SolidWorks Tutorials for Beginners – The SolidWorks Interface part 1

SolidWorks Tutorials – The Interface, pt.1

Welcome to the next installment of our SolidWorks tutorials for Beginners series. In this document I’ll be teaching you about the SolidWorks interface. When you open SolidWorks, you’ll see the screen that I have excerpted below, gray in the center with the SolidWorks logo, and some tools and menu options around the top and side of the screen.

First job is to create a SolidWorks document. Click on the New button, as I show you in the image below:


Fig 01 – Solidworks start screen; first step is to click on the New icon to open a new SolidWorks document.

The New SolidWorks Document window opens. You’ve got three options for creating a new document: it can be a part, assembly or drawing document.

Depending upon which environment you want to work in, SolidWorks has different documents. So, if you want to work in sketching, part modeling, surface design, sheet metal, weldments, etc, you will need to create a SolidWorks part document. If you want to begin in the Assembly environment, and create a top-down assembly, where you first develop a layout sketch and then fit your parts into that, or just create an assembly of existing parts you’ve already modeled, then you’d choose an assembly document. If you want to create drawings of your models, that is something that can be easily printed on paper with annotations, and shared with your boss, teacher, colleagues or clients, then you’d opt to create a drawing document.

Remember, if you want to start a two-dimensional sketch in SolidWorks, you don’t use a drawing document; you need a part document. Even if you don’t plan on doing much modeling yet, that is, turning your sketch into a three-dimensional part, you still have to work with a part document.

The New SolidWorks Document is shown here, with the three document options avaialble to you–part, assembly and drawing. You click on one of these, and then click the Open button.


Fig 02 – The New SolidWorks Document window, where you choose a part, assembly, or drawing document.

You might be wondering what happens when you click on the Advanced button. Below I’ve got pictured the window that opens, and from it you can access tutorials as well as modify the templates for the part, assembly and drawing document files. You need to click the Novice button to get back to the New SolidWorks Document window.


Fig 03 – The “advanced” tab of the New SolidWorks Document window, where you can access tutorials and modify the templates for the part, assembly and drawing documents.

For this lesson, I’ll create a part document. So, from the Novice page you click on Part and then click OK.

Below, you’ll see what the part document looks like when you first open it.

The blank white area is called the Graphic Area and is where you perform most of your actions, whether you’re working with parts, assemblies or drawing documents.

At the top of the screen is the command interface, and it’s called the Command Manager. SolidWorks, like most software these days, uses a ribbon-based command manager. So it’s very likely that you’ll already be familiar with way of seeing your commands.

The ribbon command manager is where you activate a tool. The tools you see depend upon which environment you’re in, and you choose the environment from the tabs below the ribbon. You can also choose which tools to see and hide on the ribbon. There’s a lot of available tools, and you may not want to clog up your ribbon by showing too many of them at a time. (For more SolidWorks tutorials please visit


Fig 04 – A blank new SolidWorks part document.

On the left is the principal SolidWorks navigation tool. It’s called the Feature Manager Design Tree. There are a few small tabs at the top of the tree, and they allow you to navigate through other parts of your work at a glance. Let’s take a closer look at the tab icons on top of the feature manager design tree:


Fig 05 – The SolidWorks “Manager” tabs

The first tab takes you to the Feature Manager Design Tree, as we saw above.

The second tab takes you to the Property Manager, where you can easily view and modify properties of your geometry or model:


Fig 06 – Property Manager – where you change parameters of the tool you’re working with

The third tab takes you to the Configuration Manager, where you can create, edit and delete configurations (display states) of your work.


Fig 07 – Configuration Manager – manage configurations

The fourth tab takes you to the DimXpert Manager, where you can easily manage dimensions.


Fig 08 – DimXpert Manager – manage dimensions

The fifth tab takes you to the Display Manager, where you can easily manage the colors, scenes and other appearance properties of your model.


Fig 09 – Display Manager – manage appearances.

Now let’s take a closer look at the ribbon. You’ll remember that this is the command manager at the top of the screen. When I hover the mouse over a tool for a couple seconds, a tool-tip appears. A tool tip explains what a particular tool does. Here is the tooltip for the extruded boss-base command:


Fig 10 – Tool Tip – hover over a command for a few seconds to see an explanation of what it does.

Right on top of the manager tabs are the tabs that get us around the various design environments of SolidWorks:


Fig 11 – SolidWorks design environment tabs

You need to left-click on a tab to go to that environment. The ribbon for each environment is set up to show the tools that are appropriate for working in that environment. So, in the Sheet Metal environment, we see tools required for working with sheet metal, such as the base flange/tab, convert to sheet metal, lofted bend, edge flange, miter flange, hem tool, jog tool and so on. But we don’t see these tools when we’re on the Sketch tab.


Fig 12 – Sheet Metal design environment – the commands on the ribbon are unique to working with sheet metal.

If you want to make more design environments visible, or if you want to hide the ones you’re not using, you need to right-click on any tab:


Fig 13 – Right-click on any tab to pull up this list of available design environments. All the ones marked with a checkmark are currently visible on the ribbon.

The tabs that are currently visible on the ribbon are indicated by the checkmark. To make another tab visible, just select it from this list. It will then be marked with a checkmark, too, and now appear in your set of tabs on the ribbon (called the command manager in SolidWorks).

Second to the bottom of this list is the option to Use Large Buttons with Text. Uncheck this to make the ribbon a bit smaller.

At the end of the list is the option to customize the Command Manager. We’ll explore this option in part two of this lesson about the SolidWorks interface.

This concludes part 1 of this introduction to the SolidWorks interface in our SolidWorks Tutorials for Beginners series!