A few weeks ago, I was teaching an advanced class with some skilled users. Most of the things we covered in the book material they had seen or used before without much surprise. As we continued through the class, I wanted to make sure there was a value added to the course, so I gave them some productivity tool tips that they might not have seen before. As I caught them writing every single tip down, it was clear I had just blown their minds. Digging into SOLIDWORKS, there are features that everyone knows because it’s visually on the interface, but certain tools are hidden and underutilized. The users had never seen these before (for the most part) and instantly knew it was going to help them out. Here are some of the cool and useful tools I shared with my class, and will hopefully make your modeling life much easier.
1. Search Commands
This is easily one of my most favorite tools within SOLIDWORKS because I hate remembering where things are located, especially if it is something that I rarely use. Using the search tool within the top right hand corner of the interface, we can search through all features, tools, hide/show menus, etc.
The Search Commands tool works well when you are not entirely sure where a specific tool is located. Note, when SOLIDWORKS is installed, it defaults to searching the “Help” page, so we need to change that for command searching. Click the arrow off to the right and change the search to “Commands”; it will now search for commands all the time. Also, if you hit “S” on your keyboard, it will change the search type to Commands.
As you click in the box and begin typing, this will start the search. You can also click on “W” or “S” on your keyboard and it will automatically allow you to begin searching within the menu. One of the coolest features about using the search tool is that if you click on the glasses next to the command, it will show the command location within the menus, and even move your cursor to the exact tool.
The other super useful interface feature is that you can drag and drop the searched command onto your command manager. If you use that command a lot, it is recommended to add it to your ribbon so you don’t have to keep searching for it. We talk more about this more in 3 Tricks to a Custom SOLIDWORKS Interface.
2. Mouse Gestures
The Mouse Gestures functionality is easily a top favorite for blowing users’ minds. Mouse Gestures are a customizable tool that allows you to easily save your most used commands to a mouse motion. To activate it, you will hold down on your right mouse button and move the mouse slightly in any direction. This will then display the Mouse Gestures pop-up and allow you to “drag through” the command you want.
For example, I have just drawn some geometry and need to dimension it. By default, if I hold the right click button and drag up, I will select the Smart Dimension command. Make sure to drag through the highlighted circle to select the command you want.
You can see it highlights the command that I am going towards when I right click and move my mouse. After sketching my geometry I can be within the Smart Dimension tool in a flash.
From the Customize menu, you can specify which commands you want to have quick access to on your Mouse Gestures. You can pick between 4 or 8 gestures, and each selection is specific to whether you are in a Part, Assembly, Drawing or Sketch.
Take note, the “Show only commands with mouse gestures assigned” option will show only the commands that are currently assigned to the gestures with the default settings. If you want to assign a specific command, you can search for it as well, located right below the previous option.
3. Heads up View Toolbar
Now this isn’t a new thing for users, mostly because it is located in the top of the graphics window and can’t be missed. However, the fact that it is customizable is my tip. If you look closely, you will see that I have added the Normal To, Measure, and Isometric commands to my interface.
I am not a big user of the keyboard shortcuts, because I’d have to remember each shortcut key. However, with this technique, my command is always there and easily accessible, without having to fumble through any additional menus. To add the Normal To command, for example, go into your customize menu and find the “Shortcut Bars” tab. Within the Toolbar menu, drop down to “Standard Views” and drag the Normal To command into the Heads Up View Toolbar. Simple as that! Check it out below.
Let me know what you think of these tools and stay tuned for Part 2 to see what other tools I have up my sleeve.