Welcome to another magical year of SolidWorks! The Beta program for 2016 has just wrapped up, and I’m now free to share all the new enhancements and functions you’ll find when you start using SolidWorks 2016. By now, hopefully, the format is familiar: each week, I’ll run through a chapter of the SolidWorks 2016 What’s New document, and pick out the most interesting features to test, and report back to you, the community. I won’t cover most of the more “minor” features, so be sure to check out the full document for yourself.
Note: since I’ll be testing these features and writing many of these posts during the beta period, functionality may change or disappear completely by the time the posts go live, at the time of software release. Sorry!
Expandable PropertyManager Input Boxes
In SolidWorks 2016, the viewable area of a selection box is no longer limited to 3 lines. Input boxes that routinely include multiple selections – such as those for fillets, chamfers, shells, and dozens of others – will now automatically expand and contract as selections are added or removed. You can also manually resize the box by dragging the handle at the bottom, and the rest of the PropertyManager pane adjusts smoothly. To return to automatic adjustments, simply right click in the selection box and click Autosize, or just double-click on the handle.
Persistent Context Toolbar When Sketching
Previously, SolidWorks only allowed one command or relation to be executed from the pop-up context toolbar. However, based on feedback that users often want to add multiple sketch relations at a time, SolidWorks 2016 now allows multiple relations (for example, equal and parallel) to be added before the toolbar disappears. The toolbar stays visible while selecting relations, but disappears after selecting a command (such as construction geometry or Zoom to selection) or moving the pointer away from the menu.
If you’ve ever struggled to grab the tiny arrows and rings that form the triad, you know it’s long overdue for a redesign. The triad is found is several places, including Section Views, Instant3D, Move with Triad, and Exploded Views. Luckily, in SolidWorks 2016, the triad has been redesigned to be easier to grab and manipulate. The arrows and rings are bigger and easier to see, the axes are labelled, and the rings are context sensitive – that is, they behave differently depending on whether you’re creating a section view or an exploded view, for example.
Move with Triad
The breadcrumbs in SolidWorks 2016 are exactly what they sound sound like. They’re helpful pointers that tell you where you are in the hierarchy of the model, and keep you from getting lost. If you make a selection in the graphics area, the breadcrumb trail appears, showing you the hierarchy of your model all the way from your selected entity all the way through the top-level assembly or part. Say, for example you click on the edge of a part within an assembly. The breadcrumb trail would look something like this:
Note how it shows the edge you’ve selected, the feature that edge belogs to, the sketch that formed that feature, the body that feature exists in, the part, the mates that define that part, and the top level assembly. Clicking or right-clicking on any one of these crumbs brings up the same menu options as you would see if selecting the entity in the FeatureManager tree.
With this feature, it may be possible to interact with your model without ever showing the feature tree.
Dynamic Reference Visualization
Remember those little arrows that popped up when you hovered over a feature in SolidWorks 2015? That feature now supports both parent and child features in SolidWorks 2016
You can turn off one or both types of reference visualization by right-clicking on the document name at the top of the FeatureManager Design Tree.
User Interface Redesign
I get it, change is scary. But progress is necessary, especially when it gets our whiny, colorblind friends to shut up for two minutes. The first thing you will have noticed is that SolidWorks 2016 looks COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. And that’s why the UI redesign is the winner in this category. Not because it’s especially difficult to adjust to, but because it pervades every aspect of how you use SolidWorks from now on. Every button, folder, menu, and tool has a new look, but only a few of the symbols have been reimagined.
But the UI refresh isn’t just a new coat of paint, it’s a major overhaul to make the software look and feel better on our modern high-resolution monitors. The new icons are vector-based, making icons scalable on large monitors. To adjust the scaling of UI buttons, just open the Options dropdown menu, and hover over Button Size.
The blue-and white color scheme is also much more friendly to colorblind users (while the old green and yellow scheme was about as bad as you could get). While I do understand this, I think the UI needs a little more color to differentiate different kinds of features. Maybe purple and white for surfaces, or orange and white for sheet metal.
I’m also, personally, not a fan of the “perspective feel” of the new icons. It feels a little too artsy, and not as professional as straight, parallel lines would look. After all, how often do you actually model with perspective mode turned on?