Are you using the SOLIDWORKS Mate Pop-up Toolbar?

Article by John Lee, CSWE updated July 23, 2019


Mating components together in a SOLIDWORKS assembly? Frequent use of the SOLIDWORKS mate pop-up toolbar can often save you much time and mousing!

The mate pop-up toolbar is not quite as intelligent as the mate manager. For example, the mate manager will usually predict when a Parallel mate is appropriate instead of a Coincident mate, when clearance is required between the selected entities. As of the time this article was written, the mate pop-up toolbar is not as intuitive as the mate manager, and may suggest a Coincident mate anyway, even though that may cause an over-constraint in the assembly. However, that often doesn’t matter if, as the designer, we are aware of the assembly constraints and design intent, and would know to use a Parallel mate instead.

Here is one of those ergonomic perks of SOLIDWORKS: the Mates pop-up toolbar.  This article explains how to use it to increase productivity while reducing wrist strain.

Ever notice that this SOLIDWORKS toolbar pops up right next to your mouse pointer as soon as you pre-select the entities you want while holding down Ctrl?

How to use the mate pop-up toolbar:

  1. While holding down the Ctrl key, select the entities for which you want to create a mate, from among multiple components.
  2. The mate pop-up toolbar will now appear, but it is critical to keep your mouse pointer in the same general area as your last selection, otherwise if you mouse away then the toolbar will quickly fade out of existence like Marty McFly almost does in the guitar-playing scene in that movie, Back To The Future.  Easiest way to bring it back is to return to the area of the last click and press Ctrl, which should make it reappear.
  3. Pick the desired mate from the toolbar.  All done!

Just finished pre-selecting the fourth face for a width mate, and mate pop-up toolbar appears, not quite solid. If I mouse too far away, it will vanish! Here it is suggesting a width mate.

This toolbar has some pros and cons compared to the Mate manager.


  • very convenient to operate!
  • appears right next to your mouse pointer, which means dramatically less mousing and just ONE CLICK to get the mate completed.  It doesn’t even launch the Mate manager, which means the mate gets added with very little mouse movement and just one more click.  You can keep the pointer right where you are working instead of having to mouse over to the left where the Mates property manager lives.
  • reasonably intelligent!  Whatever the combination of selected entities, it will highlight a suggestion for you on the toolbar.  It also limits the selections feasible options.  For example, if you select two pairs of faces on each of two separate components, it figures out that your only option here is a Width Mate.  In fact, it excels at a Width Mate because it figures out which two faces are the width and which two are the slot.  If you were to use the Mate Manager for that, you would have to sort the selections into the correct fields (and do more mousing).


  • not quite as intelligent as the Mate Manager!  For example, whereas the Mate Manager left-hand taskpane (activated by clicking the Mates button on Command Manager > Assembly tab) will correctly predict that a Parallel or other mate type is needed, the Mates pop-up toolbar will usually guess a Coincident mate (at the time this article was written), even if that would overdefine the assembly.  I say “guess” because it puts a dotted box around that mate type, as in the image below.

The mates pop-up toolbar will usually guess Coincident instead of Parallel, but you still have the final say.

We can compare the speed and ease of the mate pop-up toolbar against the Mate Manager which is sometimes more intelligent but usually more cumbersome to use. Try setting up the same Width mate using the Mate Manager, and it becomes apparent how much more work is involved.

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John Lee, CSWE

John Lee is inherently lazy in that he prefers to work smarter - not harder. A CSWE with fifteen years of experience using SOLIDWORKS and a background in mechanical design, John has used SOLIDWORKS in various industries requiring design for injection molding, sheet metal, weldments and structural steel.