It might be the hardest thing to do in SOLIDWORKS.

Surfacing? Nope, easy. Photo rendering? A snap. Finite Element Analysis? No problem.

I’m talking about learning a new tool, making a new habit, or forming a new approach.

They say old habits die hard. This guide is intended to give you the tools to send them to the depths and free yourself of those old anchors! We’ll explore how to work new tools into your belt and make them as comfortable as the old ones.

Take aim, it’s habit hunting season.

1. Explore the Interface

Take a moment to just stop and look around. I’m willing to bet you’ll find an icon on the screen that, to this day, you have no idea what it does. Take a look in the help file or give it a press. Who knows what you might be missing out on. Take a moment to read down through the “Insert” drop-down menu or turn on a new tab on the command manager. Do you work with the “Evaluate” tab turned on? If not, give it a try. There’s loads of handy tools on there. Try re-arranging the locations of your tools to better fit your use or create your own custom tab. Did you know the scroll wheel scrolls through the tabs when your cursor is over the command manger? Take a moment to explore and you might save two.

2. Practice

This is the one we all want to skip. But if you want to be a habit hunter, you’ve got to go to the range. Pick a new tool and practice it on a simple part. Start with something that lets you focus on the tool and not the part. For example, if you’re using the “Intersect” tool for the first time, try making a cube out of surfaces. Don’t start out with a scale model of the Millennium Falcon. It’s much easier to determine if you’ve got the tool’s operation right if you’re not worried about missing a selection on a complex model. Get a feel for the tool first, then go for the good stuff. When you think you’ve got the hang of it, go ahead and try it again. Practice makes perfect. It’s not so much about learning how the tool works as it is remembering how the tool works so you can apply it in a new scenario.

3. Apply to One of Your Parts

This is when the tool starts to feel good in the hand. It’s well and good to be able to hit the mark at the practice range, but it’s in the field when you see if the tool can do the job for you. Here’s where you’ll explore the capabilities of the tool and understand what it can provide for you. I find that I am FAR more likely to come back to a tool if I find a use for it in one of my own models. I’m willing to bet you’ll remember that time you saved yourself 3 hours of surfacing on the last mold job much more vividly than the generic handle model you made in the tutorial. Remembering the right tool at the right time has the potential to save you heaps of time.

4. The Blinders Approach

Sometimes there is a tool that you know will help but you can’t seem to remember to use it no matter how hard you try. At this point, it’s time for the blinders. Take away your comfort tools for a moment and bring forward the new tool. Put it on your command manager, put it on your S key, and force yourself to use that new tool over the method you’ve been using. Once you’ve gotten the new method written to your memory, you can turn your old tools back on if you must. It can be painful at first and feels like it’s slowing you to a crawl. However, I think you’ll be surprised how quickly things fall into place when you just redirect yourself for a bit.

I use this technique as a last option. This will slow you down a little bit at first so timing this out might be wise. If you’re three months behind and your boss is breathing down your neck for the next model, it might be wise to put this one off until you’re a bit more caught up. I know some of you are looking around saying, “Who’s only three months behind? Are they hiring?”

If that’s the case and you feel like you never get even close to caught up, I think coming to training is a great option. Of course, I say this because I’m often your instructor, but I really do believe it. It doesn’t have to be another week-long Essentials class. It might just be something like our 2-day Essentials Refresher class. Having a couple days just to invest in your skills can pay dividends.

5. Actively Search for New Tools

SOLIDWORKS is always on the move. It’s one of my favorite things about them as a company. They are constantly trying to make a better experience for the user. But sometimes, we doubt them. I’ve heard you mumbling under your breath, “just another thing to get in my way…” But is it? “Breadcrumbs” is a perfect recent example of this. When I first saw “Breadcrumbs” I thought to myself, “Now, what the heck is this contraption?” But I’ll tell you what, I gave it a try, and I absolutely LOVE them. I doubt you’ll use every shortcut and easy-access menu in SOLIDWORKS, but they’re there in abundance for you to find your own workflow. Do some testing to find what works best for you to get your job done in the shortest amount of time. I urge you, in the words of a 1972 Alka-Seltzer commercial, “Try it, you’ll like it!” And, by the time you’re done, I guarantee you won’t need an Alka-Seltzer but you just might like it!

If you’re searching for something new to try, I encourage everyone to attend one of our annual Roll Out release events. You won’t use every tool we show, but you might just find the one you’ve been waiting on for years! In the meantime, check out some of our “What’s New” recap videos on YouTube.

I do the presentations and I still often find myself re-discovering tools I had forgotten about. This is a never-ending quest but I think it’s one worth investing in.

I hope this article has given you the itch to give something new a try and see how it can help. If you’re looking for help in a particular direction, let us know in the comments section below. We’re happy to make recommendations! It’s time to hunt those habits and lose those anchors. Why keep walking around the lake if you can learn to drive a boat?


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