Set up of Custom Properties for Drawing Template Use

Custom properties can be deceptively simple in purpose.  They can be used for a wide variety of functions.  One of the most basic of these is quickly inserting values into drawing templates.  This allows the user to quickly fill in the title block and other areas of a drawing with no direct editing of the sheet format or even the sheet itself.

For those people not familiar with custom properties and how to use them on drawings, I wrote a previous article about how to link custom properties to annotation notes on drawings.  Also, see SolidWorks Help.  The remainder of this article will assume familiarity with this function.  In this article, I wish to discuss the issue of when to use particular sources for the custom properties for the purpose of filling out a title block and other drawing areas.  I do not present my article as a final word on the issue.  In fact, I hope to create dialogue on this issue in the comments of this article.  So first, let me ask some questions.

Should one maintain the values for custom properties on the drawing itself?  Should one maintain the values on the solid model, and refer to those in the drawing?  Or, should one maintain some values on the drawing and some from the model?  If there is a mixed answer, which properties come from where?  Here’s what I’ve found.  (There is no absolute answer for every situation.)

The solid model is increasing become more important.  The drawing is the source for far less information in the 3D CAD realm.  Given this fact, utilizing the solid model’s meta-information at must as possible can prove to be very advantageous.  Custom properties are no exception to this.  Values for custom properties can be established on the solid model and utilized directly on the drawing.  This is very powerful because it allows the user to enter certain data only once in the model and have it applied parametrically to the drawing.  When the model changes, so does the drawing.

However, not all custom properties will have the same value in the model and the drawing.  For example, the originator and origination date may be different between the solid model and drawing.  There’s also the issue of multiple parts on a drawing (where drawing information isn’t necessarily driven by one or the other or either).   Imagine the use of workarounds to avoid being forced to directly edit the sheet format to account for these scenarios.

Other issues may arise.  Engineers may not set up models correctly in the first place; with all the required information properly filled out.  Many engineers tend to create their own part/assembly templates that may not interface with the standard drawing template properly.  Models or drawings may be from outside sources that have different schemes. 

In some environments, drawings tend to have more properties than the model due to notation standards.  Examples of this can be values for the watermark or inspection criteria.  I looked into this recently at my own company and I found that only 2 of the basic 7 properties are 100% common between the model and drawing.  I don’t want to create confusion as to where to fill out which properties.  I also don’t want people editing the sheet format because values from the model is different than the drawing; or still further to have some drawings work differently than other drawings because the method to obtain values was changed via the Properties dialog box.  So I left the custom properties as a function of the drawing and not the model (the model carries its own information that pertains to it).  Does one really want to have to open the model every time a text only spec is changed on the drawing?  Additionally, it is not necessary that a drawing have a model or assembly associated with it at all.  Where would the values for the drawing come from in that event? 

There are a lot of rules that must be in place in order for a clean use of solid model properties directly on the drawing.  Some people call these good practices.  I just call them rules because at the end of the day it’s 6 one way and 1/2 a dozen another.  For me, it’s just a matter of having flexibility on how drawings are created and used.

Bottom line, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution in the case of linking to custom properties from the solid model verses maintaining them on the drawing.  When setting up a system, it is best to determine what is most beneficial for that particular system.  I suspect in most cases, there will be a mix between which custom properties on drawings are linked to the solid model, and which are controlled on the drawing itself.

Some macros that allow copying of properties between files:  Rigid Custom Properties, Migrate Properties, and FixProperties.  Websites to explore for more of these types of macros are Lenny’s SolidWorks Resources, Lorono’s SolidWorks Resources, and Esox Republic.

Author: fcsuper

As a drafter, mechanical designer and CAD engineer, I've been in the mechanical design field since 1991. For the first 8 years of my career, I was an AutoCAD professional. I utilized AutoLISP and many other AutoCAD customization features to streamline drafting activities for 6+ drafters and designers. I authored several custom functions, one of which was published in the March 1997 issue of Cadalyst Magazine. Since 1998, I've been used SolidWorks non-stop. I've worked to utilize the SolidWorks' user environment to simplify drafting and design activities for 20+ engineers. I've created this website to provide current information about SolidWorks from a variety of contributors. More recently, I am now employed by Dassault Systemes as SOLIDWORKS Sr. Product Definition Manager to improve drawing, annotation and MBD related areas.

11 thoughts on “Set up of Custom Properties for Drawing Template Use”

  1. One issue that I didn’t talk about in the article is the fact that views on a drawing are not always consistantly maintained. What happens when the view used as the source for the files is deleted? Well, all associatitivity is lost (the values for the custom properties are gone).

  2. We are currently using CustomTools for SolidWorks, which is a great utility to manage our custom properties. The custom properties are maintained in the drawings. It is very easy and also very quick to manage custom properties with CustomTools. I would recomend this software to any SW users spending a lot of time on their custom properties. We had tried different utilities before finding this one, who appeared to be the best and most simple to use

  3. Thank you Erik for the advice, we have downloaded a demo of CustomTools. So far It looks very useful, as it allows us to link our ERP system to SolidWorks. The custom properties add in, also helps us to save a considerable amount of time. I would recommend it.

  4. In SolidWorks 2009, these types of tools will mostly be obsolete. Also, I have always recommended against any commercial applications that control custom properties because the tasks they perform can be done without them with some basic API that already exists.

  5. I can give you their website: From what I know you won t be able to connect directly SolidWorks 2009 to any ERP unless you use one commercial applications. Regarding the customproperties the user interface is just improved in SolidWorks 2009 but still the problem remains the same, it is impossible to manage customproperties in an efficient way, as there is no database. Before using CustomTools we had try 2 free different applications. Those API are really basics and limited as they provide basic features. They are OK if used occasionally but on the long term i really doubt it. Sometimes it is good to pay for higher performances.

  6. True this is why we have switched from AutoCAD to SolidWorks, more expensive but at the end it was worth it.

    Thank you for the website I will download a demo and let you know what I think about this CustomTools

  7. Hi,

    After trying CustomTools, I have to say that it is a very useful tool. Custom properties are stored in databases that can be used by the team (the best tool i have tried so far for Custom properties management). With the batch printing tool we were able to print and convert very large amount of files at once. I was able to save quite a lot of time by using this application, I really think that it is a good investment for advances users of SolidWorks. We bought 15 seats, and our guys seem quite happy with it so far

  8. I am curious about making custom properties (from a drawing) available to users without Solidworks installed…is this possible?

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