Working with the Task Pane

15 Aug, 2004 By: Greg Jankowski

SolidWorks' Task Pane is an intelligent interface that helps you work with a number of different resources at once.

Figure 1. SolidWorks Resources pane.
Often when working on a design, you need to access several sources of information, which could include models, part libraries, annotations, and so forth. The SolidWorks Task Pane is an interface that lets you do all this and more.

Content Sources
Within the Task Pane are three main panes: SolidWorks Resources, File Explorer, and Design Library.

SolidWorks Resources
The SolidWorks Resources pane (figure 1) has links to create a new document (part, assembly, or drawing), open a document, and access online tutorials and the What's New guide. Another section has links to other SolidWorks-related Web sites (for example, SolidWorks' discussion forum, subscription support, SolidWorks partners, the Manufacturing Network, and Print 3D sites). A Tip of the Day also appears at the bottom of this pane.

File Explorer
The SolidWorks File Explorer pane (figure 2) contains links to various document locations and the PDMWorks vault and local workspace, if PDMWorks is installed. Figure 2 show this pane with the PDMWorks client turned on.

Figure 2. File Explorer pane.

Set the items that appear in the File Explorer using the Tools/Options/File Explorer dialog box, as shown in figure 3. The other factor that will change what's shown is whether PDMWorks has been selected as an add-on, as shown in figure 2.

Figure 3. File Explorer option settings.

Design Library

Figure 4. Design Library pane.
The SolidWorks Design Library (figure 4) combines many different content functions- Toolbox, Library Features, Feature Palette, and 3D ContentCentral-into one interface. Toolbox is an add-on that offers a set of standard components and fasteners. The Design Library and Palettes (parts, forming tools, assemblies, and features) offer a similar set of components and features. Review how your organization currently uses the Feature Palette and Library Features and incorporate them into the Design Library.

The Design Library can store parts, assemblies, features, and annotations. Take a look at what types are often used and could be considered standards within your organization. You can use the Design Library to store and share these standard design components. One additional criterion I use to help determine whether an item belongs in the Design Library or with the regular design document (PDM Vault) is whether your organization has design control over the item. If it's a part your organization has designed and needs to maintain design history, it may not be a good choice for the Design Library. If the component is a purchased part or standard feature or annotation, it's a good candidate for the Design Library.

Another important aspect of the Design Library is the ability to share its information with others within your organization. A common location on a network-accessible drive should be created and made read-only to users. This way there won't be accidental changes or deletions of the standard components.

To share the Design Library with others, start by reviewing and combining your existing content into functionally grouped folders on the shared network drive. Then make sure these folders are listed in the Tools/Options/File Location/Design Library option settings.

This structure can be simplified or added to by right-clicking one of the folders (figure 5). This lets you customize the Design Library's structure.

Figure 5. Removing a folder.

Navigating within the Task Pane
The Task Pane has several tabs on the left side that can open different content areas and expand or collapse the panes. When you open

Figure 6. Task Pane tabs.
SolidWorks, the Task Pane appears open to the last tabs used. The first time SolidWorks opens, the Resources pane (tab A in figure 2) appears.

When SolidWorks starts up, the Task Pane opens. It's also intelligent-it minimizes when not in use. In addition, when you make a selection within the graphics windows, the Task Pane minimizes. This eliminates the need to manually close it to regain the window real estate. Conversely, you can keep the Task Pane active all the time by using a pushbutton that appears on each pane. These features make working with the Task Pane easier and help you make better use of your screen area.

Pane View
The SolidWorks Task Pane is a single intelligent interface to several different sources of information and references. Take time to define the items you use often and make them available to all users through a shared read-only network location.

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