You’re Connected. What Do You Get Out of That?
SOLIDWORKS 2018 Is Connected
Users of SOLIDWORKS 2018 may have noticed the new Welcome screen (it’s hard to miss). And on this screen, you may have noticed some online features that you may not have noticed before. While some of these features have existed previously in various forms, Dassault Systèmes is making an effort to draw your attention to these features from the minute you open the software.
This is no accident: SOLIDWORKS is more connected for this latest release, and obviously Dassault wants you to be aware of it. In this article, we are going to take a look at this enhanced connectivity and how you can benefit from it.
First up, the aforementioned Welcome screen (pictured below). When you first start the software, you will be greeted with a Welcome box overlaying the main design window. On the Welcome screen, there are four tabs: Home, Recent, Learn and Alerts.
At the bottom right-hand side of the Welcome box, we can see the Resources section, which is our first glimpse of the connected features. Many of these links will be familiar to users of previous versions, and to access any of them, you will need the bare minimum of a SOLIDWORKSID (which you can create for free), and for many of the services, you will require a full active subscription.
The first tab on the Welcome screen consolidates links to various online services.
The first icon, named “What’s New,” is self-explanatory, and clicking on it will take you to a portal and will show you the recent upgrades to this release.
Next up, we have the MySolidWorks icon. This will take you to the MySolidWorks website, where those with an account will be able to access resources such as training, CAD models in 3D Content Central, forums, a cloud storage drive and access to the Manufacturing Network.
Next up in the Resources section of the Welcome screen is the SOLIDWORKS Forums link. This can be accessed via this link and also directly from the MySolidWorks website. You need a basic profile to view the forums and a full subscription to participate in forum discussions.
The Customer Portal icon takes you to the aptly-named customer portal, where you can also access the forums, customer support and downloads area where active subscribers can download extra programs such as SOLIDWORKS Composer and the newly released SOLIDWORKS Visualize.
Clicking the User Groups icon will transport you to the user groups website, which is kind of like a networking hub for SOLIDWORKS users all over the world, and contains details of national meet ups and events as well as help and support from within the community.
And finally, we have the Get Support icon, which unsurprisingly takes you to the customer help section.
Moving to the next tabs in the Welcome screen, we next see the Recent tab. This is not an online feature, so we won’t dwell on that in this article (but in short, it just highlights your most recently opened SOLIDWORKS documents).
More relevant to our online interests is the next tab, Learn.
The Learn tab contains access to introductory lessons to help newbies get started as well as more detailed tutorials and the MySolidWorks Training section.
This last section allows 24/7 access to training resources and tests, all designed to improve your SOLIDWORKS skill level. At the bottom of this tab, we can see there are options for keeping progress on your training, and also for access to the certification process, for those wishing to become certified professionals. There is a big friendly icon linking you to 3DContentCentral as well, just in case you forgot how to access this within the last three minutes. Just like how all the proverbial roads lead to Rome, it seems that all of the links in the Welcome screen lead back to the same places.
The Learn tab links you to 3D ContentCentral and also allows you to keep track of your training.
Finally, in the Welcome screen, we see the Alerts tab. The Alerts tab keeps you up to date with the most recent announcements pertaining to updates for your software (updates such as new service packs).
Live technical alerts are front and center to keep your software current.
As you can see, the Welcome screen is hardly reinventing the wheel, rather it is a consolidation of online resources that Dassault Systèmes thinks you may find useful.
And of course, you can disable the Welcome screen if you wish by checking the box at the bottom of the Welcome page.
Even More Connected
OK, so that’s the Welcome screen. But surely there is more to the enhanced connectivity than just consolidating a bunch of links together? Yes!
Synchronizing Settings and Options Across Multiple Machines
If you use the SOLIDWORKS software with multiple machines, you can now update your settings on any of the machines and synchronize those settings across all machines that run SOLIDWORKS 2018. To use a simple analogy, it’s like importing your Google account settings from your home PC to your work PC and having all of your Chrome settings follow you (pretty handy).
To synchronize settings and options across multiple machines, you should follow these steps:
- In Tools > Options, click Synchronize Settings.
- Choose between a manual or an automatic method:
- Synchronize Now (manual)—Upload settings to send your settings from the current machine to the cloud storage service. Update your settings in the cloud at any time by uploading them again later. Download settings to download and apply your settings from the cloud storage service to the current machine.
- Automatic Synchronization (auto)—Select this option to synchronize the current machine(s)automatically with the cloud storage service. Your selected settings and customizations automatically upload to the cloud storage services as they are updated and will download and be applied on startup or login.
- Click OK.
And of course, all of this synchronisation is made possible thanks to online licensing. Online licencing makes using your license on multiple machines much easier than before by using your SOLIDWORKS login details (similar to your Google or Apple account). One login to rule them all.
Before the 2017 release of SOLIDWORKS, getting your hands on a SOLIDWORKS trial was a bit of a hassle. First, it was only available to commercial users (and not students), and to obtain it, you would have to fill in an online form and await someone to contact you and provide you with a download link.
Online trials are back for the 2018 release, and once again, users of all levels (student or pro) can simply sign up and gain access to an online trial version. No more forms, no more waiting and no installation.
Because the trial requires no installation and works in your browser, you cannot open or save data to your own computer. If you want to experiment with your own data, you can read and write data using Dropbox, Box or Google Drive. Note that any files you create will be deleted from the evaluation system after you close the evaluation session.
On the trial website, it states that once you have purchased the software, you will need to install the full version on your computer. At time of writing, SOLIDWORKS tools are not offered through the browser platform—it is limited to free evaluations and trials only.
But is this the shape of things to come? In the future, will we be able to access SOLIDWORKS via a browser, on any machine, and have all of your files accessible through the cloud? This is the second release of SOLIDWORKS that has had a browser-accessible trial … is there a full cloud-based version on the horizon? I guess we will have to wait and see. The company has been promising a frame-based online version since 2016…a fully functional browser-based version has yet to materialize.
So if you are interested in an online trial, just click on this link and sign up—you can see some of the new improvements for yourself. Personally, I’m looking forward to trying the topology optimization features! No doubt we will cover that in greater detail in another article. Ciao for now!