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Hawk Ridge Systems
Hawk Ridge Systems is a global provider of engineering design solutions that radically improve the way our customers design, develop and manage their product life cycle.

Viewing STL files in the SOLIDWORKS Enterprise PDM Preview Tab

May 6th, 2014 by Hawk Ridge Systems

Navigating through your hard drive, you click on an STL… only, there’s no thumbnail preview. What gives?

I’ve experienced this a few times. It’s always hard for me to remember what a part looks like just by the file name. Sometimes file names are obscure, or specific to a part number – things like P32324.STL – and I have a terrible time remembering what the file looks like. Windows Explorer isn’t much help – it just gives me the stock .stl thumbnail on every single STL file.

So I did a little research on a way to get a preview of my STL files before opening them. I asked some of the engineers around the office for their opinion, too. A co-worker suggested using SOLIDWORKS Enterprise PDM (EPDM) and the built-in eDrawings preview. This almost worked, but the STL files were not associated with eDrawings. I didn’t get discouraged – I knew that there had to be a way. After working a little magic in the registry, I was able to fix the issue.

Now, when using EPDM, I can view STL files in the Preview tab without having to open the file.

Below is an image of what the preview would look like before the magic…

Viewing STL files in SOLIDWORKS EPDM

Behold! The magic of SOLIDWORKS EPDM!

Viewing STL files in SOLIDWORKS EPDM

If you are comfortable navigating in the registry, the file that needs to get changed is below. Please be very careful when doing anything to the registry because one wrong deletion could cause your computer to require a reinstall of the operating system. If you are not comfortable navigating in the registry, you probably shouldn’t change it. I cannot stress this enough: do not do this if you don’t feel comfortable in the registry! Just don’t!

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\wow6432node\SolidWorks\Applications\PDMWorks Enterprise\FileFormats\.stl]



This registry will need to get added on every release of SOLIDWORKS, and if you run a repair of the software it will be wiped away.

It was worth it for me: After doing this little trick I can now easily get previews of STLs in the Vault without having to open each one, and spend my time remembering what my design idea was instead of trying to remember what part goes with what file number.

For more tips like these, subscribe to our YouTube channel and this blog.

Want to learn more about SOLIDWORKS Enterprise PDM? Are you in the Seattle, WA area? Join our SOLIDWORKS Enterprise PDM Technical Forum: Connect. Collaborate. Control on May 15. >> Get the details

Luke Davis

Luke Davis

Luke Davis is an Sr Application Engineer based in Mountain View, CA and has a degree in Design Studies from San Jose State University. Prior to working at Hawk Ridge Systems, he was a cinematographer for extreme sports.

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Category: SOLIDWORKS Enterprise PDM

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