SolidWorks vs. PTC Creo

We often get asked about the differences between SolidWorks and PTC Creo. In fact, it’s one of the top questions we get from customers and prospects.

As a PTC reseller, we’re obviously biased, but we’ve been around since 2001 and have worked with every CAD product on the market so I think we can bring some useful perspective to this debate.

PTC Creo vs SolidWorks 1

When SolidWorks first hit the scene, it was brilliantly positioned to compete with Pro/ENGINEER (now known as Creo). SolidWorks claimed that SolidWorks was easier to use and could do 80% of what Pro/ENGINEER could for 20% of the price. At the time, Pro/ENGINEER did cost significantly more and it was significantly harder to learn. The launch strategy worked and SolidWorks exploded onto the marketplace.

However, SolidWorks’ claim about their feature set was misleading (and still is) as the products are not really comparable for high-end industrial design.

But this is all ancient history, how does SolidWorks compare to PTC Creo today?

Feature set

Creo is simply a more robust and capable package than SolidWorks. It’s really not fair to compare the two head-to-head. SolidWorks is a mid-tier product. Creo is top-of-the-line.

A more apt comparison in terms of feature-sets would be with CATIA. Dassault Systèmes , a French company, manufactures both CATIA and Solidworks. CATIA is Dassault’s high-end design package and it is totally separate and distinct from the lower-end SolidWorks product line. CATIA has a relatively small market share outside France and most of the questions we get from customers are around Creo versus SolidWorks. However, we will compare CATIA and Creo in a future post.

For the sake of completeness, here are a few key differences between Creo and SolidWorks:

  • Creo allows for more control over design
  • Creo provides more simulation and analytics tools in an integrated environment
  • Creo is faster and much more stable with larger assemblies
  • Creo provides better management of external references
  • Creo provides more customization and key mapping for advanced user efficiency

Ease of Use

SolidWorks used to have a massive advantage here. However, after three major revisions, Creo is now much more user-friendly than Pro/E used to be. The learning curve for both packages has significantly decreased over the years.

That said, we’d still have to give SolidWorks the slight edge for brand new users learning how to do relatively simple tasks. For more advanced users, the award for “ease of use” is going to go to whichever package they are more familiar with. Old-time users of either package should be able to pick up the other without too much trouble.


Up until recently, file compatibility between suppliers and manufacturers drove many purchasing decisions. File systems didn’t translate well between different CAD programs, so manufacturers often effectively required their suppliers to design in whatever package the manufacturer used. Additionally, many shops ended up having to buy one or two licenses of Creo, SolidWorks, or AutoCAD just to deal with “foreign” file formats.

PTC recently simplified life in a multi-CAD environment with introduction of UNITE technology. Creo 3.0 can directly open data from most common CAD systems including Autodesk, CATIA, Siemens NX, SolidEdge, and SolidWorks. There’s no need to convert or translate these files. Just load them directly into your model. You can also export your Creo models in native formats as well. Read more about our take on Creo’s cross-CAD capabilities and the advantages of being able to work in file formats natively versus relying on file translations and import/export solutions.

An additional factor in multi-CAD functionality is the capability of your Product Data Management (PDM) system to handle multiple formats. PTC is leading the way here as well with PTC’s Windchill solution able to manage files in their native format.

Windchill also allows for a multi-CAD assembly (parts and subassemblies in any of the above listed file formats), with all the features that Windchill provides for collaboration and multi-user work environments.

This combination really makes Creo the best choice for managing multi-CAD sub-assemblies in large assembly management

Unless you have the luxury of working in a SolidWorks-only universe, Creo’s cross-CAD capabilities give Creo and Windchill a huge edge in maintaining compatibility with partners, suppliers, and customers.


SolidWorks used to be as much as 80% cheaper than Pro/Engineer. However, the marketplace has worked its magic in recent years and brought the price of Creo down significantly. At this point, the two products are more or less comparable in terms of price.

In fact, with subscription pricing starting at just $2,200, Creo provides a far less expensive way to get started than SolidWorks does in terms of up-front cost.

It’s hard to give exact pricing comparisons because both products come in a wide variety of configurations and possible options. You should talk to a good reseller (like us) to get exact pricing for your needs.

Did we mention that we are Biased?

We’ve always believed that PTC Creo is the best 3D CAD program on the market and this review probably reflects that. However, SolidWorks is a fine product and meets the needs of many organizations (including many of our own customers). This comparison is not meant to disparage SolidWorks in any way. If you’re already using SolidWorks and happy with its performance and capabilities, there’s probably not a compelling reason to switch.

Disagree with anything we’ve said? Send us a note and we’ll update the post with any constructive criticism or new information.

Other SolidWorks vs. Creo discussions on the web:

Much of the chatter on the web of SolidWorks vs. Creo falls into subjective rants, but we found a few other thoughtful views to add some additional balance on the subject:

Want to Learn More?

Give us a call and we’ll walk you through the options, compare packages for you, and discuss pricing and licensing issues.

NxRev is the largest PTC reseller on the West Coast—we’re available at 408-986-0200 during normal business hours or contact us here.