The SOLIDWORKS Shortcut Bar (S-Key) will help to keep your commands close

Article by Jim Peltier, CSWE updated September 1, 2016


In your office, do you keep things nearby where they are to be used, or far away? Do you keep the coffee mugs in the meeting room and the coffee machine in the break room? Do you store your frequently used things in a place where they are out of the way? This might depend on whether you are paid by the hour or not, but if you’re not keen on wasting time, then it makes sense to keep them near where they are needed.


A Shortcut Bar

The same is true in SOLIDWORKS. Infrequently used commands are generally kept in dropdown menus (commands such as Flex aren’t on a toolbar by default, but can be found in Insert > Features). Whereas more frequently used commands (such as Smart Dimension) are located on the CommandManager. This was fine 10 years ago when I was using a resolution of 1024×768 on a 17″ CRT monitor and my mouse had a very short distance to travel. But now, I have a large screen and a smaller resolution, so my mouse has to travel further to get to the edges of the screen.

It would be handy if there was a way to bring the command to my mouse, rather than having my mouse go to the command. There is, and there has been for quite some time, actually!

What we find when we visit our customers for Training Assessments, or performing remote sessions for support cases, that this trick is either not well known or not well used.

The SOLIDWORKS Shortcut Bar

Let’s take a quick look at what this function is. It goes by many names, including the Shortcut Toolbar, Shortcut Key, the S-Key for short, or the Popup Menu, but it is officially called the Shortcut Bar.

When using SOLIDWORKS, if you press the S key at any time, it will activate the shortcut bar

The commands that you will have access to will depend on whether you are editing a Sketch, editing a Part, an Assembly, or a Drawing.

Take a look at the screenshot below to see how much less distance I must travel to draw a line when using the shortcut bar. The Red lines indicate the path my mouse must travel to use the CommandManager and the Blue lines indicate the path for using the Shortcut Bar. I would estimate that the red lines are about 7x the distance. Obviously this distance can vary, but it is always shorter to use the Shortcut Bar.

Shortcut Bar usage example

Shortcut Bar usage example

Why is the SOLIDWORKS Shortcut Bar under used?

I can think of three reasons:

  1. Users do not know about the SOLIDWORKS Shortcut Bar. The good news is that if you are reading this, then you are aware of it, so you cannot use this excuse.
  2. The SOLIDWORKS Shortcut Bar does not have the command users are looking for! Lucky for you, it can be customized! Just go to Tools > Customize, then click on the Shortcut Bars tab:

    Drag and Drop your commands

    Drag and Drop your commands

  3. The final reason is that many SOLIDWORKS users have been using SOLIDWORKS for so long that it is second nature for them to go to the CommandManager. Old habits (and workflows) die hard, as they say. I, myself, was guilty of this for many years. Tune in next time to see how I broke this habit to start using the SOLIDWORKS Shortcut Bar and speed up my process.
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Jim Peltier, CSWE

Jim has been using SolidWorks since 2001, and has spent most of that time working in the design of industrial automated manufacturing equipment. He has been working as an Applications Expert at Javelin Technologies in Oakville, Ontario since July 2012 and is a Certified SolidWorks Expert (CSWE).