5 Must-Know Shortcuts for Fast Rendering Setups in SOLIDWORKS Visualize

There are few techniques as divisive as the keyboard short cut. It’s generally a “love it” or “hate it” kind of a tool. When I teach keyboard shortcuts, the average response is something along the lines of, “Bah.. I can never remember those things. Don’t waste your breath.”

I can certainly empathize with that attitude. I use a very wide variety of software packages for different purposes so it’s a full time job keeping track of the keyboard shortcuts for them all. I haven’t always been a keyboard shortcut user and I’m certainly not as serious as some people are. So, while it’s not the first thing I recommend people learn, it sure does boost your productivity once you start to get the hang of things. However, with seemingly a million shortcuts to choose from where do you start?

I use a good number of the keyboard shortcuts available in Visualize. So today, I’m going to share just 5 of them which I’ve found most helpful along the way. Of course, there are the standard Windows shortcuts that carry over (Save, New, Open, Undo, etc.) as well as the SOLIDWORKS mouse and keyboard controls, but in this session I’ll stick to the more obscure Visualize-specific shortcuts. Without further ado, drumroll please…

  1. Focal Length Quick Adjust

Alt + Middle Mouse Button Scroll

This is the first shortcut I fell in love with in Visualize. Having an organic way to change your camera’s focal length makes it incredibly easy to dial in how you want the shot to look. I can set a camera in seconds that used to take minutes. This means I’m efficient, but moreover, I can try more angles and not have to think about buttons and dials while doing it. I can purely work with the framing of the shot with a natural interaction. Simply hold down the Alt key while you’re working the scroll wheel on your mouse and instead of the camera dolly you would normally get, you’ll see a change in the perspective of the image instead. This is the equivalent of changing what lens you’ve got on your digital camera.

  1. Camera Look – At

Shift (or Ctrl) + Alt + Right Click

If there’s one thing that takes a little bit of adjustment when moving from SOLIDWORKS to Visualize, it might be the center of rotation on the cameras. SOLIDWORKS has an active algorithm that is constantly moving the center of rotation for you based your viewport settings and cursor location. This method is perfect when you’re modeling, but Visualize has a different purpose. Visualize is mimicking the way that we use a physical camera. That means we’re setting where the camera looks ourselves based on our needs for the shot. Sometimes I’ll “step away from the camera” by adding a second camera to move around my main camera. But often times that isn’t necessary. If I just want to move what my camera is looking at, a quick swipe of the keyboard and mouse will do the trick. Simply hold Control and Alt together and Right Click on the object you’d like to lock on to. Now your camera will look at and rotate about whatever location you’ve right clicked on.

Both Control and Shift will do this for you. The difference is Shift + Alt will not move your current camera view where Control + Alt will center the camera on your selection. This can be difficult to remember so you can either stick with your preference (I prefer Shift + Alt), or remember it by thinking that Control is the forceful one, it “controls” your camera. Shift is shifty and sneaky and will “shift” the point without you seeing a change.

  1. Smooth Dolly In/Out

Shift + Middle Mouse Button + Mouse Forward / Backwards

Have you ever gone to set up a camera and wanted to get right in between one click of the mouse wheel and the next? When it comes to setting up renderings, we often need to get the view just right to “get the shot”. Holding the Shift key down, press the Middle Mouse Button (instead of scrolling as you normally would), and move the mouse itself forward and backwards. You should now get a buttery-smooth motion of the camera in and out.

  1. Copy and Paste Appearances

Shift + Left / Right Click

It doesn’t get much easier than drag and drop. Visualize is set up let you grab pretty much anything you need, and drag it wherever you want it applied. When it comes to appearances, I often find myself wanting to take the appearance I already have applied on one part, and apply it elsewhere. Visualize does have a handy Appearance selection mode which allows us to quickly locate an appearance and drag that onto our next selection. But when I’m in the groove, I like to stay as focused on the graphics area as possible. By simply holding Shift and Left Clicking on the object that has the desired appearance, you can then Right Click on the object that you wish to have the appearance (still holding the Shift key). If you have a hard time remembering which one is “Copy” and which one is “Paste,” just remember that your Left Click is always the selection tool. Select what you’re after with the Left Click, then transfer it with the Right Click.

  1. Rotate Environment

Ctrl + Alt + Left Mouse Button Drag

This a relatively new addition to my bag of tricks. This might not be the first shortcut you pick up but it is quite slick when you get there. I wouldn’t say that the scene rotation option is buried (it’s right where you’d expect it to be towards the top of the scene settings) but not having to go chasing after it at all is a nice plus. By holding down the Control and Alt keys simultaneously, you can drag your Left Mouse Button horizontally in the graphics area to rotate the environment. This is excellent when you’ve just pulled in an environment out of the library and are checking to see if it meets your needs. It’s also nice if you’re just fine tuning the lighting at the end of the process. Either way, I’ve found I have the patience for more adjustments when I have direct access and don’t have to go hunting for the option!


For those of you who have gotten those down and are looking for more, here are a couple of my honorable mentions.

  1. Environment Brightness

Ctrl + [ or ]

Hold Control and tap the right bracket to increase brightness by .25 or the left bracket to decrease by .25. Great for quick tweaks at the end. Pro tip: Add Shift with the Control key to jump by .5 increments.

  1. Gamma

Ctrl + ; or  ‘

This one looks more obscure on paper than it is on the keyboard. It’s simply the next set of keys down from the brackets. Just like adjusting the Environment Brightness, holding the Control key and tapping the apostrophe will increase gamma by .25 while semi-colon will drop it equally. The Shift key will double the increment here as well.

So there are my top 5 keyboard shortcuts for Visualize (with a couple of freebies). I find that I simply cannot remember keyboard shortcuts unless I use them a few times IMEDIATELY after learning them. So I’ve created a simple example and tutorial that you can watch and download here to give these a try in context.

Open up Visualize, and follow along with the tutorial video here:

Download the example file here!

P.S. – If you’re looking to get into keyboard shortcuts in Visualize but you can only remember one to begin with, make it F12. F12 is your secret cheat sheet for the rest of the shortcuts! Shortcuts can be easy to forget, so having quick access to a refresher can be the key (pun intended) to remembering them quickly!

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