Throughout the years, almost all of our customers have asked at one time or another, "Can I open files from the newest version of SolidWorks into a previous version?" The answer has always been, "No. The latest version of SolidWorks uses newer technology that is not compatible with the older technology of previous versions of SolidWorks." As a result, customers have had to be careful when they upgrade to make sure that they stay compatible with their customers, suppliers, and internal teams. Well, the most asked for enhancement is finally here!
Starting with SolidWorks 2013, SolidWorks files are backwards compatible! With previous release interoperability, you can collaborate using a mix of SolidWorks 2013 and SolidWorks 2012 (SP5). 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
Future version files appear in read-only mode when opened in the previous release. However, once you upgrade to the next version of SolidWorks, all the FeatureManager design tree data is available. SolidWorks 2013 files have reduced functionality in SolidWorks 2012 Service Pack 5. SolidWorks 2013 files will not have most FeatureManager design tree data when opened in SolidWorks 2012 Service Pack 5. Any actions that require FeatureManager design tree data cannot be performed with a SolidWorks 2013 document open in SolidWorks 2012 Service Pack 5.
You can open SolidWorks 2013 parts and assemblies using SolidWorks 2012 Service Pack 5. Although this is a great step forward, there are some limitations to be aware of. Starting with SolidWorks 2012 SP5, you will be able to open a future version file. This will be the same for future releases as well. For example, you will be able to open SolidWorks 2014 files in SolidWorks 2013 Service Pack 5. But... Backwards compatibility is only supported between consecutive releases. So, you will not be able to a SolidWorks 2014 file in SolidWorks 2012 SP5.
Further, here are some things that YOU CAN and CANNOT do in SolidWorks 2012 SP5:
1. Once a SolidWorks 2013 part or assembly file is open in SolidWorks 2012 SP5, YOU CAN view configurations, use the Measure tool, view Mass Properties and Custom Properties, and view Materials. YOU CANNOT edit the SolidWorks 2013 part or assembly in SolidWorks 2012.
2. YOU CAN work with SolidWorks 2013 parts and subassemblies in a SolidWorks 2012 assembly. YOU CANNOT edit mates or components in the SolidWorks 2013 subassembly.
But, in a SolidWorks 2012 assembly, YOU CAN:
• Mate the SolidWorks 2013 component or subassembly to SolidWorks 2012 or SolidWorks 2013 components.
• Add a Bill of Materials that includes SolidWorks 2012 and SolidWorks 2013 components.
• Suppress and unsuppress SolidWorks 2013 components.
• Create a drawing of the SolidWorks 2012 assembly that includes both SolidWorks 2012 and SolidWorks 2013 components.
• Use interference detection when mating SolidWorks 2013 and SolidWorks 2012 parts.
• Mirror and pattern components from SolidWorks 2013.
• See and reference default planes and origins of the SolidWorks 2013 part or subassembly.
There are new options in SolidWorks 2013 for part and assembly models that contain configurations. Because of these new options, you must rebuild and save data for each configuration that you want to be available in SolidWorks 2012 SP5.
3. YOU CANNOT open SolidWorks 2013 drawings in SolidWorks 2012 SP5.
YOU CAN create drawings of SolidWorks 2013 parts and assemblies in SolidWorks 2012 with some limitations. YOU CANNOT insert model items or access FeatureManager design tree data such as weldment cut lists and weld beads.
In conclusion, SolidWorks has tried very hard to provide the functionality that its customers request. SolidWorks 2013 does allow backwards compatibility with SolidWorks 2012. Because this new 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.
Computer Aided Technology, Inc.