Use Software OpenGL option in SOLIDWORKS

Article by Saeed Mojarad (CSWE) updated August 10, 2018


First let’s talk about a few terminologies that we hear a lot in computer world including Graphics Processing Unit and Hardware Acceleration that help to understand what OpenGL is and what it does.

What is Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)?

In the early days of computing, the Central Processing Unit (CPU) performed all calculations. However, as more graphics-intensive applications such as games and Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software were developed, their demands put strain on the CPU and degraded performance. Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) was introduced as a way to offload those tasks from CPU and freeing up their processing power. In most of the computers the graphics card is the GPU.

What is Hardware Acceleration?

Hardware acceleration is a technique in which a computer’s hardware is forced to perform faster than usual. This technique is used with computing tasks that require more power and processing, such as graphics or video processing.

What is Open Graphics Library (OpenGL)?

Open Graphics Library (OpenGL) is an application for rendering 2D and 3D vector graphics. It is typically used to interact with GPU, to achieve hardware-accelerated rendering.

The application:

  • Can be implemented entirely in software or
  • Can be implemented mostly or entirely in hardware

That being said the application is implemented in most graphics cards these days and therefore support the use of OpenGL calls from software like SolidWorks.

Use Software OpenGL in SOLIDWORKS

Although the OpenGL application is implemented in most of the graphics cards, you can bypass that and use SOLIDWORKS OpenGL application. To do so go to Tools > Options > System Options > Performance and check off “Use Software OpenGL” checkbox. This setting tells SOLIDWORKS to emulate OpenGL on its own and not attempt to use the OpenGL support of the graphics card.

Use Software OpenGL

Use Software OpenGL

When to turn on ‘Use Software OpenGL’ in SOLIDWORKS?

“Use Software OpenGL” option is useful for troubleshooting graphics card and driver problems. In addition, SOLIDWORKS often performs better when you use this option on game and consumer-type graphics cards.

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Saeed Mojarad (CSWE)

Saeed Mojarad is an application engineer at Javelin Technologies. He received his B.S from Mazandaran University, Iran; and his M.S. from École de technologie supérieure (ETS), Canada. He has several years of experience using SOLIDWORKS in different industries such as manufacturing and aerospace. Currently located in Calgary, he is helping SOLIDWORKS users all across Canada as a technical support and SOLIDWORKS instructor.