7 Things I Learned in a SOLIDWORKS Fundamentals Class as a CSWE

Here at DesignPoint, we always talk to our customers about the benefits of formal SOLIDWORKS training. Even if you’ve used SOLIDWORKS for years, there’s always more you can learn from being formally trained. Recently, I had the opportunity to experience this first-hand when I attended a SOLIDWORKS Essentials class.

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As the newest Applications Engineer with DesignPoint, I joined with a strong background in SOLIDWORKS. I’ve used the software since 2012, and started to get serious about my training in 2015. Like many users, I’m mostly self-taught. I’m adamant about keeping up to date and finding tips and tricks to make my workflow more efficient. I received my SOLIDWORKS Associate Certification (CSWA) in 2015, and my thirst for knowledge led me to achieve my SOLIDWORKS Expert Certification (CSWE) in late 2016.

As a part of my onboarding, I was required to sit in on a 4-day SOLIDWORKS Essentials class. I figured it would be a waste of time. After all, I’m a CSWE, what am I going to learn from an Essentials class? But what I found was remarkable. While I was pretty efficient when I model, I discovered there was another level of efficiency hiding in the simple things. Sitting through that Essentials class turned out to be an incredibly rewarding experience and added invaluable enhancements to my SOLIDWORKS skill set!

I found myself jotting down notes throughout all four days; capturing new shortcuts, hot keys and methods of doing simple tasks. Below are a few I thought were worth sharing.

  1. The “D” key moves the confirmation corner to the mouse
  2. The ENTER key launches the last used command
  3. Double clicking with the MMB zooms to fit
  4. In select other, right click hides faces
  5. In power trim, the red dot is “undo”
  6. Fillets (and other applied features) can be copied by ctrl + left click + dragging
  7. “Use for positioning only” option in “Mate” can save time in assemblies

1. The “D” key moves the confirmation corner to the mouse

I can’t believe I never picked this one up. In my opinion, one of the largest contributors to mouse travel is going up to the conformation corner, which by default is in the top right. Hitting the “D” key moves the confirmations corner right to the cursor, wherever it so happens to be. This works for any functionality in SOLIDWORKS that involves a conformation corner!

The “D” key moves the confirmation corner to the mouse image

2. The ENTER key launches the last used command

This one is a big one for efficiency, so any feature completed can be relaunched if the shortcut is the very next thing you do. I think this shortcut can have a lot of power when it comes to applied features, for example, applying multiple fillets of unique radii.

NOTE: This shortcut launches the last used command. Actions, like interacting with breadcrumbs and using viewing tools, will count as the latest commands used. To see the list of the latest command used, simply right click anywhere in the graphics window and hover over “Recent Commands”. The ENTER key will launch the command that appears first. In the case below, ENTER would launch the Measure tool.

The ENTER key launches the last used command

3. Double clicking with the MMB zooms to fit

Sometimes, it is beneficial to quickly fit the model to the screen to see the overall effect of a feature. Before I found this tip, I had been going to the heads-up view toolbar and selecting the “Zoom to Fit” button on the far left:

Double clicking with the MMB zooms to fit image

It’s not a bad workflow, as there is not too much mouse travel, but why not eliminate the travel entirely? The Middle Mouse Button (MMB) has this functionality bound to it. Double-clicking the MMB (commonly the scroll wheel) anywhere in the graphics window will zoom the model(s) in the graphics window to fit.

4. In select other, right click hides faces

I’m super excited about this one because my old workflow was so slow. Whenever I wanted to try and select a point or edge on the other side of the model without rotating it, I would use the “Select Other” command. I then would proceed to look through the things that populated the Select Other window, one by one. This is not too big of a deal if there are only three entities in the box, but it gets a lot slower with only a few more entities.

Now, the fast track is to hide the faces of the model that block whatever you are trying to select by right clicking them. Your target entities should be in plain sight to select. Also, if you hid a face that you didn’t mean to, hover over where the face should be and hit ctrl + right click. This unhides the face in question.

5. In power trim, the red dot is “undo”

When in a sketch and using power trim, you can drag across entities to trim them away. What I never noticed before is that a little red dot appears after a trim occurs. If you were to drag back through the red dot, it undoes the trim. This is incredibly useful for when I go a little too far with the mouse!

In power trim, the red dot is “undo” image

6. Fillets (and other applied features) can be copied by ctrl + left click + dragging

Another slick time saver is copying features. A way to achieve this with applied features (e.g. fillets) is to hold down ctrl and drag an existing fillet feature from the design tree onto a sharp corner or face on the graphics window.

Fillets (and other applied features) can be copied by ctrl + left click + dragging before image
Fillets (and other applied features) can be copied by ctrl + left click + dragging after image

Note that, in this particular case, an entirely new feature was created as opposed to adding the face to the list of entities to fillet in the original Fillet Feature.

7. “Use for positioning only” option in “Mate” can save time in assemblies

This situation in assemblies does not come up often for me, but I feel this still may be useful. Sometimes I add mates to components and then immediately suppress or delete the mates right afterward; I am using the mates to place components in a certain location. This tip, which I also picked up from sitting in the class, involves the mate command and an option that I’ve never really paid attention to. The workflow of placing mates and deleting them can be skipped by using the “Use for Positioning only” checkbox. This moves the component into place, but never adds the mate. Efficient.

The tips that I listed above only scratched the surface of what the essentials book and the Fundamental class offers regarding good workflow and efficiency tips. There are many techniques that, when I found out about them, completely shifted the method that I used to model. I can’t overstate how valuable this book and class is, not only the novice but to the seasoned professional as well.

With the small holes in my knowledge patched up and new timesavers in my arsenal, I know that I am now running on full throttle! Maybe, I can even place in Model Mania next time I go to SOLIDWORKS World.

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