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VectorWorks v AutoCAD

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I work in a local government office where we architects use VectorWorks Architect while the structural, electrical and mechanical engineers use AutoCAD. I have been asked why we should not change to AutoCAD and to produce a report giving my reasons.

We want to stay with VectorWorks Architect! While I have a few good answers, I have little knowledge of AutoCAD, so any suggestions that help our cause would be most welcome.

Thanking you all in anticipation!


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Well, Autodesk is moving architects from AutoCAD to Revit...

Now, why should you? There should be few, if any, problems in data exchange. If the exchange protocols are what they should be even between AutoCAD-users, extremely few.

But what kind of projects and what aspects of them do you handle? "UK" of course says something, but not quite enough.

If you deal with facilities planning, asset management, inventories, recording of repair works carried out etc etc, VW is I believe far superior to AutoCAD (or anything I know of).


- How many?

- Is there something you are supposed to do but can't because of VW?

- Can the LGA afford the transition (training, downtime, reduced productivity etc)?

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in addition to the data exchange mentioned above, how about this. VW is what I consider a graphics program, in that it produces drawings that are very similar to what architects used to do by hand. the graphic nature of it allows architects to do many different types of drawings or documents theta will best explain the ideas behind the design, and clearly illustrate how a thrid party can construct that idea.

autocad is not a graphic program, but a line drawing program. that is not to say the one can construct from autocad drawings, but the limitations of the program put the user at a disadvantage due to its lack of graphical drawing options.

i strongly suggest that you included examples of VW images in your report to back up your decision to stay with VW. by the way, your quandary is more than writing this defebse of VW, as you need to compare it to a progfram thet you admit are not familiar with...

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I work in an Architectural office that uses VW Architect. Most of our consultants use AutoCAD. I have used VW for the last year and a half, and before that AC for about 16 years.

I would have to agree with Jim. AutoCAD is I think a more robust program, however VW is a better graphics program. The fact that you work more with objects with VW rather than lines, circles and squares with AC, makes it much better for producing plans. I haven't checked it out yet, but it does look like AutoCAD 2007 did add many graphic features to that release.

To get many of the Architecural drawing features that come with VW, you would have to have AC-Desktop or Revit, vanilla AutoCAD wouldn't cut it.

By the way AutoCAD is only supported on the Windows platform. After working on a Mac for the last year and half I would hate to have to return to Windows platform.

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Leave to the government to be on different platforms smile.gif

Both applications should be able to co-exist if the will exists. It would be more difficult if one were exchanging file with different independant companies. However (the 'will") with in the same "firm" - level of government it could be simple

First Standards: if all department could agree a a set of CAD standards, then each (AutoCAD/ Vectorworks User) would know what to expect from the other (when importing/exporting) Example" Colours?penWeights, Acad Layers,VW Classes

And yes, frown.gif sadly, each may have to consider the "limitations" of the other, and agree not ot use such features for drawing file that will go back-and-forth.


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agree not ot use such features for drawing file that will go back-and-forth.

Naah. They should counter every proxy object, shp-font etc. with two plug-in objects and one "image" without with the drawing is incomprehensible. For leaving xrefs unbound, a nice, NURBS-based 3D-object sent back.


Well, actually: I re-emphasize the need for protocols. One important thing is that data is not sent back and forth. You don't send electrical stuff to the electrical engineer, who does not send your ceiling plan to you. In such a situation there are less features that are problematic.

Proxy objects and XREFs are among the problems, though.

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Why don't you write a paper on all of you switching to Nemetschek's ALLPLAN. It's superb in workgroups (very flexible), has excellent modules for structural and concrete, great DWG translation, rendering and so on. The latest release has added new functions for renovation projects which are becoming more prevalent in parts of the world. Nemetschek will probably merge it with VW's some time anyway so it won't hurt to take a look.

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I think it would be very difficult to convince structural, electrical and mechanical engineers to switch to VectorWorks, because, as ifmarch says, they are doing essentially line drawings.

And their drawings don?t have to be visually appealing, unlike architectural drawings which are used for presentations.

You have to show the bosses that VectorWorks is best for what you are doing and that switching to AutoCad would set you back in quality of output.

In my limited experience with VectorWorks, I?ve found two things I couldn?t do easily with AutoCad: object fills, and facility with Truetype fonts (Truetype fonts really slowed AutoCad down).

With object fills and truetype fonts, VectorWorks can produce really beautiful work, something I always found difficult with AutoCad.

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Times are changing, agencies are requiring civil engineering drawings to be presentation quality for local government & public meetings. Road & intrastructure drawings are being prepared as rendered 3-D models to show the relationship between existing & proposed facilities.

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It does indeed. But it really depends on the projects and their organisation whether this is important. If one needs to communicate with users, residents, managers, politicians and so on, it is hugely important. One would imagine that in local government one does.

A nicely coloured floor plan of the new fit-out of the Council offices as an example. A fully rendered image of the Chief Executive's office, with the wall panels of exotic wood of endangered species.


Maybe AutoCAD has improved, but a few years ago I witnessed a process in which an AutoCAD drawing (quite nice-looking) was printed, then scanned, as this was the only way to get it to a printed publication...

Edited by Petri
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Road & intrastructure drawings are being prepared as rendered 3-D models to show the relationship between existing & proposed facilities.

Well, it is about time... Huge road & infrastructure projects are usually "presented" for public comment and community consultation as working drawings no-one can read.

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...autocad is not a graphic program, but a line drawing program. that is not to say the one can construct from autocad drawings, but the limitations of the program put the user at a disadvantage due to its lack of graphical drawing options....

I'm sorry, but that's just not correct. AutoCAD IS a graphics program, and it is NOT just a line drawing program.

As for limitations and graphical drawing options, Autocad has no less limitations than Vectorworks, and far more drawing options. Just about every object you can create in AutoCAD can be created in several possible ways. It is a line drawing program when the user does not know how to use it any other way, but I have received Vectorworks drawings that are also just line drawings.

You can build higher level objects that represent real life design elements in both applications...if you know what you are doing. You can do 2D and 3D in whatever appearance you want in both applications...if you know what you are doing. You can export data to other applications in both AutoCAD and Vectorworks...if you know what you are doing. It is not limitations that put a user at a disadvantage, it is their lack of experience with the program, Vectorworks or AutoCAD.

Sorry if I come across as defending AutoCAD in a Vectorworks discussion. I do think that Vectorworks is the best CAD tool in a multiple OS environment. And I believe that you can structure your VW designs to be more AutoCAD-ready.

Your report needs to include some hard numbers on the cost difference between Vectorworks Architect licenses (with Renderworks), and AutoCAD or Architectural Desktop licenses, including a Windows license. You also need to include the cost of training each of your architects on AutoCAD or ADT. You need to show, if possible, how much your productivity will be lost during the time it will take to get up to speed. And you need to include the cost of hardware to support the move to AutoCAD.

I recommend that you avoid statements like "just a line drawing program" and "limitations of the program put the user at a disadvantage" and "lack of graphical drawing options". They will too easily be refuted by the structural, electrical and mechanical engineers who work with you who do use AutoCAD.


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You are definitely right - but one must also keep in mind that obviously doing "pretty" drawings in AutoCAD is not exactly easy. At least one self-proclaimed guru seemed to think like this when he was sitting surrounded by a bunch of rather amateurish VW users.

Still, the argument would be quite soft. I'd concentrate on functionality.

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The only flaw in my suggestion is that i have not used autocad in about 6 years, (although i still review drawings done on autocad as part of facility management and HARB commision reviews). the point that all drawings are graphics quite true, and i take no exception to that. i also am not trying to put down any type of engineer who uses autocad, as i think the program is appropriate for the type of work they do. we use several consulting engineers that are quite content using it (and we have not problem converting our VW drawing to DWG for their use).

my point is that architects (like me) need to have the graphic capabilities that autocad cannot do, several of which were mentioned above. i am not talking about cost or platform, but the ability to communicate ideas, and construction means in an 'architectural' way. the use of color fills, patterns, hatches, transparencies allows us to produce pretty, striking drawings that one would expect from a designer. the ability to import and use photos, drawings, cut sheets is another graphic advanatge we take, especially when illustrating how an addition looks with a phot of the existing building. all this can be done with vw straight out of the box- no add ons.

all i wa suggesting is that there appears to be more graphic power in vw compared to autocad that is very beneficial to the way architects communicate their services...

Edited by jfmarch
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I work quite closely with consultants who use AutoCad. We have some minor issues moving from one platform to another. What has evolved is given the time it takes to provide good quality presentations where imported graphics, text, photos etc. are used are these documents are ALWAYS produced in VW12.5, as the time required in ACAD is ALWAYS greater than in VW.

This is not just my opinion, but also that of using several experienced ACAD operators. From what I have seen of many packages of drawings produced by ACAD users & other firms using ACAD (& from the users tell me & my limited use in the past) layout seems to be an afterthought. From listening to my consultants, good looking packages using ACAD is just EXTRA WORK. My experience in VW (since minicad3) is producing good layout is just how it is done. VW is almost as good a page layout tool as Illustrator is.

You may point out in your report that rather than improving things, they may have to invest in additional staff using Illustrator to produce documents that can now be produced in VW.

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A synergy of both skill & creativity is required...

one without the other equates to generic CAD...

committed experienced Acad Users routinely stop by the office to

ask me how VW produces the work they seem to admire so much.

Even basic site plans imported via .dxf or .dwg from Acad

can be made to look interesting and engaging with minimal effort in VW.

VW provides form-flow-fluid-function? ; ) ...

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Islandmon I agree except for the "with minimal effort", in VW polylines with arc vertexs are a disaster. Nemetschek has registered 1 problem as a bug #B056014, but as a road designer partically every object that I create is an arc polyline. Just try & create surface objects to represent pavement, curbs, sidewalks, etc from offsets of the circulinear centre-line, should be easy! It has just taken me 4 hours to draw a curb return & sidewalk to side road from the main road with a 35.2m radius centre-line. I have had more success with VectorBits offset tool, but even it failed on the poly line that was submitted as a bug.

If you have a method that produces mathematically correct offset surface objects with reasonable effort; I may even be willing to pay for it as I am wasting hundreds of hours.


Bruce Robertson

Road Consultant

iMac G5 OS10.4.8

VW 12.5 LandMark/RW

HP designjet 100

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I've just bitten the bullet and created kerblines one by one... First as polygons, then changing vertices to arcs and typed the radius. Finally done various "compose", "add" and "subtract" operations and sometimes got reasonable results. Well, on urban design level that is.

If I'd need to do more of them, I'd write my own script. I've started it a few times, but never quite cracked it; I'm no good with vectors. Just today had a quick look at the current Landmark "road" tools, but they are toys - straight from the Lego-box.

Nope, VW is not an infrastructure engineering program!

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Landscape designing - I am constantly it seems drawing curves for things likes garden edging, paths, ponds and the like - it sometimes drives me nuts. I thought being a reasonably new user it was just me. The Freehand tool is difficult to use well - I wonder if a drawing tablet would help. Regularly when I offset a curved poly I have an edge missing and have been wondering about that.

For me when I draw curves - I sit at my computer and think here we go again. I do not know what can be done. With regard to this thread though - My experience was with IntelliCAD and to return down that path - I would prefer to go and mow lawns.

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