SOLIDWORKS Backwards Compatibility

Article by Tom Ayers updated January 9, 2023


When it comes to capabilities of SOLIDWORKS files, there is much to keep in mind. I want to spend some time talking about backwards compatibility (downward compatible), also, which files SOLIDWORKS can open and read.

What is SOLIDWORKS backwards compatibility and what does it mean?

Backwards compatibility refers to a software (in this case SOLIDWORKS) that can read and write or even view older files. SOLIDWORKS has always been backward compatible, meaning that the most recent version of SOLIDWORKS can open all previous version of SOLIDWORKS. (For example, a SW 2018 file can open files created in SW 2017.)

SOLIDWORKS backwards compatibility - FUTURE VERSION FILE

SOLIDWORKS backwards compatibility – FUTURE VERSION FILE

Forwards compatibility does not currently exist for SOLIDWORKS!

The reason for this is because SOLIDWORKS is always evolving. Every time SOLIDWORKS enhances the software with new tools or performance increases, this poses challenges for working with older files. However, in SW 2018 SP5, an enhancement was introduced that will allow the user to open and view future version of SOLIDWORKS files. You won’t be able to work on the file however, the design tree just has one feature listed as a “Future version file.”


Neutral File Formats

What I see most commonly between companies is, one company upgrades SOLIDWORKS, but their fabricator or one of their vendors is still operating with a previous version.

What can we do to work around the compatibility issues?

There are a few methods that most people gravitate toward; upgrading the system that is getting the future version message, install other versions of SOLIDWORKS, or try exporting the file types as CAD neutral. I like to think of a CAD neutral file, as a “dumb-solid”, or a part without features. This can be a great approach given the situation, because you can take that dumb-solid and bring it into your version of SOLIDWORKS that you have access to. You can use tools such as, “feature recognition” to build back your design tree, if you need to change the model.

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Tom Ayers