Did you know there are settings in SOLIDWORKS to allow you to collaborate with others more effectively? These settings are nothing like the power and capability of SOLIDWORKS Enterprise PDM, but they will increase your ability to work with with others versus SOLIDWORKS out of the box. These settings are in two areas of SOLIDWORKS Tool > Options:
System Options > External References
In this area, you will find two important options that are turned off by default: "Open referenced documents read-only" and "Don't prompt to save read-only referenced documents (discard changes)." When working with others, sometimes you want to be able to work on a top-level assembly and a few part files, while allowing others to work on other parts. Turning on the first setting will make it so that when you open an assembly, all referenced sub-assemblies and parts will open automatically as read-only. That means you can save your changes ONLY to the top-level assembly, unless you pick a part or sub-assembly and Reload it with Write Access.
The second option is there to keep SOLIDWORKS from notifying you about the read-only status of every such referenced document when you close the top-level assembly; trust me, if you turn on the first option, you want to turn on this option as well.
So these two settings take care of being able to work better together in assemblies. The next set of options turn on some user-interface niceties that make working in this mode easier.
System Options > Collaboration
Turning on "Enable multi-user environment" will allow you to access the related behavioral options. You're going to want to turn both of them on for sure, actually. The first one gives you right-click access to "Get Write Access" and "Make Read-Only" so you don't have to go to the Reload dialog box and find items in the list. It's a toggle:
The second option tells SOLIDWORKS to check each file being referenced in the currently-open assembly to see if documents read-only to you have been changed (ostensibly by someone else who had Write Access). This allow you to know, based on an interval you choose, if any of the files you're referencing needs to be Reloaded so you can see the latest changes in your SOLIDWORKS session.
Note that these settings don't give you versions, revisions, file security, workflow, part numbering, notifications, automation, or the automatic "work local / share global" benefits that SOLIDWORKS Enterprise PDM provides. It is, however, better than working in the "winner take all" scenario that SOLIDWORKS uses out of the box if you're trying to work on the same project with other people.
By: Jeff Setzer, SOLIDWORKS / Composer Product Manager
Want to learn another trick? Check out "I Didn't Know Your Could Do That!"