You’re a hardcore SolidWorks model whipper, but maybe you haven’t flipped the program over to see what kinds of features lurk on the bristly backside of the history-based beast. What features are these?

Direct Editing features. Do not FEAR! These are some that have been there in one form or another for some time, but with SolidWorks 2010, they get their own toolbar and a wee bit of added functionality… ya know, to make them useful at times. We’ll pick one of the features apart, Move Face, and whip it silly with tips to show you how it works.

Where to find Direct Editing Tools
You can find the Direct Editing tools on the SolidWorks CommandManager. Right-click on one of the tabs to make it appear if it’s not visible. This is a new tab in SolidWorks 2010, so you won’t see it prior to that. You also won’t find a toolbar or menu item called Direct Editing. You can however find the same commands spread out across the Mold tools, Surface tools, Feature and Face Tools under the Insert menu.

No Direct Editing Tab option?
Don’t see your Direct Editing Tab on the SolidWorks CommandManager? Not a problem captain. There’s an issue where the Direct Editing Tab won’t show in 2010. I’m assuming it happens when the SolidWorks toolbar options in the registry for previous versions are overwritten. My opinion is that it’s better to wipe the SolidWorks registry and recreate your settings from scratch, nice and clean. Of course, it would be nice if SolidWorks would just do this automatically, but because it doesn’t yet, here’s the registry data you need to make your Direct Editing Tab appear.


[HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareSolidWorksSolidWorks 2010User InterfaceCommandManagerPartContextTab7]
“Tab Props”=”58490,1,1,17”

Put that into a text file and save it as a .reg file or just download this reg file and run it. Make sure you create a backup of your registry first though.

Translate with Move Face
Perhaps the most common use for the Move Face feature, the translate option moves the faces you select in any direction allowed by the geometry conditions. So, feasibly you could knock out a couple cut an boss features with one Move Face feature.

Offset with Move Face
Offset, as it implies, allows you to offset faces, or as I like to say, shrink or enlarge other features. It handy in the same way if you want to avoid having to edit multiple features to get the same outcome, or if you simply need to increase the amount of material on a part.

Rotate with Move Face
The Move Face feature also allows you to rotate a face around an edge you select. Depending on your selection and what edge you select to rotate around, you can rotate single or multiple face, both perpendicular and parallel to each other.

Selecting Faces with Move Face
After you pick Move Face and make a selection, you’ll get a group of possible selection options. This makes selections faster, but it takes a little time to get use to all those nifty icons. Pause your mouse over each one to get a tool tip.

After you pick Move Face and make a selection, you'll get a group of possible selection options.

Using Move Face with the Triad Arm
Use the Triad Arm to drag the face in the direction you need. This is suppose to make it easier. Sometimes you’ll see the ruler incrementing as you drag it, but more often that not, you’ll go over to the Property Manager and enter the exact dimension you need.

Use the Triad Arm to drag the face in the direction you need.

Moving the Triad Arm
If the Triad Arm is off the part, right-click on the center of the Triad and select, Move to Selection… then click the face you want to move it to.

Using Move Face with Fillets and Radii
To use Move Face on a face with a fillet, create the Move Face feature before the fillet or select the fillet to be included in the feature.

To use Move Face on a face with a fillet, create the Move Face feature before the fillet or select the fillet to be included in the feature.

Applications for the Move Face feature

If you’re really strict about your Feature Tree and don’t like an odd feature like Move Face clouding up the organized structure of Extrude, Cuts and Fillets, you may wonder why it’s even necessary at all to use Move Face instead of just modifying the previous features in your history tree.

  • Use Move Face to modify part in different configurations
  • Use Move Face for adjustments of complex geometry
  • Use Move Face to add/remove tolerance for machining
  • Use Move Face to avoid changing previous features

The examples above were done on a real part needing that special blend of modification and optimization. Even though it’s a very simple part, modifying the existing features involved a lot of time and lead to more errors with references. The Move Face feature made it faster, easier and, in the end, that’s how you use SolidWorks to give your models a good solid whipping.


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.