Top Features in Solidworks (13 Tips)
SolidWorks is the most relied-upon 3D CAD software tool, trusted by more than 2.3 million engineers worldwide. It’s the first program in a mechanical engineer’s digital toolkit and the first encounter most engineers have with 3D parts, assemblies, and models.
But with a handful of toolbars, dozens of tabs, and hundreds of features, most of SolidWorks’ true potential goes undiscovered. There’s not enough time in a day to learn about every minor command you might never use!
Are you ready to finally master SolidWorks?
These 15 useful features and tech tips will show you the ropes and spark inspiration for your next custom 3D model.
SolidWorks has hundreds, if not thousands, of commands hidden across its platform. Like full-screen mode (F11) and model rebuilding (Ctrl + Q), some are novice shortcuts that all CAD gurus should master on day one.
But when you start designing complex engines or modern four-wheelers, less-common commands like Swept Boss or Base and Simulations suddenly become useful.
There’s no sense in memorizing these once-in-a-while commands. Nor should you rummage through dozens of menus to locate them (hello, efficiency).
The often-underrated Search Commands feature that’ll direct you to — and launch — these tools without touching a single dropdown menu.
How to Use Search Commands
- Press either the “S” or “W” keys to open the Search Commands feature.
- Enter your query into the grey search bar. The results will automatically update as you continue adding new letters (this can jog your memory about features’ names).
- Hover your cursor over the listed command.
- Press Enter to activate it.
Maybe your SolidWorks turbine, tire, ergonomic desk, and motorcycle sketches are for your eyes only, but that’s only until your career officially takes off. One day, it’ll be a corporate client reviewing your blueprints and trying to decipher what they mean in layman’s terms.
This is where SolidWorks’ 3D Annotations feature becomes your right-hand man. Not only can you assign each part a letter (or a symbol) to aid in future factory assembly, but you can also clearly label things like:
How to attach two parts (glue, welding, etc.)
How to Use Annotations
While working on an assembly or part, select your chosen tool from the Annotations toolbar.
Place the letter, number, or symbol by clicking to label a particular part or component.
Make Drawing from Part/Assembly
How to Use Make Drawing from Part/Assembly
From the Standard toolbar, click Make Drawing from Part/Assembly.
Toggle your preferred options in the Sheet Format/Size menu.
From the View Palette, drag views onto your drawing sheet.
All of your mechanical engineering sketches are vastly different — they have to be; otherwise, you'll drive yourself insane creating mirror images from scratch. But the real eye-opener is the epiphany that you're hand-crafting the same exact elements time and time again.
If your projects tend to include the same power ports, helical gears, or threaded screws, add them to your Design Library! Drag and drop them onto your new drawing to add those finishing touches.
Title blocks might be brand new to you right now, but you’ll come across them daily when you join the ranks at a mechanical engineering firm. These professional templates have borders and data fields that reveal:
The company’s name, logo, address, and contact information
Date of last revision
Page number (for larger files)
Learn how to create and edit title blocks now to add an expert flair to your casual 3D models and have this skill hardwired by the time you interview.
How to Use Title Blocks
- Open the Feature Manager tree.
- From there, click on Sheet and then Sheet Format.
- Right-click on the Title Block Table option, paired with a grey box, light blue squares, and magic wand icon.
- Choose Enter Title Block Data.
- In applicable templates, editable data fields will appear with blue highlights.
- Click on the boxes, type your data, and then click the green checkmark.
When you look at your first-ever SolidWorks’ robot, you can’t help but ooze pride and wonder where your imagination will take you next. But if you eventually plan to convert this masterpiece into a prototype, the tiny pieces (screws, bolts, robotic fingers) can complicate this process.
Don’t rely on memory or educated guesses to bring your sketch to life. With SolidWorks’ Detail Views, you can zoom in on these finer details for a more accurate glimpse.
How to Use Detail Views
From the Drawing toolbar, click on Detail View.
Verify that the Circletool is active in the PropertyManager.
Draw a circle in the graphics area.
Toggle the view until you’re 100% pleased, then click to place it.
You might not know chamfers by that name, but you’ve certainly come across them once or twice.
These 45° beveled edges slice the 90° corners from two connecting slabs.
On top of being a safer design choice (no more jagged edges in your hip when you bump into a cabinet), it adds an elegant flair.
SolidWorks’ top-level Chamfer tool makes securing this design feature less tedious. You can create a cube with all chamfered edges without manually creating each beveled edge (just six faces instead of eighteen!).
How to Use Chamfer Feature
- From the Features toolbar, click Chamfer next to its bright yellow icon.
- Choose either Angle distance, Distance distance, or Vortex.
- Edit the distance, faces, and features options to your liking.
- Preview the chamfer.
- Click the green checkmark.
In the simplest terms, weldments are to mechanical engineering what beams are to a home under construction. SolidWorks’ cutting-edge Weldments feature allows you to craft custom 2D or 3D frames, infusing butt joints, double-miter joints, and weld beads along the way.
Then, the freedom to design falls onto your shoulders! Convert it into an assembly and complete the design (like adding walls to a barebones home).
Sculpting a 3D object, like an air conditioning unit or generator, is the most exciting aspect of CAD programs like SolidWorks. But when you’re tinkering with oddly shaped parts and confusing angles, it can be challenging to predict measurements and true size.
With SolidWorks’ Auxiliary View feature, you can convert those in-depth 3D creations into temporary 2D drawings. That way, you can uncover everything from those hidden ridges in screws to precise incline angles in ramps.
How to Use Auxiliary View
From the Drawing toolbar, click Auxiliary View.
Define a reference edge (sketched line, silhouette, or part).
Slide your cursor until you settle on the perfect view, then click.
Welcome Dialog Box
SolidWorks’ Welcome dialog box is the pop-up window that offers a tip whenever you return to the platform. Though you might impulsively dismiss the box, you should resist the urge to disable it permanently, as it’s one of SolidWorks' many hidden gems.
This feature is essentially a shortcut to:
Creating a new part, assembly, or drawing
Opening a recent document
Learning more about SolidWorks (tutorials, “What’s New,” forum)
Being first to know about troubleshooting and technical alerts
If you’re still learning the ropes and finding your footing, spend an hour or two each week exploring the Learn tab. There, you can tinker with pre-made sample models, watch step-by-step video tutorials, or study the curriculum.
Self-taught doesn’t necessarily have to mean painstaking trial and error!
In the platform's early days, SolidWorks gurus realized that the automatic rotation default suddenly fell flat after adding the first sketch. You had to manually readjust the view to be "Normal to," which became tiresome in 3D models with dozens of infused sketches.
These days, toggling the Auto-rotate view on will swivel your preview with a hands-off approach as you examine parts.
How to Use Auto-Rotate View
- Go to the Options tab from the toolbar.
- Select System Options and then Sketch.
- Toggle the Auto-rotate view normal to sketch plane on sketch creation and sketch edit setting on.
Ask any novice SolidWorks fanatic, and they’ll vent about constantly adjusting sheet settings with each new design. If you have to DIY your title block logo, switch between landscape and portrait sheets, and create yet another custom spur gear, you might just scream!
SolidWorks’ drawing templates replace this headache-inducing repetition with convenience. Create a 100% custom part, assembly, or drawing template that you can use again and again without starting from scratch.
How to Use Drawing Templates
- Select File and then New.
- Double-click on either Drawing, Assembly, or Part to decide which template you're creating.
- Click on Options (with the cog icon).
- From the Document Properties window, edit your fresh template to look exactly as you imagined it.
- Go to File again, but click Save as.
- Select either Part, Assembly, or Drawing template (to match what you’ve just created) and establish a relevant file name to find it later.
- Click Save.
SolidWorks’ mouse gestures feature is one that many new users discover by accident. All it takes is one right-click/drag combo in the graphics area to trigger that mysterious dial and wonder, “What was that?”
But if you want your most-used commands ready at your fingertips (literally), this tool is a real treasure. You can customize up to 12 of your favorite commands, like “save” or the Shortcuts toolbar, to seamlessly chip away at a project without bouncing between the keyboard and mouse.
Just drag the cursor, release it over the icon, and voila!
How to Edit Mouse Gestures
- Open the Tools tab.
- Click on Customize, and then Mouse Gestures.
- From there, select 2-12 of your favorite commands to assign them a mouse direction (gesture).
Piecing together a 50-element radiator in SolidWorks can put your design skills to the ultimate test. But when you want to drag the cooler away or duplicate the complex bleeder valves, you realize that what seemed simple is more like absolute mayhem.
It’s exhausting, frustrating, and time-consuming to individually left-click dozens of faces, components, and edges over and over.
The Selection sets feature makes this voyage far less tedious by lumping selected items together. Select and deselect these groupings with two clicks instead of 50 (especially if missing a few can ruin the entire project).
How to Use Selection Sets
- Hold down the Ctrl key and select the items you’d like to batch together in the model.
- Right-click with your mouse.
- Select Save Selection to add it to your Selection sets folder
It could take months to become a self-proclaimed SolidWorks 3D expert. And even then, you’ll encounter new features along your journey that make you say, “I wish I knew about that sooner!”
To speed up the learning process, consider enrolling in an Intro to SolidWorks course online. Or, check out some of the tutorials on the SolidWorks website. Both options will equip you with foundational skills to prepare you for a future in cutting-edge machine design.
Related: How to Become a Mechanical Engineer [+ How Long It Takes]