The most asked for enhancement is now available in SOLIDWORKS 2015 SP5.0. One of our most read SOLIDWORKS blog articles of all time is entitled How to Open SOLIDWORKS 2013 Files in SOLIDWORKS 2012 SP5. Last year, SOLIDWORKS changed its file extensions in order to allow for faster modeling and smaller file sizes. Unfortunately, this major change in the new file structure prevented SOLIDWORKS 2015 files to be opened in SOLIDWORKS 2014 SP5.0. Well, that is now history. Backwards compatibility is back!
You can open SOLIDWORKS 2016 parts and assemblies using SOLIDWORKS 2015 SP5.0. With previous release interoperability, you can collaborate using a mix of SOLIDWORKS 2016 files and SOLIDWORKS 2015 files right inside of SOLIDWORKS 2015 SP5.0. Files can be opened directly and associativity is maintained. That's right. You do not have to export and import files!
HOWEVER… You Always Have to Read the Fine Print
For the SOLIDWORKS 2015 users that don't have a magnifying glass: Any actions that require FeatureManager design tree data cannot be performed with a future version file open in the previous release Service Pack 5. However, once you upgrade to the next version of SOLIDWORKS, all the FeatureManager design tree data is available.
What does that mean?
Although this is a great step forward, there are some limitations to be aware of. You cannot edit the features of the future version file in SOLIDWORKS 2015 SP5.0. So, if you open a SOLIDWORKS 2016 file in SOLIDWORKS 2015 SP5.0, it will open but the FeatureManager design tree will not show the individual features. It will just say "Future version file."
Future version files appear in read-only mode when opened in the previous release. So you cannot edit SOLIDWORKS 2016 parts or assemblies in SOLIDWORKS 2015 SP5.0. However, you can use SOLIDWORKS 2016 parts and assemblies in 2015 drawings and assemblies. You can add new features to the files. These new features will appear below "Future version file." If you save the file and then open it SOLIDWORKS 2016, all the FeatureManager design tree data is available including your saved changes.
You can open SOLIDWORKS 2016 parts and assemblies using SOLIDWORK 2015 Service Pack 5. This will be the same for future releases as well. But… Backwards compatibility is only supported between consecutive releases. So, you will not be able to open a SOLIDWORKS 2017 file in SOLIDWORKS 2015 SP5.
Further, here are some things that YOU CAN and CANNOT do in SOLIDWORKS 2015 SP5.0:
3. YOU CAN work with SOLIDWORKS 2016 parts and assemblies as components of an assembly in SOLIDWORKS 2015 SP5.0.
In a SOLIDWORKS 2015 SP5.0 assembly, YOU CAN:
•Mate the 2016 component or subassembly to other components.
•Add a Bill of Materials that includes 2016 and 2015 components.
•Suppress and unsuppress 2016 components.
•Create a drawing of the assembly that includes both 2016 and 2015 components.
•Use interference detection when mating 2016 and 2015 components.
•Mirror and pattern 2016 components.
•See and reference default planes and origins of the 2016 part or subassembly.
5. YOU CAN create drawings of SOLIDWORKS 2016 parts and assemblies in SOLIDWORKS 2015 SP5.0 with some limitations. YOU CANNOT insert model items or access FeatureManager design tree data such as weldment cut lists and weld beads.
6. YOU CAN create drawings of assemblies that contain both 2015 and 2016 components.
In conclusion, SOLIDWORKS has tried very hard to provide the functionality that its customers request. SOLIDWORKS 2016 does allow backwards compatibility with SOLIDWORKS 2015 SP5.0. This feature certainly has its limitations. It is still going to be up to the individual user and company to decide when the best time to upgrade is. Hopefully, though, this will help everyone decide to upgrade much sooner and take advantage of the latest and greatest version of SOLIDWORKS.
Neil Bucalo, CSWP, CSWS-MD
Computer Aided Technology