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Top 15 Must-Know Enhancements for SOLIDWORKS 2018

The SOLIDWORKS 2018 What’s New PDF contains 239 pages which can be a bear to consume.  I thought the best way to get everyone using the great new features was to make a quick list of my top SOLIDWORKS CAD enhancements.  This list of 15 just scratches the surface of enhancements.

1. Mouse Gestures


Mouse Gestures are now much easier to customize now that you can set the number of gestures to 2, 3, 4, 8 or even 12.  Plus you can even customize your gestures through a drag-and-drop method onto the gesture wheel.  I prefer the 12 gestures but it does take some getting used to, even coming from 8 gestures.  With this addition, there are now more tools that are quickly accessible.

2. Welcome Dialog Box


When you open SOLIDWORKS 2018, you will notice the Welcome Dialog Box now has multiple different tabs.  This provides many useful tools right within the same window.  It also allows you to stay updated on SOLIDWORKS news.

The Home tab lets you open new and existing documents, view recent documents and folders, and access SOLIDWORKS resources.

The Recent tab lets you view a longer list of recent documents and folders. Sections in the Recent tab include Documents and Folders.

The Learn tab lets you access instructional resources to help you learn more about the SOLIDWORKS software.  These include Tutorials, MySOLIDWORKS Training, Samples and much more.

The Alerts tab keeps you updated with SOLIDWORKS news. Sections in the Alerts tab include Critical, Troubleshooting, and Technical Alerts.

3. 3D Interconnect File Format

3D Interconnect was new in 2017 and allowed files from other CAD packages to be natively opened in SOLIDWORKS without translation.  In 2018, the functionality includes support for STEP, IGES, and ACIS file formats.  When importing one of these files types there is no translation required.  This eliminates any errors that can occur during the translation process.

4. Creating a Bounding Box

bounding box

Previously you could only create a bounding box for a Weldment, but now it is possible with any bodies in SOLIDWORKS.  The Bounding Box tool is found within the Reference Geometry sub-menu and its properties are located within the configuration specific tab of the File > Properties.  This provides many benefits but one example is determining the blank material size required for manufacturing.

5. Auto-Rotate View on Sketch Edit

This settings was previously known as “Auto-rotate view normal to sketch plane on sketch creation” but within 2018, it is now “Auto-rotate view normal to sketch plane on sketch creation and sketch edit”.  Including the functionality to Auto-Rotate on sketch edit is extremely helpful when correcting or editing sketches.  This setting can be found within the Sketch tab of the Tools > Options > System Options.

6. Synchronizing Setting & Options across multiple machines (logging in)

If you use the SOLIDWORKS software with multiple machines, you can update your settings on any of the machines and synchronize those settings across all machines that run SOLIDWORKS 2018. One way to access this functionality is to use the new SOLIDWORKS login feature. You’ll use the same SOLIDWORKS ID to access the Customer Portal, MySolidWorks, and the SOLIDWORKS Forums.  One login will automatically log you in to all of the SOLIDWORKS resources.  Both of these functionalities can be found within Tools > Options > Synchronize Settings once you have logged in.  To login click on the following icon:


I’m sure we can all appreciate this functionality.  I hate having to match settings between machines when I customize SOLIDWORKS based on the projects I’m working on.

7. Assembly Open Progress Indicator

This dialog provides information on the status of operations while you open an assembly.  If the assembly takes longer than 60 seconds to open, then the indicator remains present after the assembly loads to provide even more information such as elapsed time and previous time to open.

8. Perpendicular Mate

You can apply a perpendicular mate between a complex, non-analytic surface and a linear entity like a line, an edge, an axis, or an axial entity.  This is new functionality that can make defining assemblies much easier.

9. SOLIDWORKS Mesh Settings

When it comes to working with Meshes we have been able to manipulate the mesh by using Scan to 3D in the past but sometimes that’s not enough.  Now we have the ability to directly import mesh files like .stl, .obj, .ply, along with a few more.  Once imported we can convert the mesh to a SOLIDWORKS graphics mesh or BREP body for use in our designs.  They can even be mated into an assembly like native CAD files.  This makes working with 3D scanners much easier.

10. All Uppercase Characters

How many times have you wanted to make everything in a table uppercase but it wasn’t that way normally?  Instead of deleting the contents of every single cell to recreate with uppercase text there is now a tool that will automatically do it for you.  If you want this to be enabled by default it can be found at Tools > Options > Document Properties > Drafting Standard. Under Uppercase, select All uppercase for tables

11. Mirror Entities in a 3D Sketch

I can’t tell you how many times I tried to mirror entities within a 3D sketch and realized it wasn’t possible.  Well, that’s no longer an issue.  Just use a reference plane to mirror about and it will work exactly like a normal mirror.

12. Selecting Over Geometry

One thing that absolutely drove me nuts was when I was trying to box select something but it would grab the face that I began clicking on to create the box (Left Image).  SOLIDWORKS listened to the users and created a Select Over Geometry tool that allows you lasso or box select (Middle Image) in the situation where you will begin the selection process while overlapping a face. (Result in Right Image)  To enable this tool you can right-click (screenshot below) and find it in the selection dialog or press “T” on your keyboard.  I added it to my mouse gesture wheel, clever I know.

13. Temporarily Hide Faces when Selecting Mates

As you start mating components together they begin to get closer to the final position.  This can obstruct some mating surfaces from being displayed.  To quickly hide faces while in the mate tool you can hover over the face and press ALT.  When you add the mate it will show the face(s).  No longer do you have to use the select other tool or hide components before mating.

14. Allow Misaligned Concentric Mates

Imagine a scenario when you get a part from a vendor and the holes don’t necessarily line up with your model.  Obviously your model is correct so instead of taking the time to fix their model you can mate those components even when the holes are not the same distance apart. You can align the mate to resolve exactly with either the first or the second concentric mate and apply the offset to the concentric mate that is not aligned. Or you can apply the offset equally to both sets of mated holes. You can also specify an allowed tolerance, beyond which the misaligned mates over-define the assembly and display an error.

15. Hole Callouts Supported in Advanced Hole Tool

The Advanced Hole tool made creating complicated holes a breeze.  The only problem with that was creating a callout for them.  Advanced Holes are now supported with Hole Callouts and can even reverse the callout order.  This makes defining these complicated holes much easier.

Hopefully these 15 enhancements make your life in SOLIDWORKS easier along with many more.  Let me know your favorite enhancement to 2018!

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