Jeffrey Anderson

Should I switch from Composer to Solidworks to create images for manuals?

Discussion created by Jeffrey Anderson on Sep 18, 2014
Latest reply on Sep 23, 2014 by Stephen Draper

I have been using Composer for a few years to create images for manuals.  Lately, it has only created headaches for me when I go to create images of user manuals.  I am considering switching to just using solidworks to create line art for our manuals.  Here are some of the pros and cons of each.  Are there others that you can think of?


To create images for manuals using composer here are the steps I have to take.

1. Have a Solidworks File that has the correct components.

2. Export to Composer (make sure there are no lightweight components).

3. Make my explode views and add explode lines and arrows if applicable and notes.

4. Save views to .eps files.

5. Sometimes I have to tweak the EPS files in Illustrator.  Composer will add lines when I don't want them sometimes. Also text is easier to add in Illustrator than Composer.

6. Then I place the EPS files into Adobe Indesign.


To create images for manuals using Solidworks here is the steps I think I would have to take.

1. Create views in a solidworks drawing with all the explode lines, etc. Possibly on different pages so that I can export sheets separately.

2. Save the pages as dxf files.

3. Open the dxf file in Illustrator and add any of the arrows or other notes that I might find necessary.

4. Save the files as EPS.

5. Insert the files into Adobe Indesign.


Pros of Using Composer.

1. The styling is a little nicer than Solidworks.

2. Composer will allow shading of components.

3. Exploding Items is sometimes easier.

Cons of Using Composer.

1. The update feature is not very good.  If you change a part number, it will not recognize it when you update. There is a work-around, but it is difficult and cumbersome.

2. Sometimes Composer adds extra lines where there don't need to be.

3. The BOMS are sometimes difficult to manage.  Especially when I already have a BOM in Solidworks.

4. Explode lines are not easy to do.  They always point back to the original location instead of to the part from which it exploded. You have to draw them in manually.

5. If I try to update using composer, it is not finding the descriptions of components when I want it to. (There are more problems with descriptions missing because it wasn't on a specific field when the part was created in solidworks.

6. Composer will only bring in one exploded view from Solidworks and one configuration.

Pros of Using Solidworks

1. The files already exist in Solidworks including some exploded views.

2. I can do different configurations for showing alternate parts, or assemblies where they only differ by one part.

3. I can easily insert a part that I was missing into the file and mate it to the new location and have everything update.

4. I can include parts that don't have model in the BOM (sometimes we need to show an Item in the BOM such as a manual where we don't have a part but we include a blank solidworks part in the assembly).

5. Notes are easier to put in Solidworks (Sometimes in composer when you rotate the model the note is not attached to the part it messes up.

6. Exploded lines are way easier.


  1. No easy way to do shaded views ( I would have to manually color in areas using Illustrator.
  2. Arrows can only be created in Illustrator and would need to be recreated every time there was an update to the manual. (Could do some copying and pasting to decrease repetition).
  3. The Bill of Materials will look more bland unless I tweak it in Illustrator.


I am sure there are more things, but these are major things to me.

Thank you for your opinions, experience, and thoughts.