When projects are created in SOLIDWORKS, the files are often saved in a convenient location, but without any defined folder structure. It is not until the project becomes extensive that users decide to go through the model files to better organize them. A user may want to move model files to new folders, change the names to something more meaningful, or replace an older component with a newer version.
If these changes are done through the standard Windows Explorer, errors and warnings will appear when the SOLIDWORKS documents are opened. A common error indicates that files cannot be found, such as the error window below:
Once an assembly is opened, the design tree is filled with warnings and errors. Several parts are grayed out, and components in assemblies are missing. Likewise, drawings can have missing references and missing components.
So. . . . What happened?
SOLIDWORKS files maintain their associativity via external references. These external references link files together. These references are what allow SOLIDWORKS files to be fully associative, so all files update when a change is made. When a file is renamed or moved inside of Windows Explorer only, these references can no longer find the information they require to open the parts and components. These references need to be managed and handled properly to keep them intact.
SOLIDWORKS includes a great tool available in every version called SOLIDWORKS Explorer. This tool automatically installs and creates a desktop shortcut for easy access. SOLIDWORKS Explorer gives the user the ability to make these common types of changes to SOLIDWORKS files while maintaining the references.
SOLIDWORKS Explorer Interface
Once SOLIDWORKS Explorer is opened, the user will see the interface given below:
The main components of the SOLIDWORKS Explorer layout are labeled above.
File Explorer – The file explorer panel displays the folder structure of the computer hard drives. This is the same structure seen in your Windows interface.
- Search Assistant – The search assistant allows for easy searches for specific files in the system. The search assistance will also allow searches through 3D Content Central.
- Toolbar – The Toolbar section provides functionality for refreshing explorer previews, save items in ‘File Attributes’ as a TXT or CSV file type, and customize SOLIDWORKS Explorer settings.
- Property Tabs – These tabs provide information about parts and assemblies files as well as lists of references that are associated with the components.
- Info – Gives generic information about the selected file
- Properties – Add or modify customer properties in SOLIDWORKS documents
- References – Lists the references for any part, assembly, or drawing
- Where Used – Lists the disk locations where a specific part or assembly is used
- Configurations – Lists all configurations in a part or assembly. Allows the user to rename or delete configurations and the references will update.
- Hyperlinks – Allow the user to edit hyperlinks in a selected document
- View – Displays the selected part, assembly, or drawing using eDrawings. The user can see, pan, zoom, and rotate parts and assemblies in a 3D environment without opening the document in SOLIDWORKS.
- Preview Window – This window will show a 2D image of the selected file. The exception is when the ‘View’ tab is selected where a 3D eDrawings preview is displayed.
- File Attributes – This section will provide listed information about the selected document. The information displayed will update depending on which ‘Property Tab’ is selected.
Managing and Changing Files
When information regarding a file needs to be changed, click on a part or assembly file from the ‘SOLIDWORKS File Explorer’ to receive a fly-out toolbar with management options.
- Open the selected file in SOLIDWORKS
- Create a Pack and Go
- Rename the SOLIDWORKS file and update the name in all locations where the file is used
- Replace a component in an assembly with another component
- Move a SOLIDWORKS file to a new folder and update where the file is used
Choose which type of change to make to the selected SOLIDWORKS files. A dialogue window similar to the example below will allow the user to make changes to the name, file location, or component. In this window, verify which references are being updated, choose which references to update, and include virtual components.
By using the SOLIDWORKS Explorer tool, any user has the flexibility to rename, move, copy, or replace components while maintaining the external references and updating where each part is used.