PDM Search Capabilities in the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform – Save Searches

Article by Ben Colley updated November 17, 2023


3DEXPERIENCE Search Capabilities with 3DSearch

The 3DEXPERIENCE Platform is, at its core, a data management tool. CAD users who have lived in the SOLIDWORKS ecosphere for a while will be familiar with the original data management tool for SOLIDWORKS, SOLIDWORKS PDM which has been around in different forms for about 20 years.

SOLIDWORKS PDM has a strong base of support, but today, in the context of our increasingly remote workforce where design teams don’t reside in the same office or on the same network, other data management solutions such as the 3DEXPERIENCE platform may be a better fit. Luckily for us “SOLIDWORKS old timers”, the 3DEXPERIENCE platform was engineered to perform most of the same functions as SOLIDWORKS PDM, and if we know where to look, we’ll find the same (or similar) capabilities to what we’re used to seeing in SOLIDWORKS PDM.

One area where this particularly holds true is in searching for files. In this post, we’ll cover three capabilities in the 3DEXPERIENCE 3DSearch tool that reflect the searching capabilities that PDM users rely on. Those capabilities are:

  • Searching Collaborative Space vaults for files by metadata.
  • Customizing the search result columns for the most useful information.
  • Saving the search as a favorite for reuse.

3dexperience 3dsearch 6w tags filter metadata

To demonstrate these capabilities, we’ll look at a common use case for repeated content searches. For a lot of companies, it’s important to have all of their files checked-in to the system at the end of the day, and for managers to know which files are ready for review and release. These are relatively easy searches to conduct with filtering tools on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, but users don’t need to go through the same motions of setting up the appropriate filters every time they conduct the search. They can save a lot of future time by setting up the search once, and saving the search as a favorite.

Search Collaborative Spaces for Files by Metadata

One of the selling points of SOLIDWORKS PDM is its search tool, which allows users to search their vault by all kinds of metadata. The 3DEXPERIENCE platform has a similar utility, allowing us to search way beyond simple file names. The process of searching the platform for files by metadata (properties specific to the file, such as its owner, its Lock or Unlock state, approval status, etc.) is the same, regardless of what property you’re interested in. To get a wide return of files by file type, you will do a search for the file’s auto-name prefix. Then you’ll narrow down the search results by selecting properties of interest in the 6W Tag window.

The Auto-Name Prefix

When files are saved to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, each file is automatically assigned a unique name (separate from the title you assigned to the file) that the platform uses to distinguish it from other files. An intelligent naming scheme is used, adding a prefix to the name that’s based on the file type and a counter that grabs the next available file number. All SOLIDWORKS part and assembly files are given the prefix of “xcad” (or “prd”, depending on your tenant settings) and drawing files are given the prefix of “drw”. You can confirm your company’s auto-naming scheme by navigating to one of your SOLIDWORKS files in the platform, accessing its Information card, and looking at the “Name” property. The first few letters will be the prefix that’s associated with its file type. This prefix is what allows us to quickly search through all of our company’s engineering data.

3dexperience file info card

Metadata Filters

As for other metadata, such as check-out status or approval state, one just needs to understand the slight differences in terminology between the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform and SOLIDWORKS PDM. On the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, Checked-Out files have the property of being “Locked”. Files that are awaiting approval have the property of being “Frozen”. The 3DSearch tool – in conjunction with the platform’s “6W Tag” metadata filtering tool – makes it easy to narrow down these searches.

Let’s walk through the process of searching a tenant for all SOLIDWORKS files that are locked.

  1. Type “xcad” (or “prd”, depending on your tenant’s settings) in the 3DSearch bar at the top of the screen to search all SOLIDWORKS parts and assemblies. If you’d like to include drawings in the search as well, the logical expressions “AND”, “OR”, and “NOT” can be included in the search phrase to expand the search. Enter “xcad OR drw” to search all SOLIDWORKS parts, assemblies, and drawings.
  2. To narrow down your search by metadata, Click on the 6W Tag icon to the right of the search box to expand the available search filters.
  3. If your tenant is made up of multiple Collaborative Space vaults, you will likely want to narrow down your search to a particular Collaborative Space. From the filters, go to Where > Source > Collaborative Spaces > (desired Collaborative Space)
  4. Many metadata filters, including Locked/Unlocked, are available under “More tags” at the bottom of the 6W tag window. Expand “More tags”
  5. Navigate to What > Lock > Locked.

This will return a search of all SOLIDWORKS files in your specified Collaborative Space that are checked out by different users in your organization.

Customize Search Result Columns for Useful Information

Another common PDM activity is to customize which details are visible for files. This allows users to get a lot of the information they need at a glance without having to dig into the properties of each file. The 3DEXPERIENCE platform allows us to do the same thing. To make the search results more useful in the case of searching files that are Locked, you can change the default column fields to include who has the files locked. To add a column to the results list:

  1. At the top-right of the 3DSearch window is a dropdown arrow with options. Click the dropdown arrow and select Settings.
    3DSearch settings
  2. Click “Manage grid view customization” under the “Columns” tab.
  3. Click in the top “Data Source” dialog box and select Collaborative Spaces.
  4. In the “Type” dialog box, select CAD Family.
  5. A list of available column options will populate in the left window. Select “Locked By” and click the blue arrow box to the right to add this column to the search results.
    Select columns in 3dexperience search results
  6. To put the most relevant information up front, click and drag the column headers to reorder the columns.
  7. Click OK.

You now have a search that tells you at a glance which files are locked, and who has them checked out. For better visibility of which users are holding the files, you may sort the results by “Locked By”. If desired, this set of search results may be exported to an Excel file by clicking the dropdown arrow at the top right of the search window and selecting “Export”.

Save the Search for Reuse

Saving the Search

While you could repeat this search in under 30 seconds using 6W Tags, it can still be a hassle if you have to repeat this search on a daily basis. The good news is that, like PDM, you can save searches as favorites and return to them later in two clicks. To save a search as a favorite:

  1. At the top-right corner of the search window, click the dropdown arrow.
  2. Select “Favorite Search” from the menu.
  3. Enter a name for the search to make it easily identifiable.
Accessing the Search

Saved/Favorite searches may be accessed by clicking the dropdown arrow to the right of the 3DSearch box at the top of the screen, and selecting Favorite Searches.

3dsearch dropdown favorite searches

This will bring up a list of all searches that you have saved. Selecting the desired search will open a 3DSearch window and launch a search with the same settings you applied the first time you used that search.

3dexperience saved searches list

This is a very convenient option, reducing the process of creating this common search to just a few clicks, but it can be made even more convenient by pinning this search to a tab on your Dashboard. If you’re a manager that needs to see this search every day, then having the search available in one click may be an attractive option.

To pin your search to a tab on your dashboard:

  1. Create the tab on your dashboard that you wish to use for the search. In this case, “Locked Files” may be an appropriate name for the tab.
  2. Launch the search that you wish to pin to the tab.
  3. From the dropdown menu at the top-right corner of the search window, select “Pin to dashboard”.
    Pin search to 3dexperience dashboard
  4. An “Add Widget” window will pop up. Select the Dashboard where the search widget will go, and the tab you want to put it on.
  5. The widget will show up as a tile on the desired tab. Resize the widget as needed.

Now, you can simply click on the “Locked Files” tab on your dashboard and see any files in your tenant that are checked out by a user.

3dsearch pin search to dashboard tabConclusion

The searching capabilities on the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform are built for maximum efficiency, allowing for powerful custom searches to be created on the fly, or recalled in a single click. PDM lovers will love the familiar capabilities of being able to search by metadata, export searches to a spreadsheet, and save searches to be reused. Going beyond the capabilities of PDM, pinning searches to custom dashboards allow these searches to be immediately visible in the context of some other productive space, such as 3DSwym or 3D Markup. So while the 3DEXPERIENCE platform isn’t an exact one-for-one replacement of SOLIDWORKS PDM, when it comes to everyday activities like inspecting files at the end of a workday, it does offer an attractive alternative.

Related Links


Learn more about SOLIDWORKS cloud-based collaboration:

Ben Colley