How to Change Units in SOLIDWORKS

Today I want to talk about how to change the unit system in SOLIDWORKS. Before you can learn how to change the unit systems in SOLIDWORKS you should know how it stores and uses the unit system. If you want to skip past the background info and go straight to customizing or changing the unit system in SOLIDWORKS, click here.

Access the unit system in SOLIDWORKS

The unit system is stored in the System Options – Document Properties tab – Units. There are two ways to access the System Options. The first way is to use the menu Tools – Options.

The second is to click on the Options Icon from the Quick start toolbar.

Once the system options dialog is open it will look like this:

There is only one tab to select because there are no SOLIDWORKS documents open. When there is file open in SOLIDWORKS it will look like this:

Now, click on the Document Properties tab and you will see this list of items.

Click on the Units Item and it will look like this.

The Unit System at the top will set measurement and dimensional and property units based on those listed.
NOTE: the underlined characters represent hot-keys that may be used with the “Alt” key to make selections (in this case Alt-g selects, ”MMGS”).

In this case they are set to MMGS (millimeter, gram, second).
This will also set the defaults for Basic Units, Mass/Section Properties and Motion Units. As well as allowing the specification of precision, and alternative Dual Dimension Length and Angle.

The last section applies to the decimal rounding method for dimensions.

If you want to create a dimension system that is other than those listed in the standards, select Custom. The Units area will become unshaded, and a dropdown will be available.

Select the units then set the decimal precision. If you select Inches, or feet and inches, and none for “Decimals” the area under “Fractions” will clear and you will be able to add a number for the denominator of the fractional unit (like 16 or 32). Under the More column click and select whether you would like the number to be rounded the nearest fraction or the format changed.

The next section of the Unit System is Mass/Section Properties, and the units will be set automatically based on the top four Unit system selection. But for the Custom unit system the Mass/Section Properties will be available for change.

The last section, Motion Units will be mostly predefined based on the last selection from the first four unit systems, then for the custom unit system you may select a new time unit.

Once you set your preferences for the Unit system, click on OK and the units will be set for that document.

Capture unit changes with SOLIDWORKS templates

All the settings established in the Document Properties tab of the system Options dialog may be modified for the current document. If you want a Part, Assembly, or Drawing document to be created with a particular Unit System you will need to create a template for each Part, Assembly, and Drawing document with a specific Unit system for each.

Now that we have discussed the options that can be changed in the Document Properties that will impact your Part, Assembly, and Drawing documents, we will go into creating templates to capture those changes.

First you will need to create a new part. You may click on the File – New menu item, the New button in the Standard Tool Bar, or use the shortcut Ctrl-N. If the new part dialog look like this:

Click on the Advanced button in the lower left corner, then select the Part template and click OK.

From here you should open the System Options – Document Properties tab and go though the Drafting standard and Unit System settings for the new template you want. Then FILE – SAVE AS. When the dialog box appears, the type should be changed to PART TEMPLATE

This will change the directory location automatically to your DOCUMENT TEMPLATES FILE LOCATION. It is a good idea to save your custom templates to a folder that is not part of the standard SOLIDWORKS installation location. Give your template a descriptive name.

To test the settings, use the template you just saved to create a new document.
The process for creating an assembly template is the same. Start with a new assembly, change the document properties, and save the template into the correct file location.
Repeat the process for a ne Drawing Template also.

Quick change to document units in SOLIDWORKS

So, now comes the easy answer to the question “How do I change the document units?” If you go back to here you can follow the process to change the units in the OPTIONS area.
Or, to change the unit system simply and quickly there is a pop-up menu in the lower right corner of the applications window.

Or to see it magnified.

Just pick the unit system you want for this document and use it going forward for all measurement and dimensions.

To change the units in the Measure Tool:

Select the Units/Precision Icon

Select “Use custom settings” to make the measure tool use different units.

To change the units for a single dimension in a Drawing:

Create a drawing of a part and add dimensions using Smart Dimension or Model Items. Select the dimension to modify and click on the “Other” tab of the Dimension Properties. Place a checkmark in the Override Units option box and use the dropdown to change the units for the dimension.

Now you have the freedom and know how to change the units for all your SOLIDWORKS design projects. I hope you have enjoyed this blog article.

Until next time,

Dennis Barnes
Application Engineer, Software Support
Computer Aided Technology


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