Understanding the CommandManager

1 Sep, 2003 By: Greg Jankowski

One of my new favorites in SolidWorks 2004 is the CommandManager feature that's in the User Interface (UI). The CommandManager is a smart toolbar that offers a simplified UI. There are a number of other changes in SolidWorks 2004 that also help to streamline the UI. Instead of having toolbars on the top, right, and left sides of the UI, you can place the standard toolbars (Save, View, and so on) and the CommandManager at the top of the screen and eliminate toolbars being scattered across different areas of the screen.

The CommandManager helps to address the following UI issues:

  • Too Many Icons on the Screen. When you are performing a task, only the commands that are applicable will be shown, helping to improve the usability of the system and allowing for a larger graphics area.
  • Process Simplification. Only necessary icons are displayed for the current work requirements.
  • Minimize Mouse Movements. Users can move more efficiently across the screen space as the CommandManager is set at the top with the standard icons, the PropertyManager and FeatureManager are at the left side, and the rest of the screen is available for the graphics window.
  • Minimize the Number of Picks Needed to Perform a Task. There are a number of enhancements to the work flow of the commands that eliminate extra mouse clicks and make the commands more user-friendly.

Out of the box SolidWorks 2004 will display the CommandManager, as shown in Figure 1. My personal preference is to turn off the CommandManager description and use large icons. To turn its text on or off, place the cursor over the CommandManager, press the right mouse button, and select Show Description. The user interface can be used as you might have in previous versions of SolidWorks by turning off the CommandManager.

Figure 1. Here you can see the SolidWorks CommandManager, as it appears in vanilla SolidWorks.

One of the key reasons the CommandManager works so well is because this version of SolidWorks is less dependant on pre- and post-selection and on whether sketches used by a feature are created before selection or on the fly.

Fly Outs

Another feature that makes the CommandManager an effective tool is its fly-out menus. The example shown in Figure 2 is the Standard View fly-out. By using the fly-out menu, all the standard view functions can be accessed with one icon. This takes up minimal space within the UI and allows for easy access. Otherwise, you would have to drill down into the View menu or take up considerable space within the UI.

Another area in which fly-out menus are used is on the left side of the CommandManager. The difference here is that the button and down arrow behave differently when the fly-outs are on the left side of the CommandManager. If you select the icon, the icons that are within that toolbar are displayed. When the down arrow is selected, the toolbars will appear and the selected function will be activated.

As with previous versions of SolidWorks, the CommandManager's look and feel is document specific. This means if you open a part, assembly, or drawing, the CommandManager will display a different set of icons. This makes sense as the functions used on a drawing differ from those used on a part or assembly. Again, this helps keep the UI simple and clean. If commands do not apply to the current document or function you are using, they will not be shown.

Figure 2. The Standard View Fly-Out menu allows you to access all of the basic functions of SolidWorks through one icon.

One difference from previous SolidWorks versions is the appearance of a special toolbar when you are editing a part in context of its assembly. This special features toolbar appears with some additional functions that are useful when editing a part in context of its assembly.

The CommandManager also has vertical market, process-focused toolbars that have process-focused functions within them. Toolbars for the process-focused functions can be added to an existing toolbar or to the left side of the CommandManager. To customize the CommandManager, press the right mouse button over the icons and select Customize CommandManager. This can be used to add other function sets (for example sheet metal, molds, weldments) to the CommandManager. To add icons to the existing toolbars, select Customize from the View/Toolbars pulldown menu.

Additionally, the context of the CommandManager is stored within the document. So, when you open the document, the CommandManager recalls the context used to last edit the document. This can be useful for process-specific documents (sheet metal, weldments), and this context can be defined and saved within a document template.

Other UI Features

A few additional UI changes exist that are worth noting. The first is the removal of pre- and post-selection requirements on many commands, as mentioned previously. If SolidWorks needs a sketch to create a feature, you can select or create the sketch after the Extrude command is made active.

Second, Large tooltips display a more complete description of the function and what it requires. For example, in Figure 3, the tooltip for the centerpoint arc sketch entity gives a description of what the tool is and how to create tshe centerpoint arc.

Third, the Quick Tips guide shows how to perform tasks within SolidWorks while using the commands and is geared for the new SolidWorks user. For example, when you start SolidWorks, the Quick Tips window appears as shown in Figure 3. If you select one of the tasks, the Quick Tips will show you what icon to press to proceed. Once the first task has been selected, the Quick Tips window will display the next step, and so on.

Figure 3. Using large tooltips for the centerpoint arc sketch entity gives you a description of not only what the tools is but of how to create the centerpoint arc.


The changes to the UI for SolidWorks 2004, in particular the CommandManager, will make new and existing users more efficient as well as help to improve the learning curve for new users. If you are an existing user, try the CommandManager. You will find the experience enjoyable.

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