Fusion 360 Mastery: Getting Started with Projects, Folders, and Files

Avatar Bryce Heventhal May 3, 2018

7 min read

New to CAD? New to Fusion 360? You’re in the right place. Our Fusion 360 Mastery series will get you walking on the path to CAD mastery! Today we’re kicking things off with the basics, working with the nuts and bolts of every great design – projects, folders, and files. Whether this is your first time using CAD or you’re switching from another tool, there are some important things to know about how data works in your new tool. If you haven’t already done so, download Fusion 360 here.



Powered by the Cloud

Fusion 360 is powered by the cloud, which allows your projects and files to be accessed anywhere, at any time, from any device. For those of you coming from a traditional CAD tool, this can be a bit of a departure from the norm. Are you used to setting up a PDM system, shared network location, or local file storage system? Those are processes of the past. Using cloud storage in Fusion 360, you:


Sounds nice, right? Whether you’re a student or a product development pro, your Fusion 360 designs travel with you wherever you go. That means you can work on campus or in the office, and then get some solo time in at home. The same projects, files, and versions you worked on stay with you.


There is that one elephant in the room that everyone asks about – what happens if I go offline? Go ahead, disconnect. When you reconnect, your data gets updated automatically. And if you lose your connection to the web unexpectedly? Fusion will save a local copy of your design on your machine and sync once it gets back online.


The Data Panel

Where do all of your files and projects live in Fusion 360? In the Data Panel. Select the icon that looks like a Rubik’s Cube at the top left corner of Fusion 360 to swing open the Data Panel view:



You can think of the Data Panel as your single source of truth for every project, file, and folder that you’ll ever create in Fusion 360. Running solo on a project? You’ll find it in the Data Panel. Working on a project collaboratively with your entire team? You’ll also find it here. Let’s cover some of the useful features in this panel:



This is where all of your created projects will live. Within each project you can have one or multiple files and folders.




The Fusion 360 team has put together a ton of training samples and design references for you to explore at your leisure. Design files for our Fusion 360 Mastery series can be found within Workshop & Events > Fusion Mastery Course.




The top right corner of the Data Panel has a search functionality. This will search for data within a project, but not a project name. For example, I can search for “open close” to find the specific name of a file contained within one or multiple projects.




If you want to filter the project view by a specific project then you’ll use the Filter option at the bottom of the Data Panel. Begin typing a project name and the Data Panel will start to auto highlight and display relevant project names.



Working with Files

Files are the bread and butter of every Fusion 360 project. You can have one or multiple files nested within a single project view. Here’s how to work with files:


Opening a file

Existing files are opened from the Data Panel. In the Samples section in the Data Panel, navigate to Workshop & Events > Fusion Mastery Course > Lesson 3-02. Inside this folder you should see a file called Open Close Save. Double click the file name to open it in the canvas.



Closing a file

Notice at the top of your canvas you have a tab, similar to a browser tab, with the Open Close Save file name. Select the X next to the file name to close the tab. If you didn’t make any changes to the design then it should close automatically, otherwise you’ll be prompted to save.



Uploading a new file

Chances are some of your design projects will start in another CAD tool like Inventor, SolidWorks, or TinkerCAD and will need to be brought into Fusion 360. This is where uploading a file will come in handy.


First things first, you’ll need a test file to try out the upload process. Download this Open Close Save file. Once that’s saved on your computer, open a project within the Data Panel in Fusion 360. Inside of the project view select the Upload button to open the Upload dialog.



In this dialog you can either select files on your computer to upload, or drag and drop them directly, whichever is easier. The one important thing to pay attention to when uploading files is the Location that the file will be uploaded to. If you’re not in the right location, just click the Change Location link to adjust.



Click the Upload button and the upload process will begin in the Job Status window. What happens if you close the Job Status window though, do you cancel the upload process as well? Nope! There are two ways to keep tabs on the status of an upload:


Progress Bar

At the bottom of the Fusion 360 Data Panel you’ll see an upload progress bar whenever a file is in the process of uploading.



Job Status

You can also reopen the Job Status window by selecting the clock icon at the top right of your interface and choose View Job Status.



Working with Projects & Folders

As you can probably see by now, projects sit at the top level of the data hierarchy in Fusion 360. One project can hold multiple folders and files. You can think of projects like buckets for all of your data. Here’s how to work with projects and files:


Creating a project & folder

You can create a project from the Data Panel by clicking on the New Project button and giving your project a name.



Need a way to organize your projects? You can use the Pin feature. To pin a project, hover over a project’s name and you’ll see a pin icon to the right. Select the pin and the project will get moved to the top of your project list. Selecting the green pin will unpin the project and move it back down the list.



Once inside a project you can create folders by selecting the New Folder button.



Navigating projects & folders

Take a look at the breadcrumbs at the top of your data panel, see how it changes as you add folders? You can see in the image below that we’re in the Reviewed folder, which is a child of the master branch of the Fusion Mastery project.



You can navigate back and forth between folders and projects by either clicking on the names in the breadcrumbs or clicking the left arrow at the top left corner of the Data Panel.



Deleting or renaming projects, folders & files

Right-clicking on either a project, folder, or file will provide a variety of options, the two most common being rename or delete. Beware, if you delete a folder or file, it’s gone forever!



Notice that there’s no delete option for projects though, just an archive option. When you archive a project, it sends it to an archived folder that can be retrieved if you change your mind. Check out this article on how to reactivate archived projects for more information.



Adding a file to a project

Let’s say you have an existing file, stored in a different project, that you want to move to a new project. How can you do this? With the Save As option.


With an existing file opened in Fusion 360, select the File icon at the top of your interface and and choose Save As. This will open a dialog with some basic information for choosing a new file name and save location. Once saved, you should now have that file sitting within the project folder you chose to save to, easy stuff!



Mission Accomplished

Congrats, you are now a project, folder, and file wizard! Keeping track of all your designs in Fusion 360 is simple thanks to integrated cloud storage and file versioning. For those of you transitioning from traditional CAD software, the reality of not having to manually track changes and file versions is a huge relief. No matter what device you find yourself on, or where in the world you happen to be, Fusion 360 keeps all of your designs together in one place.


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