difficulty of moving to vectorworks from autoCAD

spaceman spiff

just moved into a non-architecture office running Macs only, and i have the opportunity to decide what software to use as the standard for doing small projects...

drafting and modelling will be necessary, and in my former PC world, autoCAD and sketchup was all i needed (plus the adobe stuff)...

i know some people swear by vectorworks, but have also read old threads where crowbert is pretty adamant about it being garbage...

tried vectorworks years ago when it was still called minicad and could not figure out how to use it...i'm pretty good with software and can pick up most packages fairly easily, but could not even begin to do a thing with minicad coming from an autocad background...

anyone have any ideas why this might be? have heard similar stories from others switching from autocad...syntax, action, sequencing issue maybe? felt like an idiot not being able to pick it up...

otherwise, am considering ashlar vellum graphite for 2D cad and pairing it with sketchup for mac...

thoughts? especially from people who have made the switch rather than starting from vectorworks first?

Sep 5, 08 1:31 am
Bruce Prescott

I, too have found V-works unintuitive, despite it being the first CAD program I used professionally.

A very capable Mac drafting program is PowerCAD from engineered software. With the wild tools plug in you can do most of the things that make ACAD drafting fast -- stretch, create groups (equivalent to blocks), and the trim and extend tools are well implemented. The xref function is not so great, but it is there. I have set the key commands to be the same as commonly used ACAD commands, which helps ease the transition.

You could think of PCAD as Illustrator with good snaps, as it is a "paper space" program -- you work to scale all the time, which you may not like if you are accustomed to the "real world units" environment of ACAD. Your experience with Adobe products will serve you well in getting up to speed in PCAD. I have had good results bringing geometry from PCAD into Sketch Up via dwg, too.

Another option is Form-Z -- good modeling and the drafting is not bad, once you get used to it.

Sep 5, 08 2:17 am  · 
spaceman spiff

yep, will demo PowerCAD too...

speaking of groups, this is a tangent, but anyone know whatever happenned to the "quick groups" command in autoCAD? used to be an express tool and i've noticed it's been gone for a few years now...

if grouping was as easy as in sketchup, it would go a long way in acad...

Sep 5, 08 5:39 am  · 

Find a tutorial. Vectorworks is really easy and straightforward. I learned Autocad first and it is easy to work in both.

Note the green architecture tutorial.

PowerCADD is a dinosaur that simulates working with tracing paper. It is a dead end.

Sep 5, 08 6:31 am  · 

i thought powercad and minicad were split from the same primal scream that made minicad.

minicad is dead easy. different, but easy. i used it back in the early days of computing then went autocad for about 10 years before going back to VW in office environment. it literally took me a morning to start working like I was being payed. by the first week it was just another software.

i think the thing about 2d cad is that what you really need to know is how to set up dwgs. the software is not so impt unless you are looking for productivity gains through BIM.

however, that said, i use AC now. i still prefer it to VW...

Sep 5, 08 7:22 am  · 

I started on AutoCAD, then ArchiCAD, then tried Vectorworks last year while in a small office. I've had a crack at Revit, but only in the tutorials. Couldn't get my head around the VW interface and found it horrendously inaccurate.

I would personally recommend ArchiCAD above any of these others. It's intuitive and built with Architects in mind. I found Revit, while a step inthe right direction, a bit too complicated for it's own good. BIM is totally the way forward, but it does require a whole new mind-set about the way you produce work from the very start.

Just my 2c.

Sep 5, 08 12:27 pm  · 

try ?

Sep 5, 08 1:29 pm  · 

mac's i find run windows better than other x86 boxes you could always use bootcamp

Sep 5, 08 1:29 pm  · 

Rhino OSX is not ready for production but it keeps getting better with each WIP--I bet it will be ready Q1 2010 which won't help spaceman's situation…

bootcamped macs do run some things faster than similar machines from other manufacturers/assemblers, why? I have no idea; mine even runs a maxwell render faster on XP than OSX…weird

would working in a "mixed" environment make things more complicated than necessary for you? I have a feeling it would, depending on the IT support in your office and how much collaboration needs to occur with all the working files.

Sep 5, 08 2:35 pm  · 

i think steve jobs and bill gates worked something out to make that happen. both monopolists so it is not unlikley they did something to make that the case, faster XP on Mac hardware.

Sep 5, 08 2:40 pm  · 
spaceman spiff

will have another look at VW in demo mode if available...maybe things have gotten much easier in the last while...

i'd like to avoid having mixed platforms to make it easy to keep track of where my files are...tend to forget to transfer files between machines a lot, even over a maybe boot camp and autoCAD is the most practical, just need to justify the cost of it as a standard...maybe LT instead...

and as for quick groups, anyone?

Sep 5, 08 3:04 pm  · 

progecad smart is free and just as if not more functional is my advise

Sep 5, 08 3:16 pm  · 

interoperability being key.

The Open Design Alliance released a development document today too

ODA Development Status – September 5, 2008
• Work continued on SpaModeler module (Spatial library integration).
• .NET wrappers for DWGdirect in progress.
• Enhancements to OdDgLevelTableRecord and OdDgViewGroup/OdDgView classes.
• Enhancements to TextNode support.
• PSToolkit export functionality in progress (for V7->V8 SmartSolid conversion).
• On hold.
• Creation/modification support added for TIN surfaces.
• Updates in Graph cache creation, regeneration and rendering - in progress.
Test Systems
• Multi-host auditing procedure implemented and included in daily test run.
• Automated Project File update step was included in the testing process.
• Integration of test system and BugZilla is in progress.
• DWGdirectX Developer’s Guide: improvements to sample code for blocks and attributes.
• Investigating help generation for .NET wrappers.
• Forum LDAP support completed, members now have a single login for all online resources.
• UNIX makefile generation was added to the automated project file update system.

Latest Releases
Production release 2.6.1 (all products) was posted 6-27-2008.
Production release 2.6.2 (DGNdirect only) was posted 7-17-2008.

Upcoming Releases
Version 2.6.3 – September 22, 2008 (maintenance release for DGNdirect only)
New Features
• LineStyleTableRecord interface added
• Enhancements to TextStyle support
• New applyTextStyle() function added for Text and TextNode elements.
• Enhancements to solids support:
o Support additional subentity types
o Improved rendering of plain solids
o Support for multi-trimming of loops and holes
• Correct translation of Global Origin during V7->V8 conversion
• Access to additional database variables from FileHeader
• Support for additional types of attribute linkages (ODBC and Byte Array types)
• Access to all Level flags
• Support for hatches (linear and cross hatches, and symbol patterns are implemented)
• New ExDgnVectorize example added (simple vectorization example)

Version 2.7
Beta: November 10, 2008
Production: December 8, 2008
DWGdirect New Features
• Coming Soon
DGNdirect New Features
• Enhancements to Rendering quality:
o Access to LineStyle Definition table
o DimensionStyle support
o Complete implementation of worldDraw() functionality
o Improvements to overall rendering quality
o Enhancements to rendering context
• Support for XM data:

o Support for additional dimension types
o New framework to work with XAttributes
o Support for XM data stored in XML format
• Enhancements to Text and TextNode elements:
o Fixes for problems with text height calculation
o Rendering support for TextNode “node number” unique values
• Enhancements to Dimension elements:
o Support for additional dimension types
o Apply Dimension styles to dimension elements
o Improvements Dimension element rendering
• Enhancements to Solids support:
o PSToolkit export functionality to convert Smart\Feature solids from V7 to V8
o Solid conversion from V7 to V8
o Scaling support of Brep Linkages\Smart Solid elements
• Enhancements to V7->V8 conversion:
o Support for reading multibyte text
o Support for Association ID’s to work correctly with dependency linkages
• Miscellaneous:
o Access to the Application Element data
o Access to a level table for each reference file attachment in the design file
o Enhancements to example programs

Sep 5, 08 3:19 pm  · 
Cacaphonous Approval Bot

vw isnt actually that hard. kinda like drafting in illustrator. with blocks.

personally, i dont care for it, but ive had to do it here and there. the way id recommend learning it is: look at all the basic things you do and need to do in autocad. flip through the vw manual to see how its done there, make a page of commands, etc., to keep at hand. understand the some of the basic differences (no command line, how to navigate, layers vs classes, constructing symbols). vw has become more like your pc cads and vw is trying to be a proto-bim program where drawing is actually producing 3d information, which automatically adjusts. decide if you want to access those features or use it as just any other drawing program. learning how to make it do what you want can be a wrestling match as it is always trying to 'make things easy' (a typical mac vs pc move), but its easily doable and efficient if you take the time to set it up.

i still dont like it, though. and yes, its snaps are a little dodgey at times.

Sep 5, 08 10:29 pm  · 

I'm with antisthenes, why shake it up when you can just use Windows and Autocad? I don't even have problems running the two operating systems parallel (adobe on OSX and Acad/Microstation/Rhino on XP). Throw your consultants a bone ;)

Sep 5, 08 10:59 pm  · 
spaceman spiff

reality is that i probably will end up with both OS's...just haven't played with boot camp/parallel yet, but it makes a lot of sense...

joining a bigger office where i'm not the boss also means i don't have admin priviliges i need to call the guy two floors down and go thru the bureaucracy to do anything...

thus i've been using my own laptop to test new CAD software demos (that are also available for Mac) first and seeing if anything better is out there...

i'm setting an office standard, so i don't want to saddle them with the cost of XP and AutoCAD on every machine if it's not the best move...

thx for the feedback and keep it coming if anyone has more...but again, anyone know what happened to the quickgroup command in autoCAD?

Sep 6, 08 2:15 pm  · 
Bruce Prescott

for a complete look at all your Mac options check out architosh
If you are converting a large group of Mac-based designers, the learning curve of a switch to ACAD/Windows is worth considering, as well.

And if you decide to go for VW, wait until after 9/15 -- supposedly they are making a big product announcement then (might have to do with the fact that the same parent company owns VW and Archicad)

Sep 7, 08 1:47 am  · 

don't saddle anybody with the cost of autocad i say intellicad is 100% compatible open source and free.

they have a Linux version, i would think a mac version of the autocad clone would be very possible if the user demand existed.

Sep 8, 08 1:33 pm  · 

If you are going to stay mac, there is cheaper software out there for 2D (PowerCad) and more expensive for 3D (ArchiCad). There are the open souce ones mentioned above. If you aren't going to use it much, and need 3D, then Vectorworks is okay. But if you are going to use it for production drawings, where efficiency of drafting is critical to your profitability, then avoid Vectorworks.

And I reemphasize spruces comments. Vectorworks is the only problem where I've had a problem with FORWARD compatibility.

If its just you and you have parallels/intel macs why learn new software? Stick with ACAD & Sketchup. The cost for you to learn a new system and become efficient (especially when there is nobody else there to help you out when you get stuck on something.) is nothing in comparison to the small additional cost of the parallels and 2D autocad (they are about the same price)

Additionally, ACAD is much more compatible within the contracting & engineering world.

Sep 9, 08 1:05 pm  · 

again don't use autocad Intellicad is 100% compatible free open source clone, for goodness sakes ;)

Sep 9, 08 1:48 pm  · 

The cost of software is negligible when compared to how efficient it makes you.

Sep 9, 08 2:35 pm  · 

yes while intellicad would make you no more or less efficient that autocad

Rhino on the other hand is worth the 140$ because of how much quicker and more powerful it will enable you to be i hear what you are saying on that crowbert

cost is still cost though

Sep 9, 08 3:51 pm  · 

Unless Intellicad operates exactly the same as AutoCad, then its different. If a person can transition relatively quickly from one to the other, then that makes sense. But if the person is going to get caught up on how to work the program (even for a period of two weeks of billable time) then the additional cost of the software and parallels is tiny in comparison. The cost of poor productivity may not come at you in one big chunk, but it will dribble out bit by bit, and if you were to add it up over the course of a year I think you would really regret not buying the software you are familiar with.

I understand there is a reluctance to buy the big mean 800# gorilla, but if it increases your productivity, then use it to your advantage.

Sep 9, 08 9:27 pm  · 

"But if the person is going to get caught up on how to work the program (even for a period of two weeks of billable time) then the additional cost of the software and parallels is tiny in comparison."

after 2 weeks, the person might begin to work faster than on the previous software. (rather hard to predict.)

Sep 10, 08 6:11 am  · 

These guys use Vectorworks:

I wouldn't use it for huge projects but I wouldn't bash it if you and your firm don't know how to use it properly. It's great for small and medium-size projects.

It's far more powerful than PowerCADD which doesn't support viewports, etc..

Sep 10, 08 7:01 am  · 

To make this perfectly clear:

Download the demos - try them out. If its not easy to pick up - keep using your old software. Its just you, you are the only one who needs to be efficient on it.

Enjoy messin' around with the alternatives, but don't be afraid to keep your old standby. Efficiency doesn't look like much until you add it all up.

Sep 10, 08 9:59 am  · 

crowbert yes it is and does. why buy? try it.

Sep 10, 08 11:35 am  · 

Thought I would weigh in too.

Having used several different of the cad options and settled on vectorworks, i believe it is a fairly elegant option for small to mid sized projects; certainly residences of any size and composition.

While there are times of frustration, the same can be said of Word, Excel, Photoshop, ACAd, etc etc. Havent used a perfect software yet.

If finished drawings are any indication of a software, then Vectorworks does well. Sets from VW are routinely aesthetically nicer, cleaner, and easier to read than from ACad. (having seen many many from both) (whether that is a result of the package itself, or the personality type who chooses either can be debated)

While many ACad users seem to take pleasure in disparaging VW, that seems mostly to be as a result of frustration that VW is not ACad. It is a very different package and approach and needs to be learnt on its own terms, not in comparison to how things are done in Auto Cad.

In short, VW is a pretty good architectural software and a nice alternative to ACad if you are not working on very large projects, with large groups, multiple users and multiple large team consultants.

Sep 10, 08 11:57 am  · 

have you tried the one horned beast arnje?

Sep 10, 08 12:06 pm  · 
spaceman spiff

again, thx for all the comments and am surprised to see crowbert go soft on his VW stance compared to older threads...

cost going forward is definitely an issue as i will be expanding the department...VW probably won't be the choice for a number of reasons (looking for VW capable talent in Shanghai for one, is much tougher than AutoCAD people) but am basically intrigued by the "differentness" of that package and why is has been so difficult for me to get my head around...

i have no problems with archicad, have picked up basic rhino, learned enough in Form-Z to produce billable work in days, but was able to do nothing in the old MiniCAD...nothing at all and i know it can't be bad software as there are so many people who love it...

IntelliCAD plus Parallels sounds pretty reasonable...will give that a try next...

Sep 11, 08 5:31 am  · 

i recomend bootcamp for more hardware support i just set up a MAC book pro last night to do cad and graphic design in Rhinoceros for a girlfriend. I swear those machines really run win well with bootcamp from my experience, my biggest gripe is no backspaces key and no right click w/o adding a mouse/tablet

good luck

Sep 11, 08 11:56 am  · 

If you know illustrator then you know how to use vectorworks and the new version is a lot better (however I'd like to see a more organised workspace and an option for a command bar when you feel more comfortable using the software).

I'd be open to any CAD app as long as it's on windows and mac (people should have a choice in regards to the tools they prefer using). Sometimes I think that due to the relative slow development of the software we use we're being held back it's only with other software developments that Autodesk and Microstation + all the others are trying to catch up. Just look at what happened when Rhino became an important tool in well known offices, now everyone wants a piece of that. I really wish Autodesk would innovate instead of buying every good piece of software and ruining it.

oh and one more thing

right click: two fingers on a track pad and click to get the right click function, even in bootcamp.

Sep 11, 08 12:12 pm  · 

thanks for the trick. not that i would have to use it often but good to know. i am a pen/touch tablet guy at this point. didn't a third party co make a mac tabletpc?

Sep 11, 08 1:01 pm  · 

i live for vectorworks. it's the only program i'll ever use... for anything.

i diagram in it, i draft in it, i do models in it, i render in it, i set up drawings in it, i word process in it, and god-willing someday i will browse the internet in it.

Sep 12, 08 11:56 am  · 

I wouldn't call it soft - VW suffers from symptoms brought about from being a jack of all trades, master of none. I am glad to be shifting off of it, no doubt, and perhaps because I am I do not have a year or two ahead of me on it, the vitriol is waning.

Revit is taking some getting used to, but it is consistent and makes sense - both items missing from vectorworks - severely reducing its efficiency and usability. The program seems to be a bunch of shortcuts in programming and not really laid out how its used but rather how its programmed. Hopefully Grafisoft's stressing of usability put into ArchiCad rubbed off on the VW team instead of the other way around.

What should be made clear though, is that these are MY preferences for CAD software. Mr. Spiff should definitely test drive the other ones, but if he's still most comfortable with the set-up he has come from, by all means use that. Even if it is old evil AutoCAD & new evil Sketchup. Trying to learn a new system all by your lonesome makes you very inefficient and at the end of the day, its all about getting readable drawings out the door.

Sep 12, 08 2:18 pm  · 

what is the size of the post-install directory of that jack of all trades, master of none program, also in memory when running?

Rhinoceros 4sr4 - 247MB (with v-ray, penguin, bongo) running: 10.39mbmaximized 3.2mb minimized

AutoCAD 2007 ADT - 1GB running: 173mb minimized 5mb
AutoCAD 2005 592mb running: 17.6mb minimized 6mb

ProgeCAD 2006 LT - 90MB running: 35mb minimized 1.2mb
ProgeCAD smart 2008 - 173mb running: 47mb minimized 1.5mb

just curious

Sep 12, 08 2:55 pm  · 

Let take an average 45K sf. public works project:

AutoCad Plans w/ Xref'd drawings: 2M
Archicad entire model AND drawing set - EVERYTHING: 75M
(Just) Plan file in VW, with referenced drawings - no 3D at all: 144M
(# of other VW files, all at least half that size: 14.)

But that wasn't the point of my post. A human being can use the gossamer albatross to fly across the english channel, but the fact that the frame is smaller doesn't make it better than a jetliner for getting you to paris.

But that wasn't the point of this whole thing, now was it. Is it okay for someone out there not to like the software you like? I'm used to it, let it go.

Sep 12, 08 3:43 pm  · 

i meant empty application with nothing open

can't like or dislike something you have no experience with.

Sep 12, 08 3:53 pm  · 
no right click w/o adding a mouse/tablet

Also, ctrl-click on any mac = right click.

(lots of people don't know that one, so I like to spread it around, it helps me)

Sep 12, 08 10:07 pm  · 

I would not use vectorworks for anything but a small project. Yes it has prettier graphics, but it is not production oriented and the new referencing system of VW 2008 is more complicated than before. The earlier versions may have been easy to learn, but since it is trying to become more like AutoCAD it has gotten more complex. I've used both VW and Autocad pretty intensively, and my conclusion is that you get what you pay for. Also, most people know Autocad already, hardly anyone knows VW so you will have to train people to use it.

Sep 14, 08 3:33 pm  · 

beanie how do you feel about ProgeCAD smart if you have tried it

Sep 15, 08 1:51 pm  · 

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