SolidWorks 2013–First Thoughts

Splash Screen - SolidWorks 2013

The official release of SolidWorks 2013 SP 0.0 last week also marked the 1st time that I have been able to get my hands on the newest major version of this software.  Most years I am eager to download all of the Beta releases and dig into the new software however this year time just didn’t lend itself to this approach very well.

Anyways, at first glance SolidWorks 2013 is aesthetically very similar to SolidWorks 2012.  One of the 1st things you will notice when you fire up 2013 for the 1st time is the description of what is loading/initializing being scrolled thru on the splash screen.  This gives you a good idea, if you pay attention, to what is exactly going on in the background while the software is launching (which I like).

The 2nd thing that I noticed once SolidWorks was started was the SolidWorks Forum tab on the Task Pane.

SolidWorks Forum - Task Pane

I really like this new option as I have found over the years it is 1) tough to keep up on some of the questions & topics happening in the forums and 2) it gives you quick access to starting a new discussion if you are struggling with a certain area of the software.

If you aren’t really paying attention at first, you might not notice a HUGE difference between 2012 & 2013 however, this release is loaded with new & improved features.  I will touch on some of these more in depth in the coming weeks.

For now, if you haven’t already downloaded SolidWorks 2013, I suggest you go ahead, download it and see what it has to offer your company even if you aren’t planning on rolling it out into production until a later service pack.

SolidWorks 2013 First Impressions

icon_solidworksOne of the most anticipated events at SolidWorks WORLD each year is the Wednesday morning General Session when all of the attendees get the first public sneak peak at the next major release.

This year was no different (other than that I didn’t get to see it live).  Introduced thru a Back to the Future skit that including a guest appearance from Jon Hirschtick, one of the founders of SolidWorks, that SolidWorks 2013 enhancements were sent out to the masses.  It is always good to keep in the back of your mind that not all of these enhancements make it to the first release but for the most part they do.

The complete list of 2013 enhancements along with some pictures can be found here at Ricky Jordan’s blog.

Here are some of the enhancements that I am most excited for / interested in (in not particular order).

  1. Revision Cloud – as someone that loves the idea of going paperless, I get excited about new features that can help assist in this.  One of my biggest annoyances at my job is document control when you have to print everything off so that they can get reviewed and marked up.  Hopefully, this will make this much better.
  2. Quick Filter in File Open – for anyone that has worked on a large project that has assembly, part, and drawings in a single Windows folder you will be able to appreciate this as much as I will.  I wish I could have seen this demonstrated so I had a better idea of how it will work.
  3. New Favorites Folder – I love my Windows favorites so I am excited to see what this is all about.  I am always a fool for UI changes.
  4. Hole Wizard Dowel Holes & Dowel Annotations in Drawings – because of my background of designing stamping dies we use a ton of dowel holes.  I am excited that SolidWorks will finally accommodate these better.
  5. Copy & Paste From DraftSight to SolidWorks – Dassault Systemes products talking together???  I love the idea and as someone with a ton of legacy data left in AutoCAD this will be very helpful.
  6. Backwards Compatibility – well, it sounds the start to something good but I am afraid that this is just a marketing ploy unfortunately.  I still can’t understand why a full backwards compatibility can not be available, if nothing else for just 1 release back (2013 –> 2012, 2014 –> 2013, etc.).  I understand the new tool argument but I can build a full feature tree off of an imported part, so why can’t SolidWorks do all of the work for me on existing functions and ask me how I would like to build features that were created with new tools.  However, this is a start so I am keeping my fingers crossed that this will be expanded in the future.

Well there are my Top 6 new enhancements that I am looking forward to seeing in Beta and then in the first 2013 release this fall.  What are your thoughts on these or you most anticipated new enhancements?

SolidWorks 2012: Command Search

This new feature could POSSIBLY be the best new enhancement that comes packaged in SolidWorks 2012.  Have you ever had that moment when you were designing the next best thing since sliced bread and knew that command that you needed but couldn’t find it?  I have, well everything except for the next best thing since sliced bread.

Starting with SolidWorks 2012, the nightmares about this situation should cease because of the new Command Search tool.  So where the heck is it and how does it work?  Unfortunately, there is no search tool to find the Command Search tool but it is actually quite easy to get to.

Where – In the upper right hand corner of your SolidWorks window is the search bar that previously housed the SolidWorks Help, Knowledge Base, Community Forum, and Files and Models search options.  Now there is also a Commands search option that you can select (see image below).

Command Search in Search Bar

How – Simply select the Commands search option and then start typing the name of the command you are looking for.

Command Search Functionality

One of the really cool features of this I think is that no matter what the search bar has selected, as soon as you launch your Shortcut Bar, the search bar will automatically switch to the Commands option.

Also, what about when you want to customize a toolbar and you can’t seem to find the tool you need?  The Command search still is functional even when you have the Customize window active.  As you can see in the image below, all of the commands will be grayed out BUT you can still drag and drop them onto a toolbar as you normally would from the Customize window.

Use Command Search to Customize Shortcut Bar

This is an AWESOME new tool.  The one future enhancement I would really like to see however is a way to get this option closer to the Shortcut Bar when you activate it.  This would require a lot let mouse movement in order to use it.  But, baby steps for now and these are great steps.

Awesome job SolidWorks development team!

SolidWorks 2012: Unit Switcher

This enhancement was previewed last January at SolidWorks World 2011 and I remember sitting there thinking, yes, finally!

As a user that deals a lot with customer data or creating models using our customers 2D drawing, units are always something that I seem to switch back and forth between a lot.  In SolidWorks 2012, this will be a lot easier.  In the bottom ride hand corner of the Status Bar, you will see a button (located next to the Help button) that shows what your current units are set to.  Now, with a simple click in the Status Bar, you will be able to quickly change your units and/or have access to the status units screen in Tools > Options.

Unit Switcher

If the new Recent Documents enhancement was a homerun by the SolidWorks developers, this would be a 3 run homerun.  The 1 thing that would make this a grand slam would be to add units as an option to be added to a keyboard shortcut (without a macro).  Either way, this is a great enhancement that will be very,very useful!

SolidWorks 2012: Cap Colors in Sections

Not only is SolidWorks 2012 packed with eye popping changes, it also includes some more subtle additions that will be very helpful in your daily design work.

This is the category that todays enhancement falls into.  In previous releases, SolidWorks has offered a nice visual style when creating section views that allows you to color code or cap your sections.  The image below shows this workflow however, you will notice 1 additional KEY option in the Property Manager.

Keep Section View Cap Colors Property Manager

In SolidWorks 2012, you will notice a checkbox that allows you to keep your cap color.  What does this mean, well now when you hit the Accept check mark, your cap colors will stay on your model as shown in the image below.

Keep Section View Cap Colors Capped

Like I said at the beginning, this is not one of those WHOA enhancements, but it is a very functional enhancement that I think all users will come to love. 

SolidWorks 2012: Multi Screen Support

Yesterday I posted about the Recent Documents enhancement that has been incorporated into SolidWorks 2012.

Today’s enhancement might even be a little bit better.  SolidWorks 2012 now comes with multi screen support.  This is an enhancement that users have been clamoring for since the introduction of multiple screens.  As you can see in the image below, there are now 2 additional buttons that are located next to the window minimize, maximize, and close buttons.  These 2 buttons serve primarily 2 functions.

The first function is if you are running multi screens, by clicking 1 of the buttons it will move that window whichever direction you tell it too.  This is hard to show in an image, but trust me, it works.

The other function is if you are only running 1 screen, those 2 additional buttons allow you to easily tile 2 windows to your screen similar to the Windows 7 functionality when you tile windows to the left side and/or right side or your screen.  This is what the image below shows.

Multiple Screen Support

This enhancement is only capable of handling 2 screens currently.  I would say that this enhancement proves that SolidWorks is listening to its users.  Again, nice job SolidWorks developers!

SolidWorks 2012: Recent Documents

One of the most interesting things to me when beta arrives for each major release of SolidWorks is what enhancement have been made to the User Interface.  SolidWorks 2012 does not offer a lot of enhancements to the UI but the ones that they do are awesome in my eyes.

The Recent Documents command has been around for a while now but the enhancements made in 2012 are game changers in my eyes.  One of the features in Microsoft Office 2010 that I like the most is the ability to pin Recent Documents that you use a lot so that you have quick access to them without crowding your desktop with shortcuts.

SolidWorks 2012 also now allows you to pin Recent Documents which will be extremely nice when it comes to commonly used files.  The Recent Documents window can be launched by using the “R” keyboard shortcut (default).  As you can see in the image below this window now allows you to not only pin Recent Documents but it also allow you to quickly open the folder that the file resides in.  Quick and easy access to a project.

Recent Documents Keyboard Shortcut

But it doesn’t end there.  Your Recent Document can also be accessed using the File dropdown menu as shown in the image below.  You will notice that your pinned documents are carried over there as well with the option to show the file in its folder here as well.

Recent Documents File Menu

I think that this enhancement is a homerun and will increase the usage of the Recent Documents tool by many users.  Nice job SolidWorks developers!