The Top 50 SOLIDWORKS Enhancements of the Past Decade
Did you know that in the first edition of SOLIDWORKS, SolidWorks 95, the core modeling tools were there? SolidWorks 95 had fully associative parts, assemblies and drawings. It even had the hole wizard!
SolidWorks 95 truly began the design revolution. It was the first package on the market that was built with ease of use in mind. It worked on the Windows OS, which was an easy to use, well-known and modern interface. At the time, SolidWorks 95 had what were considered beautiful graphics, with its visualization being fully lit and with a shaded model instead of the traditional wireframe on a black background.
Fast forward to now, the year 2020. SOLIDWORKS has been around for 25 years. Over the course of the 28 editions released during this period, we have seen nearly 10,000 enhancements to the software to take it from the new kid on the block to the go-to design tool chosen by millions of users worldwide.
With hundreds of enhancements added to the software each year, it’s understandable that some could go unnoticed. But many of the enhancements from years past turned out to be some of the best SOLIDWORKS tips out there. With all these great, time saving enhancements, new users these days will never truly know how hard we had it. Back in the old days, we had to move our mouse uphill, both ways, through the snow to get anything done. Thankfully, with SOLIDWORKS 2020 it’s much easier.
So, here are the best 50 enhancements from the last decade of SOLIDWORKS that got us to where we are today.
Here’s my top 10 favorite enhancements of the last decade listed first, then I go through all 50 in chronological order.
- Command Search
- Online Licensing
- Mouse Gestures
- Quick Filter
- 3D Interconnect
- Options Search
- Selection Midpoints
- Profile Center Mate
- Intersection Zone in Section Views
- Style Spline
Mouse Gestures (#3 for the Decade)
Quickly model by swiping your mouse in different directions to launch commands.
Rank and color assembly components based on values of custom properties such as mass, graphics triangles, or designed by.
Dimension Palette & Rapid Dimensioning
An intuitive interface to quickly add complex dimensions to drawings.
The one-stop-shop for you to view and modify your model’s display. The Display Manager controls the appearance, decals, lighting, scene and cameras.
Large Design Review
The quickest way to open very large assemblies in a unique modeling environment with a set of useful tools for reviewing your assembly. Pro Tip: You can also use large design review to open an assembly without the part files.
Command Search (#1 for the Decade)
Quickly launch any SOLIDWORKS command from this search bar. Pro Tip: The command manager can be used to quickly customize the command manager by dragging an icon from the command search to the command manager.
Units Indicator & Quick Switch
Quickly see the document’s current unit system and easily switch to a different one.
Magnetic Lines for Balloons
Easily order and align balloons in drawings by snapping them to magnetic lines.
Freeze features to lock them and exclude them from rebuilds of the model.
Quick Filter (#4 for the Decade)
Quickly filter for parts, assemblies or drawings in the open window. Pro Tip: A favorite is the top-level assembly filter which instantly shows you the top-level assembly in the directory.
Options Search (#6 for the Decade)
Instantly search through the options or document properties by typing in the search box.
Sketch conic curves (elliptical, parabolic or hyperbolic) defined by a Rho value.
A special assembly feature which offers a useful way to work with components in an assembly used for geometric references but exclude them from other calculations like center of mass. Pro Tip: Envelopes can be used as an advanced selection tool.
An advanced pattern tool which enables you to vary ANY pattern and/or feature dimensions.
SW CAD Admin Dashboard
An online resource on the MySOLIDWORKS.com admin portal listing all your company’s hardware with SOLIDWORKS installed on it. Here you can monitor the physical hardware and SOLIDWORKS usage, Rx information and settings such as document properties.
Previous Release Interoperability
Open and work with future version files using Service Pack 5 of the previous release.
Auto Scale Sketch
All sketch geometry is automatically scaled based on the first dimension that is placed in the sketch. This maintains all the relative proportions of your geometry.
Replace Sketch Entities
Replace sketch geometry so you can modify a sketch without any negative downstream consequences and rebuild errors.
A selection alternative to box or window select that allows you to draw a custom shape to select geometry.
A folder in the FeatureManager that offers quick access to the features you have recently created or edited.
Style Spline (#10 for the Decade)
An alternative spline tool which draws the spline using the control polygon and control points. Pro Tip: You can adjust the smoothness of the curve by modifying the degree of the curve. There’s support for B-Splines of Degree 3, 5 and 7 using style splines.
Exclude / Include from Section View
Choose to include or exclude components from a section view which offers a way to create custom and intricate section views.
Mates on the Context Toolbar
Cut down on your “mouse mileage” by quickly accessing mates from the context menu in the graphics area.
Build groups of selected entities you can save so you can quickly select a group of model items again.
Profile Center Mate (#8 for the Decade)
The quickest way to align components. Use this to automatically center-align geometric profiles and fully define the components.
Intersection Zones in Section Views (#9 for the Decade)
An alternative method for creating section views using the intersections of planes, which offers much more control and customization in section views.
Open Model in Position
Instantly open a part or subassembly in its current position / orientation.
Drawing Sheet Zones
Splits the drawing sheet up into zones which makes locating drawing features quick and easy. Pro Tip: Zone labels can be added to things like detail views to help you locate them easier.
Spline / Curved Leaders
Add curved leaders to notes and balloons in drawings using splines instead of straight lines.
A separate application that can be used to view assembly hierarchy in a line diagram, tree structure. Pro Tip: This is a useful application for someone who doesn’t have SOLIDWORKS but wants to view and understand the assembly’s structure or create a “skeleton” assembly.
A refreshed and modernized interface with options for changing the UI colors (i.e. dark mode).
Based on the context of your mouse, you have everything you could possibly need to select right next to your cursor. This essentially offers you a way to model without the feature tree.
Select Midpoints (#7 for the Decade)
Directly select midpoints on lines for relations and dimensions.
Sweep with Auto-Circular Profile
Create a sweep feature with only a path created. The profile can be automatically created from the sweep feature.
Dynamically manipulate sketch dimensions. This enables you to drag sketches to quickly edit its values without going in to the Modify Dimension dialog box.
Component Preview Window
A separate window that shows the component. In the preview window you can rotate the model without affecting the original view. Pro Tip: Use the component preview window to easily pick entities for mates when building an assembly.
Globally Replace Failed Mate References
Fix one mate and you’ve fixed them all. If a mate reference is missing in multiple places, you can replace the missing reference for all instances at the same time.
3D Interconnect (#5 for the Decade)
Directly work with CAD files from other software without importing them. With 3D Interconnect you open and use files from other packages just like you would a SOLIDWORKS part.
Graphically see where comments are in the Feature Tree. Pro Tip: Use comments to add useful details to features or parts.
Work with mesh files without needing the ScanTo3D add-in.
Flexible licensing options for SOLIDWORKS so companies can add tools like CAD or Simulation for projects or short-term hires.
Shaded Sketch Contours
Closed contours get shaded in and can be moved by clicking and dragging in the shaded region.
Interchangeable Fillets & Chamfers
Easily change the feature from a chamfer to a fillet and vice versa.
Advanced Hole Feature
Easily add complicated, stepped holes using an intuitive interface.
Your geometry doesn’t have to be perfect; you can use misaligned mates to align concentric mates even if the holes don’t line up exactly.
Touch Based Interactions
Easily use SOLIDWORKS with a touch screen computer. This includes a menu bar exclusively for touch enabled devices.
Welcome Box & Recent Folders
A convenient way to open files, view folders and access resources. Pro Tip: Use the recent files area to quickly access your recent files and even pin files for quick access.
Online Licensing (#2 for the Decade)
An alternative to machine-based activation. With Online licensing you can log in to SOLIDWORKS using your ID and password so you can work where you want, whenever you want.
Instantly cut a model in to 2D sketch sections.
Markups for Parts & Assemblies
Add markups and redline your models available in both parts and assemblies.
So, you made it through the top 50 enhancements of the past decade. Did we miss any enhancements? Be sure to let us know. Over the past decade we have seen a lot of great additions to the SOLIDWORKS toolset. Some of them are completely new functionality, but most are just great ways to save a few mouse clicks or work more efficiently. Can you imagine working without these great features? I know I can’t. It really was like modeling uphill, both ways, in the snow. Just imagine what it’ll be like in another decade.
Learn more about SOLIDWORKS with the whitepaper Developing Better Products in the Cloud.