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.

Introduction to SolidWorks Custom Properties

SolidWorks has something called custom properties. Many programs within Windows have file formats that include properties which allow the user to include some general information about the file without affecting its actual content. For most of these programs, there is a standard short list that includes fields like Author, Keywords, Comments, Title, and Subject. There is also a method that allows the user to create their own custom properties.

SolidWorks has simplified the process to create custom properties, and allows its users to utilize their values within the document via linked annotation notes. The custom properties are available under pulldown File>Properties>Custom tab. There are even shortcuts included that allows the user to create links in these fields to attributes of the document itself.

The advantage in using custom properties is that one can link to their values in annotation notes. This allows for automatic updates to annotation notes without having to edit them directly.

Here are the instructions to link a note to a property. (These instructions are from SolidWorks Help which can be found by searching titles only for “Link to Property”. For more detailed information, please see the Help.)

Start an annotation note.

In the Note PropertyManager (left pane) choose this icon:

 Link to Property Icon


In the Note Properties dialog box, choose this icon:

Link to Property Icon


  1. Select the radial button that identifies the file from where the values will be linked.  The most common choices are either the “Current Document” or “Model in view specified in the sheet properties” (for drawings).
  2. View the available custom properties.


  3. Choose one and then click the OK button.
  4. This will add a tag to your annotation note that looks something like $PRP:”<property name>”.  The annotation note itself will display the value of that custom property.

This can be used to automatically fill in data fields on drawing blocks based on custom properties and document properties in the model.  It can also allow the fields to be filled in from a macro that is designed to provide those values.  Linking annotation notes to custom properties can save a lot of time and reduce repeatitive drawing activies.  However, before committing completely to using links to custom properties on drawings, one should look into the methods and reasons for this.  They should also consider the pros and cons of each.  I will go into detail about when and how to use links to custom properties on drawings in a near future article.