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Convince People You're Possessed With These SolidWorks Shortcuts

Initially released in '95 and improved ever since, this program has some nifty tricks up its sleeve, but only if you are willing to learn them.

Convince People You're Possessed With These SolidWorks Shortcuts
Single-seater car simulation AlbertsFlyStudio/Wikimedia Commons

SolidWorks is a 3D computer-aided design and computer-aided engineering software for modeling parts, assemblies, and drawings. Since its initial release in 1995, it has become one of the most popular CAD and CAE programs because of its efficiency in creating objects with optimized designs, thanks to its structural analysis tools. But if you want to make the most out of it, there are a few SolidWorks tricks that you should learn in order to streamline your work process.

What Is SolidWorks?

SolidWorks is one of the most used 3D CAD software in the world, with licenses sold in more than 80 countries. 

The company that built it was founded in 1993 by MIT graduate Jon Hirschtick M.S. with the objective of simplifying, improving, and speeding up the creative process in engineering and mechanical design. To reach it, he reunited a group of engineers. The resulting computer program, SolidWorks 95, was successful in large part because it was cheaper and much easier to use than other CAD programs. Two years later, SolidWorks Corporation was bought by French firm Dassault Systèmes, which developed the subsequent updates and releases. 

Currently, SolidWorks has extended its features to let you build high-quality, easily manufacturable products from a cost-effective, sustainable perspective, adding advanced rendering, simulation and stress tests, orthographic representations, and others. 

This basic SolidWorks information and what it can do can be amplified with the following tips.

Keyboard Shortcuts for SolidWorks

SolidWorks shortcuts can be divided into keyboard shortcuts, mouse shortcuts, and custom shortcuts. Our list of SolidWorks tips would be incomplete without the inclusion of the three categories of shortcuts, but let’s start with selected keyboard shortcuts to make your work smoother: 

Basic Shortcuts

  • Ctrl + N to create a new file.
  • Ctrl + O to open a file.
  • Ctrl + W to close the file. 
  • Ctrl + S to save current work.
  • Ctrl + Z to undo the last change. 
  • Ctrl + C to copy and Ctrl + V to paste parts, sketches, assemblies, and drawings.
  • Ctrl + T to show flat tree view. 
  • R to open recent documents.
  • I to search models and files. 
  • K to search the knowledge base. 
  • C to expand or collapse tree. 

Please, note that SolidWorks runs primarily on Windows, and so these shortcuts only work there. Although it’s possible to run SolidWorks on other operating systems, the software’s technical team does not recommend it.

Selection Shortcuts

  • Ctrl + left click to multiselect.
  • Shift to select a transparent face on a part.
  • Alt + click to select back faces in the View Selector cube. 
  • Shift + click to select everything within the two selected items in the FeatureManager design tree.

Move Shortcuts

  • Shift + drag to move a set of sketches entities, a feature of a part, or the drawing view (and its related views as if they were one).
  • Ctrl + arrow keys to pan a model. 

User Interface Shortcuts

  • Ctrl + B to rebuild the model from the last save.
  • Ctrl + Shift + B rebuilds all configurations.
  • Ctrl + Q to perform an advanced rebuild from scratch.
  • Ctrl + Shift + Q forces rebuild on all configurations. 
  • Ctrl + R to redraw the screen.
  • Ctrl + Tab to move through documents that are already open. 
  • Enter to repeat the last command. 

Display And Editing Shortcuts

  • Alt + arrow keys to rotate the model parallel to the viewing plane.  
  • Shift + arrow keys to rotate the model in 90º. 
  • Shift + Z or only Z to zoom in and out. Shift + drag with the middle button of the mouse is used to zoom the model in and out specifically about the screen center. F zooms to fit. 
  • G to open a magnifying glass. When it’s active, use alt + mouse wheel to show a section view.
  • Alt + click when hovering over a body to show a hidden one (same with components).
  • Ctrl + spacebar to open the view selector, just spacebar to open the view selector and orientation dialog box at once.
  • Alt + drag to open the Appearances Property Manager when dragging an appearance from the Task Pane onto a model.

Dimensions and Annotations Shortcuts

  • Alt + click to turn off automatic alignment. 
  • Alt + drag to move an annotation.
  • Shift + click to snap a dimension of an arc of a circle to the maximum or minimum location using the Smart Dimension tool.
  • Ctrl + drag adds leaders on an annotation.
  • ` to change the annotation view plane for a dimension or annotation.
  • Alt + different numeric values to insert different symbols. For example, alt + 0216 to insert a diameter Ø symbol, alt + 0181 to insert µ, etc.

Sketching Shortcuts

  • Ctrl + drag to suppress inference lines when dragging an endpoint. 
  • Shift + click to turn on snapping
  • Pressing Ctrl while sketching to turn off automatic sketch relations.
  • Shift + drag to make a line snap to a specific length.
  • Tab to change the XYZ plane in a 3D sketch. 
  • Alt + drag to symmetrically adjust both handles of a control point in a spline.
  • L to draw a line.
  • N to change to next edge.
  • Y to accept edge.
  • E to filter edges, V to filter vertices, and X to filter faces. 

Drawing Shortcuts

  • Alt + drag to select and move a table.
  • Ctrl + drag to change the drawing view alignment when inserting a drawing view.
  • Shift + click to select one edge in a drawing view when several edges are collinear.
  • Shift + drag to move a dimension to another drawing view.

Assembly Shortcuts

  • Shift + F10 to open the shortcut menu and context toolbar.
  • Alt + drag to create a SmartMate from a component and to avoid moving a component to subassemblies if applied while moving it in the FeatureManager design tree. 
  • Alt + Ctrl + drag to copy a component and create a SmartMate. 
  • Alt, in Mates, hides a face when hovering over it. Shift + alt shows the hidden faces. Ctrl + Shift + Alt does it in a semi-transparent state. 
  • Ctrl + Shift + Tab to show selected hidden components as transparent. 
  • Ctrl + drag to copy a component and several keys in the MotionManager. The shortcut also inverts the selection in assemblies with preselected components and creates a part when you drag a toolbox component into an assembly.  
  • Tab to hide and show components below the pointer or to rotate them in 90ºC when they’re being inserted.
  • Right-click and drag on a component to rotate it relatively to the assembly origin. Add an alt to invoke mouse gestures instead of this.
  • Shift + arrow keys to reorient a routing component when being inserted into an existing routing assembly.

Additionally, the D key opens the confirmation corner for every command, assembly, or sketch. It also opens the breadcrumbs for you to choose right away.  

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How to Create Custom Keyboard Shortcuts for SolidWorks

SolidWorks allows you to change the previous shortcuts or add new ones according to your needs. Here is how:

  • Open a document and select Tools → Customize → Keyboard tab.
  • Find a shortcut that you want to modify or a command that doesn’t have a shortcut in the chart. Click on it and enter a new key or combination of keys.
  • If the shortcut that you chose is already being used for another command, you’ll be notified and given the option to overwrite it or leave it as it is. 
  • The changes will be automatically saved once you hit the OK button.

You can also add shortcuts to the shortcut bar that appears when you press the S key. The shortcut bar changes depending on what you’re working on, so it basically has four modes: part, assembly, sketch, or drawing. All of them can be edited with custom shortcuts so that you don’t have to go back to the Command Manager continuously. 

Note that the numbers from the numeric keypad and the numbers from the alphanumeric keys at the top of the letters on your keyboard (if you have a keyboard with a numeric keypad) do not equate in SolidWorks. If a shortcut uses the number “5” from the numeric keypad, it will not work if you press the ”5” from the alphanumeric keys. The latter would appear as simply “5” in the shortcut configuration while the “5” from the numeric keypad would appear as “Num 5”.

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This means that SolidWorks interprets them as different keys, which can be confusing at first but it can also increase the combinations for new shortcuts. If you’d rather exchange them randomly, you’ll have to assign both combinations (one with the alphanumeric 5 and the other with the 5 from the numeric keypad) to the same command. 

Mouse Shortcuts For Solidworks

Apart from keyboard shortcuts, you can configure up to 12 mouse shortcuts to save you even more time. First, you must open a document and go to Tools → Customize → Mouse Gestures to enable the feature. 

There should be four gestures in the Mouse Gesture Guide. This is the default option. You can change the existing gestures or add more of them by dragging the commands from the Command List to the spots on the Gesture Wheel that are more convenient for you. 

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Once you’ve filled all the spots that you enabled, you can open the wheel in the graphics area by right-dragging the pointer in the directions that are linked to your shortcuts. The selected feature’s icon will appear highlighted in the wheel so that you can make sure that you’re selecting the right one. 

Of course, there’s also a shortcut to zoom in and zoom out rolling the mouse wheel forward and backward. But unlike other applications, SolidWorks has an option to invert this in System Options → View → Reverse mouse wheel zoom direction. 

SolidWorks Cheat Sheet

SolidWorks cheat sheet is a great way of memorizing or simply having the keyboard shortcuts close at hand. 

Shortcut

Action

S

Opens the shortcut bar

Enter

Repeats the last command

Ctrl + Q

Completes rebuild

Alt + arrow keys

Rotates the model parallel to the viewing plane

Shift + arrow keys 

Rotates the model 90º

Spacebar

Opens the View Selector/Orientation dialog box

Ctrl + click

Select multiple entities

Shift + click 

Selects everything within the two selected items in the FeatureManager design tree

Alt + click 

Shows a hidden body or component when you hover over the body or component

Shift + drag

  • Sketches. Moves a set of sketches.
  • Parts. Moves a feature.
  • Drawings. Moves the selected drawing view and any related views as if they were one.

Alternatively, you can download or customize your own cheat sheets, including the shortcuts that you tend to use or forget the most. 

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