Here Are the Best 30 SOLIDWORKS Enhancements of the Last Five Years

Is now the time to upgrade your SOLIDWORKS? Yes, especially if you have not upgraded for a while. There have been many great enhancements over the years that you might have missed.

Ever since SOLIDWORKS was first demonstrated in 1993 and then first sold commercially in 1995, there have been changes and enhancements made nearly every year to make the most popular professional MCAD tool even better. If you missed some of these enhancements, that’s okay. We’ll help you catch up with a list of the best enhancements over the previous five releases in SOLIDWORKS.

2017 was the Year for:


3DInterconnect is a total game changer for working with nonnative geometry. With 3DInterconnect, you can skip the import process and simply open and use files in your SOLIDWORKS designs. By skipping the import step entirely and working directly with files from other CAD systems, you can be sure to always be working with the most up-to-date design. 

2018 was the Year to Start Using:

Advanced Hole, 2018

The advanced hole feature extends the capabilities of the Hole Wizard to easily create complex or stepped holes in your designs. You could think of it as the Advanced Hole Wizard. In just a few easy menu clicks, you can quickly add multistep hole stacks to your parts.

Shaded Sketch Contours, 2018

Once you close a shape while sketching, you will get additional graphical feedback when it gets shaded. This is much more than a cosmetic change. You can also click anywhere in a closed contour to reposition it anywhere in the sketch. With these shaded sketch contours, you get additional functionality along with some graphical improvements.

Easier Sweeps, 2018

Sweeps are made easier because you don’t need to create a separate sketch to define the profile. You can leverage existing geometry such as faces, edges, or curves and reuse them as the profiles for your sweeps.

Bidirectional Circular Pattern, 2018

What used to take multiple circular patterns can be done with one thanks to the support for bidirectional circular patterns. You can create circular patterns in both directions from the seed geometry. They can even be symmetric or asymmetric.

Misaligned Mates, 2018

Product designs aren’t always perfect, and things don’t always line up exactly—especially to the 8th decimal place. That’s okay, because misaligned concentric mates are allowed. If you still insist on exactness, you can disable the creation of misaligned mates.

Touch Screen, 2018

Touch screen devices had been around for years before this release, but in 2018 they become truly usable. The new touch mode made the user interface easier to interact with. When enabled, you even get a touch toolbar for easy access to commonly used commands.

Better Mouse Gestures, 2018

Mouse gestures have always been a personal favorite. They were good before, and became great in 2018. There are more settings to customize the gesture wheel for how you like to model with support for 2 to 12 commands.

Welcome Box, 2018

In 2018, you were greeted by a welcome box that was incredibly useful. A favorite functionality is on the Alerts and Recent tabs. Alerts is where you can see important news alerts about critical updates. The recent tab offers instant access to up to 100 of your favorite files or recent documents.

Selections, 2018

You can now select over geometry. This functionality needs to be turned on by either clicking the command for “Select over Geometry” or holding down the “T” key. You can now drag a box or lasso on top of geometry. Previously, you could only window select geometry if you started from a blank region of the graphics area.

2019 was the Year to Start Using:

Large Design Review

Every year, Large Design Review Mode (LDR) keeps getting better and better. LDR has always been the best way to open large assemblies. An assembly that could take 15 minutes to open fully resolved could be opened in just seconds in LDR. This was the year where it became truly useful beyond just opening and viewing large assemblies, because this was the year you could also edit assemblies and add mates.

Structure System, 2019

A completely new way to create weldments appeared in 2019. Structure System is an advanced weldment environment that offers an easier workflow for creating and modifying structural members of different profiles in one feature. (See full article about Structure System).

Partial Fillets, 2019

 As the name suggests, these are fillets that do not go the entire length of an edge. You have the flexibility to define the start and end points for fillets all within the fillet PropertyManager.

Slicing Tool, 2019

With the slicing tool, you can create 2D sketches at the intersection of model geometry and a reference plane. It works for standard SOLIDWORKS BREP geometry as well as mesh and graphics bodies. It’s incredibly useful for reverse engineering geometry.

Geodesic Entities, 2019

Offset on surface now includes the ability to create geodesic 3D sketch offset entities. For some (you know who you are), the expansion of the Offset on Surface tool to include both Euclidian offset (does not account for model curvature) and geodesic offset (accounts for model curvature) distance was a long time coming.

Better Trim Entities, 2019

Trim entities have the option to keep trimmed entities as construction geometry. With this option enabled, any trimmed geometry will be converted to construction geometry instead of being deleted. This provides a much less “destructive” version of the trim tool.

2020 Was the Year to Start Using…

Detailing Mode for Drawings

Large Design Review increased assembly performance. Likewise, Detailing Mode increased drawing performance. With Detailing mode, the data does not load so you can open large drawings fast. It is a great way to review and share drawings—but it doesn’t stop there. You can also make minor edits to drawings and add annotations.

Direct Editing of Mesh Models, 2020

With SOLIDWORKS 2020, mesh geometry, including STL files, can be directly edited the same way you would edit solid model geometry. You can add simple geometry such as fillets, as well as more advanced surface features to the mesh.

Markups, 2020

Add mark ups to your SOLIDWORKS designs with or without a touch screen device. The Markup commands are found on their own tab on the Command Manager. Markups can easily be added to parts, assemblies and even drawings.

G3 Continuity in Sketches, 2020

Achieve net level continuity with torsion continuity in sketches. You can now add a torsion continuity relation between splines and any other sketch entity. With G3 continuity, you can have a smooth surface that takes into account both the curvature and rate of curvature at adjacent surfaces.

Silhouette Entities, 2020

Create sketch geometry by projecting the silhouette or outline of model geometry onto a sketch plane. This is a lifeline for creating complex geometry.

2021 Was the Year to Start Using:

Lightweight Mode on Demand

Lightweight Mode is like sports mode for every assembly. Lightweight mode has been useful since it was first introduced, but in 2021, there was no longer a reason not to use it. What made it more useable was that the models are automatically instantly resolved whenever you need them. Clicking and editing geometry in the graphics area, or simply expanding the part in the Feature Tree, instantly resolves the parts. It is recommended that you always open assemblies in lightweight mode for the performance gains because the parts will be instantly resolved. You don’t even need to think about it.

Export Interference Detection Results, 2021

Interference detection has always instantly identified any place your geometry is interfering with itself—and helped avoid potential disasters. The results of interference detection can now be exported and saved into an Excel spreadsheet for easy sharing and review. You can even include a thumbnail image of the interferences.

Color Picker, 2021

You can use the color picker to define a color for SOLIDWORKS appearances from external applications. Any color you see on your computer screen, you can use as a color in your design.

3MF Files, 2021

Now you can use the next generation and improved standard file format for 3D printing with SOLIDWORKS. Unlike an STL file, 3MF is an XML-based data format that includes a complete package of model information such as textures, materials, colors and mesh.

2022 is the Year to Start Using:

Stud Wizard

Create external threaded features with an easy-to-use wizard. (See our previous article about the Stud Wizard.)

Coordinate Systems, 2022

This is arguably the best enhancement in SOLIDWORKS 2022. Coordinate systems have been around for decades, but in 2022 they became incredibly useful with much new functionality. You can define the position of a coordinate system using numeric inputs. One addition shines above all others: the ability to select a plane that belongs to the coordinate system axis. Every coordinate system now includes three references planes you can instantly use for things such as creating sketches.

S-key, 2022

The S-key (officially known as the shortcut bar) now includes the command search. This is a great addition to an already powerful tool. When you search for a command using the S-key, you can launch the command itself—but that’s not all. You can customize the shortcut bar on the fly by pressing the plus sign to add any command to the shortcut bar. Now any SOLIDWORKS command is just an S-Key away.

Performance, 2022

Every year SOLIDWORKS becomes faster. Files open faster. The graphics are smoother; it feels better and snappier. Thanks to a complete overhaul of the graphics architecture, performance is incredible in SOLIDWORKS 2022.

And Then There is… Everything Else

The last item on the list is everything that didn’t make the cut. For years, SOLIDWORKS improves over the previous version. Sometimes an improvement is not a new feature but an extension of an existing tool’s capability that makes that year the time to start using that tool. Not even a third of the enhancements in this article are new tools. Most are extensions of existing tools or functions. The one thing they all have in common is that they save steps and cut down on your time spent modeling so you can get your designs done faster than ever before.

Learn about SOLIDWORKS 2022 enhancements with the ebook SOLIDWORKS 2022 Enhancements to Streamline and Accelerate Your Entire Product Development Process.

About the Author

Stephen spent a decade as an elite SOLIDWORKS AE in the reseller channel. He has presented at every SOLIDWORKS/3DExperience World Conference since 2012. He enjoys sharing SOLIDWORKS tips and tricks with the community and writing about all the latest and greatest features. In 2020 he left the Reseller Channel to begin his own consulting firm focused on presenting technology and easily explaining complicated concepts. He has an active YouTube channel and loves to connect with the community. 

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