Customize SolidWorks for Efficiency

8 May, 2011 By: Bill Hall

Solid Thinking Tutorial: You can implement these simple adjustments quickly, and start seeing the benefits immediately.

Editor's note: This tutorial courtesy of SolidWorks.

When I consider customization as it relates to SolidWorks, I always look for the "low-hanging fruit." By that I mean performing the customization tasks that take very little time to implement, pay dividends immediately, and enable typical day-to-day functions to be performed more efficiently.

We shall begin our customization efforts in the way of templates. We use these whenever we begin a part file, assembly, or drawing. All of the document properties are included in this file.

Go to Tools > Options and alter the Document Properties settings as desired. Save these as special file types: part templates (*.prtdot), assembly templates (*.asmdot), and drawing templates (*.drwdot). Organize the templates in a common folder (often, this is a location on a server that everyone can access). The path to this folder should then be defined. Do this by going to Tools > Options and altering System Options > File Locations; set the path for the document templates here. This will create a custom template tab, as seen below, which will be available when we begin a file.


The power of customized part templates is often overlooked. There can be huge benefits in using these to define "starter parts." Notice the welded structure preview in the image above; this template has been saved with an actual model in it. With these in place, we can start a new part, select a starter part template, edit the dimensional or feature values, and save it as a brand-new part. Creating a design table (Excel spreadsheet) inside this document can be useful as well. Once we define this level of customization, it is not only quicker to get started in a SolidWorks file, it also adds standardization from one file to the next.

Let's move along to the next area of customization, the interface. There are several areas here that we can adjust to really enhance the efficiencies of SolidWorks.

Toolbars have been a convenient way to manage commands for some time. However, the introduction of the patented technology known as the Command Manager has added a whole new level of control. In the following picture, you will see the Command Manager with many of the tabs activated. A simple right mouse button (RMB) click on one of the tabs will enable us to show and hide whichever tabs we need for the tasks at hand. For example, if you do not plan on using the mold tools today, turn that tab off.

The visibility of the Command Manager is controlled by using the drop-down menu Tools > Customize. With the Toolbar tab active, you can put a check in the box labeled "Enable Command Manager" to activate it. In this area you can also select to turn off the large buttons with text option, and create a much smaller width of the Command Manager once you are familiar with the icons.

Once we have the Customize dialog box open, there are several tabs available for customizing. Toolbars can be turned on and off from the designated tab. The Commands tab (below right) allows us to choose a category such as Features. This exposes the icons/commands that we can simply drag with the left mouse button anywhere in the Command Manager or any toolbar that we wish. These commands are then instantly available.


The Mouse Gestures tab is fully customizable as well. This tool is activated by selecting the RMB in any environment and slightly dragging in a specific direction. Upon doing this we will see this menu appear:

Moving over the image and releasing the button activates the command. Part, Assembly, Sketches, and Drawings are each a separate environment that will bring up its own custom Mouse Gesture menu. We can make modifications to Menus, Options, and even Keyboard Shortcuts here as well.

A real time-saver is the context-sensitive menu that is activated by hitting the S key on the keyboard. As is the case with the Mouse Gestures, a different menu presents itself depending upon the environment we are in. This menu is also fully capable of accepting the icons/commands to be dragged in as mentioned previously during customization. An RMB click on the gray area shown here is another fast way to get to Customize.

So many of the interface options we have discussed allow us to access commands more quickly and easily than ever before, and greatly reduce the amount of travel required for the mouse.

The last area I will discuss is the Design Library, which resides on the right side of the screen and allows us to control access to common folders or locations on a server. By clicking on the first icon/menu at the top, we can add items to existing libraries. The second icon/menu allows us to define a path to a local folder, or perhaps one that exists on a mapped drive or server.

After we go through these steps to customize, we can exit the software. At that moment the settings are written to the registry of the computer and are saved. To distribute these alterations to other machines, we can use the Copy Settings Wizard. Go to the Windows Start menu, and choose All Programs > SolidWorks 2011 > SolidWorks Tools > Copy Settings Wizard. Once this file (*.sldreg) is created, it can be copied to another machine, and a simple double-click on that file will duplicate all the settings.

Good luck customizing, and enjoy the efficiencies you gain from doing so.

About the Author: Bill Hall

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