Ten SOLIDWORKS user interface performance enhancements

Improve your speed and workflow by getting into the habit of using our top ten SOLIDWORKS user interface gems.

Improve your speed and workflow by getting into the habit of using our top ten SOLIDWORKS user interface gems. These ten features are simple commands with little setup and learning involved, they are guaranteed to speed up your workflow.

The ‘S’ key

Possibly the best one of the commands at your disposal is the “S” key; when you press this button on your keyboard a toolbar will pop up, based on your modelling environment this toolbar will change, so it’s entirely context sensitive.


S Key Toolbars


This toolbar shows up in the Part, Assembly, Drawing and Sketch environment, often offering a wide selection of tools on fly out buttons. When you press “S” it also allows you to type directly into the commands search menu in the top right, typing in here allows you to access any of the tools available within the software rather than going through the command manager or standard menu system.

Customised layouts

The standard SOLIDWORKS User Interface is fine if you are first learning the software but you may find that a more customised layout can drastically improve your workflow and performance.

The process of customising the interface is all about making things more accessible. SOLIDWORKS generally do use a large number of context sensitive toolbars and popup panels in order to reduce a user’s mouse movement. In order to change some of these you need to choose the ‘Customize’ command, this item is found on the drop down next to the options button.


Customize Selection


Once inside this menu system you’ll find tabs where you can customise keyboard shortcuts, mouse gestures, “S” key toolbars, whilst also making additions to any of the existing toolbars within the system.

The Commands tab is possibly the most powerful among these possibilities. Within this tab you can drag and drop any buttons onto the existing toolbars customising the look of the system to your exact specifications.

Customize dialogue box


Mouse gestures menu

You may have noticed occasionally when right clicking that a circular wheel pops up which is divided into segments. This is the mouse gestures menu, you’ll find this menu is also context sensitive, and will change depending on your environment.


Mouse Guestures wheel


To bring this menu up you just need to right click and drag. Moving your mouse through the items on this menu will select the relevant button. In the Part and Assembly environment it will select from the orientation commands, in the Drawing and Sketch environment it will select tools relevant to those environments.

This toolbar can be customised, showing four or eight commands; whist also changing the buttons available to any of the commands at SOLIDWORKS disposal.

Recent document discovery

When opening SOLIDWORKS you will occasionally find you want to open up your most recently used documents. Rather than going to the open menu, pressing the “R” key on your keyboard will open up a list of options showing the most recently accessed files.


Recent documents


This Recent Documents menu will allow you to open any of the fifteen most recently use items. From here you can also access many of the options available from the open menu, or browse to the document in its folder from Windows Explorer. If a particular file is used quite often it can be pinned down so it will stay in the menu, making it always available.

Instant 3D

On the features toolbar you may have noticed a command called ‘Instant 3D’, it is SOLIDWORKS main route to direct editing in the software. Once turned on the command will allow you to make instant changes to a document without having to edit definition on the item from the design tree.


Instant 3D


Once enabled you’ll find whenever you select geometry in the graphics area arrows and dimensions will pop up over the feature you have clicked. By dragging the arrow, or pulling the end of the dimension you can dynamically make changes to a file. You’ll also find that if any of the dimension values are changed updates can be made without rebuilding.

Instant 3D is also extremely useful during the creation process. Allowing for nice additions like the ability to double click to exit a sketch, or dragging the contours of a sketch profile for extrude features or cuts. Simple changes like holding down the “M” key during an extrusion will instantly change your Extrude’s end condition to Midplane. Using these techniques in combination with standard editing allows for quick and instant changes.

Keyboard shortcuts

There are many keyboard shortcuts within SOLIDWORKS, the best way to convince you of the benefits of this would be to point out some of the best. Getting into the habit of using these and you’ll undoubtedly save time.

  • Press “Enter” again after closing a command will reopen the same tool again, rather than having to navigate back through the menu system
  • Pressing “Ctrl” + “A” will select all within the software, allowing for easy selection of all edges/faces in a model.
  • The “G” key will bring up the magnifying glass in the software, making it simple to check out small defects, or features. Using this in combination with “Alt” will allow you to section the model.
  • Pressing the spacebar will bring up the view orientation toolbar. The same one available from the heads-up toolbar.
  • “Ctrl + Tab” will allow you to change between open SOLIDWORKS documents without going to the window menu.

Menu customisation

You may have noticed that some of the menus within SOLIDWORKS have become rather long, the sketch right-click menu being one of them. One of the easiest ways to improve your workflow is to reduce some of these choices to a list which matches your use of the software.


menu customization


By using the ‘Customize Menu’ link at the bottom of each list you’ll find a selection of tick boxes allowing you to turn commands on and off. Customising this sketch right click menu allows for quicker access to the most important commands.

Options, options, options…

The SOLIDWORKS options menu can, at times be a difficult place to navigate, you know what you want to find, but don’t know where to find it. In recent versions of SOLIDWORKS a search box has been created to streamline this process.


options search


By typing a phrase into this search box you can pick out every location it appears, in both System Options and Document Properties. Using this addition on a regular basis makes changing options a breeze!

Multiple monitors

If you have a number of files open, and you’re often switching between them it can be a painful process. With the use of multiple monitors now becoming the standard for many design industries SOLIDWORKS have expanded their interface to allow for simple multi monitor support.

multi monitor

In the top right hand of every SOLIDWORKS document you’ll find two additional buttons allowing you to span windows to the right and left of SOLIDWORKS. If you’re working across multiple screens you can easily span documents to either side.

You’ll also find that most toolbars, like the Command Manager can be undocked and snapped into the corner of another screen.


When working with documents in SOLIDWORKS you may find occasionally you need to change your units, not only type but often precision. With this being quite a frequently accessed area in the software you will find that it’s available as an option in the bottom right, when working in any SOLIDWORKS file.


Unit switcher


The ability to switch between units and also jump to the options menu from here makes a very useful, but often missed area of the software.

Having reviewed some of the best User interface gems in SOLIDWORKS we would persuade any user of the software to get into the habit of adopting some, if not all of these. When these techniques are used in combination with effective modelling skills any user will become a more successful SOLIDWORKS engineer.


We hope you found that useful!

Have you seen our blog archive where we have posted plenty of helpful articles? We also have a fantastic video library filled with easy-to-follow videos on a number of topics inspired by other SOLIDWORKS users – take a look. Also, don’t forget to follow Innova Systems on twitter for daily bite size SOLIDWORKS tips, tricks and videos.