Over the course of my 20-plus-year career with the SOLIDWORKS software, I have been exposed to a number of great tips, tricks and shortcuts. Today I’d like to review a series of tips and tricks that any SOLIDWORKS user will benefit from. Many of these tips are touched upon in the SOLIDWORKS Essentials training class but warrant a quick review. Adding a few of these tips and tricks to your daily workflow will help you use the software faster and help you get your job done more efficiently. So let’s get right into it!
1. Rename Your Features
Whether you are working in a simple or complex mode, a great habit to develop is the renaming of your features.
By renaming the features in the feature tree, you are leaving yourself little notes so that you can quickly and easily identify and edit the desired feature. In the simple example in Figure 1, you can quickly choose to edit either the outer-corner fillets or the lower-corner fillets. If the fillets were not renamed, this process would take a bit longer, as you would need to identify each fillet.
Renaming your features not only helps you, it helps your co-workers and anyone who might be looking at the file at some future date. This becomes more and more helpful as the model becomes more and more complex.
Remember that you can rename features in a model, mates in an assembly and views and bills of materials in a SOLIDWORKS drawing.
2. Develop a Repeatable Workflow to Start a Sketch
I realize this may sound a bit remedial, but there are at least five different ways to start a sketch. Pick one method and stick to it. The method I like to use is in Figure 2.
As we can see in Figure 2, the method I use to begin a sketch involves a simple three-step process.
Step 1 is to select the plane (from the tree) or the planar face (from the model) where you wish to create a 2D sketch. Step 2 is to click on the sketch icon. This icon will appear automatically (as shown in Figure 2) after you left click on the desired plane or face. You simply need to move your mouse slightly up and to the right, and the toolbar will appear (including the sketch icon).This toolbar is known as a “context toolbar.”
If you happen to miss this toolbar (because of moving your mouse too quickly), you can select the sketch icon from the toolbar, as shown on the far right of step 2 in Figure 2.Lastly, step 3 is to orient your view. This simply means that you typically need to rotate your view to the desired orientation. Most commonly, this means pressing CTRL+8 to get your view “normal to” the screen, but sometimes we want to sketch on an angle or skewed view. Step 3 entails getting to this desired view.
Having a set, predictable and repeatable method of beginning a new sketch will help cut down on misclicks and will help you get your models completed faster.
3. When Sketching, Use the Context Toolbar to Add Sketch Relationships
Another place to save a lot of time when working in sketch mode is to develop a quick and easy workflow to add sketch relationships. The following workflow uses the context toolbar to save time when creating relationships. My goal here is to make these two circles equal in diameter.
Although the process above in Figure 3 is listed as six steps, it could be streamlined even further by considering the following. Step 1 is to press the Esc button. The reason we are doing this is to ensure that we aren’t currently in any other commands (such as smart dimension or offset entities or trim) that might affect the process of adding sketch relationships. If we are confident that we are not currently involved in another command, we can skip this step. Steps 3 and 4 could be combined as well to simply say “Ctrl+ click the second entity.”So we could streamline this to a four-step process, as is shown below in Figure 4.
Here our goal is to make these two points horizontal.
We are regularly making circles equal, making lines parallel and making points horizontal (or vertical).Following this six-step (or four-step) process is a great way to save time when adding these relationships. Having a workflow that we can follow every time will also help avoid misclicks and repeat work.
5. Learn How to Use “Auto Dimensions” in Sketch Mode
Last year, I was able to work with the team at Engineersrule.com to post a blog on this topic: “2 SOLIDWORKS Shortcuts to Make Modeling Easier.”Using “auto dimensions” in sketch mode is a huge time-saver, and one that every SOLIDWORKS user should know about.
6. There Are Some “New Enhancements” That Can Be Turned Off
I love how innovative SOLIDWORKS is, and I love some of the new enhancements it has added to the software for sketch mode, in both SOLIDWORKS 2016 and 2017.However, these enhancements can take some time to get used to, and for an experienced user who has an established workflow, these enhancements can sometimes get in the way and slow you down. The two enhancements that I find fit this description are “Instant 2D” and “Shaded Sketch Contours.”
These commands are both found on your sketch toolbar.
As you can see in Figure 5, these two new modes of working in a sketch may or may not be desirable. By using the icons shown in Figure 6, you can choose to turn on or off these modes. If you have been using the software for a number of years and are used to the traditional method of sketching, you can turn both of these modes off.
7. Pulling Dimensions from the Status Bar in SOLIDWORKS
Lastly, one of my favorite shortcuts to share with my SOLIDWORKS Essentials students is the ability to pull dimensions from the status bar by simply clicking on the desired entity in the graphics area.
This shortcut was also mentioned in the above-mentioned blog that I wrote for the team at Engineersrule.com last year. But it’s such a valuable time-saver that I would be remiss if I did not mention it here today.
When taking the SOLIDWORKS Essentials training class, we learn a lot of great tips and tricks to help work through the software, but there are also a lot of tips, tricks and workflows that we can learn and take advantage of to help streamline our daily SOLIDWORKS activity. Whether you are a newer SOLIDWORKS user or a user with years of experience, these seven great tips should help you get your job done faster.
About the Author
Tobias Richard is a SOLIDWORKS elite applications engineer from Philadelphia. He has been working with SOLIDWORKS software since 1998 and has been providing training, technical support and tips and tricks since 2001.