SOLIDWORKS Add-In Basics For Stepping From Workgroup PDM To PDM

Stepping From WPDM To PDM – A Few SOLIDWORKS Add-In BasicsWith the retirement of Workgroup PDM (WPDM) on the horizon, many sites have already made the transition from WPDM to SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional or PDM Standard. After the dust has cleared, and the users sit down to work what should one expect? How might the experiences differ?

Note: Due to PDM being renamed in the 2016 release, within the scope of this technical tip where you see “Enterprise PDM” just think PDM Professional/PDM Standard, which for simplicity’s sake, we’ll call PDM.

Below I’ll detail a few of the basic differences between the SOLIDWORKS add-in for PDM vs. the SOLIDWORKS Add-in for WPDM. And I’ll also answer the question that some new users to PDM have been asking lately:

I just moved from Workgroup to PDM - Dude, Where's My Vault?!

But first, let’s take a quick look at the startup process.

SOLIDWORKS Start Up (Same) & Logging Into The Vault (Different)

Workgroup PDM

When starting up SOLIDWORKS, depending on your how your add-ins are configured, the WPDM add-in will load during startup.

Workgroup PDM Add-In Load During StartupIf you do not have your vault login password saved by the system, you will be prompted to log into your WPDM vault. Otherwise you will be logged into the vault automatically.

Workgroup PDM Add-In Load During Startup


When starting up SOLIDWORKS, depending on your how your add-ins are configured, the PDM add-in will load during startup. At this time you are not necessarily prompted to log into the vault. You might not even be automatically logged into the vault.

Depending on your add-in configuration the PDM add-in will load during startup.

PDM does not log a user into the vault until an attempt to access the vault is made. So unless something during startup needs access to the vault, you’re not logged in.

The Blueberry Tab In The Task Pane: What Does It Really Mean? (Different!)

Both add-ins add a new tab to the SOLIDWORKS task pane. While the icon looks similar, the function is very different. Upon first glance, it looks like something is very wrong: The PDM tab shows no files. But this is expected behavior.

The Blueberry Tab In Workgroup PDM The Blueberry Tab In PDM
The Blueberry Tab In Workgroup PDM The Blueberry Tab In PDM
The title of this pane will differ for PDM 2016

Note the title of the task pane. The blueberry made by the WPDM add-in is actually a change to the existing File Explorer. The blueberry in the PDM add-in is actually a new special Vault pane. If you want to see the File Explorer when the PDM add-in is enabled, simply click on the file folder icon in the tabbed list. Once you click it if you are not already logged into the PDM vault, this is when you might be prompted or logged in automatically.


Once you login, the File Explorer pane populates and suddenly looks more familiar. It actually looks just like the File Explorer pane in SOLIDWORKS when no vault add-in is enabled.

The Folder Tab (File Explorer) In PDM The Folder Tab (File Explorer) With No Vault Add-Ins
  The Folder Tab (File Explorer) In PDM The Folder Tab (File Explorer) With No Vault Add-Ins

So what is the Blueberry in the PDM vault add-in for? How do you get anything to show up there? Easy; open up a file in SOLIDWORKS.

This pane displays details of files that are currently open in SOLIDWORKS. For example, if the file in memory is equal, older, or newer than the latest vaulted version. It also allows one to check files in and out, to transition files, to display file data cards, and to perform other functions. There’s a whole lot of functionality packed into there.


There’s too much to cover in this basics tech tip. Just know this is where a lot of the cool stuff is, and to see files in this tab something must be open in SOLIDWORKS.

But now we’ll take a quick step away from the visible interface, and shift our attention to an important behind the scenes difference.

Cached Files (Different): Default Save In Folder vs. Local Cache

One of the major benefits of working with a vaulting system is the ability to share files over a network, while not actually opening files over the network. Vaulting systems enable this by keeping the source copy of a file safely tucked away, often on a network server, and creating a carefully controlled local copy of the file for the client to access for editing or viewing. This local copy is known as the cached copy.

One big difference between Workgroup PDM and PDM is where this cached copy is stored.

Workgroup PDM Save In Folders

To see the settings for the WPDM “save in folders” one has to go into SOLIDWORKS Workgroup PDM Options… settings. To get there right click in the lower part of the File Explorer pane and select SOLIDWORKS Workgroup PDM Options…

Workgroup PDM Saves In Folders

This selection brings up the options dialogue. Click on the Folders tab to see the default save in folder.

Save In Folder

In the case of the settings above, SOLIDWORKS files that are copied out of the vault are stored in a consistent directory (D:\WPDM\WorkingDir) as opposed to using the local folder that SOLIDWORKS most recently accessed. All files opened from the vault are copied locally for reading and editing. Note that if you open an assembly in a WPDM vault, and within that vault the parts of the assembly are located in different Project folders, the local cache will put all of those files in the same folder on the local machine. For the setting above (which is the most straightforward) there is no retention of directory structure on the local machine.


For a PDM vault there is no setting in SOLIDWORKS to define. All local cache sits in the user’s local vault view. The local vault view looks pretty much any other windows folder, with a few extra bells and whistles.

PDM Local Cache

Once again, reviewing all the cool stuff here is out of scope for this post. The main take away is unlike WPDM, where the vault cache is all thrown into one directory or possibly spread out amongst directories that might be hard to identify, the PDM local cache looks like a windows directory, complete with subdirectories.

And So Much More

There is a bit more to it, a lot more actually. Ownership vs Checked out, search capabilities, and so many additional features. The above was just stepping over the threshold.

I know change can be hard when you don’t know what’s on the horizon. If it helps, I’ve had the opportunity to see both sides of this. Prior to working for CAPINC I had the pleasure (and challenge!) of maintaining a WPDM vault, as part of managing the Document Control staff. I enjoyed working with WPDM. It’s a great product, but it does have its limitations. I’ve been at CAPINC now for about 5 years now, supporting PDM Professional. It’s a better product. It can be as simple as you need it to be, and it can grow when your company is ready to do more.

To quote Douglas Adams: “Don’t Panic.” Jump in, the water really is fine. If you have a question, call or email us. And before you know it, you won’t know how you ever managed without PDM.

CAPINC was founded on one core principle: Provide the best solutions and services to assist our customers in designing and developing better products. CAPINC provides premier solutions and services in New England to assist our customers in accelerating their design and development process for better mechanical products. Our award winning technical support team is comprised of industry experts with hundreds of years of combined practical experience in mechanical design, design validation and analysis, product data management, and technical communication. We are the award winning 3D solutions partner offering SolidWorks software and training, and the entire Stratasys line of 3D printers and production systems. For more tech tips and blog tutorials check out CAPINC's blog and videos.