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SOLIDWORKS Productivity Hacks

Since its release in 1995 SOLIDWORKS has been one of the industry leading pieces of software for computer aided design (CAD). It was created to allow designers and engineers to bring their product designs to life with ease and precision.

SOLIDWORKS has continued to develop over the years and has become one of the best tools to use for CAD.

Being able to use SOLIDWORKS efficiently is an incredibly useful skill to have under your belt. Not only will it help you know your way around the programme, it will also help you become more productive by customising the tool to how you work best.

Before you get stuck into these hacks, we’ve created a SOLIDWORKS cheat sheet of commands you can use to speed things up.


Download the SOLIDWORKS Cheat Sheet


Getting Started


Customise Your Toolbars 

Start off by customising your toolbar so you have your most frequently used tools at your fingertips.

Go to Tools → Customise, and drag/drop the commands you’d like to a location on your toolbars.

It’s as simple as that.


Mouse Gestures


You can customise what commands your mouse can do with a right-click and drag.

Navigate to tools → Customise, and select the ‘Mouse Gestures’ tab to select which commands can be actioned from the wheel.


S-Key Shortcut


The S-key can be set to produce a shortcut toolbar.

Tools → Customise


Command Search


At the top right of the screen there is a search by to search commands.

Use this to search for any command and launch them by pressing enter.


3D Mouse


If you have access to a separate 3D mouse it will make it easier to manipulate the model, you are working on.


Features & Sketches


On-Screen Numeric InputSOLIDWORKS Productivity Hacks.jpg


You can speed up your sketching and add specific dimensions to lines, rectangles, circles and arcs as you create them.

To enable the feature, go to Tools → Options under the System Options tab select the Sketch area and check “Enable on screen numeric input on entity creation”.


Dimension to Outside of Arc


You can add a dimension to the outside of an arc instead of the centre point.

Hold the SHIFT Key whilst clicking on a circle or arc to quickly add dimensions to the outside.


Box Selection


You can select all entity types in parts, assemblies and drawings by dragging a selection box with the pointer.

When you select from left to right, all items within the box are selected. When you select from right to left, items crossing the box boundaries are also selected.

Click options or tools → options → selection → Box Selection


Selecting Items by Lasso


You can select items by free handing the lasso tool around the parts you would like to select.

Click options or tools → options → selection → Lasso Selection

For clockwise lasso selection, the lasso selects only items contained in the lasso loop. For counter clockwise lasso selection, the lasso selects sketch entities in the lasso loop and items that cross the lasso.


Selecting Over Geometry


This feature is helpful when you can’t start the drag from a blank region. It makes it easier to exclude items you don’t want to be selected.

Without Select over Geometry, if you start the drag on top of geometry, the drag fails and the geometry under your initial click is selected:

Click options or tools → options → selection → Select over Geometry:

  • Drag a box or lass to clear current selection and select different items
  • SHIFT + drag a box or lass to add items to selection


Auto-transition to Arc


Use the ‘a’ key to quickly switch from line to tangent arc command.


Virtual Sharp Creation


You can multi-select two sketch entities and pick the ‘point’ command on the sketch toolbar to create a virtual sharp at the intersection.


Contour Selection


The contour selection window allows you to select a single piece of your sketch to extrude, cut, etc.


Offset Plane


Create an offset plane quickly by holding CTRL + dragging a corner point of plane.


RMB to accept commands


Accept commands by clicking the right mouse button and selecting the accept icon.


View, Rotation & Orientation


Arrow keys can be used to your model on screen:


To rotate in 90-degree increments;

Hold SHIFT + arrow keys

Hold ALT + arrow key to rotate in-plane


Use Triad to align/position your model on screen:


Select triad in the bottom left corner then select an axis;

Hold SHIFT + Click an axis to rotate 90 degrees around that axis

Hold ALT + Click an axis to rotate in 15-degree increments


Middle Mouse button shortcuts


Zoom to Fit;

Double-click middle button


Roll around an edge

Click on middle mouse button + drag on a model edge to rotate about it

Rotate around Scene Floor

Right mouse click in space and select to enable


Undo Last View Change




View Orientations


The spacebar can be used to create and save custom view orientations


Assembly Tips


Smart Mates 


To quickly mate an entity;

Hold ALT + drag


Rotate a part in place


Right click and drag


Select through transparent parts



System options → Display/Selection

To select the transparent part;



Quickly hide parts

Hold the TAB key, and hover over the part you’d like to hide.

Show the part by using SHIFT + TAB and hovering over where the hidden part would be.


Shortcuts for Advanced Mates:


Multiple-select 3 faces, then hit the Mate command automatically invokes a Symmetry Mate

Multiple-select 4 faces, then hit the Mate command automatically invokes a Width Mate




Disable Sketch Relations


Hold the CTRL key to avoid creating snaps/relations in a drawing


Break View Alignment on placement of view


Hold CTRL key before clicking to place


Move/copy dimensions across views


Use SHIFT + drag a dimension to move to from one view to another

Use CTRL + drag a dimension to copy it to another view


Add another leader to note


CTRL + drag on an existing leader to create another leader


Angle dimension shortcut


Select a line, and an endpoint of that same line. Use the quadrant selections for angle


Dimension WITHOUT creating virtual sharp


While dimensioning, right-click an entity and select ‘find intersection’.

Select a second entity to dimension to the virtual sharp.


Download our SOLIDWORKS cheat sheet


We’ve put together a cheat sheet of SOLIDWORKS commands to help you whizz around the programme.

Download it here;


Download the SOLIDWORKS Cheat Sheet