Symbol Library & Custom Symbols

Here we have a very basic drawing I’ve created to work with today. Some of you may recognize the Idler Arm from the part modeling examples in the Essentials training class. Today we are going to look at annotating a drawing of it.

Idler _Arm _1

In this drawing, so far I have added in dimensions that were marked for drawing using model items. At this point we can see that SolidWorks has already begun to take advantage of the symbols that we have at our disposal. For example, each diameter dimension that I have added has the diameter symbol alongside the dimension value. Radii are represented with an “R” character added into the dimension text in a similar fashion.

We know that we can edit these annotations ourselves, either by typing into the Dimension Text box, or by adding in one of the symbols that SolidWorks has placed at our disposal. They have created a number of flags, tolerance symbols, and other modifiers, but what if the symbol we would like to use isn’t in SolidWorks Symbol Library? For example, a geometric shape other than a circle, square, or triangle?

We have the ability to create our own symbols by working with the Gtol.sym file that defines our Symbol library in SolidWorks. The file location depends where you set your install, but will commonly be C:Program FilesSolidWorks CorpSolidWorkslangenglish.

Before we jump in, let’s take a precaution here and make a copy of our current Gtol file. Copy and paste it within the english folder; I left mine named “Gtol-Copy.sym”. This will allow us to edit our Gtol file with a back-up in case we decide to discard our edits. If you decide to revert to this copy, simply delete your edited Gtol.sym file, and rename the copy to Gtol.sym.

Now that we have a copy, let’s open up our Gtol file in notepad so that we can edit it. Looking at the file we can see that at the beginning there is an explanation of the formatting:

Idler _Arm _2

Following this format we can begin to add our own symbols to our library. Here I am going to create a new library of Pentagons, and I am going to add a number in the center of each. Here is the text that I added to the Gtol file:

Symbol Library

Now that we have edited our Gtol file, we can open SolidWorks and bring up our drawing. Note, if you had SolidWorks open when you edited the symbol library, you will need to close it and re-open to see the additions you have created. The symbols we have created can be used to annotate our drawing in several ways. For example, they could be added as a note; or they could be inserted along with a dimension as I have shown here. By selecting “More,” the Symbols window will come up, and after our symbol is chosen, you can see the name of the symbol we defined in Gtol come up in the Dimension Text box.

Idler Arm5

We have completed the creation of some new symbols and have inserted them into our drawing. A limitation to keep in mind: if you send the drawing with your custom symbols to someone else, just like sending an assembly without the part files, another person won’t be able to view your symbols if their Gtol file doesn’t create them. In almost all cases the SolidWorks Symbol Library will meet our needs, but I found it interesting working with the Symbol Library and it gave me a better understanding of how our Symbols are created.

If you have any questions I would be happy to answer them in the comments section.