Book Review: SolidWorks 2007 Bible

11 Jul, 2007 By: Jeffrey Rowe

First edition succeeds as a comprehensive reference and learning source.

Although digital media such as online tutorials and PDFs are big these days, when it comes to learning and mastering MCAD products, a few good books are still produced. Too often, though, many MCAD books end up being just rehashes of the documentation that comes with the software. Also, MCAD books often tend to be written for specific groups or types of users, usually beginners. MCAD books that appeal to and are useful for a wide spectrum of users are relatively rare. A notable exception is a book I received recently titled SolidWorks 2007 Bible ($49.99, 1104 pages) by Matt Lombard, published by Wiley and aimed squarely at intermediate users.

I met Lombard for the first time during SolidWorks World 2007 earlier this year in New Orleans and was impressed by his demeanor and depth of SolidWorks knowledge. He is very involved in the SolidWorks user community and frequently speaks on a variety of topics at SolidWorks user group meetings around the country. He also maintains a blog called Matt Writes that includes an interesting mix of humor, tech tips, opinions, and observations. So, all in all, Matt is well qualified for writing a comprehensive book on SolidWorks.

What’s in the Book?
A book of this nature has to cover a lot of ground, and SolidWorks 2007 Bible, at more than 1,000 pages, does so in a well-organized manner with a useful table of contents and index, covering everything from the user interface to advanced functionality and a lot of features and capabilities in between. It’s written in a conversational tone that I found approachable without being too informal or flippant.

Lombard said he had to limit the book to basic SolidWorks functionality, without considering add-ins -- although, admittedly he does cover virtually all of the basics. However, he did cover SolidWorks’ Toolbox, because he thinks the Toolbox is a persistent source of heartburn for many users.

The book includes a CD that contains example and tutorial parts, assemblies, and drawings, as well as templates, macros, and tables for each chapter. Some of the part and assembly files are starting points for tutorials, and some are finished models for examination and study. If you make changes to the part and assembly files, you can use the Save As command to keep the original file intact.

The book is organized into the following main parts that most readers will find logical and useful because many topics covered later in the book build on topics already presented:

  • Introduction -- includes getting started with SolidWorks and working with the user interface; working with sketches; and creating simple parts, assemblies, and drawings. This part provides a good foundation for familiarizing users of all levels with SolidWorks and provides a solid context for the remainder of the book.
  • Parts -- using sketches to create parts; choosing feature types and mirroring and patterning them; using equations for creating relations between dimensions; and part configurations (variations of a part).
  • Assemblies -- how to organize assemblies; using mates; assembly configurations and display states; modeling in-context (a tricky topic); and using Library Features and Smart Components.
  • Drawings -- basics of automating drawings; working with drawing views annotations, symbols; layers, lines, fonts, and colors; and good dimensioning and tolerancing practices.
  • Advanced Topics -- including modeling multibodies and working with surfaces.
  • Specialty Topics -- sheet metal, weldments, and working with macros.
  • Reference Appendices -- implementing SolidWorks; tools and options settings; and Help sources.

I found some of the best information in the appendices, especially tools and options settings, because they can present some challenges of their own. And, although the book stops short of complex shape modeling, it does help with many applications of surfacing and multibody functionality in SolidWorks -- two topic areas that can be tough to convey, but Matt does a good job.

Is the book perfect? Well, no, but that’s OK because SolidWorks isn’t either. I like the author’s objectivity in his critical comments with regard to some of the software’s functionality -- it’s not bitter, just honest, and is shared through the experiences of other users. A few technical details are a bit foggy (mostly due to some slight inconsistencies in word usage), and a couple of files are missing on the CD, but the author has clarified and amended things, listed errata, and encourages readers to point out shortcomings -- all on his blog. All in all, Lombard did a commendable job for a first edition. The next time around, I'd like to see a PDF of the book as either a companion to the printed version or as a separate download. A thousand pages is a lot to carry around for anybody who travels much.

SolidWorks 2007 Bible is neither the first nor the only third-party book or educational resource about SolidWorks, but to date it is certainly the best printed one I have run across, largely because of the breadth and depth of its coverage. Although it doesn’t cover every aspect of SolidWorks (one book is simply not up to that task), it contains a wealth of information that nearly all SolidWorks users will find useful.

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