The Six SOLIDWORKS Tools I Can’t Live Without
After a long career in the SOLIDWORKS Reseller Channel, I now use SOLIDWORKS as a hobbyist. As a Reseller Application Expert, I had the luxury of having every possible resource available to me. I was able to become a SOLIDWORKS expert in many aspects of the program, as well as its add-ins and plugins – it was all part of the job.
Although I’m no longer providing tech support and working as a SOLIDWORKS instructor, I still find myself using the same tools over and over again. So, I decided to put together this list and share with you my top six tools and features of SOLIDWORKS that I couldn’t live without as a VAR or as a SOLIDWORKS user.
1. Quick Measure
This is one of those tools that is right in front of you, but you won’t see it unless you look for it. It’s right there in the status bar. Where in status bar, you ask? It’s the small bar going across your SOLIDWORKS interface.
Fun fact: Did you know that every section of your SOLIDWORKS screen has a proper name? Check out the reference guide below for a complete overview (as of SOLIDWORKS 2023).
If you pay attention to these areas, you’ll be amazed by all the information you can learn quickly.
Back to the Quick Measure tool. It’s a lightweight version of the full measure tool, but the reason I love it is because it’s always present, and presenting measurements based on your selection. This is a huge time saver when you’re trying to work as quickly as possible.
In the video, you can see how the information is readily available based on the entities you have selected. Now you can measure at a glance and get back to modeling without needing to launch the measure command.
In the upper right corner of the SOLIDWORKS interface is the search bar (see the reference guide above). Think of this as the Google for SOLIDWORKS—not simply for the fact that it’s search, but because it’s a tool as important and fundamental to designing in SOLIDWORKS as Google is to everything else. Searching inside of SOLIDWORKS with this tool is incredibly powerful and it just keeps getting better year after year.
This is your one stop shop for everything – the help file, MySOLIDWORKS, your files and models and, most importantly, Commands. The Command Search is the most epic feature people learn about. I’ve seen it change lives in terms of modeling in SOLIDWORKS.
It’s a way to quickly access any command just by typing it. Instead of searching through endless menus and drop downs, you can instantly access and launch commands by searching for them. It is even more powerful now since it has been added to the short cut bar. You can access the search by pressing the S-key.
Fun fact: Did you know you can customize your interface on the fly through the command search? Just hit the plus sign in the search to drag and drop the command from the search results onto your interface. It’s yet another life-altering tip.
As you work with SOLIDWORKS, you’ll find the customizations that just work well for you. There’s only one right way to do something in SOLIDWORKS, and that’s the way that gets it done the fastest.
But how do you go about doing this? There is no shortage of ways to customize the interface. To get into the customization mode you just need to find the item “Customize…” which is accessible through a right click in most areas of the application. In this customization mode, you can easily drag and drop to customize the commands. Drag a command off to remove it and drag a command on an area to add it.
This is just a sampling of what you can customize in the interface:
- Shortcut bars
- Keyboard (hot keys)
- Mouse gestures
4. Synchronize Settings
If you are following step-by-step while using SOLIDWORKS, take a moment to save your settings. You’ll not want to have to worry about remembering all the tweaks and adjustments you’ve made over the years to get a system that works well for you.
Of course, you can use the Copy Settings wizard to have a record of your customization. Copy Settings has been around forever, and is no longer a separate tool. Now it’s now accessible within the main SOLIDWORKS application, and you no longer have to close the file you’re working on.
Recently, a better way has emerged: use your 3DEXPERIENCE ID and automatically synchronize your settings. This is a great way to make sure you always have your settings with you no matter where you go.
This is a two-step process.
- There’s a system option that needs to be turned on. The option is Synchronize SOLIDWORKS Settings.
- You’ll need to log into the SOLIDWORKS Experience. Click the blank avatar in the upper right corner and you’ll be prompted to log in using your 3DEXPERIENCE ID.
My hot take: the width mate is the best mate. Why? Because it’s so versatile and comes in handy for an incredibly common function – centering things or lining things up in the middle. I’ve always said the width mate could be thought of as a centering mate. It’s my go-to mate when working with assemblies in SOLIDWORKS.
It’s even better now because it’s been added to with quick mate functionality. This means you can preselect the entities and add a width mate on the fly, without going into the full mate command. See it in action below. All it takes is a few clicks and things get automatically lined up in the middle. It’s incredibly powerful and incredibly useful.
Watch how you simply preselect the faces, and SOLIDWORKS lines the components up. Behind the scenes, it is automating the process of making two midplanes coincident.
6. What’s New
So how does one learn about all these features?
Every one of these features (and countless others that didn’t make it into this list) were all features introduced in a What’s New release. Every year when a new version of SOLIDWORKS comes out, I recommend reading the PDF that comes with the new version. If you want to wait to upgrade, then you can find it by just searching for What’s New SOLIDWORKS and you’ll be able to access all the versions going back several years from the most recent release.
Reading What’s New is my number one recommendation to anyone who wants to improve their SOLIDWORKS skills. I’m sure you’ll see the What’s New videos as they’re released, and if you don’t find them, they may just find you. Less read – but arguably more impactful – is the 200-page PDF that takes a deep dive into all the features, enhancements and new tools. This is the one thing I still do since leaving the reseller channel, and it’s the one thing that keeps me fresh and up to date on the latest additions to the tool.