solidworks 2008 logoThe launch of SolidWorks 2008 is quickly approaching and even though you may just be getting use to some things in 2007, the new version has some features that could bring you to the edge of your seat. If you’ve seen the preview demo, the new interface may be the first thing that stands out, but the focus on functionality and how you design makes this new version all the more interesting.

Over the next few days, we’re going to plunge into the depths that are SolidWorks 2008. We’re going to go over the major functionality shift in the new version of SolidWorks and show you how you’re going to be doing more of your work on the screen with less lag. This is gonna be the meat. I’ll save the What’s New for you to look at, you can download that right here.

SolidWorks 2008 screenshot

Today we’re gonna look at


This, in any program for some reason, is usually a big complaint when it changes. I’m just gonna say it. It’s better. Take 30 minutes to play with it and you’ll like it. Here’s why…

  • More room on the screen
  • Less moving around
  • Find stuff faster
  • Improved graphics

More room on the screen
We love lots of room. The more, the better. With these three enhancements you’ve got what you need.

  1. Flyout Menu Bar
    This is brilliant. You know the top bar where it usually just say SolidWorks, yeah, those 15,000 pixels are precious real estate, so the standard toolbar has been moved up there and the menu bar flys out over it. Don’t worry, it can be pinned down so you’re able to adapt to your new environment. You can also add commands to that standard toolbar. I would suggest adding commands you usually have there or a new one. I’ve added a Selection flyout menu and Colors.
  2. Custom Toolbars
    The command Manager now has tabs. You can add a custom tab. I now have all my toolbar commands on one row with the most commonly used in the middle. This has completely eliminated an entire row from my screen.
  3. Heads-up display toolbar
    This was the hardest to get use to. All the toolbar commands that have to do with display are now in a transparent menu in the viewport. This is handy, because it will appear in each viewport. The only thing I don’t like about this, is that its not customizable…yet.

SolidWorks 2008 screenshot

Less moving around
We really hate having to move from toolbar to menu, to FeatureManager, to display and all in between. Anything that keeps me in the display and on the models makes the process go faster. There are two main things that make this happen.

  1. Context Menus
    Again, brilliant, and again, takes a little getting use to. When you left click something in the viewport or FeatureManager Tree a visual context menu of typical actions pops up. Again, don’t worry, the right click context is still there, but once you get use to the new one you’ll be flying through your model.
  2. Shortcut Bar
    If you don’t have S set up as a keyboard shortcut, you can press that in the graphics area and get a customizable shortcut bar. It’s contextual too, so when your in a sketch and hit S sketch commands come up. You could feasibly set this up to where you are always working in the graphics area.

SolidWorks 2008 shortcut bar

Find stuff faster
There are four things that really, really improve this.

  1. Search your features
    There’s now a search bar above the FeatureManager Tree. It’s dynamic. Right when you start typing, it starts searching. It goes deep too, down to the sketches and material if you have it set. You can also make it filter whatever you type in. Ine
  2. Dissect Parts
    If you use the search that is now located up on the menu bar, you’ll find that it searches your assemblies, your parts, features within those parts, and sketches within those parts. You can drag and add any of them into what you’re working on, like that feature of that fancy slot you put in that one part way back on that other project.
  3. Tags
    What the heck are tags? They’re used a lot online these days. Like on Flickr. Think of them as keywords. You can put them on features or documents. I’m not sure how quick this will catch on. Most people I know don’t know of this type of organization. Still, once it’s used it becomes extremely useful to find things that would normally be hidden in obscurity.
  4. Browse Documents
    When you use Ctrl-Tab to switch documents you now get a visual of all the documents open so you can switch to the one you want. This is great when you working in lots of documents or just want to avoid that 50MB drawing for a bit.

SolidWorks 2008 search
Improved graphics
While this really doesn’t help with overall functionality in my opinion, I didn’t want to ignore that there are some great improvements. This is gonna be more useful if you’re working with visualization like PhotoWorks. However, I did find that some of the new RealView settings were extremely helpful, particularly the ‘lightcard’ setting. This creates a glow around a selection and makes it easier to see what’s selected. This is really great when working in top down assemblies and large parts. The RealView options are added to the heads-ups toolbar so switching scenes and toggling it on and off are super easy.

SolidWorks 2008 screenshot

The interface enhancements alone make SolidWorks 2008 a definite reason to look into upgrading. When I first saw the demo I thought it was going to be all flashy interface changes with no functionality, but the interface, in my opinion, is actually much more functional. I actually found myself trying to do 2008 stuff in 2007 and started to weep when I couldn’t. Maybe not weep, but I felt really frustrated. Anyway, tomorrow, we’ll look into more of the tools.

SolidWorks 2008 screenshot

SolidWorks 2008 screenshot


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.