Something seems really off when looking at a shear stress
plot. Example: When viewing shear stress as a vector the vectors
are all over place. Forgive me if I'm wrong but these vectors
actually have direction and magnitude. The thing that bothers me is
the direction is determined by the setting of the type of plot.
Suppose I pick TXZ. I would expect all vectors to be collinear to
the YZ plane and also parallel with the Z axis. So If viewed these
vectors from perpendicular to the Z axis I should see nothing but a
bunch of arrows pointing directly at me or directly away from
me.

It is the only way to check. Few times I had a similar problem doing structural analysis on frames (using weldments in SW). Check with a Free Body Diagram if the information given out are the same.

Maybe I've misunderstood something, so please correct me if I'm wrong.

You're working on the YZ plane and we select Y as being horizontal for the sake of discussion and Z is vertical. Your vectors are collinear (coplanar ?) with the plane and parallel to Z (vertical). If you're viewing this arrangement from a position perpendicular to Z, you must be at either +X or -X. Doesn't that mean that your vectors should be pointing either straight up or straight down (+Z or -Z)?

http://etidweb.tamu.edu/ftp/EN...ture%20Notes-RK-II.pdf

look at pages 12 and 19. Notice these are not resultant components but components of the axis and plane they're referencing!

I was confused about this also. I sent SW an example file and recieved the following logical explination:

Thank you for contacting SolidWorks Technical Support. My understanding of how the vectors are plotted for shear stress is that SOLIDWORKS points them in directions perpendicular to the shear stress directions.

So for TXY=TYX, the shear stress pair you noted, are in the Y-direction (YZ plane) and X-direction (XZ) plane. Therefore, to represent these shear directions, it shows the vector in the third direction perpendicular to the two, which is the Z direction. Similar TXZ=TZX will be plotted in the Y direction, and TYZ=TZY will be plotted in the X direction.

To get your head wrapped around it , I would recommend generating a model with a known result and posting some screenshots of the results and what you expect. I suspect it is as noted above that your expectations aren't matching what is done.