SolidWorks 2008 is Here! (Solid Thinking SolidWorks Tutorial)

31 Aug, 2007 By: Richard Doyle

New interface changes save you time.

The latest release from SolidWorks, SolidWorks 2008, brings some terrific interface changes to the table. In this month's "Solid Thinking," the first in a series of SolidWorks 2008 articles, I'll look at some of the productivity enhancements that are a result of those changes.

The Menu Bar
The first changes you will notice are the standard menu bars. Cleverly displayed, the menu bars serve as both standard toolbars and a set of menus for accessing other commands. The standard toolbar is shown by default, but if you hover over or select the SolidWorks icon, the toolbar changes to show the drop-down menu interface, exposing standard commands such as File, Edit, and View. You can also now pin the menu bars in place.

The standard toolbar.

Menu bar menus.

A menu bar pinned in place.

The CommandManager was overhauled in SolidWorks 2008, and it now uses tabs that let you control how commands display. The tabs are shown based on the type of document you are working with or the workflow customization you chose. You can customize the new CommandManager in several ways:

  • adding, modifying, or hiding custom tabs
  • adding tool buttons
  • changing the display of tool button text

SolidWork's new CommandManager.

It's easy to add a custom tab to the CommandManager. With a document open, right-click on the CommandManager tab and select Customize CommandManager. A new tab appears (see below).

It's easy to add a new tab with the CommandManager.

With the Customize dialog box open, right-click the new tab and select Rename Tab, and type in a new name (My Tab, for example). Next, click the Commands tab in the Customize dialog box and drag buttons to the newly created CommandManager tab. The checkmarks next to each tab name let you hide a tab simply by deselecting it.

My custom tab.

Other CommandManager options include grouping tool buttons, showing or hiding button text, and deleting individual tool buttons.

Context Toolbars
My favorite interface addition is context toolbars. These context-sensitive toolbars provide instant access to frequently used commands, depending on the type of document or the actions that you are performing. The tools in each context toolbar are a subset of shortcut items previously found in right-mouse button (RMB) menus -- FYI, you can still right-click to see additional shortcut items. To use the context toolbars, left-click on a part in an assembly (in the graphics area or the Feature Manager Design tree), a feature, face or edge in a part document, or a sketch (again, in the graphics area or Feature Manager). Depending on the selection, a semi-transparent menu appears. As soon as you move your cursor over the menu, context-sensitive commands are available.

The context toolbar in an assembly.

With a part selected as shown above, the context toolbar provides access to commands such as Open Part or Edit Part, Hide, Suppress, or Change Transparency; even Edit Feature and Edit Sketch are available. Simply select a button and immediately perform the command. The next figure shows the same part selected from the Feature Manager. Notice that some commands such as Edit Feature and Edit Sketch are not displayed. This is because an individual feature was not selected.

A part selected from the Feature Manager.

Context toolbars save countless mouse clicks, as well as time that you used to spend scrolling through RMB menus.

Shortcut Bars
Last, but not least, SolidWorks 2008 introduces a customizable shortcut bar. This new toolbar lets you create your own set of noncontext commands in each of the following modes:

  • part
  • assembly
  • drawing
  • sketch
You display these toolbars by pressing a user-definable keyboard shortcut (the default is S). The shortcut bar is fully customizable, so you can add your own set of commonly used commands.

An example of a shortcut bar created for assembly mode.

To customize your own shortcut bar, press the S key (or the keyboard shortcut you assigned) to display it in the graphics area. Right-click the shortcut bar and select Customize. From the Customize dialog box, select the Commands tab and drag the desired buttons to your shortcut bar. With the Customize dialog box open, you can also remove buttons by dragging them from the shortcut bar or resize the shortcut bar by moving your cursor over the edge and dragging it.

The interface changes in SolidWorks 2008 are designed to streamline your workflow and to allow full control over your SolidWorks desktop. Some of these changes might take some getting used to, but give them a chance and you'll find that they will save you time.

About the Author: Richard Doyle

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