How to Set Up a Customized UI in MBD
Figure 1. The SOLIDWORKS MBD 2017 command bar.
If you don’t see the MBD command bar, you may need to right-click on a ribbon bar tab and check the “SOLIDWORKS MBD” option to display it as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Check the SOLIDWORKS MBD line to display its command bar.
Some users have heard that MBD can now compare the 3D product and manufacturing information (PMI) differences between documents, but then can’t find this function on the MBD command bar. Let’s walk through several handy user interface (UI) customization techniques to optimize your experience with this product.
As you may have noticed, at the far-right side of the command bar in Figure 1, there is a “>>” icon indicating that there are more buttons to be displayed. These buttons are hidden because of the limited width of the computer display and the large number of command buttons on the bar. You can easily shorten the bar by unchecking the “Use Large Buttons with Text” option as shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3. Uncheck the “Use Large Buttons with Text” option to shorten the command bar.
But this may not be the ideal choice. What if you want to show some buttons with text and some without text? You can click on the “Customize CommandManager…” line as shown at the bottom of Figure 3. Then the command bar customization dialog box will appear as in Figure 4.
Figure 4. The command bar customization dialog.
From this dialog box, you can turn on and off various UI elements. Most of them will instantly display once you make your changes, so I won’t go into too much detail here. A nice feature is that you can drag and drop a command from this dialog box directly to the command bar as shown in Figures 5 and 6. For example, defining DimXpert callouts to reference geometries has been newly enabled in MBD 2017 as explained in a previous article, “What’s New in SOLIDWORKS 2017: MBD.” You may want to add the Reference Geometry button to the MBD command bar to gain quicker access to it instead of going back to the Assembly command bar. So, you can just drag the button from the dialog box as shown in Figure 5 and then drop it onto the MBD command bar at a preferred location as shown in Figure 6.
Figure 5. Drag a command from the customization dialog box.
Figure 6. Drop a command onto the MBD command bar.
Another trick you may not be aware of is that while the customization dialog box is on display in the foreground, you can actually right-click on the command bar in the background and make some changes. For instance, as shown in Figure 7, the Basic Location Dimension button looks almost twice as wide as other buttons because of its long command name, taking up a good amount of the precious screen space.
Figure 7. Right-click on the command bar while the customization dialog box is on display.
By unchecking the “Show Text” option, the button becomes much smaller as shown in Figure 8.
Figure 8. Uncheck the “Show Text” option to reduce the size of a button.
You can apply the same change to the Datum and the Geometric Tolerance buttons. Figure 9 shows a much more concise rearrangement of the buttons. Now these three buttons together take up only about one-sixth of the width of one button if we compare the layouts in Figure 7 and Figure 9. Plus, the icons themselves are distinctive and self-explanatory. They also come with descriptive tool tips, so the UI still is very intuitive to use.
Figure 9. An intuitive and concise command layout with tool tips on smaller-sized buttons.
Similarly, I reduced the size of six other buttons; “Datum Target,” “Surface Finish,” “Weld Symbol,” “Note,” “Balloon” and “Stacked Balloons,” as shown in Figure 10. Please note that the two newly added buttons in MBD 2017 are visible now: “Publish STEP 242 File” and “3D PMI Compare.” Several new enhancements are introduced in this previous post.
Figure 10. An updated command bar with a full display of all the buttons.
By the way, just in case you cannot find a certain command, you can just search for a keyword in the box at the upper-right corner of Figure 10. If I type in “compare,” the search results shown in Figure 11 will appear.
Figure 11. Search for a command by a keyword.
While we are on the customization dialog box, I highly recommend the shortcut bar customization as shown in Figures 12 and 13. You can simply drag and drop a button from the DimXpert toolbar to an assembly shortcut toolbar.
Figure 12. Drag the Auto Dimension Scheme button from the DimXpert toolbar.
Figure 13. Drop the Auto Dimension Scheme button onto the Assembly Shortcuts toolbar.
This drag-and-drop customization to a shortcut toolbar works with any button. I have added several other frequently used buttons to a shortcut bar. Then, as shown in Figure 14, you can easily access them with your mouse cursor tip by pressing the “s” key on your keyboard.
Figure 14. Access the frequently used buttons on the shortcut toolbar with your mouse cursor tip.
This is convenient because you don’t have to move your mouse back and forth between the viewport and the command bar anymore. As you may have noticed in Figure 13, you can customize the shortcut toolbars in the part, assembly, drawing and sketch environments to speed up other command access besides the MBD workflows.
One last point is on the PMI tree display. My personal preference is to display the annotation-based tree as shown in Figure 15 because it directly correlates to the callouts I create.
Figure 15. An annotation-based tree.
By default, the tree is displayed as feature based as shown in Figure 16, which lists the underlying manufacturing features supporting the callouts. These features pave the way for downstream intelligent manufacturing applications as described in a previous article.
Figure 16. The default feature-based tree.
You can also switch the tree to a flat display that lists all the annotations and features as shown in Figure 17.
Figure 17. A flat tree listing all the annotations and features.
In this article, we walked through several techniques to make the UI friendlier and your MBD workflow more productive. The command bar customization, shortcut toolbars and annotation-based tree display are often used to make popular tools and information more accessible. To learn more about how the software can help you with your MBD implementations, please visit its product page.
About the Author
Oboe Wu is a SOLIDWORKS MBD product manager with 20 years of experience in engineering and software. He is an advocate of model-based enterprise and smart manufacturing.