Better SOLIDWORKS File Organization for the New Year

Article by TriMech Solutions, LLC updated January 26, 2023


Have you ever tried to open an assembly file in SOLIDWORKS and been met by assemblies that fail to find referenced components or don’t open any components at all? This happens to everyone from time to time but if it happens often, it is a sign of poor SOLIDWORKS file organization.

If opening assemblies is time-consuming, this blog article will help demonstrate best practices for organizing files with SOLIDWORKS and help to explain just how exactly file references work by illustrating a proper file structure. The examples in this blog will show SOLIDWORKS file organization methods from an imaginary company (PIPEKIA) that makes modern industrial-style home goods from threaded pipe parts. Before we even dive into CAD software itself, we will to talk about having a well-organized part numbering system, and some type of file folder structure that mirrors this. How does PIPEKIA manage part files?

Part Numbering and Mirroring Folder System

It may seem like extra work, but if your company doesn’t already have some sort of excel spreadsheet and part numbering system in place, it is extremely beneficial to have one. See the screenshots below for an example of this.

SOLIDWORKS file organization excel spreadsheet for part numbering system

Example of a Part Numbering System

example of a part numbering system

Part Numbering System in Excel

When sourcing new components, you simply add them to the spreadsheet under the next part number and save them to a folder that corresponds to the part number series sheet. Put as much information in as you want, you can even have hyperlinks to supplier part dimensional datasheet pdf’s, etc.! If you want to store extra things beyond SOLIDWORKS files with the part files, make some extra folders to keep these in. It’s nice to have all the SOLIDWORKS files that you want to use just in the main level not mixed with other file types because it is easier to view them inside of Windows file explorer by their file preview images. If you have other folders, you want to keep inside the initial ones make a template folder that you can copy and rename to keep the internal folders the same. See screenshots below for examples.

part number spreadsheet

file structure and organization in solidworks

organize part files with SOLIDWORKS with numbers

There should be some sort of part numbers for every assembly that you make as well, all of your SOLIDWORKS Assembly (.sldasm) files should live in that folder. All of these part number folders should be inside of a top-level folder named something like ‘SOLIDWORKS File Database.’

solidworks file database for organization

If this sort of structure is always maintained your SOLIDWORKS assembly files will be much less likely to lose their references due to files being moved. Using the same part files for all of your assemblies and avoiding duplicate file locations helps to avoid manufacturing older or otherwise incorrect revisions that could end up costing a lot of money. Having files like this also makes it easier if you need to collaborate with other users because this folder structure could be used on a network location which ensures that if any part files are open for editing you can see the [Read-Only] file state because co-workers could not have some duplicate file open. To see these [Read-Only] warnings make sure multi-user settings are turned on inside SOLIDWORKS system options on everyone’s system. Because of this file structure, moving the SOLIDWORKS assembly files while maintaining references becomes as easy as copy and pasting or moving the top-level folder. You may need to search for the new assembly location to open the assembly, but if all the other part number series folders got moved to the same location as the Assemblies folder the references should be automatically found.


Hopefully a look at PIPEKEA’s file database and organizational methods has given some insight into proper SOLIDWORKS file organization to organize part files with SOLIDWORKS. Being well organized like this has many benefits, all of which save time and money for your company. If you don’t already use something like this, try to implement it as a resolution that will help solve file reference and duplicate file location issues in the future.

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TriMech Solutions, LLC

TriMech provides thousands of engineering teams with 3D design and rapid prototyping solutions that work hand-in-hand, from sketch to manufacturing. Javelin became a subsidiary of TriMech Solutions LLC in 2021.