Toolbox and File Management

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Have you ever noticed that none of the SolidWorks example files use parts from the Toolbox library directly?

I once bought what I thought was a great product, called ProductCenter. It was a PDM system. The software itself had a lot of limitations and bugs, but I loved the company because they used their own software to run their customer contact system. Yes, it might have been a bit of a stretch between CRS and PDM, but the company really understood the strengths and weaknesses of their own product, and their support had actual experience in using the software (which, by the way, is absolutely invaluable and equally rare).

Do you think SolidWorks has this kind of experience with their own software? Do you think they actually have to use and administer Toolbox in anything but an academic setting? I’ve got my own ideas about these questions, but I’m more interested in hearing what you have to say.

Toolbox is most likely to get messed up if you send someone else an assembly that uses configured Toolbox parts. I love configurations, but unless you fully populate configs in Toolbox parts, they are just too likely to go awry. After examining all of the possible failure modes and all of the workarounds that are available, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best thing to do is to use the copy parts option. One part = one size. It is not very elegant, but it is nearly foolproof. It might give you an immense number of files in your library, but it works well with any PDM system, including manual file management.

The number one rule of file management with SolidWorks is that all SolidWorks documents should have unique file names. This should be the basic rule about the software that anyone who simply uses the software, much less administers it, understands completely. If you have multiple files with the same names, and especially if they have different content, you have a problem. The flip side of that is that you should never have different documents with the same names. If one Toolbox part has 10 configurations and another one of the same name has only 5, you have different documents with the same names. This scenario happens all the time in Toolbox, in fact, if you follow all of the Toolbox rules, it happens literally all the time.

The bottom line to this Toolbox and file management discussion is that when you use configurations, Toolbox is guilty of violating the most important file management rule by design. You can certainly make it work, but you have to be careful to avoid multiple copies of Toolbox parts with different configurations. Even if SolidWorks has solved the Huge Screws disaster, they still have this basic underlying crime against file management actually designed into the system.

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