Using Cut, Copy & Paste in Windows Explorer vs. PDM

By Scott Mohr on February 28, 2019

You’re probably very familiar with the functions used to move and/or duplicate information within Windows Explorer named cut, copy and paste. These commands are summoned by the default right mouse button (RMB), but, more commonly are called upon through the use of keyboard shortcuts to carry out these commands.

  • “CTRL + X” = Cut
  • “CTRL + C” = Copy
  • “CTRL + V” = Paste

These operations can be applied to content within a document, but we often find ourselves using them on files and folder structures for the purpose of file management. With a cut/copy/paste combo, files start in a source folder and end up in a target folder. On the way to their destination(s), files travel through an area of memory called the virtual clipboard. The clipboard is updated with new information whenever another cut or copy is performed.

Pasting is straightforward, but there are important distinctions between cut and copy that should be made clear:

  • The cut function will remove the selection from the source.
  • The copy function will keep the selection intact in the source.

You’ll care about this if the files you are cutting have no backup, or maybe they are your backup copies. Cut with caution, especially with large data sets. If the operation is interrupted or goes haywire, there is no recovery of that data.

This basic behavior is the same whether you’re working in Windows Explorer or within the local vault view of SOLIDWORKS PDM. However, there are vault features and settings that enhance the cut/copy/paste experience. Shall we explore? Yes, that pun was intended.

Move With History

It may be fairly typical for you to cut and paste a file to a new folder within your vault. This action is captured by PDM and added to the file’s audit trail. Select the file and RMB to choose "History" for confirmation that the file was moved from the source folder to the target folder. Your cut/paste operation is fully documented, including both the username and timestamp.

Move With History

That scenario used a single PDF. Had the file been a SOLIDWORKS assembly with components, for example, then the file references are preserved by the vault database. The newly moved parent assembly maintains links to all of its children, and this will be verified in the Bill of Materials, Contains and Where Used tabs of the local vault view. There will be no reference cleanup required in SOLIDWORKS, as long as the files reside in the vault and were checked in with valid references before moving files around.

Duplicate File Names

Now, let’s say you paste a file copy into a new folder in your vault. A file of the same name will be placed in the target folder and your vault’s Duplicate Filename settings will kick in. If duplicate filenames are not allowed, you will receive a pop-up warning that explains the violation. The software gives the name and location of the existing file with that name, and you can now rename the copied file prior to check in.

Duplicate File Names

Paste As a Reference

There is another cut/copy/paste option in the RMB menu for creating a file association that does not exist naturally between documents. “Paste as Reference” is a PDM-specific function that’s used to attach a file or group of files to another document, creating what we call a “user-defined reference” between the source file and the documents you pasted.

For example, you can attach SOLIDWORKS files to a Microsoft Word document (such as a project checklist or other related documentation) within the PDM vault. The steps are simple:

  1. Find the file that you wish to attach the “Copied” files to (the target file) and check it out.
  2. Select the files you wish to attach (the source files), RMB and select “Copy.”
  3. Browse to and select the target file, RMB and select “Paste as Reference."
  4. In the Create File References dialogue box, confirm the action and details about Bill of Materials visibility and quantity. Choose “OK” to complete the operation. Paste As References
  5. Check in the target file.

The files that you pasted will now be listed as references in the target file’s Bill of Materials and Contains tab display. The check-in action sealed the new file association.

Paste As References

Copy Structures

There are additional features in PDM that meet cut/copy/paste needs in a more comprehensive manner than Windows Explorer. Templates allow you to re-create common folder structures with a single click. Copy Tree can duplicate an assembly structure (in part or in its entirety) while maintaining SOLIDWORKS file references. These are just a few things that can be configured in your vault to increase your team’s productivity and reduce potential errors.

I hope that this article has added to your understanding of cut/copy/paste operations while providing tips that could make your PDM environment even more efficient.

Interested in learning more SOLIDWORKS PDM tips and tricks? Check out our On-Demand Webinars we have available now!

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