SOLIDWORKS – A Few Great Uses for the ALT Key

by Zach Brown

The ALT Key is your new friend in SOLIDWORKS

It’s time to get that other hand ready to start using the ALT key. Below is a short list of great time saving, and stress relieving uses of the ALT key. Ok, it might not be stress relieving for everyone, but with the time you save, you can spend more of your day doing things you enjoy more.

Disable soft snapping

Are you ever annoyed by that soft snapping thing while adding dimensions? You know those little yellow lines that try to force you to align the dimension you are adding to other dimensions on the drawing? (See Figure 1) It’s great when it’s working for you, but when it starts getting in the way it’s time to use the ALT key.


Figure 1

Hold down the ALT key when adding a dimension to quickly disable soft snapping on the fly. Let go of the ALT key after the dimension is added to get it back.

Quickly change sketch entities for construction

With any sketch entities selected press ALT+C on your keyboard to change them to construction geometry. Okay, so you have to use two fingers for this one. It beats clicking through property managers.

Alt Key

Figure 2


Toggle on the selection of sketch contours

Use the ALT key while hovering over sketch regions to quickly toggle on the selection of sketch contours.

Alt Key

Figure 3

Move or delete icons on the fly

Holding the ALT key down will allow you to drag icons around. You can rearrange your toolbar, drag an Icon from one toolbar to another, or drag the icon off of a toolbar to delete it.

Alt Key

Figure 4

Quickly add mates without preselecting faces or clicking the mate icon.

My personal ALT key favorite is using ALT+drag when moving parts in an assembly to envoke “Smart Mates”. Hold down ALT and drag the face, edge, or vertex of one part to the same of another to quickly add a mate. (See Figure 5)

Also, if you use CTRL+ALT while dragging it will create a copy of the part and mate it at the same time.

Alt Key

Figure 5

Safely reorder components in your assembly.

When reordering components in your assembly, you can accidentally merge one into a subassembly. Holding the ALT key down allows you to reorder components below subassemblies by dropping them right on top of one. (See Figure 6)

Alt Key

Figure 6

Rotate clockwise or counterclockwise.

Holding the ALT key down while hitting the left or right arrows on your keyboard allows you to rotate your model clockwise or counterclockwise normal to your screen. (See Figures 7 & 8)

Alt Key

Figure 7 (left), Figure 8 (right)

These are just a few great ways to use the ALT key, but there are many more. Hopefully, this was enough to get you thinking that another hand is more than useless when using SOLIDWORKS.

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