Technical Tip: SolidWorks CommandManager

This blog post is the third in a series of technical tips about the SolidWorks User Interface. Call the series "Everything you wanted to know about —–, but were afraid to ask". The first few posts will be about the various types of toolbars available in the system. This post is about the SolidWorks CommandManager.

The CommandManager

The CommandManager was originally introduced in SolidWorks 2004 and was enhanced in SolidWorks 2008 and 2009. It originally was a "super toolbar" where you could simply choose as many normal toolbars as you wanted to be grouped into this super toolbar, so multiple toolbars could occupy the same space. You chose buttons in the "control area" of the CommandManager to indicate which normal toolbar you wanted to be active.

The main goal of the CommandManager was to allow access to many toolbars without taking up a lot of screen real estate since we know many users want as much space for their model as possible. It is obviously a tradeoff between space and mouse clicks, but we built some "smarts" into it so it would automatically switch the active toolbar when appropriate (like when going into or coming out of Sketch mode).

The CommandManager has now evolved into a tabbed container of toolbar buttons. It is similar to the Microsoft "Ribbon Bar" released with Office 2007, but is much more customizable and does not completely replace the menus. The user can make as many tabs as they like and put toolbar buttons and separators of their choosing on each tab. The CommandManager has three separate user customizable definitions (part, assemblies and drawings). There is also a "special" user customizable definition of buttons that shows up at the left side of the CommandManager when the user is in Edit Part in Assembly mode. Below is a picture of the current CommandManager:

CM.gif

Some users use the CommandManager for their most commonly used toolbars while others use it for their least commonly used toolbars (and use regular toolbars or other methods for more direct access with less clicks).

Below is a list of other behaviors that are available with the CommandManager:

  • You navigate between the tabs of the CommandManager by selecting the desired tab OR scrolling your mouse wheel when your mouse is over the CommandManager.
  • You can make the CommandManager a lot smaller by unselecting "Use Large Buttons with Text" (through Tools, Customize, Toolbars or right mouse button shortcut menu on the application/toolbar frame). This turns the text off and makes it about the size of a regular toolbar, with the addition of the tabs. Note that it is intended that the icon size itself is linked to the "Large icons" option in Tools, Customize, Toolbars and not controlled by the "Use Large Buttons with Text" option. This option was originally called "Show Descriptions" but users didn't seem to find that option and always asked "how do I turn off the large buttons" so we renamed the option to be more discoverable. The presence of the text is what makes the buttons large, not the icon size. Below is a picture of the CommandManager with the text turned off:

CM2.gif

  • Most customization of the CommandManager is done when the Tools, Customize, Commands dialog is up, similar to customizing regular toolbars. Below are the things you can do while in customize mode.
    • Add an empty tab by clicking on the tab with the new tab icon on it (shown below) or by selecting Add Tab, Empty Tab from the right mouse shortcut menu on one of the existing tabs. If using the shortcut menu, the new tab is added after the tab where you used the shortcut menu.

                    CM-new.gif

  • Add a new tab pre-populated with all of the buttons from an existing toolbar by selecting Add Tab, <toolbar name> from the right mouse shortcut menu on one of the existing tabs.
  • Copy the definition of a tab from one document type definition (part, assembly, or drawing) to another by selecting Copy Tab to <document type> from the right mouse shortcut menu on one of the existing tabs. If the tab already exists in the target document type, it will ask you if you would like to over-write the definition.
  • Delete a user added tab by selecting Delete from the right mouse shortcut menu on one of the user added tabs. You cannot delete the tabs that are defined by default in the SolidWorks installation.
  • Rename a user added tab by selecting Rename Tab from the right mouse shortcut menu on one of the user added tabs.
  • Hide a tab by selecting Hide Tab from the right mouse shortcut menu on one of the existing tabs. Show a hidden tab (shown grayed in customize mode) by selecting Show Tab from the right mouse shortcut menu on one of the existing tabs. Note that you can also hide/show tabs when not in customize mode; simply select the name of the tab you want to hide/show from the right mouse shortcut menu when over any of the tabs.
  • Add buttons to a tab by dragging them from the Tools, Customize, Commands dialog onto the tab. When using "Use large buttons with text" mode, the default size/shape of the button is dictated by the adjacent button and you can tell what you will get by the "I" beam shape of where the button is dropped.
  • Remove a button by dragging it off of the tab or selecting Delete from the right mouse shortcut menu while over the button.
  • Change the "size/shape" of a button while using "Use large buttons with text" mode by choosing options from the right mouse shortcut menu while over the button. There are three different button sizes/shapes: without text, with text on the right, and with text below. The text below option is only available when the CommandManager is docked along the top of the SolidWorks window; text on the right is the only text option when the CommandManager is docked on the left, right, or undocked.
  • Add a separator before a button by selecting "Begin a Group" from the right mouse shortcut menu while over the button. A separator can be turned off by unselecting this option on the button that is just after the separator.
  • When you turn the CommandManager off (through Tools, Customize, Toolbars or right mouse button shortcut menu on the application/toolbar frame), SolidWorks automatically shows the regular toolbars equivalentto the visible tabs. This behavior was originally put in with SolidWorks 2004 when we wanted an easy way for users to turn off the CommandManager and get the equivalent regular toolbars (which was the default setup out of the box before the CommandManager was introduced). Now that we have other preferred methods to access commands such as the Shortcut Bar, we may want to take this behavior out to save users from having to go back and hide the regular toolbars after turning off the CommandManager.
  • Starting with SolidWorks 2009, you can dock the CommandManager on the top, left or right of the SolidWorks application or have it undocked. Simply drag anywhere on the CommandManager to move it, and to dock it, drop it on one of the three icons showing the possible docking locations. To have it floating/undocked, simply drop it anywhere in "space". The icons are used for docking as it becomes too difficult to get such a large piece of UI into a desirable floating position if the entire top, left and right of the application window are dockable locations.
  • Starting with SolidWorks 2009, you can dock regular toolbars adjacent to the CommandManager. Simply drag them to the right of the CommandManager if docked on top or below the CommandManager if docked on the left or right.
  • If users see anything I have missed about the CommandManager in this blog post, please comment and I will try to update the blog.

    The next few topics in the series about toolbars will be:

    • The Heads-Up View Toolbar
    • Toolbar Flyouts
    • The Shortcut Bar ('S' key)
    • Context Toolbars

    Enjoy,
    Wilkie

    Jim Wilkinson

    • braden75@gmail.com

      I’m a big fan of the shortcut toolbar… so efficient.

    • Jon

      How do you rest the command manager back to its default?

    • http://profile.typepad.com/jwilkie Wilkie

      Jon, I am not sure what uou mean by “rest” it back to its default. There is no way to completely reset it with one button push. You can reverse various customizations by doingthe opposite customizations. If you mean putting it back along the top if you have moved it, simply drag it and drop it on the icon that appears in the top middle of the graphics area and it will re-dock it to the top.
      Thanks,
      Wilkie

    • brent

      Nice article about the command manager. Useful for those who haven’t memorised any keyboard shortcuts. I personally don’t use it. I went for months without seeing the command manager, and then I accidentally turned it on. Every morning now when I sign in I have to manually close it down again. I forget what I did to make it go away for good – is there a setting somewhere that you know of?