I've been waiting since MiniCad for the stair tool to be usable. It's frustrating to watch a new version come out every year with new tools, new features and still the stair tool gets left behind. I know they added some new stair layouts, but part of the consistent problems are the details.
1. This one, to me, is the most important:
Designing a set of winders or circular stair without being able to set the travel line. By code, the stairs need to be a minimum at the travel line. I'm sure it varies from place to place, but it needs to be determined in order for the treads to be laid out properly, unless you're on of those that just draws in any stairs to make it look good, but when it comes time for building them, they don't fit into the given opening. I've tried laying out a set of winders with the stair tool and it was not even close to code. Setting where the travel line goes will mean the winders will be drawn at a minimum (I'll use 10") rough run. Where I am, the travel line is measured 12" in from the narrow end of the stair.
2. In addition to the travel line, code requires a minimum depth at the narrow edge of the stair. In Massachusetts it's 3" minimum, in New Hampshire it's 6", so designing stairs for both states is difficult using the stair tool for these two reasons alone. There needs to be more input to have a more accurate output as well as flexibility.
As part of the dialogue box, there should be an input for minimum tread depth at the travel line, and a minimum tread depth at the narrow end of the tread or winder.
3. Make the dialogue boxes in an order of importance for the design.
The first things you need to know are floor to floor height, maximum riser height, number of risers, minimum tread depth AT THE TRAVEL LINE, minimum tread depth at the narrow end of the tread or winder, tread thickness, nosing depth (see #4), stair width (or radius, inside or outside).
4. The tread depth should not be the finished tread depth but the rough run (or as some refer to as the "going"). Determine the rough run (according to code) and then the tread overhang (or nosing depth) should be the additional part of the tread that extends past the riser.
It's no wonder people are confused when they use the stair tool. For me, it's not confusion, it's frustration not being able to add information necessary to create the stairs accurately.
5. I would like to see a stair tool that has the ability to place newel posts and balusters based on custom symbols created by the user, like the extensive library I have been working on for years. Similar to the "Fence" tool that Vectorworks added last year or the year before, have a library of parts you can plug in and exchange.
6. Custom rail profiles. If you have a custom profile you should be able to add it to a library of other profiles, and as Vectorworks creates a rail, there should be the capability of using any 2D profile.
6. Rail height: How about setting two rail heights. Rake rails separate from balcony rails. Again, rake rail code (IRC) is 34-38" residential, balcony rails are a minimum 36". Allow the user to set these separately as it will help in the design elements and accuracy of the post heights.
7. Create stair from 2D plan: What if you have a stair design with a lot of different shaped winders? Laying out all of the tread shapes (in the rough) and then selecting them to create a 3D model.
8. The ability to draw open stair treads with returns
There are many more, but another time.
I'm not saying stairs are easy to program because there is a ton of math and details that go into it in order to get it right, but there needs to be some additional places for input if we're going to draw them accurately. I am constantly getting stair drawings from architects that will not work due to code issues. At that point they are not "working" drawings... just drawings.
IMO, I don't think we should have to wait until 2020. For me, that's a 20 year wait and I've seen a ton of new tools in that time introduced when the stair tool gets ignored year after year. Isn't it more important to have a great stair tool, especially in an architectural program, rather than a subdivision tool that makes fancy blobs and gets major improvements the second year. I think there has been plenty of time to improve this tool, even if just one of anyone's wish list items were granted each year, it would be a much better tool by now. Get rid of the confusion of "Which stair tool should I be using" and make one consistent, useful tool. Maybe two if the curved stair tool needs to be separate.