Oooo, did I just use Multi-touch and SolidWorks in the same sentence? Yes, yes I did, but don’t get too excited yet. We need to talk about a couple new UI features you’ll see in 2010. One is, in fact Multi-touch support. The more noticeable Mouse Gestures, most will see and either be filled with pure shock or total glee. We’ll cover Mouse gestures in detail, show you what to expect and how to set it up just right for when you get a shiny, new touch-screen… in a couple years. Nothing like being prepared. Click on!

The Options

The Mouse Gesture options (Tools, Customize…, Mouse Gestures tab) provide settings to assign 4 or 8 different movements to a command. By default it’s set to four. By default, it’s also set to be Enabled. If you’re looking for how to turn it off, this is the place to do it. If you decide to explore it’s potential, you can of course sort by command type and/or perform searches, much like going through the process of setting up keyboard shortcuts.

The Mouse Gesture options provide setting to assign 4 or 8 different movements to a command.
The Mouse Gesture options provide settings to assign 4 or 8 different movements to a command.

What to Expect

In your workspace, the Mouse gestures are accessed by right-clicking and sliding your mouse. When first using the right-click menu you may expect the Gesture menu to stay active until you release the mouse button. This would actually be useful when you first start using the mouse gestures, but as your workflow develops, you’ll find (I did) that you want a command to activate when you slide your mouse over it. No clicking, just slide and activate.

You may expect it to be a little difficult to get use to command locations. You would be right, but not to worry. Out of pure frustration, your mind will quickly adapt to where you’ve located different commands. So it’s going to be important when you go about adding those commands to compliment your workflow.

Adding Gestures to Your Workflow

Ok, so here we go. There are a couple ways you can approach adding Mouse Gestures to your workflow. I suggest the following two ways.

Add commands to your Mouse Gesture to:

  • Reduce hand movements to the right side of the keyboard
  • Access your most commonly used commands

Some of you will probably have a mixture of the two. Whatever you do, don’t just stick with the default View commands assigned to the gestures. The default Sketch commands you see in the gestures are a better example of how to set it up for a workflow that will help you model and help keep your eyes on the screen.

Cut off your Left Hand
This is by far the best way to figure out what to assign to Mouse Gestures. Put your left hand down to the side, see how far you can get by doing everything with the mouse left-click, context toolbars and gestures. Ignore the right-click shortcut menus for the time being.

You can remove a lot of keyboard clicking by doing this, freeing up that left hand to drink coffee while you’re modeling. Of course, that means you’ll have to do something else while you’re waiting for that model to load.

How I Set up Gestures {Video}

I’ll lay this out in a bullet list. I didn’t keep the default commands. If you’re wondering why I removed the View Commands, you’ll want to see next section below on Multi-touch. Setting up the gestures took me about 15 minutes, with another few minutes here and there fine-tuning what commands I used most often depending on my sketch, part or assembly workflow.

  • Changed gestures from 4 to 8
  • Removed all View Commands
  • Added Common Commands to left side (undo, open, rebuild, save)
  • Added Model Commands to the right side (extrude, hole wizard, edit part/sketch)

Here’s what my Part Gestures look like:

It will most likely keep changing as I find new ways to use it. How yours looks depends mainly on your workflow, the commands you use, whether or not you use a 3D mouse with shortcut keys or how attached you are to the keyboard. Here’s a quick video that explains a very simple workflow.

Multi-touch Support is Here: A Tip for the Future

Multi-touch capability is coming. As a matter of fact, there is support for touch-enabled devices in SolidWorks 2010. Currently, it’s limited to standard view commands, undo, right-click and copy/paste actions accessed through flick touch and multi-touch gestures. Read about it in the UI section of the What’s New manual.

One reason why I chose not to use view commands in the Mouse Gestures, is because of the multi-touch support. In the near future, when I have mouse and on-screen gestures available, I want to have View commands associated with multi-touch/flick gestures and the mouse gestures associated with quick access for commands related to modeling. I’ve not used a touch-screen to model in 3-dimensional space, but based on discussions I’ve had with people developing touch related apps and hardware, viewing is distinctly more natural for touch-related actions.

Will it Work For You?

It seems, right now, that most people will love this or hate it. If you’re familiar with other programs that use circular or gesture-based menus, or use EasyGestures for the FireFox browser, you will really like this. If you like keyboard shortcuts, you may just be happy to turn it off. Regardless, give it a try. See what it can do and if there’s a better way, let those developers know what is up.

I personally think, while gesture-based menus are useful, circular menus are limiting, based on the number of possible commands you can fit into a tight space. Sub-menus would extend the options (I’m thinking of menus in 3DVia Composer as an example), but still, you’re limited. Keeping the circular layout, I’d much prefer an adaptive type menu system that ‘learns’ the series of action you take to model/view components. We’ll give it a little more time. What do you think?


Josh is founder and editor at, 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.