Category Archives: Tech Tips

Magnetic Mates are a new feature in Solidworks 2017 that allow you to quickly and easily arrange and rearrange assembly components until you achieve a desirable configuration. This new feature is intended to make laying out things like conveyors or tracks faster and easier, particularly when it comes time to change the layout.

Let’s look at creating a magnetic mate. In order to use this feature, we have to first create a reference in the component that we wish to insert. The tool used to do that is referred to as the “Asset Publisher” and is found in the tools menu.

Activate the Asset publisher here.Activating the asset publisher will allow you to begin creating references for magnetic mates to snap to.

In the asset publisher property manager, you are required to make a few selections. The first selection is referred to as the “Ground Plane”. This selection will represent where our component rests on the
ground. In the image below, this is the bottom surface of the model railroad track.Once we have defined a ground plane, we can begin to add a connector. Connectors require two selections. The first selection is a model edge. This defines the point where two components will snap together. This can be a linear or circular edge, for linear it will use the midpoint. For a circular edge, the center point will be used. Our second selection is a face on the model. This face represents the point of contact between two components when they snap. The faces will be coincident to each other. Once you have made
 the selection, you can click “Update/add Connector” to include it.

Define connector points hereMultiple connectors can be added to a model.

Select and Edge and a Face reference

Once they are added, it creates a feature in the design tree called “Published references” which can be edited at any time to add, change, or delete connectors. Clicking on the feature will show the connection points.

Highlight Published References Feature

This feature can be used in either the part or assembly environment. For example, using magnetic mates to create a model railroad I can model a switch yard as a discrete assembly, and have magnetic mates at the points where the switch yard meets the main line tracks.  Below we can see a subassembly with magnetic mate references (The subassembly was modeled with magnetic mates as well).

Now that I have created components with magnetic mate references I can begin to use them to assembly my layout. In this case, we will look at the model railroad again. While magnetic mates will work with free floating components, it is always good practice to locate the first component with standard mates. Once you have once component located, you will want to turn on magnetic mates in the Tools menu of the assembly environment. This enables the mates to snap together. You can see this toggle in the first image of the tools menu (taken from an assembly environment)

Then, simply drag the two components close together. As you drag, you will see the connection points created in the asset publisher appear as purple dots. A purple line will appear between the different dots as you move the pieces around. This indicates which two mates will snap together. Then, release the mouse button and the components will snap together. You can repeat this as many times as needed to achieve the desired result.

Drag components close to each other to activate snapping

Simple and quick once you set it up! So what’s the catch? There’s always a catch right? Well unfortunately with this great feature there are a few considerations to keep in mind. First thing, is that it’s pretty easy to destroy your hard work with an errant click or drag. There’s nothing worse than spending 20 minutes getting your layout exactly the way you want it, only to add another piece and watch your assembly freak out and turn into a pile of parts.

I’d like to share a couple techniques I found to help mitigate this. First, magnetic mates do create mate features in your feature tree. So you can browse to these either in the main mate folder, or in the component mate folder. Once you find them, a right click gives you the option to “Lock” the mate. This will prevent anything the mates from moving, and prevent other components from attempting to lock onto those connectors.Right click on Magnetic Mate Feature to lock.

This technique has advantages, you can lock out troublesome mates from changing as you work or lock groups together. Sometimes however you may want to prevent a large number of parts from moving. In this case, say once I have a large chunk of my model railroad built out the way I want it, I would lock those down a different way. Every assembly component can be set to a “Fixed” state, where it is locked in its current position. Once I know I have a section finalized, I can use the selection box or other multi selection techniques to pick all the components. Right clicking on the mass selection allows me to set those components to a fixed state. That way, there is no chance I can accidentally damage my layout. I can always set them back to floating if I want to make changes later.

The last thing to consider is that multiple magnetic mate references close together may be tricky to get them to snap right. Sometimes the part will rapidly cycle between all reference points (three in this case). To help mitigate this, I found that if you arrange the components so that the desired connection points are close by, you can zoom in so only those two are visible, and Solidworks will tend to ignore the others. This can make component placement easier. When dealing with multiple mate references in close proximity.



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SOLIDWORKS has two very handy functionalities in case things go south when working with SOLIDWORKS.  To help save hours worth of work SOLIDWORKS has a backup function that will save versions at different save states in a directory of your choosing.  Also in case you have failed to hit the save button, SOLIDWORKS has an auto-recover functionality that will periodically look to log unsaved changes.  If these functions are already set up, we will show you how to check that these two functions are working property.

To check that Auto-recover is functioning properly please do the following:

  1. Open the SOLIDWORKS System Options and navigate to the Auto-recover settings from Tools > Options > System Options > Backup/Recover
  2. Open a Windows Explorer Window and navigate to the directory shown for Auto-recover
  3. Back in Auto-recover settings reduce the time setting to “Save auto-recover informatino every” value to 1 minute and select ok
  4. Start a new SOLIDWORKS part, after 1 minute a file named: “AutoRecover Of PART_NAME.SLDPRT.swar” will appear in the directory
If this file from step 4 appears in the Auto-recover directory then the SOLIDWORKS auto-recover functionality is working properly.  See the below image, we have worked on this part file and after 1 minute the file appeared in our Auto-recover directory automatically.
To make sure the Backup functionality is working correctly do the following:
  1. Open the SOLIDWORKS System Options and navigate to the Backup settings from Tools > Options > System Options > Backup/Recover
  2. Open a Windows Explorer Window and navigate to the directory shown for Backup
  3. Back in the Backup settings modify your “Number of backup copies per document” and set to your desired number.
  4. Start a new part file and add a feature and save your model.  You should now see a file named “Backup (1) of PART_NAME.SLDPRT” in the directory.
  5. Add another feature and hit save again you will see a new file named “Backup (2) of PART_NAME.SLDPRT”
If these files start to appear in your Backup directory then the backup functionality is working properly.  If you continue to add features to your part and hit save, you will continue to add new backups in the directory up to the number specified in step 3.  Backup (1) will always be the newest backup version and all other save states will be renamed in sequence keeping the oldest save state as the highest backup number.  The below example has a number set to 5 copies per document.
If you are not seeing the expected files in the Backup/Recover directories try the following to troubleshoot the issue:
  1.  Make sure you have the correct read/write permissions to that directory.  Try creating a notepad file and saving it to the same directory to see if other files work correctly.
  2. Change the location of backup and auto-recover to another location.
  3. Try repairing SOLIDWORKS.
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We have seen instances where a user will have complications during their install. Normally what happens is the installation isn’t successful at a certain percentage. The Installation manager will then ask you if you would want to save these basic logging files to send up to Tech Support to review. We ask you to please save these log files and to send them to us. We will then more than likely ask you to try the install again, but this time we would like for you to increase your logging level during the install. In several occasions we have seen when you increase your logging level to HIGH. This will force SOLIDWORKS to be more diligent during the install. When it is more diligent during the install, we have seen SOLIDWORKS sometimes work past where it was hanging up from previous installs, therefore completing the installation.

To increase your logging level, Start your Installation again, then right click across the top bar of the Installation Manager. Then in the drop down menu hover over Installation Logging Levels. Then select High (slowest)

We have not seen a major increase in time of the installation. If the installation does fail again, it generates a more in depth log, that you can send to us as well.

For an even more detailed additional log reference this tech tip on how to create a verbose log:

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With the new version of SOLIDWORKS just around the corner or when your company buys more licenses, it’s important to know that an extra step is required to start using the new, or additional floating/network licenses for SOLIDWORKS, PDM, Composer, and Electrical. This tech tip is a guide to walk you through installing the SolidNetWork License Manager (SNL) required for these licenses.

*If you just purchased additional license for an existing Network serial number skip to Step 3).

Step 1) Locate which computer system you want to install the SNL, or locate which system is already running the SNL that you are needing to update.
When you’re company already has network licensing in place, the best way of determining which system is your SNL server is to open the SolidNetWork License Manager on a client system.
Windows Start menu > all programs > SolidWorks 2016 > SolidWorks Tools > SolidNetWork License Manager >  Server List tab
For system requirements as to what type of system you can use - - SOLIDWORKS Network License Server section

Step 2) *If you are not changing major versions or installing new please skip this step (i.e. 2015 to 2016).

To install or update the SNL either download the SOLIDWORKS Install Manager that matches the major version of SOLIDWORKS that you’ll be using, or insert the SOLIDWORKS DVD into the selected server (Service pack can be different from the server and the client, I like to have the latest service pack when i’m installing or updating the SNL).

If you have a download of the SOLIDWORKS install files just run the ‘setup.exe’ to Start the SOLIDWORKS Install Manager. Select ‘Server Products’ then either check ‘Install SolidNetWork License Manager’ or if you are upgrading check ‘Upgrade SolidNetWork License Manager’
(If you are upgrading you may want to un-check the other products that your company may not be ready to upgrade just yet). Walk through the steps to install the SNL, it will ask for your network serial number(s) and finish. (Side note: SOLIDWORKS network serial numbers the 3rd digit is a 1. (i.e. The first 4 digits are commonly 0010…, or 9010…)

Step 3) Once the install manager has is either upgraded, or installed, the next step is to activate the licenses. When the SNL install is new, activation pulls down the licenses based on the serial number(s) that where entered during the install process. When the SNL is upgraded, or new licenses are purchased it will add the additional new licenses when reactivated. To open the SolidNetWork License manager on the server after the install go to:
Windows start menu > All Programs > SolidNetWork License Manager or SOLIDWORKS Tools, then open the SolidNetWork License Manager Server 2016.

During the first launch after the install you will either be prompted to activate.

If you are adding licenses, the SNL manager will open without a prompt, we will then want to click on the ‘Modify’ button on the ‘Server Administration’ tab to reactivate.

Then select the middle option ‘Activate/Reactivate your product license(s)’

Step 4) When reactivating you will be prompted if you are using a Firewall, this is a good option to have checked whether you’re using a firewall or not. It locks down the incoming/outgoing ports.

Step 4) Click the Next button to select the serial numbers that you want to activate. Most companies only have 1, but you can still click the select all. Enter in your email address to be logged with who activated the license. If the computer is connected to the internet you can activate ‘Automatically over the Internet…’, otherwise select ‘Manually via e-mail’.

Step 5) *For Manual activations only* – select 1 serial number at a time, click next, then you will be presented with a screen to save a request .txt file that will need copy or moved onto a system that has email access. The request file gets sent to:

IMPORTANT: Leave this Manual Activation screen open so that you can read in the response .txt when you receive the automatic response a few minutes later. (The computer can be locked but you must leave the Manual Activation screen open because the request and response files are time stamped to each other.)

With a Manual activation most likely the first time you activate a SNL server you will be prompted to do a second request .txt to get a second response .txt

Step 6) Once the SNL is activated, the final step is to verify that you have the correct quantity of licenses that you purchased. Remember for every seat of SOLIDWORKS Professional or SOLIDWORKS Premium you also see a seat of SOLIDWORKS Standard. SOLIDWORKS Standard is the main program, where  SOLIDWORKS Professional and SOLIDWORKS Premium are the upper level add-ins.

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Part of the fun in teaching SOLIDWORKS is showing some of the time-saving shortcuts available to make students more efficient. This helps make the software easier to use and gives users more time to focus on what’s really important: their designs. It is hard to remember all the shortcuts and there really isn’t a complete, master list out there. This tech tip is a good start on documenting some of the available shortcuts, focusing on four keys on your keyboard. They are Shift, Ctrl, Alt, and Tab keys.

I will cover as many of these commands as I can in this article for the four modes of SOLIDWORKS; Sketch, Part, Assembly and Drawings. The intention of this article is to try go over the not so obvious commands that you might not know, especially helpful for new users. I hope you enjoy this list and that it helps you become more productive while you are designing in SOLIDWORKS.


  • Dimension to the tangent of an arc or circle (min/max condition) – Hold down Shift while using Smart Dimension
  • Move a series of entities – Hold down Shift and drag the selected entities to another location
  • Zoom larger or smaller– Hold down Shift and the middle mouse button while moving the mouse up and down. This will zoom about the screen center and is smoother and more responsive than spinning the scroll wheel
  • Copy a series of entities – Hold down Ctrl and drag the selected entities to another location
  • Turn off automatic relations and/or grid snap – Hold down Ctrl while drawing entities
  • Move multiple spline points at once – Ctrl select points and then drag any of the points*
  • Change spline controls symmetrically – Hold down Alt while dragging a spline control arrow
  • Change XYZ direction in a 3D sketch – Click Tab while drawing entities in a 3D sketch

Part Documents

  • Move Features – Hold down Shift and drag a feature to another location (Disable Instant3D)
  • Select transparent items – Hold down Shift when attempting to choose a transparent face on a part, or vise-versa when System Options, Display/Selection “Select through transparent items” is turned off
  • Copy Features – Hold down Ctrl and drag a feature to another location (Disable Instant3D)
  • Switch to another open document – Hold down Ctrl, then click Tab between each one
  • Create a new offset, parallel plane – Hold down Ctrl and drag an existing plane
  • Change advanced settings of an appearance or scene – Hold down Alt when dragging an appearance or scene from the appearance tab in the task pane
  • Rotate in 90 degree increments – Hold down Shift plus your arrow keys
  • Rotate clockwise/counterclockwise in 15 degree increments – Hold down Alt plus your arrow keys
  • Pan the Model – Hold down Ctrl and drag your middle mouse button or use your arrow keys
  • Reference Triad – Hold down Shift  and click selected axis to rotate view 90 degrees,
  • Reference Triad – Hold  Alt and click selected axis to rotate view 15 degrees
  • Magnifying Glass – Use Ctrl and middle mouse to pan the magnifying glass
  • Magnifying Glass – Use  Alt  and middle mouse to section in the magnifying glass
  • Hide Solid or Surface Bodies – Select Tab with mouse hovered over the body*
  • Show Solid or Surface Bodies – Select Shift + Tab with mouse hovered over the body*
  • Flip the direction of a formed feature (Sheet metal) – Click Tab while dragging the feature to a face

Assembly Documents

  • Select multiple components – Hold down the Shift key when window selecting components with other components already selected
  • Smart Mate – Hold down Alt, click and drag an edge or face to another component to mate
  • Smart Mate + Copy Component at same time – Hold down Ctrl + Alt, click and drag an edge or face to another component
  • Copy a Component – Hold down Ctrl and drag a component to another location
  • Hide a Component – Select Tab with mouse hovered over the component*
  • Show a Component – Select Shift + Tab with mouse hovered over the component*
  • Invert selection – Hold down the Ctrl key when window selecting components.  Components that are already selected will become deselected
  • Select a transparent face – Hold down Shift when attempting to pick a transparent face, or vise-versa when System Options, Display/Selection “Select through transparent items” is turned off
  • Change direction of the move function when using Move with Triad – Hold down Alt and move the triad to an edge to change the direction
  • Change from reorganize to re-order while moving parts in the Feature Manager Design Tree – Hold down Alt while re-ordering parts in the feature manager so you don’t accidentally add a part to a subassembly
  • Copy a part from one assembly to another – Hold down Ctrl while dragging the part to other tiled window
  • Change direction of Routing components – Hold down Shift plus your left or right arrow keys to change the orientation of a routing component upon insertion
  • Mouse gestures – Right click drag over a component rotates it, so hold down Alt if you meant to use mouse gestures
  • Create parts instead of configurations when using Toolbox – Hold down Ctrl when dragging a part into your assembly
  • Camera Views – Use Ctrl, Shift, and Alt keys plus your middle mouse button to manipulate camera views
  • Walkthrough – Use Ctrl, Shift, and Alt keys to change the orientation of your camera while using the walkthrough function
  • Motion Manager – Use Ctrl and Alt keys to copy and move multiple keys in the motion manager

Drawing Documents

  • Move child views with the parent – Hold down Shift while moving the parent view
  • Move model items between views (Dimensions) – Hold down Shift and drag an item from one view to another
  • Break the alignment of Geometric Tolerance Block (Feature Control Frame) from a Dimension – Hold down Shift and drag the frame away from the attached dimension*
  • Select cells in BOM – Use the Shift or Ctrl keys and pick the cells you want to edit
  • Break alignment of views – Hold down Ctrl during the creation of a projected view
  • Copy a sheet to another drawing document – Hold down Ctrl and drag the sheet while windows are tiled
  • Copy model items between views – Hold down Ctrl and drag an item from one view to another
  • Add additional leaders to a note – Hold down the Ctrl key while dragging the arrow
  • Move annotations without snapping to the grid or other annotations – Hold down Alt key while creating or moving
  • Move tables (BOM, revision) – Hold down Alt and you can drag the table by picking any place on the table
  • Move an annotation independently in a group – Hold down Alt and drag annotation
  • Move views – Hold down Alt and you can drag the view by picking any place within the border

One final general note, as you can see in the list above, is that Ctrl selecting and dragging an item usually makes a copy in SOLIDWORKS. This is true in sketch, part, assembly or drawing mode.

*denotes new addition to previous tech tip posted 3/15/2011

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