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Baffled by Snaps (in 3D)

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I’ve been using Vectorworks, in 3D, daily for over a decade and I still don’t understand when snaps are going to work, and they only work about half of the times I want them to. I often have to align objects in plan view and then guess at distances in the Z direction (because the Tape Measure, or 3D loci, won’t snap to the objects in 3D). Then I move objects vertically by trial and error until I get them close enough. I also frequently struggle using the Move command in 3D; I can snap to some edges but not others. I’m currently looking at extrudes where I can snap to the top edges but not the bottom.


I think I understand how the snaps are supposed to work; I don’t have any problems in 2D.  I’m particularly interested in using snaps (in 3D) with the Tape Measure, 3D loci and the Move command. Are there circumstances in 3D when they don’t work? Is it possible that after a model gets crowded with a lot of geometry, the snaps get confused? It often seems like the curser is snapping to objects I can't see.


I'd appreciate any thoughts!


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  • 1 month later...

I think I'm beginning to understand this. It seems that the snaps don't work when I have a lot of 3D geometry displayed. It makes sense that the computer would not snap reliably when there are many edges, surfaces and points to possibly snap to. I am getting better results when I display only one layer or one class, or orient the view so there is no geometry behind the edge I want to snap to.



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Glad for your successes.  Temporary isolation you describe is a great strategy.


Make Saved Views for repeated visits to those limited layer/class sets.  To easily return to "normal" view, keep a Saved View with ALL the normal visibilities.


Grouping objects for work, then ungrouping is another quick isolation.


Use the Menu bar buttons switch between Layer Plane and Working Plane contexts.


The tilda key temporarily disables snaps. Esc key clears the acquired snaps.


Holding the space bar temporarily activates the Pan function by default.  But while you hold the space bar, you can also enable and use any other tool - click in the tool palette.  This is helpful if you have a snap acquired, but need a different tool.



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@Ed Wachter I have some similar experiences to you. Certainly isolating geometry can help in many situations.


Beware in particular of wall or slab objects which are not visible due to their component classes all being switched off, but which can interfere in a major way with things like acquiring snaps or push-pull faces. I think this is a bug present in 2023 but hopefully fixed in 2024 (have not yet tried).


You might find some of the comments posted in this thread useful:




I have picked up a few tips given in that thread ... but it remains the case that I don't always feel fully in control of what's going on with snaps etc. There's only so many shortcut keys and so on that my brain can reliably keep in its memory.


One thing that improved my life recently was realising that I could use the "move by points" tool in many situations where I was previously just trying to drag objects by grabbing them with the selection tool. The "move by points" method makes it easier to find snap points.


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It is different than 2D, learning process.  My best advice is to snap in a 3D View and not a plan or absolute view.  Also, turn off "snap to working plane".


If things get busy, attach a 3D loci first to a snap point.  Then when you snap the other object, the 3D loci will highlight and you know you have it.

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You can also use Groups to temporarily isolate an object or collection of objects so you can work on them "soloed".  Once you are done, exit the group and ungroup and you are back to normal.  There is an option in your Quick Preference settings to "Show other objects while in Edit mode" - this lets you toggle between ghosting in other objects or not seeing them at all while inside a group, symbol, or any other editing envelope.  Can be handy.

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10 hours ago, Benson Shaw said:


Grouping objects for work, then ungrouping is another quick isolation.

I do this constantly on crowded geometry.  If think I will need to exit the group then return a few times, I often add a shape to the group off to side and out of the way that I can use as a doorway to reliably re-enter the group rather than accidentally double clicking something else in the way. When I am finished with the isolation I delete the extra object.  


I always thought I was doing some amateur workaround and that there was surely a slick process to get around my problem.  I am glad to see the real pros do this, too.

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I group and ungroup things a lot too for isolation purposes.

Just be aware that when you group objects, these are all brought to the front of the stacking order, so if your objects were stacked in a certain way in Top/Plan you may need to consider this aspect.


But if you're really just working in 3D only then it's not much of a concern.

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26 minutes ago, Andy Broomell said:

I group and ungroup things a lot too

Yes - have used that trick for years to simplify and contain unwieldy parts as things grow slightly out of hand.

*Use in conjunction with ‘hide/show others’ (within the group view) to concentrate on the multi-parts you’ve just captured.

*(not for the faint-hearted) I delete that new group. With complicated clusters of objects, sometimes there may be a few objects that you failed to capture and you can now clearly see the ‘little varmints’. Group these separately. ‘Paste in place’ will place the main group back. Group both groups into one. Dive in to this new group and ungroup both ‘parts’ within and then exit the group. 


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I often find that when I draw a new object on existing 3D geometry (Top/Plan typically) the first snap / start point works.

When the second point is selected and there is "no snap" I put the finish point down near by, then select it again, and that final point I wanted ... the one that I could NOT snap to...  It snaps just fine ?!?.


Its just a Workaround NOT a fix



Edited by Elite Exhibits
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