5 Lesser-known Tips for Using the SOLIDWORKS “File > Open…” Window

By Sarah Taylor on

You may know there are multiple ways to open a File in SOLIDWORKS. Some of the most commonly used methods include double clicking on the file inside of File Explorer or dragging and dropping into the SOLIDWORKS window. And of course, there is always the traditional method of navigating to the File Menu at the top of the screen and selecting Open.

SOLIDWORKS file open window

The Open command in SOLIDWORKS is much like opening a file in any other program. It launches a familiar window where you browse to the correct file to open. But within the SOLIDWORKS Open window, there are a few options controlling how the file will be opened. Understanding these options can be a real time saver when it comes to finding the right file, working with large assemblies, and managing external references and configurations.

open command in solidworks

  1. Accessing the full Open Dialogue Window

As described above, one way to access the full “Open” dialogue window is inside of SOLIDWORKS, navigate to File > Open.

Another method is to navigate through Windows File Explorer, right-click on a SOLIDWORKS File, and select SOLIDWORKS > Open (Selecting the simple “Open” at the top of the list is akin to double-clicking the file and will bypass the Open dialogue).

accessing full open window

Note: You must have the free SOLIDWORKS File Utilities tool installed to see SOLIDWORKS in the list when right-clicking a file.

If you like dragging and dropping files into the SOLIDWORKS window (from File Explorer or elsewhere), you can hold ALT on your keyboard while dragging the file to launch the Open window.

drag and drop open

Lastly, the Open options can also be accessed through the Recent Documents window. Just click the small arrow in the lower right corner of the thumbnail of the file you wish to open, and from there you will have all of the options from the full Open window.

Viewing recent documents

  1. Quick Filter

If you are digging through a folder that contains many SOLIDWORKS files, you may want to use a Quick Filter. This will only show you files of the selected type: either Part, Assembly, Drawing, or Top-level Assembly.

In the screenshot below, with no filter applied, I can see all of the files within the current folder:

quick filter

However, after applying the “Assembly” filter, there are only 2 files listed:

assembly filter

The “Top-Level Assemblies” Filter is especially handy for narrowing down the right assembly file. It filters out any sub-assemblies that are referenced within other files in the current folder. In this example, the “Base” assembly file is referenced inside of the top-level “Flashlight” assembly. With the Top-Level Filter turned on, only the Flashlight is shown:

top level assemblies

Quick filters help you open the right file faster!

  1. Edit File References

edit file references

After selecting a file in the Open Dialogue, clicking the “References…” button will launch a window which displays all of the file’s top-level references. Depending on what type of file you have selected, you may see different results in the References window.

  • Assembly: Top-level components and sub-assemblies will be listed (Components nested within subassemblies will not be displayed).
  • Drawing: The file (Assembly or Part) referenced inside the drawing will be listed.
  • Part: If the part was generated as a result of a Split or Save Bodies command or uses in-context relations to generate any of its geometry, the externally referenced files will be listed here (Many Part files do not have external references; in which case the window would be empty).

In the screenshot below, we can see that the Flashlight Drawing file references the Flashlight Assembly file. In this window, the referenced file can be replaced, whether that is with an updated version of the Flashlight or with a different assembly altogether. Simply double-click on the file name, and another pop-up window will appear where you can specify the new file to be referenced. Adjusting the referenced file(s) before opening the top-level file ensures that you are loading in the correct data immediately upon file open.

edit references

  1. Assembly Large Design Review – “Edit” mode

When an Assembly is selected in the Open dialogue, the user can select to open the file in one of three modes: Resolved, Lightweight, and Large Design Review. To summarize the difference between these modes…

  • Resolved: Loads in all model data for all of the referenced components. This mode usually takes the longest time to open the assembly.
  • Lightweight: Loads only graphics and geometry data (i.e. no feature or sketch data for individual components).
  • Large Design Review Mode: Loads only graphics data for components, allowing for the fastest open time of the 3 modes.

edit mode

Large Design Review (LDR) mode can be very helpful when the user is opening the assembly file for simple review capabilities such as:

  • Navigating through the Assembly tree to understand subassembly/component relationships.
  • Hiding and showing components.
  • Taking approximate measurements.
  • Generating Section Views, and more.

The lesser-known tip for LDR mode is that in 2019, SOLIDWORKS introduced the option to “Edit Assembly”. With this box checked, the user can make modifications to the assembly without taking the time to load the fully resolved model. The user has access to a few editing capabilities within the assembly such as:

  • Insert Components.
  • Mate creation and editing.
  • Linear and Circular Component Patterns.

In the screenshot below, you can see the eyeball icon on each of the subassemblies and components in the assembly tree, noting that the entire assembly has been opened in LDR mode. Additionally, the Command Manager contains a limited number of tools while in LDR “Edit Assembly” mode.

large design review

  1. Configuration: <Advanced>

In the Open dialogue, there are dropdown selection boxes for Configuration and Display State. If you know ahead of time the configuration and display state you wish to load in, it can be helpful to select them before opening. In the Configuration dropdown list, there is a lesser known <Advanced> option.

configuration advanced

If you select <Advanced>, and then click Open, a “Configure Document” window will launch with some additional configuration-related options.

configure document

The “New configuration showing assembly structure only” option is particularly useful for troubleshooting assemblies that run into errors or crashing upon opening. With this option selected, a configuration is created which has all components suppressed. From there, you can selectively un-suppress components a few at a time to see if you can narrow down the file issues to one particular Part or Subassembly. The other option “New configuration showing all referenced models” essentially does the opposite.

With the checkbox option “Use specified configuration for part references when available” checked, SOLIDWORKS will check each part and subassembly to see if it has a configuration that matches the name you entered (common configuration names may be “Default” or “Simplified” but you can enter any name) and will load that configuration. If a component does not have a configuration that matches the name you entered, it will load whatever configuration was last referenced.