dialog Box and View Selector
     The Orientation dialog box (activated by pressing spacebar) is now much more robust that its predecessor. In addition to displaying the standard views in a more understandable way, it also allows users to save custom views globally, so they can be used in any SolidWorks model.  This is great if you need to render multiple parts in exactly the same orientation.  Users can also more easily update the standard views by simply right-clicking in the graphics area and clicking “Set Current View As…” and selecting a standard view.
     The most noticeable addition, however, is the View Selector. Whenever you press Space, the model will rotate to an isometric view, and display a view box around the model. This box has 22 selectable faces, including Standard (Top, Front, Right, etc), Diagonal, and Isometric from all sides. The View Selector can be activated without the Orientation Dialog Box by pressing CTRL+Space.

What’s New in SolidWorks 2013 – Chapter 2: User Interface

SolidWorks 2013 was officially launched today, after an exciting reveal at SolidWorks World 2012, and a jam-packed day of in-depth exploration at Media Day at Dassault HQ in Waltham. This version of SolidWorks has more enhancements to more aspects of the program than any other release in recent memory.  Every product – from Core SolidWorks to DraftSight to ePDM – has new features, enhancements, and options. There are also three brand-new products that have been released in the past year: SolidWorks Plastics, SolidWorks Electrical, and eDrawings for iPad.

Each week I’ll be posting on my favorite new features from each chapter of the SolidWorks 2013 What’s New documentation.  I’ll choose a few of these features to test and explore in-depth, and share my thoughts and experiences with you.

Chapter 2: User Interface

 Chapter 1 of the What’s New is only an introduction, so we’ll jump right into the new features in chapter 2. This chapter is limited to small but useful changes in the way you access information in SolidWorks 2013.

Honorable Mentions:


·         Improvements to customization of shortcut (“S-key”) bars. 

·         SolidWorks Tools (such as SolidWorks Rx and Benchmark Testing) are now available from within SolidWorks


·         The ability to toggle between a nested and flat FeatureManager tree.

·         Subfolders in the FeatureManager tree.




Favorites folder in FeatureManager Tree



“Add commonly used features, sketches, and reference geometry to the Favorites folder in the FeatureManager design tree”

This will be very useful for anyone working with complex model and huge design trees, especially in a collaborative environment. If you need your partner to edit sketch 548, just add it to the favorites folder, so he doesn’t have to search through the whole tree. 

It’s also helpful for models that use master sketches or blueprints, so you can edit the overall shape, without scrolling up from the feature you’re working on at the very bottom.