10 Life-Changing Enhancement Ideas for SOLIDWORKS Users

Two years ago, in an article covering the SOLIDWORKS World 2019 Top 10 Ideas Contest, I wrote:

There is one thing CAD power-users have in common: They do not accept limitations in software functionality. Try to say to power-users: “You cannot do this,” and they will look at you like you are an alien.

As a training and process consultant, working with hundreds of engineers and designers every year, I learned one more thing SOLIDWORKS power-users have in common: they are so busy designing the amazing products that are improving our life, that they cannot spare a moment to improve their own.

As we focus on tailoring new methods for improving power-users’ productivity, each training session generates intense brainstorming events—harnessing the ingenuity and creativity of everyone involved. Not only do we design, try, validate and finetune new techniques to solve their challenges, but we also push the functionality of SOLIDWORKS to its limits. When that happens, there is always a user who comes up with a great idea for how the software should work better. I am sure SOLIDWORKS Product Definition Managers would love to be a fly on the wall in these moments.

Even though they have great ideas for enhancing SOLIDWORKS’ functionality, however, few users can find the time to submit these ideas to the CAD vendor by following the proper channels, as described in this article.

I hate to see great ideas go to waste, so I decided to collect as many as possible from my customers and submit them to the SOLIDWORKS Top Ten 3DEXPERIENCE World 2021. Since we already established that your time is precious, I will not go in details explaining how the Top Ten List 2021 (also knows as TTL21) is the surest way to maximize the chance that your enhancement requests will be implemented in the next releases of SOLIDWORKS. If you have time and are curious, please read these two articles to understand how the Top Ten Event came to be and everything about how the event was implemented this year.

Instead, I will attempt to save you the time by proposing a curated list of ten ideas for your voting considerations. The criteria for selecting these ideas are:

  • Maximize the positive impact in productivity.
  • Easy to implement from the developer’s perspective.
  • Focused on large assembly and drawing workflows.

[Update 02/03/21: The voting is complete, now is the time to see the results. Don’t miss the Top Ten List MeetUp at 3DEXPERIENCE World 2021 with Gian Paolo Bassi, the CEO of SOLIDWORKS and the SOLIDWORKS R&D and Product Development Teams.]

Step 1: Register on the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform

This year, the SOLIDWORKS Top Ten List is hosted on the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform. If you do not have yet a user ID, you can register for free using this link.

Once your account is created, please login into the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform and follow the links below.

Without further ado, this is the list we curated for you:

  1. ESCAPE Key should always stop the current process and revert to the state before it
  2. Ability to Open a Subassembly in Large Design Review mode
  3. Drawing Detailing Mode from Assembly Large Design Review Mode
  4. Add Mark-ups to the Large Design Review Mode
  5. Ability to see Snapshots and Mark-ups when a SOLIDWORKS file is opened in eDrawings
  6. Manage Display States with Tables
  7. BOM to Filter Visible Components
  8. Make “Include Detailing Mode Data when saving” a Document Setting instead of a System Setting
  9. Enhance the 3DInterconnect Robustness
  10. Make Property Tabs – File Type Agnostic

How to Vote on an Idea

The voting process is very simple, just “like the idea” to record your vote (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Give a “Thumbs Up” to the ideas you would like to see implemented in the next releases of SOLIDWORKS.

For more in-depth information about the voting process, read this article.

Now, let’s explore these ideas in order to gauge their potential for improving your productivity.

#1 Escape Key Should Always Stop the Current Process and Revert to the State Before It

Description of the problem:

In SOLIDWORKS, the Escape key has many roles, depending on when it is being used. Its main function is to cancel an existing dialog box and return the user to the previous activity. For example, the user could close the PropertyManager dialog of a feature and return to the part environment without changing the settings of that feature.

For a reduced set of commands, the Escape key could terminate a process without loss of data. Unfortunately, that works in a small number of cases and is not always consistent.

For example, Escape will not interrupt a long computation process such as displaying a preview image of a feature. When the user knows that the preview will take tens of minutes, the only option to stop it is to crash the SOLIDWORKS session. That is not always possible due to loss of data since the last save. As a result, the user has a painful choice to make:

  • Waste tens of minutes—or even hours—waiting for the preview to be computed and displayed.
  • Crash SOLIDWORKS and potentially lose hours of work since the last save.

Figure 2.

Benefits after implementation:

  • Save a significant amount of time. For some users, this could be measured in hours per week.
  • Improve consistency in the user experience (UX). The Escape key in SOLIDWORKS would have similar behaviour to what it has in most Windows programs.

How to implement it:

Ideally, the software will always cache the current state in RAM before any new activity is initiated by the user. When the Escape key is pressed, the current process will stop and SOLIDWORKS will instantly return the model to the cached state.

#2 Ability to Open a Subassembly in Large Design Review mode

Description of the problem:

In SOLIDWORKS, the Large Design Review mode (LDR) is the best way to open humongous assemblies in seconds by loading only the graphics data saved in the assembly file. The experience is like opening the assembly in eDrawings.

In the last three releases of SOLIDWORKS, this functionality has been enhanced tremendously. Users can perform many activities in this mode:

  1. Use the model as a Visual Directory to find and open components.
  2. Hide, show or isolate components.
  3. Generate graphics-only planar section views.
  4. Measure.
  5. Use a “Camera” to navigate through the assembly without hiding or sectioning.
  6. Access the Performance Evaluation tool.
  7. Set and use Snapshots to preserve the orientation, the Hide and Show state of components, and the Section View state.
  8. Review different assembly configurations.
  9. Selective Open the assembly for quick revisions or design validation studies
  10. Edit Assembly in Large Design Review Mode to delete components, add components, edit component positions, add/delete/edit mates, and add linear and circular patterns.

One of the most common activities is the first one on the list: finding and opening components from the graphics area or from the FeatureManager tree.

Currently, from an assembly opened in LDR mode, you can open a subassembly in both resolved and lightweight modes, but not in LDR mode.

Figure 3. Current opening modes.

This limitation prevents users from performing very fast editing workflows, such as the one described below:

  1. From the top-level assembly opened in LDR mode, select one or more subassemblies.
  2. Press a button to open the selected subassemblies in LDR mode.
  3. Edit a subassembly open in LDR mode.
  4. Add and mate a new component.
  5. Save the subassembly and update the LDR graphics data.
  6. Return to the main assembly.
  7. Edit the main assembly.
  8. Save all files.

Benefits after implementation:

  • This will enable users to save a huge amount of time when working with very large assemblies. In our tests, we were able to insert a large component into a large subassembly, mate it in position, then return to and update the top-level assembly in under five minutes, compared with 27 minutes using conventional techniques.

How to implement it:

To illustrate the results of this enhancement, we partnered with Artem Taturevych from XARIAL to implement this functionality using API. Please watch this video for a proof of concept for ideas #2 and #3:


Video 1. Open Subassembly in LDR mode from LDR and Open Drawing in Detailing mode from LDR.

#3 Drawing Detailing Mode from Assembly Large Design Review Mode

Description of the problem:

The introduction of the Detailing mode was a game changer for users of large drawings. If you are curious, you could read how this revolutionary enhancement was implemented in SOLIDWORKS in this article.

By not having the model loaded in the RAM, drawings open instantaneously in this mode. Operational speed is also maximized for:

Adding secondary views:

  • Detail views
  • Broken views
  • Crop views
  • Empty views


  • Views
  • Dimensions
  • Annotations
  • Tables

Add and edit:

  • Dimensions
  • Annotations
  • Revision Tables
  • General Tables

Print and Save to PDF, DXF, DWG and more

What is not currently possible is to open a drawing from an assembly opened in LDR mode.

Benefits after implementation:

Users will save a huge amount of time, as shown in Video 1. Moreover, the user can select multiple subassemblies from the top-level assembly opened in LDR mode and their drawings can be opened in seconds in Detailing mode.

Typical workflow:

  1. Open Top-level assembly in LDR.
  2. Select one or more subassemblies.
  3. Press a button to open their drawings in Detailing mode.
  4. Perform drawing activities as described above.
  5. Save the drawing(s).
  6. Return to the assembly opened in LDR.

How to implement it:

For a proof of concept, please watch Video 1 shown above.

#4 Add Mark-ups to the Large Design Review Mode

Description of the problem:

At many companies I work with, the checkers have tons of paper in front of them and a red pen. They manually redline everything and then send the sheets back to the SOLIDWORKS users. There is not an inch of space on anyone’s desk not covered in paper.

Once these checkers see the new markup functionality for assemblies (SW2019) and drawings (SW2020), they get extremely excited. The checkers do not even need to learn how to use SOLIDWORKS, they just need to learn how to use markups. It’s a good opportunity to ask for and get a tablet or a touchscreen for hand-written markups.

Moreover, markups can now be added and edited in the Detailing mode for drawings, making them even more useful for users.

Figure 4. Markup created in Detailing mode.

Unfortunately, markups are not accessible in the Large Design Review mode for assemblies. Not only can markups not be created in LDR mode, but they are also not even visible.

Benefits after implementation:

Giving all users (checkers, managersand power-users) access to markups in Large Design Review mode would completely change the workflows for sharing information:

  • During the checking process.
  • Sharing information with members of the team.
  • Sharing information with third parties, including customers or suppliers.
  • Quickly documenting important information during design review meetings directly in the assembly file.

How to implement it:

SOLIDWORKS already proved that comments added to snapshots can be accessible in LDR mode. In addition, annotations can be added in eDrawings mode. Expanding this functionality for markups in LDR mode might not be an easy project, but the return on investment is huge.

#5 Ability to See Snapshots and Mark-Ups When a SOLIDWORKS File is Opened in eDrawings

Description of the problem:

Snapshots are fantastic for users who work with Large Assemblies, and they work especially well in the Large Design Review mode. With Snapshots, with one click users can access:

  • Hide/show state of components.
  • Section view state.
  • Orientation.
  • Comments.

As described above, there aren’t enough great things to say about markups. They save trees and hours of work for checkers, managers, users, manufacturing personnel and anyone else who requires information.

More importantly, you do not need to be a SOLIDWORKS power-user to use snapshots to navigate through the model and exchange information with markups. Anyone can be trained in minutes on how to open an assembly in LDR mode and take advantage of these tools.

Unfortunately, most employees from other departments do not have access to SOLIDWORKS. They will open models using the eDrawings software, which currently does not include functionality for accessing SOLIDWORKS snapshots and markups.

Benefits after implementation:

Giving all stakeholders access to snapshots and markups from eDrawings will be a game changer for the whole company. The need for paper-based communication will decrease significantly. Moreover, the SOLIDWORKS users will no longer be interrupted from their work by colleagues from other departments with questions that can have instant answers in existing snapshots and markups.

How to implement it:

eDrawings already allow access to complex information from the SOLIDWORKS part, assembly and drawing files. Unlocking the access to Snapshots should be similar to the current access to 3DViews.

Allowing access to Markups will probably be more difficult, since markups are in essence 2D sketches.

#6 Manage Display States with Tables

Description of the problem:

Imagine receiving a complex customer assembly model made of several components. Your role is to design the whole process for welding all the components together. That would involve the design of several cells, including robots, conveyors and all kind of other fixtures and machines.

For that, you would need to create a model of the customer part for each phase of the manufacturing process. As an example:

Phase 1: Show only parts A and B and their weld points (weld points are usually represented as spheres).

Phase 2: Show Parts A, B and C, and the weld points relevant for this phase.

Phase n: Show Parts A, B, C, D… n, and the weld points relevant for this phase.

To configure and manage such a complex variation, most users use configurations and design tables. This is all well and good until the higher-level assemblies need to use tens of copies of the same customer model with various configurations.

In that case, for each instance of the model in a unique configuration, SOLIDWORKS needs to load a dedicated set of body data. So, if the assembly requires 30 different configurations of the same model, it will load 30 different body sets. The performance degrades exponentially with the increased number of configurations.

This issue was more significant in earlier versions of SOLIDWORKS (before 2020). The software was unable to read body data stored in inactive configurations.

The solution? Use Display States instead of configurations. You could store each phase in a separate display state and simply hide all components not needed by each display state. Since multiple display states can share the same internal model, the problem is solved. If the higher assembly loads 30 different display states of the same model, in the same configuration, only one body data set would be loaded. The difference is huge.

Unfortunately, managing displays states is currently a manual process. This makes their use very cumbersome and might even prevent users for adopting them.

The solution is simple: allow display states managing with tables, similar to configuration management.

Benefits after implementation:

Once the display states table management is implemented, users will be able to take full advantage of the lighter information from display states. File sizes, open times and drawing view update time will decrease drastically (by a factor of 2 to 10 or more).

How to implement it:

Simply use the same tools that work well for configurations:

  • A tool similar to Configure component tables.
  • Design tables.

#7 BOM to Filter Visible Components

Description of the problem:

Imagine how much easier you could document drawing views if you could ask the BOM to hide all hidden components, and also give you the option to maintain the item numbers unchanged (simply hiding the rows of hidden components) or renumber the items.

This way, individual BOMs attached to specific drawing views would make an Assembly Process describing drawing a breeze.

Currently, users are forced to create separate configurations for each BOM (with all the consequences described in idea #6) or painstakingly hide BOM rows, which destroys the parametric paradigm behind the BOM.

This idea would work well with idea #6 – Display States Managed by Tables.

Benefits after implementation:

Implementing this simple idea will drastically reduce the complexity of models and drawings used for describing a process, as well as reducing the number of files and configurations required for that.

How to implement it:

Add a checkbox in the PropertyManager of a BOM table: Ignore hidden components.

#8 Make “Include Detailing Mode Data When Saving” a Document Setting Instead of a System Setting

Description of the problem:

As described in idea #3, the Detailing mode for drawings is a game changer. It works by saving more information in the drawing file, mostly related to existing edges and their IDs. That, unfortunately, creates two less desirable consequences:

  1. Larger file sizes (all that independent info needs to be stored somewhere).
  2. Long saving times for drawings that have shaded views or draft quality views.

Considering that 95 percent of SOLIDWORKS drawings are simple enough not to need the use of the Detailing mode, it is important to give the users the ability to decide how much information to save in the file.

Currently SOLIDWORKS 2020 and 2021 have implemented this user control as a System Option:

Figure 5. Save Detailing Mode Data.

This is less than ideal for two reasons:

1. It does not allow users to customize the amount of data saved per file. Ideally:

  • Simple drawings should have this option unchecked.
  • Complex drawings should have the option checked.

2. It potentially creates major problems for teams of users. One user, who has this system option unchecked, could open a large drawing, save it and erase the detailing data. Then, when a power-user needs to open the drawing in Detailing mode, it would be impossible.

After all, ensuring team-level consistency is critical.

Benefits after implementation:

Reduce saving times, increase consistency in the team and simplify file management.

How to implement it:

This option should be a document level setting, allowing the user to decide whether to save the drawing with the Detailing data included or not.

To simplify the workflow, the SAVE dialog can also have a checkbox called Detailing Data to allow the user to make such decisions.

It might even be worth considering having a Large Drawing Mode, similar to the Large Assembly Mode, where the software can decide to save or not save Detailing data based on the rules related to the number of drawing views set to Shaded or Shaded with Edges, or related to other factors known to slow down the detailing process.

#9 Enhance 3DInterconnect Robustness

Description of the problem:

We described the benefits of the new 3DInterconnect import engine in The Ultimate Guide to Working with STEP Files series of articles.

The limitations of this tool have been very well documented in the SOLIDWORKS Knowledgebase. Fixing these three SPRs would remove most of the issues reported by users:

  • Current regression: SPR 1180136: Non-native file inserted in assembly as 3D Interconnect feature does not show refresh icon (symbol) in FeatureManager Tree when its geometry is changed.
  • Current limitation: SPR 1072694: 3D Interconnect – Ability to maintain the downstream features (mates) in a SW file when the linked STEP file’s geometry is updated.
  • Current regression: SPR 1187494: STEP – Export and Import – weldment part – changing the dimension of the structural member, the order of body will change once re-imported.

Benefits after implementation:

Huge time savings during revisions, reducing errors and improving productivity.

How to implement it:

Simply address the documented issues.

#10 Make Property Tabs File Type Agnostic

Currently, there are four different types of property tabs for:

  • Part
  • Assembly
  • Weldment
  • Drawings

There should be only one property tab, which would work for all document types. This will be easy to manage and much easier to use.

For example, in a top-level assembly, a Select all components command would be followed by applying a property value to all of them, regardless of whether they are sub-assemblies or parts.

2. If different components are already assigned different tabs, they cannot be selected together and processed by the property tab. This is a showstopper.

The ideal behavior is pre-selecting components, picking a certain tab template and applying it to all as needed. For example, if you have a property tab that controls only three properties, you should be able to select all components of the assembly, pick that tab and modify all those properties in bulk in 20 seconds. This is currently impossible.

Some of these issues were documented in: 

SPR 458546: “Selected documents refer to different templates. When selecting multiple documents, each one needs to refer to the same template file” when selecting multiple component combinations that were not originally chosen to apply the custom properties.

SPR 836530: Provide ability to change a property of multiple components at once, even if they use different custom property templates, but share a common property.

3. If SW would add a Cut List filter in the F5 filter box, it would unlock the functionality for Weldment Property Tabs. Imagine how easy would be to add, modify and manage cut list properties, directly from the graphics area. For example:

  • Turn the cut-list filter on.
  • Click on several faces belonging to various bodies.
  • Get the Property Tab to show the cut list properties associated to the items that have faces selected.
  • Edit the properties at will.

Benefits after implementation:

User productivity would increase by 30 to 50 percent when working with metadata in weldments and sheet-metal parts.

How to implement it:

Unify the Property Tab functionality.


This is a once-in-a-year opportunity for all of us to vote on the most significant ideas for improving the SOLIDWORKS software. This article offered a curated list of ideas, focused mostly on increasing productivity for large assembly and drawing users.

If you have time, do not stop here. Read the rest of the ideas and vote on all the ones you believe would improve your productivity and your quality of life. Then curate your own lists and send them to your friends and colleagues to vote for.

There is power in numbers!

Join in to see the results during the Top Ten List MeetUp at 3DEXPERIENCE World 2021!

To learn more about SOLIDWORKS, check out the whitepaper Developing Better Products in the Cloud.

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