What’s New in SOLIDWORKS 2017: 3D PDF Template Editor

We touched a little bit on the 3D PDF template editor in a previous article: “What’s New in SOLIDWORKS 2017: MBD.” In this article, let’s take a deeper look into more enhancements, especially those that are not easily discoverable.

At a quick glance, you may notice several new buttons on the editor command bar: Cut, Copy, Paste, Format Painter, Align, Group, Order, Rectangle and Lock.


Figure 1. The updated 3D PDF template editor command bar.

These buttons are self-explanatory, so I’ll just illustrate three of them with quick examples. First, Figure 2 circles five headers in different text styles. Obviously they will look much more consistent and professional if they share the same style.


Figure 2. Inconsistent text styles.

The format painter comes in handy here because you don’t have to tweak the font, size, style, justification or any other style setting individually and manually. You can just pick the header you want, click the format painter and apply all its style settings to your selections. This command stays active until you cancel it, so that you can paint as many text boxes as needed without having to re-launch it.


Figure 3. The format painter gives all the headers a consistent style.

Rectangles have been a common request among MBD users to categorize and contain information. Let’s compare two text sections in Figure 4. The texts within rectangles on the left clearly look more organized and easier to navigate.


Figure 4. A comparison between texts within rectangles (left) and without rectangles (right).

Now you can draw rectangles and adjust its properties to surround and organize the texts as shown in Figure 5. The one I like most is the corner radius option because it allows you to replace the stressful sharp corners with more natural and polished fillets. By the way, you may need to send a rectangle to back to reveal the texts inside using the Order button. More discussions on the need of display orders can be found in this MBD forum discussion.


Figure 5. Draw a rectangle and adjust its background color, border, border thickness and corner radius.

Now with all the text styles, rectangle properties and their placements on the template, it will be a good idea to lock them as shown in Figure 6 to avoid any unintentional edits. Multiple selections are supported, so that you can select all the controls and lock them together.


Figure 6. Lock multiple controls to avoid unintentional edits.

Now you can’t even move them, let alone change their properties as shown in Figure 7, which is great to protect your edits from before. Of course, you may unlock to continue the fine-tuning.


Figure 7. Property settings are disabled and an unlock option is available.

Speaking of moving these elements, aside from the typical drag-and-drop operations with a mouse, you can now move them using arrow keys to achieve more accurate and consistent placements and adjustments.

Another neat usability polish is the placement of a text box. In previous releases, a newly inserted text box was always placed on the upper-left corner on a template sheet, which is “almost always the undesirable spot” as explained by an MBD user. Now when you insert a new text box, its placement will follow your mouse cursor as shown in Figure 8.


Figure 8. A text box placement follows your mouse cursor.

In addition to the ability to edit on one sheet, there are also other enhancements on the sheet arrangements. For example, for client-facing documents, on the first page, you may want to display a high-quality product image as a cover sheet, but you may not want to include any 3D model viewport or the predefined view strip yet. Another common use case is to declare certain statements upfront on the initial pages. For instance, in the U.S., defense-related documents are required to declare the international traffic in arms regulations (ITAR) statements upfront. Similarly, some companies require the intellectual property (IP) or confidentiality statements to be acknowledged on the first page of a technical document. Any party who is not the intended recipient of this document should not look further into it.

In the previous releases, it wasn’t possible because the template architecture required the primary viewport and the view strip on the first page. Now it’s more flexible as shown in the cover sheet in Figure 9.


Figure 9. A cover sheet of a high quality image with no viewport or pre-defined view strip.

You can also drag and drop the sheets to resequence their orders as shown in Figure 10 to avoid unnecessary page deletions and recreations. Renaming sheets is now allowed as well in order to identify their content more clearly.


Figure 10. Drag and drop a sheet to resequence its order.

Overall, the 3D PDF template editor is much more user-friendly in the 2017 release to help you produce more professional and polished 3D PDF documents. What do you think? Please feel free to leave comments below.

Now let’s recap the new features and their benefits in Table 1.

Table 1. 3D PDF template editor new features and benefits.

New features Benefits
Format painter Applies a wide variety of text styles to multiple selected texts.
Rectangles Organizes texts with clear and polished borders.
Display orders Adjusts display sequences to reveal key information and set up proper background layers.
Lock Protects previous edits to avoid unintentional changes.
Move with arrow keys Places controls more accurately and consistently.
Create a text box at the mouse cursor location Enables users to control text placements.
Resequence sheet orders Avoids unnecessary deletions and recreations of sheets.
Rename sheets Identifies sheet content more clearly and quickly.
Remove the restriction of containing a primary viewport or a view strip on the first page Presents a cover sheet on the first page or declares certain statements upfront.

Here are two 3D PDF samples published using the latest templates: a Myomo assembly and a spindle shaft. The links may open the PDF files directly in your web browser, but if you download them and open them using Adobe Reader, you will be able to see the 3D content. This blog post, “How to Use 3D PDF?” will walk you through several reminders and the basic 3D capabilities in Adobe Reader. Another blog post, “How to Publish a 3D PDF with SOLIDWORKS MBD,” will show you the key publishing steps. To learn more about how this new release can help you with your MBD implementations, please visit the SOLIDWORKS 2017 launch site.

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 (MBE) and smart manufacturing.  

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