Understanding the Difference Between Versions and Revisions in SOLIDWORKS PDM

By Tim Paris on

When working across multiple projects and teams, keeping up with the latest file version or revision can be a hassle. With SOLIDWORKS PDM Standard and SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional, you can maintain versions and revisions through your PDM vault and track the updates made to your projects. This article goes over the differences between revisions and versions and how to access them.

What are Versions in SOLIDWORKS PDM?

SOLIDWORKS RevisionsAs you work on a project, you make changes and update your files as needed. Can you imagine having to keep track of each version of your file manually? Well, SOLIDWORKS PDM has your back. When you’re working on a vaulted file, PDM collects a version and revision history. Each time you modify or check-in a file, a new version is created and saved in the vault. You can view, retrieve, compare and restore earlier versions of files. To help you keep track of each version, PDM automatically names the files with simple numbers to make it easier to identify the file version you’re viewing. Additionally, whenever a file is updated, you can add comments to that version, which is helpful when multiple people are working on a project or if you inherit the files from someone else.

These are the steps to view versions and revisions of files:

  1. Select the file.
  2. Do one of the following:
    • Click Display > History. Select the version or revision and click Get
    • Click Actions > Get Latest Version.

You can choose to work only with the latest versions of files by selecting the Always work with latest version option.

    • Click Actions > Get Version to view any previous version or revision.

SOLIDWORKS PDM copies the master file from the vault to your local working folder (cache), overwriting the version in your cache. The Versions tab shows the version status on your local cache. Each version of a file, or check-in, keeps a complete copy of the file. This differs from many other systems that simply track the changes of the file. With that type of system if the record becomes corrupted so does the file history.

I always instruct my PDM students to check in frequently, as this also serves as a “super undo.” Each of us that have used SOLIDWORKS CAD has experienced catastrophic feature tree issues when making changes. Frequent check-ins are a great tool to help with this. There are many aspects to versioning in the way that SOLIDWORKS PDM does. I’ve also seen where this method is easier to qualify in high compliance companies as the file is captured completely and not rebuilt as a part of a changelog.

>> Learn about easy version control tools in SOLIDWORKS PDM

What are Revisions in SOLIDWORKS PDM?

Now that you know how file versions work, let’s look at revisions in PDM. Once your files are updated, they are reviewed and released within your company. A revision in PDM is an instance of a document that has been released. When a file reaches a certain state (an assembly is approved for manufacture, for example), its revision can be incremented, either manually or as part of an automated workflow. In comparison to versions, revisions are not automated and are created manually by a specific user. They are labeled alphabetically, numerically or with a combination of letters and numbers. 


In the example shown in this image, this file has nine versions and three revisions. Versions can occur many times in-between revisions, allowing for detailed file history. In this case, versions 3, 5 and 9 are revisions. The revision counters in PDM are very flexible. In this example, I am using a list where the first revision is a dash. The PDM Administrator then starts with A-Z, excluding I, O, Q, S & Z as many companies like to do to avoid letters that can look like numbers.

Versions and Revisions in PDM

Here is how you can set a revision number:

  1. Select the file and click  Modify > Set Revision.
  2. In the Set Revision dialog box, verify that the revision number can be set. A message in the Warnings column explains the problem (lack of access rights, for example). The administrator must give you rights to set revisions for the file at its current state in the workflow.
  3.  Select one or more files to transition and set column values as needed.
  4. Select the next revision.
  5. Select Update Variable for a file to write the New Revision value to the revision variable in the workflow.
  6. Click OK to set the revision
  7. To verify the new revision number, select the file and click Display > History.

>> Learn how to use PDM integrated revision tables

The main difference between versions and revisions is simple. SOLIDWORKS PDM automatically saves all your file versions in the vault while revisions are manually moved through your workflow in compliance to your company’s approval process. With versions and revisions in SOLIDWORKS PDM, you can have a complete history of the changes made to a document, making it easier to track your projects’ progress.

Are you interested in learning more about SOLIDWORKS PDM? Watch our on-demand webinar, Get to Know SOLIDWORKS PDM, to see other ways in which PDM can streamline and automate your company’s data.