Best Five User Interface Enhancements in SOLIDWORKS 2016

Well, it’s that time again. Right before the holidays, Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS has announced a major release. Time to update.

I will point out some of my favorite new features in the user interface. Following are the top five.

  1. Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are pop-up panels that reveal information about an object after it has been selected in the graphics window. There are two main differences that I will cover: assembly and part-level breadcrumbs.

The breadcrumbs cut down on a lot of hunting and pecking around in the feature manager design tree for information related to an object, such as underlying sketches or mated parts.

In Figure 1, a part is selected from within an assembly and the breadcrumbs appear. I can use these pop-up buttons to traverse up or down the hierarchy of a part or assembly; in this case, an assembly. I used the tools to reveal adjacent mates and parts. SOLIDWORKS even temporarily isolates them for you.


Figure 1.

Figure 2 is an example of using breadcrumbs for the in-context editing of part features or sketches. I went down the tree versus up this time. Down to reveal and edit an underlying sketch.


Figure 2.

  1. The Ctrl D Key

The Ctrl D keyboard shortcut can be used in two areas that I have discovered so far. Since I just discussed the breadcrumbs, I will explain how the Ctrl D keyboard shortcut can be used.

By default, the breadcrumbs show up in the upper left corner of the graphics screen. However, if you select a part and then type Ctrl D, the breadcrumbs will appear at your cursor location (see Figure 3). This makes Ctrl D a productivity enhancement for a productivity enhancement.


Figure 3.

Secondly, users no longer need to go to the upper right or upper left corner of the screen to select the green check mark to exit a command. Once editing is complete, simply press Ctrl D on the keyboard and the green checkmark or red x will appear at your cursor for rapid selection and exiting of the command (see Figure 4). (In my opinion, it should already be there when a command ends.)


Figure 4.

  1. New Screen Layout and Design

You can see in Figure 5 that the menus and overall appearance are much cleaner. You might dismiss “much cleaner,” having heard it so often; such as every time a user interface is changed. But it’s true in this case.


Figure 5.

  1. Support for 4K Graphics

Next would be the support for high-pixel-density displays, such as 4K displays, also known as ultra high density, or UHD (see Figure 6). This is on the order of 4000 pixels, and about four times that of normal HD displays with 1080 pixels.



Figure 6. Samples of high-pixel-density displays.

SOLIDWORKS promises that dialog boxes, property managers, feature manager design trees and other interface areas will scale appropriately to your display scaling settings.

Additionally, there are small, medium and large icon settings to accommodate the vast new space provided by these displays (see Figure 7). Older users will appreciate the larger icons even on a normal display.


Figure 7.

  1. Menus and buttons

The green and yellow icons are gone and have been replaced with blue and gray ones (see Figures 8 and 9). It is said that they are designed to be friendlier for colorblind users. The icons are similar to the previous release, only with crisper lines and shadows. A standard angle and perspective has been used throughout, meaning the 3D representation of the icon is positioned at a standard isometric viewing angle, with perspective view applied.


Figure 8. Green and yellow icons of previous version.


Figure 9. Icons in the 2016 release.

Figures 10 and 11 present another shot of the menus and buttons in the new version and in the previous version.menu2

Figure 10. The menus and buttons in the new release.


Figure 11. The menus and buttons in the previous version.

An additional note about the menus: There are more sub-menus in the drop-down menus, which is a subtle change that will be good for users with older displays. These long drop-down menus have been shortened as shown in Figures 12 and 13. The shorter menus prevent them from falling off the screen.


Figure 12. The long menu of the older version.


Figure 13. The improved, shorter menu in the 2016 release.

Watch for future articles in which I will dig deeper into the new UI enhancements and beyond.

About the Author


Jeffrey Opel is a professor of CAD/CAM and 3D printing at Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, Texas. He is the owner of NCS, which provides turnkey CAD and 3D printing systems to clients in the United States. Opel has more than 25 years of experience in the field of computer-aided design and 3D printing.

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