SOLIDWORKS PDM 2018 offers several enhancements that will improve the administration and use of PDM. In this article, we will look at two of the most significant enhancements, as well as one of my favorites.

Branching and Merging

The first significant enhancement we will look at is branching and merging. Branching creates copies of files, in a way that is similar to Copy Tree. Branching though maintains the history of the source file and the branched files. This allows for multiple variations of the source file to be connected to their source. Each variation can be worked on to explore and validate changes. The valid changes can then be merged with the source file.

Similar to copy tree, Branch is available from the Tools pull-down of the Local Vault view.

Launching Branch.

The Branch dialogue box has many of same options as Copy Tree, such as:

  • Defining a target folder;
  • Using latest or attached version of referenced files;
  • Transforming the file by adding a prefix or suffix, renaming with serial number or using replace and
  • Inclusion of simulation data and associated drawings.

One difference with branching, is that a unique branch name must be specified for each branch. Since the branch name must be unique, it is worth developing a naming convention early on.

Copy Tree options.

After the branching is complete, the history of both the source file and branched file(s) will display the branching as a separate event.

History of source file.

History of branched file.

Rollback is not available for branched events, in either the source or branched files. Right-clicking on the source or branched files will list the associated branches.

Associated branches.

Clicking on Branch will display the source file and the branch file.

Display of associated branch.

After branching, any of the files can be modified without affecting other branches or the source.


Modified branched file.

The source and branched files can be merged in order consolidate all valid changes. The option to Merge, like Branch, is available from the Tools pull-down in the Local Vault view. Only branches can be merged, and branched files can only be merged to their source file.

Merge branch.

The Merge dialogue is similar to the Branch dialogue box, with same options for references, and transform operations. Included documents, such as simulations and drawings, can be merged to all selected files.

Merge options.

The history of the source and branch file(s) will display the merge event.

History source file.

History branched file.

Once the merge operation is completed, changes to the branched file will be merged into the source file.

Source file after merging.

As with branching, rollback is not available for merge events. Documents can be branched multiple times, and each branch can be modified separately.

Source part.

First branch file.

Second branched file.

One or more branches can be merged to their source. As each branch is merged, any changes performed on the branches are merged into the source file. Each branch is merged as a separate operation.

Source file after merging first branched file.

Source file after merging with second branch.

Some additional notes on using branching and merging:

  • Branches can be layered, so that a branched file itself has branches.
  • The user has full control over which branches are merged and therefore can decide which changes they want to keep.
  • Different file types can be branched and merged.

Aspects of branching can be controlled in SOLIDWORS PDM Administration. An administrator can exclude folders from branching. The Excluded Folders tab lists all of the excluded folders.

Exclude folders in user and group properties.

As with Copy Tree, the way variables are affected by branch and merge can be controlled for users and groups by right-clicking on the user, user node or group and selecting settings. This is done to specify a variable value for the files affected by the branch and merge operations.

Variable settings for branch.

Variable settings for branch.

Revision Table Integration

SOLIDWORKS PDM 2018 provides bidirectional flow of information between PDM and SOLIDWORKS drawing revision tables. In SOLIDWORKS PDM 2018 Administration, an additional sub-node is available to configure the mapping between PDM and the drawing revision table.

SOLIDWORKS revision table node.

In the PDM Revision Table menu, revision table integration can be enabled. Once integration has been enabled, the number of visible rows that will appear in the drawing revision table can be specified. The latest revisions will be displayed in the drawing revision table.

The revision placeholder can be configured to enter a default character that will appear in the revision column of the drawing revision table. The placeholder is overwritten with the PDM revision when a document’s revision is changed by PDM, typically through a workflow transition action.

Revision table settings.

To accommodate the linking between PDM and the drawing revision table, a new attribute has been provided. This new attribute is called “SWRevTable.”The attribute name must match the corresponding column name of the drawing revision table. Each column of a drawing revision table that is to be linked to PDM must have a corresponding attribute.

PDM variable with “SWRevTable”attribute.

If the Set Revision command is used to set the revision of documents, the PDM Revision Table menu can be configured to populate the drawing revision table through a PDM variable. This is done from the Set Revision Command Settings tab.

Once enabled, the mappings between the PDM variables and the drawings revision table columns need to be defined. Each column value is associated with an existing PDM variable that contains the “SWRevTable”attributes. The column values must match the column name in the drawing revision table.

Set Revision Command Settings.

The flow of information between PDM and the drawing revision table is bidirectional.Cells in the drawing revision table can be manually changed. If the links were properly configured, as described earlier, these changes will be pushed to PDM.

Value for description being entered in SOLIDWORKS revision table.

Data Card Editor Undo

This is one of my favorite enhancements in SOLIDWORKS PDM 2018.While this may seem a minor enhancement, for those who have faced the frustration of having to redo their work because of an inadvertent change while editing a data card, this enhancement will be well received.

Finally, the ability to undo.

Other enhancements in SOLIDWORKS PDM 2018 include:

  • Automated drawing PDF creation in SOLIDWORKS PDM Standard
  • Detailed warning messages
  • Enhanced assignment of explicit folder permission
  • Enhanced file version upgrade tool
  • Enhanced permission control
  • Quality enhancements in SOLIDWORKS PDM
  • Setting dynamic variable values in Copy Tree
  • SOLIDWORKS inspection integration
  • SOLIDWORKS PDM application programming interface
  • SOLIDWORKS PDM support for non-SOLIDWORKS CAD file references

The enhancements in SOLIDWORKS PDM 2018 add significant capabilities to an already capable data management solution. Some enhancements add to existing capabilities, others provide brand new functionality and still others address limitations in earlier releases. Both PDM users and administrators will benefit from these enhancements.


Joe Medeiros is a senior applications engineer at Javelin Technologies, a SOLIDWORKS reseller servicing customers throughout Canada. He has been involved with SOLIDWORKS since 1996. An award-winning blogger, he regularly writes about SOLIDWORKS products.

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