First, the revamped user interface provides a lot more graphics real estate in which to work. And a new transparent Heads Up View displays in each viewport to minimize mouse clicks and movement by giving easy access to view controls. The idea is to let users focus on designs, not the modeler’s command structure. In fact, users have little need to look away from the graphics window when building a model.

RealView graphics makes 3D models look fantastic. Seeing materials a model will be made of as it is built (with textures and even bump maps) punches up the fun factor. One downside in the drawing environment is the cute, wrinkly paper users work on. It’s distracting. Fortunately, the feature can be turned off.

The software makes full use of the developer’s SolidWorks Intelligent Feature Technology (Swift), which makes building models simpler with all sorts of Xperts capability built on Swift. For example, the DimXpert recognizes features and auto-dimensions 3D models for manufacturing. Dimensions can also be brought onto drawings. DimXpert supports geometric dimensions and tolerances according to ASME Y14.41-2003 3D. Other wizards, such as DFM Xpress examines models for manufacturing problems, while Driveworks Xpress lets users build well-defined models by filling out forms — like placing an order. And the new FilletXpert applies multiple fillets in a single operation.

Also helpful, the software provides several ways to reuse existing designs. For example, a Search function located at the top right of the screen lets users just type in what they are looking for — be it a drawing number or a part of the filename — and Search looks for anything that comes close. Search even finds DWGs. Results display on the right of the graphics window. Design Clipart, new in 2008, lets users reuse views, blocks, tables, sketches, and features from SolidWorks parts and assemblies. Basically, Design Clipart dissects files and extracts data so it is reusable in new Solid- Works designs.

The CAD software is also intelligent enough to build geometry depending on how users select components. For example, select a profile atop a solid, and the software defaults to Cut. But select a profile in space, and the software defaults to Extrude. This capability has been needed for a long time. Other great modeling capabilities: Pressing the “M” key when dragging an extrude specifies a midplane extrude. The software also displays the new sliding ruler that shows how far the user is dragging. And a new “centered rectangle” lets users select where they want the center and then drag the rectangle edges. Also, a Live Section tool lets users work on models without the bother of finding direct access to internal features. Just section the model and work away.

V 2008 works with large assemblies faster than ever. Before, it was necessary to wait while each part loaded and displayed in the graphics window. A new Quick View Selective Open just loads graphics — not all the detailed data that takes so long to come in. After opening the lightweight assembly, users can pick components to work on and load just them. SolidWorks even loads assembly mates. When users move a component, it acts as if all the other parts in the assembly are there. Pressing “Control Tab” lets users cycle through open files, which trims time from design chores. A new Volume Select lets users pick components to work on by defining a solid volume.

In addition to these considerable capabilities, the selection of add-on modules will wow you. These include Cosmos FlowWorks to simulate fluid flow, Cosmos motion for animation and physical simulation in one time-line-based package, and TolAnalyst, which runs through tolerance stackups to zero-in on problem dimensions.

A last word to the wise — unless you’ve got the mother of all Internet connections, get the software on a DVD. The full download is over 6 Gbytes. The software comes from SolidWorks Corp., 300 Baker Ave., Concord, MA 01742, solidworks.com

— Mike Hudspeth