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External Reference – Reference Document

Tips and Tricks Mark Deng 5 August 2020

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External Reference – Reference Document

Many people have questions on how the External Reference – Reference Document setting works in SOLIDWORKS:


System Options External Reference


When clicking on the “Go To Reference Documents” under “System Options” > “External Reference”, it will bring us to the “Reference Documents” setting:

System Options File Locations

Basically anytime when a file that has External references/Reference Documents opens in SOLIDWORKS, it will search through the path(s) that is defined in “Reference Documents” before going through searching where the files are originally saved. For example saving an assembly “A” that includes a part named “B” under C drive. Then you can copy the part “B” to D Drive. If you put the D drive path into the “Reference Documents”. Then what happens is when you open the assembly “A”, it will open the part “B” from D drive instead of the originally saved directory C drive. If you save the assembly now, the assembly “A” file reference will be changed to point to part “B” under D drive.


With the power of Reference Document setting, you can use it to search for any missing file references. If you have recently moved a library folder that includes a lot of library files used in many different parts/assemblies/drawings , you can add the new library folder path into the External Reference. Then when any part/assembly/drawing file opens in SOLIDWORKS, the library files can still be found in the specified Reference Document locations. You can also check-mark the option “Include Sub-folders” to allow SOLIDWORKS searching through sub-folders in the defined path in Reference Document. Once the part/assembly/drawing file is opened with the updated references, you can save the file and the updates of the references will be saved.


However, by adding path in Reference Documents, it also makes SOLIDWORKS to search through those path whenever opens a file with reference document(s)/external reference(s). This will slow down the file opening time, especially when you are opening large assemblies/drawings and there are many files sitting under the Reference Document path.


To sum up, you can use the Reference Documents to relocate moved library files or find missing reference files, then you can open the assemblies/drawings and save them so the references will be updated and saved. After this, you can remove the path from the Reference Document so next time when the assemblies/drawings open again, SOLIDWORKS will locate the reference files from the last saved location instead of spending a lot of time searching through the Reference Documents path.


I hope you find this article useful.


Mark Deng
Applications Engineer
Central Innovation, NZ

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