SOLIDWORKS Graphics Window: Reorient Your Models Like a Pro with 3 Easy Navigation Tips

Article by Sawyer Gara updated May 29, 2024

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One of the most fundamental and useful skills when using SOLIDWORKS. is being able to easily orient ourselves around the model using the SOLIDWORKS graphics window. Most people are familiar with holding the middle-mouse button to rotate around but that isn’t always the most precise way to navigate.

Sometimes we just want to spin ourselves a little bit around a specific axis to get a nice screenshot or we want to look directly at a specific face to make it easier to begin a sketch. Fortunately for us, SOLIDWORKS has a multitude of ways to reorient ourselves within the SOLIDWORKS graphics window!

Three ways to navigate the SOLIDWORKS graphics window

1. Using the View Selector

Pressing the Spacebar or the View Orientation command from the Heads-Up-Toolbar will simultaneously launch the View Selector and the View Cube. Within either of these tools, we can easily select which standard orientation we’d like to rotate to. We are able to select one of the 6 faces of our “cube” or looking at a corner or edge on the cube. This allows a user to go to a more standard view or get into other types of views such as Isometric.

View Selector and Cube in SOLIDWORKS

View Selector and Cube in SOLIDWORKS

2. Normal To

Using the Normal To command will rotate the model so we are looking directly at the selected face. This is something that is done automatically when launching a sketch but can be useful outside of the sketching environment to focus on a specific face or take a look at the mode from a specific point of view. By default, the shortcut for Normal To is CTRL+8 but this can also be accessed from the command on the Context Toolbar. You can also select an additional face to define the “Up” direction for the Normal To command! To take a deeper dive on the command this command, feel free to reach out to us or take a look at the SOLIDWORKS Help: Viewing Models Normal To – 2024 – SOLIDWORKS Help

Normal To Context Toolbar

Normal To Context Toolbar

3. The Reference Triad

The Reference Triad is something most people are familiar with seeing the Coordinate System in the bottom left-hand corner of the graphics window but most people don’t know how useful it really is! Clicking on an individual axis will orient the graphics window so we are looking normal to that axis. This is a great tool to orient normal to if we don’t necessarily have a flat face to select use the regular Normal To command. There are a couple of other useful things we can use the Reference Triad for:

  • Holding SHIFT and selecting an axis will rotate the viewport 90 degrees about that axis
  • Holding ALT and selecting an axis will rotate the viewport by the value specified for rotating by the arrow keys (15 degrees by default)
  • Holding CTRL and either of the above will reverse the direction of the value

There are a host of different ways to manipulate our model in the viewport and we aren’t just limited to what was listed below. There are a ton of other great articles and videos on our site with other helpful tips and tricks. One of my favorites is related to Number 3 above and discusses our favorite way to customize the increment when using the arrow keys to rotate about the model: SOLIDWORKS View Shortcuts using the keyboard (javelin-tech.com).

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Sawyer Gara

Sawyer is a SOLIDWORKS certified Elite Application Engineer working out of Bedminster, New Jersey. He received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from New Jersey Institute of Technology and has almost a decade of experience in the SOLIDWORKS and 3DEXPERIENCE Design Ecosystem.