Each year, around this time of the year, SolidWorks, Waltham, Mass., rolls out new surprises for all us eager CADsters. And SolidWorks 2012 is no exception.

Developers at SolidWorks say that 95% of the over 200 enhancements in the 20th release came from user requests. This is probably why improvements are immediately evident in the user interface. When users bring up the Open menu, for instance, they can now “pin” files to the top of the list. This capability helps users who need to open lots of files by keeping an important file from falling off their “recent” list. SolidWorks 2012 lets users just pin the file and it stays put. Users can open a hundred files and the pinned file still remains at the top.

Other enhancements help streamline everyday jobs. It may not be the most popular subject, but what measurement units do you use, English or metric? I don’t really care which unit system designers use, but it would be great if everyone could just settle on one and get on with things. SolidWorks 2012 has everyone covered in the meantime. In previous versions, users had to follow Options>Document Properties>Units to change units. In the new release, a selector at the bottom of the window lets users immediately change measurement units. Quick and easy!

And how many times have you found yourself scratching your head trying to find a command you hadn’t used in a while? In the new release, just start typing in a command and a drop-down list makes it easy to select the correct command.

SolidWorks: Two and two equals X

Another plus: The equations editor is easier to use. Users can now list all the dimension names in one place so finding a particular dimension is much easier.

Users can set up global variables by simply typing in a-name-equals-a-value. Nice.

SolidWorks 2012 also highlights in orange recent changes on drawings so users can resume editing, even if a really great weekend has left their memory addled.

Previously, to get an exploded view of a drawing, users had to dig several menus down. Now, exploded views sit right in the view pallet.

In addition, SolidWorks 2012 has added capabilities from its 3DVIA module. Designers and engineers like a well-organized drawing. A “magnetic-line” capability lets users snap bubbles into to neat rows or columns (even along angled lines). Users can even space them, well, evenly.

Counting costs
Other enhancements include the Freeze Bar which excludes features from rebuilds to lessen wait times. And the new version also provides better support for dual monitors and multiple-core processors (SolidWorks 2012 can make use of more than 12 cores).

Better yet, a new Costing function helps users estimate the cost of a design, typically a difficult process. The function helps users keep track of material costs, labor, and processes. According to SolidWorks, it will update market prices at every dot release (or more if need be). Right now, Costing is tailored to sheet-metal and machined parts but SolidWorks will likely add more in the future.

Edited by Leslie Gordon. The software comes from Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp.
175 Wyman St., Waltham, MA 02451. Call (800) 693-9000 or visit www.solidworks.com for more information.

© 2011 Penton Media, Inc.