Article by Rod Mackay updated October 16, 2020


New this year are the 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS Offers, this is a cloud-connected version of SOLIDWORKS Standard, Professional and Premium software. Recently we have been receiving questions related to SOLIDWORKS Desktop vs 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS.

So in this article we’ll try to answer those questions and highlight some of the key differences between the desktop and cloud-connected versions of SOLIDWORKS software now available to purchase.



SOLIDWORKS Desktop vs 3DEXPERIENCE Comparison Matrix

Choosing the version that is right for your business really depends on how you are going to be using SOLIDWORKS and your requirements, here is a comparison list to help with the decision process, the bolded solution denotes the preferred choice:

Requirement SOLIDWORKS
3D CAD Tools Core SOLIDWORKS tools available Core SOLIDWORKS tools available
Desktop CAD Runs on the desktop Runs on the desktop
Browser-based CAD Does not include browser-based CAD Includes browser-based CAD
Customization Full API Support Partial customization available
Perpetual License Supports Perpetual Licenses Does not support Perpetual
(3 month or 1 year, term named-user license)
Term License Supports Term Licenses
(3 month or 1 year)
Supports Named-user Licenses
(3 month or 1 year)
Floating Network License Supports Floating Licenses (SNL) Does not support SNL
(Provides cloud named-user license)
Secure License Relies on computer security Provides Secure Login to Platform
Work in Multiple Locations Installs on multiple desktops
(License needs to be transferred)
Installs on multiple desktops
(Provides Named-user licensing)
Need Partner Add-ins Supports Partner Add-ins Does not support Partner Add-ins
(Alternative Platform Roles available)
Offline File Management Files are saved locally Cloud-based file management
(files can be exported for offline use)
On-Premise PDM Supports SOLIDWORKS PDM & Manage Uses cloud-based ENOVIAworks
(Does not support PDM/Manage)
Cloud PDM Does not provide cloud PDM
(Although PDM & Manage have Web access)
Uses cloud-based ENOVIAworks
(Easy to use and administrate)
Run on multiple devices Needs CAD workstation Cloud tools work in a browser
Part Catalogues Supports SOLIDWORKS Toolbox 3DEXPERIENCE Marketplace Parts
Lifecycle Management Requires Partner Product Uses cloud-based ENOVIAworks
(Out of the box PDM/PLM)
Enterprise Collaboration Requires SOLIDWORKS PDM & Manage Through 3DEXPERIENCE Platform
(Out of the box access for enterprise)
Simulation & Validation SOLIDWORKS Simulation Available
(included with Premium version
SOLIDWORKS Simulation Available
(included with Premium version

Questions and Answers for 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS

Listed below are common questions that relate to 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS:


A: The 3DEXPERIENCE® SOLIDWORKS® roles are for designers and engineers who need comprehensive and robust set of product design capabilities along with cloud-based collaboration and data management.

The 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS roles feature the industry-leading SOLIDWORKS Desktop CAD for rapidly creating sophisticated 3D models of parts and assemblies and production-ready 2D drawings, along with application-specific tools for sheet metal, weldments, surfacing, molds, tools and dies, plastics, electrical and piping routing and photorealistic renderings of products.

With all data saved securely on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, users can manage, view and share their data anytime, anywhere and on any device. 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS roles make it easy for engineers and designers to collaborate in real time with their entire business ecosystem, including customers, partners, and suppliers, and deliver a product development experience never before possible.

Q: What is the difference between a 3DEXPERIENCE application (App), a Role, and a commercial Offer?

A: A role is a set of applications (web-based apps) that are necessary for a you to fulfill a job function. An Offer is a commercial bundle that includes a collection of roles.

Q: What is a 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS Named User License

A: 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS is licensed from the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform with named user licensing. A license is assigned when an administrator grants a role to you. A role determines the 3DEXPERIENCE services and apps that you are entitled to use. a 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS license does not issue a serial number. The license is not tied to a particular machine. There is no need to activate, deactivate, or show licenses

Q: What are the benefits of 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS?

A: 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS offers many benefits and advantages over SOLIDWORKS Desktop including:

  • Industry-leading SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD capabilities
  • Safe and secure cloud data management
  • Simplified collaboration with team members, customers and suppliers
  • Data accessible anywhere, anytime and from any device
  • Deployment is simplified to stay up-to-date with the latest enhancements
  • All critical updates are automatically installed when starting the application
  • Administrative and IT overhead is reduced with turnkey collaboration and data management capabilities on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform
  • You can seamlessly expand your product development through a broad portfolio of roles available on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform

A: No, the 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS roles are not replacing SOLIDWORKS Desktop. Both the desktop and cloud solutions will be available for the foreseeable future, offering flexibility of choice based on your needs and situations.

Q: Does 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS run on the cloud?

A: Yes and No, the 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS CAD licenses (Standard, Professional, and Premium) do not run on the cloud and are essentially the same as SOLIDWORKS Desktop. The software is installed on your local hard drive and connects with the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform when SOLIDWORKS is running. You can learn about how the software interacts differently. The 3DEXPERIENCE version of the software is called ‘SOLIDWORKS Connected’ to denoted that it is a platform connected version. This allows you to install the software on any machine, and connect to 3DEXPERIENCE with a named user license (rather than a serial number installation)

3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS licenses also include other 3DEXPERIENCE roles, most of which are browser based and work exclusively on the cloud, they are:

  • 3D Creator Role is a browser-based 3D parametric modeling role on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform that lets teams create conceptual and detailed designs easily (available with Standard, Professional and Premium).
  • 3D Sculptor Role is a browser-based subdivision modeling role on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform that lets teams create highly stylized, organically and ergonomically shaped products quickly and easily (available with Professional and Premium).
  • 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS Simulation Designer is a desktop-based simulation role connected to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, providing linear static structural and time-based motion analysis capabilities for parts and assemblies (available with Premium only).
  • Collaborative Business Innovator is a browser-based role on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform for centralized team collaboration offering secure data storage and sharing, tailored dashboards, social communities and more (mandatory with 3DEXPERIENCE roles).
  • Collaborative Industry Innovator is a browser-based role on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform for product lifecycle management featuring issue, change and route management, 3D visualization and markup, Kanban-style task management and more (mandatory with 3DEXPERIENCE roles).
Q: Is an internet connection required to run 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS?

A: Yes, An internet connection is required. Similar to other cloud centric applications, 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS roles require an internet connection. However, they also maintain an invisible local cache on the your machine should the internet connection become unstable. You can continue working on your model and save locally until the internet connection is restored or you are ready to commit your changes.

Additionally, being a cloud centric application brings many advantages. You can install and use the SOLIDWORKS CAD on as many machines as you wish. Your data is always safe and secure on the cloud and you can instantly share your designs with your team members across your entire business ecosystem.

Q: Can you use 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS and SOLIDWORKS Desktop to work on the same data?

A: Yes. When files have been saved on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform they can be opened in either application and can be worked upon. A named user license of Collaborative Designer for SOLIDWORKS is required for each user of SOLIDWORKS Desktop to enable them to manage the data on the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform. Additionally, you should be on the latest release of SOLIDWORKS Desktop when working with Collaborative Designer for SOLIDWORKS.

Q: Can administrators assign a different 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS role to give users access to more capabilities?

A: Yes, assuming the platform administrator has available licenses, s/he can instantly assign new licenses to users in order to give them access to more capabilities. For example, if the user already has 3DEXPERENCE SOLIDWORKS Standard, the administrator can give access to 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS Professional or Premium. On first consumption of the license, the license is locked for a 30-day period and therefore cannot be reassigned to a different user until the period has expired.

Q: Can templates be managed on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform?

A: No. Currently templates are stored on the disk locally and referenced from the local folder.

Q: Can design libraries be managed on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform?

A: No. Currently, design libraries are stored on the disk locally. Administrators may want to create a standard library on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform and provide read access to the users.

Q: Can you install other SOLIDWORKS products (CAM, Plastics, Flow Simulation, Inspection, PDM, Manage) with the 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS roles?

A: No, SOLIDWORKS Desktop portfolio applications such as Inspection, Composer, MBD, etc. cannot be installed with the 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS installation. They are not supported. All saved data can be easily exported in the desired format (including SOLIDWORKS file format), if the customer needs it for standalone applications or for offline collaboration.

Q: If my business has SOLIDWORKS Desktop and PDM/Manage should I switch?

A: Probably not, your business will likely have a customized PDM system to meet your requirements. ENOVIAworks is an out of the box PDM solution better suited to businesses that are new to SOLIDWORKS, or presently do not run a PDM system.

Still have questions or need pricing?

Contact us and we’ll be happy to answer your SOLIDWORKS Desktop vs 3DEXPERIENCE SOLIDWORKS questions and provide you pricing information for both versions.

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Learn more about SOLIDWORKS cloud-based collaboration:

Rod Mackay

Rod has been using 3D CAD software for over 25 years and has trained thousands of designers to use their CAD systems more effectively. Rod is the Javelin Webmaster and is based in Ottawa, ON., Canada.