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Problem with "Use Symbol" for 3D rack equipment items

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I am using Vectorworks 2024 with spotlight and ConnectCAD. I built a full schematic including devices i entered into the builder. Then I used the ConnectCAD "Create Equipment" function to build those into the 3D layout. I am using the ConnectCAD template.


However I am having issues when it comes to the "Use Symbol" function in the Object Info Panel for equipment. I basically have a library I am building, of pieces of equipment that includes images attached to each side of a 3D object. I then save that as a Object/plug-in. When I check the "Use Symbol" box, i get a dialogue box that allows me to chose a symbol. The default one is a system symbol named skt_R_Loop, when I change that to the 3D symbol that matches the device i want, the "Use Symbol" the symbol is used in the drawing, but the "Use Symbol" Checkbox becomes unchecked, and I can no longer change the symbol except by using undo. This is causing a major problem. It has to be a bug of some kind.


Often times it will actually make it so that anytime I select "Use Symbol" on any device it will do this bug and make the equipment a random symbol from my library with no way to select. I thought I rectified this by making sure my symbols were "plug-in" objects but the issue persists.

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Here is another example, I am going through old save iterations to see why this is happening as it basically completely ruins the project. This picture is before and after selecting "use symbol". It picks a random symbol to use, changes the make a model of that equipment item, and does not allow me to select any other symbols.

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I only have Update 2 on this machine, but 3.1 on my other machine.


On Update 2 at least, I think I might see what is going on, though I expect one of the VW team will be along to say for sure. I think the Equipment Item is looking to use a plain black-text vanilla symbol (such as those in the Vectorworks Entertainment library). If you take an equipment item, edit it, add stuff to it and then save it with 'Create Symbol', this actually saves an Equipment Item wrapped up in the 3D component of the symbol. If you then try to use this as the 'Use Symbol' of another equipment item, it's one inside another and appears to cause a problem.


If you edit the 3D component of one of your symbols (right click it in the Resource Manager - edit 3D component), I think you'll see it contains an entire Equipment Item inside, whether you saved it as a symbol (black text) or plugin object (red text).


To test this, create a new equipment item and point it at a given symbol from the VW library - i.e. the Audio Control L'Acoustics (misspelled - should be L-Acoustics!) LA12X. Note this is not an equipment item - it is a standard symbol with some geometry inside.


As a short term, you could convert the Equipment Item inside your saved symbols to just be geometry and not be an Equipment Item. I'd Ctrl-K to convert to group, then ungroup. That would leave you a 'dumb' version of whatever is there, which should be able to be shown with Use Symbol without issue, I expect.


Ideally, rather than the Use Symbol function, I think maybe what you need is something I've requested already - the ability to 'replace' an Equipment Item. Because your saved objects are full equipment items already with all the data, you really want to replace your drawn equipment item with the object from the library, not make it a child of your current item. The reason I requested it is for when you want to replace 48 ceiling speakers with another model, but don't want to go round each one and manually update the weight, power, size etc. But I think it would help this application as well - when you've got a default equipment item and want to swap it out for a pre-made equipment item in your library.


...but then...as I get to the end of writing this post, I can suddenly reproduce something similar to what you say above, which does look a bit like a bug, or at least undesireable behaviour. I'll test this file on 3.1 over the weekend and see what happens. I will submit a bug if needed.

- The last symbol I saved was as mentioned above - wrapping up an equipment item in the 3D component of a symbol.

- I launch the equipment item tool to place a new 8U rackmount object. I check in the tool preferences that 'Use Symbol' is NOT selected, so I'm inserting a default 8U equipment item, the same as if it were coming via Create Equipment.

- It places in to a rack fine. If I then click 'Use Symbol', it changes appearance to that of the last symbol I saved, but the checkbox exhibits the behaviour you mention above rather than looking how it should.

- I think it's trying to load the last symbol I saved, which was one with a nested equipment item, and therefore fails.


To get you going, the short term option mentioned above still fixes this.

Edited by spettitt
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This is super helpful, I can try doing this in the morning. You are correct that my symbols are actually devices when I open them up.

As for replace item, that doesnt seem super necessary to me at the moment since all that information should be saved in the device correct? My schematic has devices with all the correct information, just when I convert it to 3D i want it to be legit 3D models not just generic hollow shapes.

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  • Vectorworks, Inc Employee

@SSvectorproblems Hello. Yes @spettitt is right. The purpose of the Use Symbol checkbox is to allow you to use an existing ordinary 3D symbol say one you snagged off a manufacturer's website as the graphics for your equipment item. If you have created a red symbol (convert-to-plugin-object) from your equipment item then all you need to do is drag that in from the Resource Manager directly. I will check on this problem and see if there's something we can do to alert you if you choose a red symbol. As for the socket symbol that you see that just happens to be the first in the document - we use symbols as building blocks quite a lot in ConnectCAD because it allows you to customise things.


Hope this helps,



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  • 3 weeks later...

This does seem the be problem. Converting these to symbols changes the text on the symbol to blue, which then removes this problem and allows me to convert my equipment to a 3d model with images.

Can you explain, or is there a resource that explains, what the colored texts means in the resource manager? I see the one I made that works as intended is blue, but the others are black, and the ones that dont work as intended is red. What is that refering to?

Also is this the right way to go about this? To clarify I want to build a schematic, with devices that dont exist in the stock options, then convert those to equipment so I can build 3D racks, and have it be connected to the schematic. But I need the equipment to appear as real equipment with front and back graphics. Now I am building a 3d model and saving that as a symbol. I think i was copying the equipment and building symbols with the equipment so it keeps the same exact rack size and shape.

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Symbols with their name in Black are standard symbols.


Symbols with their name in Blue have the Symbol Option of Convert to Group checked. That allows the symbol to exist as a resource, but when it is placed in the drawing you will not get a symbol but rather a grouped copy of the objects in the symbol definition.  If there is only a single object in the SymDef you will get that object places in the drawing. If there is more than one object in the SymDef you will get a group containing the copy of all the objects.


Symbols with their name in Red are kind of a subset of Blue Symbols.  Red symbols contain a single Plug-in Object. When you place the symbol in the drawing the PIO is placed instead including all the setting of the PIO before it was converted to a symbol.  Red Symbols are also Object Styles. When you save an object style it creates a Red Symbol containing the settings for the object. This can be used either as the default style for a tool or to Replace a style of an object in the drawing.


Symbols with their name in Green are like Black symbols, but they are Page Based. This means that that symbol will display at the same size regardless of what scale the layer they are placed on is. This can be useful for objects like drawing labels and north arrows.



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2 hours ago, SSvectorproblems said:

Also is this the right way to go about this?


Basically, yes.

- Create your devices, with their physical attributes (HWD, Power, Weight) ideally.

- Create Equipment Items from your devices (Create Equipment command)

- For any equipment you didn't specify physical attributes for on the devices, change these on the matching Equipment Item now.

- For any Equipment Item you want to look more realistic and not just the default grey representation, tick 'use symbol' and point it towards the relevant black (or blue) symbol with the geometry in. Note that this does not 'convert' your equipment to a 3D model - it just 'uses' the appearance of the chosen symbol. Functionally, it's still a ConnectCAD Equipment Item.


IIRC there is a way for the Create Equipment to scan libraries and grab something other than the default 'Grey Box' equipment item, but I can't remember what it is. Have a search of this forum. I don't use it much as I don't have much decent 3D geometry of the equipment we use at the moment. I don't like the look of photos on equipment, and some of the rubbish CAD geometry that comes out of manufacturers isn't worth bothering with. I would love to use more of it, if it was decent solid models, when I get round to modelling more of it.

Edited by spettitt
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  • Vectorworks, Inc Employee

Create Equipment can create equipment set to use the symbols we ship with Vectorworks if you check the box in the  dialog.




As Simon says CAD models from manufacturers tend to bloat your file with unnecessary detail.


Thanks @Pat Stanford for explaining the symbol colors for our new users - much appreciated.



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  • 1 month later...
On 2/20/2024 at 4:08 AM, Conrad Preen said:

Create Equipment can create equipment set to use the symbols we ship with Vectorworks if you check the box in the  dialog.




As Simon says CAD models from manufacturers tend to bloat your file with unnecessary detail.


Thanks @Pat Stanford for explaining the symbol colors for our new users - much appreciated.



Not a single one of the items we use are in the vectorworks library. So I am building everything from scratch.


Turning the symbol objects into groups, so that they are no longer equipment items but more generic symbols seemed to work. I got halfway up one rack but ran into another bug. I have an equipment item i turned into a plug-in object the exact same way i did with the others, except this item shows up as its device like in the schematic view.


I am including screen shots. The bottom few devices I have done and they work as intended. The Rack fan unit is having problems. I select "use symbol" and you can see it is a 3 model just like the others, however as soon as I select it it turns into the device view and totally glitches out.

I just need to know, how are people showing 3d symbols of devices besides gray boxes? This makes sense for all other uses of VW but this process is totally buggy, complicated and time consuming. What am I doing wrong?

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