SOLIDWORKS FeatureManager Management
In big parts and assemblies, you need to keep easy access to items in the list on the left. Whether it shows features or parts, you need to be able to find things easily. This article explains the tools and techniques for managing data in the SOLIDWORKS FeatureManager.
Hide/Show FeatureManager F9
Screen space is often at a premium so anything you can do to preserve it, or at least efficiently manage it, is very welcome.One of the fastest ways to gain a lot of real estate in the graphics window is to press F9, which hides the entire FeatureManager. You can get it back by pressing F9 again.
You can split the FeatureManager area to show the FeatureManager on the bottom and another panel such as ConfigurationManager on the top. You can also move PropertyManager so that it is in a floating window.
Rollback, Roll Forward, Roll to Previous and Roll to End
These are basic feature for going back in your design history.
This is the ultimate tool for people who complain about history. Instead of rolling from the bottom like the Rollback bar, the Freeze bar rolls from the top. You can freeze features above the Freeze Bar so that they do not change. In fact, you can take the frozen features and convert them into “dumb” bodies.
This is essentially how Solid Edge Synchronous works. The initial body has no history but after that, you can have history-based features. It helps you there, because you have real direct edit tools, but in SOLIDWORKS the dumb body conversion removes parametric and associative relations for those who don’t have expert control over their models.
You can use both Freeze and Rollback at the same time, but one can’t go past the other. They can, however, meet in between two features. You should work with some example files to more fully understand how these two tools work individually and together before having users use it on production models. In particular, you should investigate how frozen external references work (or don’t work. Spoiler!).
Arrow Key Navigation
If you use the Rollback bar, you can then use the arrow keys up/down to scroll through the FeatureManager more easily. The arrow keys will continue navigating the FeatureManager until you click in the view window again.
Scroll Selected Item Into View
This option is turned on (in Tools/Options) by default, so that if you select something in the graphics window, the FeatureManager will scroll up or down as necessary so you can see the item’s entry in the tree.
Use Transparent Flyout FeatureManager in Parts/Assemblies
The flyout FeatureManager solves a lot of workflow problems having to do with the feature list getting hidden by a PropertyManager when you need to select something from the tree. Learning to use this will streamline your selection workflow in cases where a new feature requires you to select a named item from the FeatureManager.
One thing you can do is to hide the main FeatureManager while using the transparent flyout FeatureManager. This can be visually a little messy but it gives you more room.
The display pane is a great tool that enables you to show/hide, change display style or transparency in FeatureManager. Hit F8 to turn it on. The display pane can be used for sketches, bodies, parts and assemblies. This is one of the most underused tools in the FeatureManager interface.
The FeatureManager filter is essentially a search function that works great for long FeatureManagers or big assemblies. It will search feature, part, tags and folder names as well as descriptions. This is another reason to have good names or descriptions for items you’re going to access a lot.
The FeatureManager Filter can be set to affect the graphics view in addition to the display of names in the FeatureManager. You can also choose to have it access or ignore suppressed or hidden components. It can also be set to filter for custom properties.
Instead of using the right mouse button for features in the FeatureManager or the graphics window, you can select the Go To option. This brings up a dialog box which enables you to find a particular piece of text that may be in the FeatureManager somewhere.
This is similar to the FeatureManager Filter in some ways. SOLIDWORKS has been known to create partially duplicate functionality.
Dynamic Reference Visualization
From any selected feature, dynamic reference visualization (DRV) will show you parent (up the tree) and child (down the tree) features to help you troubleshoot dependency issues. All of the blue (up) and purple (down) arrows can get distracting, so it is recommended that you assign this to a hotkey.
Flat Tree View
Flat Tree View shows the features in the FeatureManager in the order in which they were created, with no indentations, no absorptions, no history-based or parent/child or hierarchy shenanigans. Just a straight ordered list of your features.
If you have created reference sketches early in the tree that got absorbed by references further down the tree, seeing everything in correct order is very helpful. To access this view, right mouse button to the top-level item (part name) in the FeatureManager and use the Tree Display flyout to select the top item which is Flat Tree view.
Use this for troubleshooting and editing, especially when using complex parent/child features such as compound curves, sweeps and anything with a sketch.
This is another function that you have to use in order to get the hang of it. This is still relatively new, so it might not have caught on yet for a lot of users.
When you’re navigating a website, a breadcrumb display shows the hierarchy of the selections you have made to get where you are—like Windows Explorer showing the path to the current folder.
SOLIDWORKS does the same thing. If you have a sketch in a part in a subassembly selected, the breadcrumb display shows this. Like the website or Windows Explorer display, you can also navigate back up the crumb trail to select something specific, like a body or a feature that can’t necessarily be selected from the graphics window. This might take some practice or some time watching someone else do it to get the value, but I think you’ll find this helps you navigate complex parts, and especially assemblies, more efficiently.
This doesn’t have anything to with history-based history, as such, but it has to do with the history of the features or other items you have recently created or edited. If you have a big assembly or part, this gives you easy access to things you have been working with.
You can create folders for features, parts or mates to help you organize items in the FeatureManager.
There are a lot of options for things you can hide or display in the FeatureManager and icons that indicate various situations. There are also tons of things you can find in the various right mouse button menus from the FeatureManager. You can find all of this stuff in the SW help under the FeatureManager heading.
The SOLIDWORKS FeatureManager can seem like a simple list of features or parts, but it is a highly developed organizational tool to help you classify organize and access information about a design. There is a lot of functionality that might seem hidden but once you learn to use it efficiently, it may be difficult to remember how to work without its powerful tools.
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