Working with SOLIDWORKS files in a multi-user environment without PDM

First of all, in a multi-user environment, SOLIDWORKS PDM is the best solution to work together with the same files. And it offers a lot of extra useful functionalities. But when you own a small organisation, or when your organisation is starting to grow, then SOLIDWORKS PDM might not be on your priority list. So, to bridge the gap to PDM, I want to use this tech blog to explain an option in SOLIDWORKS to optimize the workflow to work with the same files at the same time.

A small example to clarify this: when an engineer opens an assembly, then he gets write access to the assembly and all the part files in the assembly. When another engineer opens one of the parts of that same assembly, he cannot edit it because of the read-only state.

To solve this, we can use an option in SOLIDWORKS that makes it possible for one user to edit the top-level assembly, while other users can still edit the parts of that assembly.

Setting up the Collaboration Options

To get started, go to Tools – Options, or Options  on the Standard toolbar. Select Collaboration.

A couple of options can be set:

  • Enable multi-user environment
    This just enables the other options.
  • Add shortcut menu items for multi-user environment
    Menu items Make Read-Only and Get Write Access are available on the File pulldown menu for part and assembly documents and when you right-click assembly components in the FeatureManager design tree or in the graphics area.

Now you can control the read-only status of every component in your assembly by right-clicking on it, and selecting Make Read-Only.

This enables another user to gain write access of that component. In the case of a part file you need to go to the pulldown menu File and select Get Write Access.

  • Check if files opened read-only have been modified by other users
    Checks files you have opened as read-only at the interval specified in Check files every X minutes to see if the files have been modified in one of the following ways:

    • Another user saves a file that you have open in SOLIDWORKS, making your file out of date.
    • Another user relinquishes write access to a file that you have open in SOLIDWORKS by making the file read-only, allowing you to take write access.

Note that lightweight components are not checked.

If the system detects a change, a tooltip in the lower right corner of the graphics area points to an icon on the status bar. By clicking this icon you gain access to the Reload dialog box.

If you want to check the status of read-only files manually, click Check Read-Only Files  on the Standard toolbar. It might be possible that this option is not available on the Standard toolbar. In that case you need to add it by going to Tools – Customize. You can find it under the Commands tab, Standard category. Then you can drag it to the desired location at the toolbar.

Bonus tip

When working with these options, it might be that you get a lot of warnings about saving read-only files. This can be quite annoying. To get rid of this, go to Tools – Options. Select External References and check Don’t prompt to save read-only referenced documents (discard changes).


I hope that these settings can help you when you are working with multiple engineers, but you don’t own a SOLIDWORKS PDM solution. It definitely helps you to get rid of all those read-only issues when working on the same files.

If you are interested in the capabilities of SOLIDWORKS PDM, you can always contact CAD2M to get more information of this solution.

Author: Martijn Visser, Elite Application Engineer, CAD2M

CAD2M believes in Industrial Equipment companies that want to make an impact. What drives us is to bring the most out of your employees. To help you in the best way possible, our employees have to be on top of their game as well. We live for challenges in process & product development. It is our passion. With our knowledge of processes we help your company work faster and smarter. We provide you with the best PLM, 3D design & engineering plus manufacturing tools. Want to grow together? CAD2M.