CAD Admin’s Corner – Toolbox and Standard Libraries

by Brian Johnson

One of the duties of a CAD Admin is the handling of the libraries that your company uses. This is one of the least exciting parts of being the admin. Come to think of it, not many parts of being a CAD admin are very exciting. However, the function of what we do is key to the success of any engineering department.

When it comes to the library structure that your company uses, here are two pieces of advice:

  1. All libraries (including Toolbox) should be located on ONE central server. Rule it with an iron fist! Since the libraries and toolbox are areas of common use by all in your engineering departments, having it centrally accessed and immediately updated, can add great value and ease your user’s time to production. However, it can also be one of the most common places for absolute disaster if not properly controlled.
  2. There should be only ONE admin login for the folder location. You will need a back-up person to know this login, but only one, and it cannot be your personal login. Everyone else, including your regular login has to be read only access.

Two distinct types of libraries will be discussed in this post. The first is the Toolbox supplied by SOLIDWORKS in the Professional and Premium packages. The second is the Common Parts/Standard Library. Both types are for non-revision controlled components.

Components that have their revision controlled by your company should be stored in some type of PDM/PLM system for proper management. We will cover that topic in a future post.

Each library will take considerable time to create or customize, but is well worth the effort and dedication from the admin to get it right. It is an area that if done correctly, will not receive any praise, but in this case – no news is good news!


The Toolbox function of SOLIDWORKS gives the user a completely customizable database of over one million fasteners of every major standard in the world today; ANSI, ISO, etc. It is  ‘out-of-the-box ready,’ however, most users don’t’ see it this way as they get immediately overwhelmed by the massive amount of customizable parts.

Recommended steps to bring a mountain sized task down to a mole hill:

  1. Have A Plan. As with any process the CAD Admin is about to start, always have a plan with dates and timelines.
  2. De-clutter. It is highly unlikely that your company uses more than one or two standards. Using the Toolbox Settings wizard (from the start menu/ SOLIDWORKS /Tools), deselect all of the standards you are not using. If there ever comes a time that you need to add fasteners from another standard, it can be easily turned back on in this same tool.
  3. Narrow The Scope.  Go into each remaining standard and continue to narrow the scope of the parts available. Then into each part and narrow the number of types available. Then finally the number of configurations available. You have now taken the 1 million plus parts and narrowed them down to a few thousand with minimal effort.
  4. Rank & Prioritize. When it comes to adding your company’s custom part numbers and descriptions, start with only the most commonly used configurations first. Don’t fill out every configuration of a hex head bolt, when only 6 specific sizes are used every day. As the common parts are filled in, then move to the lesser used and finally to the rarely used.

With a good plan and the right attitude, this task is much more achievable than what most think of at first glance.


Standard libraries are typically used for purchased/non-revision controlled items. That means your company did not have anything to do with the design or manufacture of the part. It is a component that is purchased as-is off the shelf, so to speak. Many people confuse purchased components with outsourced components.

With the standard library, it will take more effort to get it put together. You must figure out the folder structure and then compile all of the components for that library. In some cases you will be able to download the components or even ask your vendors for the generic files themselves. However, there are going to be several that are going to need to be created.

It is a best practice to have a multiple configuration of a part than to have multiple files. There is a limit to that practice. Files can have too many configurations which will affect performance. At which time you will need to break the file into component sub categories.

When it comes to making those configurations, it is best to use either global variables or design tables. The manual configuration is just that, a long manual process that takes a lot of effort to maintain.  It is also much easier to make a mistake in later editing.

Just like the Toolbox, have a plan of action and start with the most commonly used components first. If you are bringing items over from a legacy CAD system, still follow the most common method.

Most importantly, do not convert items that are not necessary. Too many times I have heard users talk about the 10,000 components they need to convert, when in reality only 1,500 are currently being used in new designs. Only convert and place in a library as needed.


Finally, how to handle requests from users for new components or configurations.

Here is what’s worked for me:

  • Create online forms for the users to access when they needed something added to the Toolbox or Libraries. In my case, I created a generic Admin account on Google Drive and used the free Google forms.
  • Set a calendar reminder to check that account once a day for requests.
  • Easily track requests, by whom, and the time it took to complete the task. This helped manage my time better. Instead of getting emails from users all week or people randomly stopping by my desk, the information was centrally located just like the libraries.

To view other posts from CAD Admin’s Corner:  Change Management , Welcome to CAD Admin’s Corner

For any additional information on the SOLIDWORKS tools mentioned in this post, contact your local rep or visit our website at


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About Brian Johnson

Brian is an Application Engineer for GoEngineer and has been a SOLIDWORKS user since 1999. The first half of his career was in the automotive and RV industries covering a wide spectrum of manufacturing processes and design from plastic injection, sheet metal, roll forming. He also spent a couple of years as a CNC programmer on precision routers, punch presses and lasers. The latter half of his career was in the oilfield technology as an equipment designer and CAD/PLM administrator. Brian is very dedicated to simplification and learning day to day operations. He is familiar with Lean Six Sigma and knowledgeable of both ASME welding and GD&T standards.

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