Slider controls have long existed in SolidWorks as an quick and intuitive way to “dial in” to an approximate value without having to type in a number. But what if the value that can be inputted could be an infinite value? Sliders only have a limited range. New to SolidWorks 2007 is the introduction of thumbwheel controls. Remember the volume dial on the side of a transistor radio and how easy and accessible they were. This is essentially what SolidWorks thumbwheel controls emulate.
Thumbwheel controls exist in many areas of SolidWorks where there needs to be the adjustment of a potentially infinite number. The first area that a user new to SolidWorks 2007 will see them is in the dimension dialog box. The thumbwheel lets you adjust the dimension value by clicking and dragging the cursor to the left over the control to decrease the number and to the right to increase the number. All the while, your geometry will dynamically change as you drag the wheel.
What is really cool about these thumbwheels are the accelerator and de-accelerator keys that are associated with the thumbwheel. If you click and drag the thumbwheel while holding down the <cntrl> key you get 10x the acceleration of the wheel. If you hold down the <Alt> key while dragging the thumbwheel you get 1/10th the normal acceleration.
Thumbwheels are also very useful in many of the property managers of SolidWorks features. For instance, in the new FreeForm feature, when pulling on the control points of a FreeForm face, you can fine-tune the change by simply going over to the corresponding vector in the FreeForm property manager and drag the wheel to get very precise adjustment. This is especially useful when you are modifying the FreeForm face and you have curvature combs displayed and are trying to get a smoother rate of curvature through incremental adjustment.