I’ll tell you right now, get ready to break into song if you are a SolidWorks user. In a few months, you are going to wake up, putter off to work and see that familiar splash screen pop up when you start SolidWorks. But this time it’s different, this time it says SolidWorks 2009.

Can you feel the excitement? No? Well, maybe you’ll shed your seasoned skepticism after you read this article. We are going to tear the covers of SolidWorks 09 before Beta even takes it’s last breath.

SolidWorks (hearts) users
You either love, hate or haven’t even used SolidWorks 2008, but the development team at SolidWorks has been busy on the next version that aims to please any one of those people. Their goal is simple, a big freakin’ focus on performance and scalability. What does that mean? They want all the feature to reach a level of usability that hasn’t been achieved before and they want the users to drive it. Let’s see if 2009 is living up to that.

Of course, I’d like to touch a little bit on everything, but that turns into a 2000+ word review for Develop3D real quick. Since this is a blog and you have 37 seconds to scan all the websites you love, I’ll keep it straight and to the point based on some comments I received about what you want to know about in SolidWorks 2009. If I don’t cover something, send me a nice hard slap via the comments. For a complete overviews of new functionality, you can download the What’s New Manual. It has all the detail. Let’s kick this can o’ corn.

How this works
Just one consideration as I go through these. The features and functionality are nice, but think about your workflow and how it’s going to be affected. I’ll give you a list of highlights I think matter the most and talk about the best features of that section with a nice picture to take home to mama. Want more pics? request them in the comments. I’ll take screenshots till I’m gasping for new IV of caffeine. Speaking of injections, how about 1,000 cc’s of new interface enhancements STAT.

2009 User Interface enhancements: Don’t lick the screen
Here are the top interface enhancement I think deserve being mentioned. They are not the only one that deserve mentioning, but have the most visibility with what has been requested of SolidWorks for years and show the move toward consistency in User Interface development.

  • Movable CommandManager *BEST NEW FEATURE AWARD*
  • Dual monitor support
  • Double-Click Zoom
  • Magnify a Region 2X with ‘G’ key
  • Use X, Y, Z triad to position model
  • Consolidating Colors and Appearance
  • Esc Cancel Commands, Enter approves commands

I didn’t use the CommandManager before, but I’ve tried it in 09. You now have the ability to dock it on the left or right side or anywhere on your desktop. I typically just use the Shortcut bar (S) for accessing commands. It’s great for any command you don’t typically uses or have in your Shortcut bar. I still don’t like it taking up screen space, but with a wide screen monitor, it’s negligible. I’m not gonna be picky. Next to this, you can also move your Property Manager. I didn’t think I would use this but it’s nice to bring it out where your working sometimes. This is my vote for best interface improvements.

2009 Sketch enhancements: Picky, picky, picky
Here are the top sketch enhancement that give your 3D all the reasons to exist. Since 3D resides on your ability to create 2D sketches quickly, there’s a handful of feature that have been the focus of the development team in SolidWorks 2009.

  • Numeric input *BEST NEW FEATURE AWARD*
  • Slot Tool
  • Stretch Dimensioned Sketch
  • Instant 3D resize
  • Negative values for dimensions

This was a tough one, I actually like all the new sketch features, but the one that had the most impact on changing and improving my workflow is the Ability to input dimension values as you create rectangles, circles, arc and lines. When you sketch a set of line, you don’t even need to click the mouse button, just enter dimension, move, and repeat. Works great when using a grid or doing quick concept and definitely my vote for best new sketch feature.

2009 Part and Feature enhancements: Click, Move, Create
This is where it gets overwhelming. You just can not go into everything that has been added in one breath. There’s an array of features across an array of part creation features. From surfaces, to sheet metal, plastic design and making features generally more usable, SolidWorks 2009 deleivers on all accounts.

  • Freeform multi-sided patch*BEST NEW FEATURE AWARD*
  • Draft Analysis
  • Welment Groups
  • Lip and groove tool for plastics
  • Dual dimensions on measure
  • Turn solid into sheet metal

Once again SolidWorks is making it tough to pick just one. Freeform for faces with more than four sides in huge though. It really makes me want to pus hthe possibilities of produuct creation and change some workflow for some parts I’ve created in the past, as in using this feature instead of trying workarounds that don’t go anywhere so the idea just gets canned. My second pick would be Dual dimension, just because it aid workflow when having to work in both units.

2009 Assembly enhancements: Remove the Yoke.
Right here, I would just like to say. SWEET GRAVY. Thank you SolidWorks for working on assembly performance. These features alone are why I’m going to upgrade to SolidWorks 2009 the day SP0.0 comes out.

  • SpeedPak for assemblies*BEST NEW FEATURE AWARD*
  • BOM’s in the Assembly
  • Instant3D works in Assemblies
  • Sensors limit alerts
  • Assembly feature propagate to parts
  • Hinge Mates

The SpeedPak feature is the best part of SolidWorks 2009, hands down. This allows you to ghost bodies and faces that are not important to a subassembly, thereby eliminating them from the loading and rebuilding process, but keeping all the references and visibility. It’s like reaching right through the model and working with only what you need to. It’s set up as a configuration and can be used in higher assemblies and drawing. Its definitely my number one pick for best overall new feature for SolidWorks 2009.

2009 Drawing enhancements: They are FASTER.
I mean that. You can move like the wind across sheets and switch almost as fast. Loading on large assemblies still takes some time, but it is improved and I’ve been able to open drawing that would previously crash due to size. I’m not sure what they’ve done and would love to find out more from development, but the drawings are a much better environment to work in.

  • Jog dimensions
  • Format painter
  • Centermarks for slots
  • Better note positioning
  • Esc from a locked up drawing
  • Save Custom drafting standards
  • Print current screen

Even though performance is on the top of my list, I really like the ability to have better control over the dimensions and notes. There’s less zooming and less workarounds to get items lined up correctly and it makes the manual side of drawings much less frustrating. You may actually regrow some of your hair.

Other notable 2009 enhancements: Insert Coolness Here
There are a ton of other enhancements and some general housekeeping SolidWorks has done on the new version. I can’t possibly cover them all. Once again they hit workflow right between the eyes and slay workarounds you’ve had to do before. The best one – oh yeah, you’ll want to use it over and over again. The second one is one I’ve wanted for a long time and isn’t mentioned in the What’s New.

  • Custom Properties Builder *BEST NEW FEATURE AWARD*
  • Configuration Description property
  • Old version alert
  • Different materials for multi-bodies
  • Appearance Toolbar pop-up

It’s very easy to create Custom Property input that is particular to how you handle custom properties for each type of SolidWorks document. The only thing I haven’t been able to determine yet is if it can feed in an existing database. The file it creates (template.prtprp) is XML so it should be fairly easy to trade information back and forth between programs. What a time savings for having consistency between part files, assembly files and drawing files.

Overall, I’m thoroughly impressed. There’s some stability in large assemblies I need to address with some of the features. Noetheless, this bring performance improvements to the assemblies and drawing that have always been needed and the way they solved the problems is absolutely impressive. The SpeedPak will change your workflow. It’s an automated way of creating simplified assemblies while still allowing you to work with the parts you need to. It allows you to set precedent for the engineering process of your product. Design, conceptualizing and manipulating geometry are enhanced with the new Sketch Tools and the surfacing and part features reduce the amount of workarounds. In fact, a lot of these new features seem to focus on the elimination of workarounds that SolidWorks users have discussed with SolidWorks development and each other in the community.

Do you agree? Do you see the new features improving your workflow? I’m upgrading at SP0.0, how about you?

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Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.