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The End of the Layer Link ?


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Up until today, all my VectorWorks documents (3D/2D architectural drawings) have a similar setup : a design layer for each floor level, immediately followed by the MODEL layer. This last one holds layer links to all the former ones, plus light source, layout stuff like 3D people etc.

The MODEL layer is where I set up my 3D views (both perspective and orthogonal), and perform 3D sections.

With the entrance of Viewports, other methods seem to have found their way into version 2008 : Stacking layers, Section Viewports to name a few. At the same time, menu commands like 3D Section, Create Layer Link? no longer sit in the default workspace (although still available, I know).

So, does this mean we're somehow being encouraged to change the old LayerLinking ways into the new approach ? And if so, who did so already ?

I'd love to hear people's opinions on this - TIA.

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Gerrit, I've made the transition though I admit the old habits died hard.

Using Stack Layers instead of a Layer Link to view the whole model provides much more flexibility because you can choose how much of the model you actually want to see at any one time, and change this quickly by switching which Layers and Classes are visible via the Navigation Palette.

Similarly using Design Layer Viewports instead of Layer Links to bring in virtual copies of other Layers (or even external information) is much more useful because you can manage them on the fly by switching which Layers and Classes are visible, and you can crop them to view only what you need to view.

I feel really sorry for the Fundamentals users who don't get either of these features. They are stuck with the old style Layer Links with all their limitations, and thus miss out on the benefits that the industry users' have from these two features. Once you get accustomed to using Stack Layers and Design Layer Viewports you will never want to go back to plain old Layer Links

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If you want to use that workflow then it is useful as the command of Convert a Copy to Lines does not work with a Design Layer Viewport. You can still do it on an individual Layer basis though.

A question though - having gone to all the effort of producing a model which can generate elevations which will update why would you not want to use the the elevations it can produce in Viewports?

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Why not use both ways, depending on what works best? I find that Cut 2D and Cut 3D, used in the development of a drawing--as opposed to the display of the drawing--can be quite fast compared to trying the same with Viewports. Today I was placing windows with transoms and I used Cut 2D to section the wall to confirm the correct elevation of the mullioned units. These are sections that are deleted once you've made your observations.

Make a new 3D layer, then use the Model View tool to assemble layers there containing 3D information.

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Convert to lines : a sheet layer viewport can also be converted to lines, polygons or a group. Of course the update no longer works, but the result can be copied into a design layer for further drafting work (I can't seem to place a Section viewport on a design layer).

Generated elevations : most of the time I want to add elements to the automatically generated elevations. Layout, hatches, shadows etc etc. Or even parts that were left out the 3D in the first place. Especially the section viewports need additional work to qualify as solid drawings for my contractors.

Use both ways : sure, why not. With a number of running projects, I'll be working drawings that were created the old way for a while still. But I must agree with Mike, I got accustomed to the new techniques over the past weekend :-)

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  • 3 weeks later...

Gerrit, I for one am not a great fan of viewports with two exceptions. One those occasions when you have to convert a plan to a different scale, for example, to place it onto a smaller scaled site plan, this is when viewports are terrific. Also, for presentation purposes including rendered, 3D images. previous versions could not render more than one model per layer so you have to take images and reimport them.

I am somewhat old school where I like to mouse down and grab what I see before me. The idea that the information is located elsewhere I find tedious and even redundant especially with detail sheets that I compose on a Saved View so why repeat the same information in a viewport? Some people have opted to draw at 1:1 and then scale the viewports but I find tis maddening to have a chaotic sheet of non scaled details that are accessible by 2X clicking a viewport

When I create a detail, I choose a scale and I design the drawings and notes to fit into a particular sheet format. I am also very very line weight conscious and the weighted line weights to me is not enough control. I am not prepared to defer the manual and mechanical aspect of drafting for digital equivalents that do not offer the same results. Said another way, I wish to exploit the advantages of digital technology that expand upon old methods, but not replace old methods simply to conform to the new medium.

From 12.0 - 12.5.3, I have yet to have SECTION VIEWPORTS available. My workspace always states that this cannot be added. This was the primary reason I purchased the upgrade at that time...No solution from NNA on this...

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I don't agree with drawing at a 1:1 scale and then scaling the VPs. I typically draw in the intended VP scale in the design layer so that I can see the true line weights and place notes with the correct font size etc... as I draw them.

I know there are a lot of users still not using VPs because of habit or other reasons. But VPs allow the opportunity to compose a sheet with two different plans of a building without offsetting them in you design layers. ie you can have a 1st floor and second floor plan printed on the same sheet, while having the design layers of those plans line up vertically so that whole 3D models can be viewed, stairs can line up between levels, etc..

That functionality is what pushed us into using viewports initially. The rest of the functions of VPs are certainly very helpful now that we use VPs on all projects.

Edited by dcont
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My "best practice" two-cents...

design layers - containers for model (2D and/or 3D) information with limited text/notation/dimensioning. Use Stack Layers to view model as a whole.

design layer viewports - combination of workgroup referencing and layer links to uniquely distribute model information. Examples include creating a DLVP of a unit plan in a multi-family dweling project that can be copied and reoriented on multiple levels, or the entire floor of a high-rise building.

sheet layers and sheet layer viewports - the presentation and notation of model information, including plans, elevations, and sections.

design layers & DLVPs -> model data

sheet layers & SLVPs -> views of model data

by separating the building information from the presentation of the information, the user has greater flexibility and opportunity to "re-use" the same set of building data for different views without interfering with simultaneous views or duplicating effort to recreate a different view of essentially the same information in a different format (e.g. by creating a 3D building model, I can get building sections and elevations automatically generated from "plan work" in respective sheet layer VPs without having to reconstruct 2D drawings. See BIM In Practice project, Alexandria Lofts).

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As long as one person's (or NNA's) "best practice" doesn't evolve into the only way of doing things. I use Layer Link, rarely use Viewports, and have added back Cut 2d and 3d sections from the last cull. It is easier and quicker for me to use the Convert Copy To Lines off a model elevation or cut section and draw over it than to use a Viewport.

I downloaded Alexandria Lofts and went through both VW and PDF files - I don't know if it was because I am on v12.5.3 and not v2008, but it seemed there was an enormous amount of "stuff" behind the scenes, but the drawings that the Council and contractors would use were surprisingly thin. The floor plans have coloured and hatched walls, but the wall types along the bottom of the sheet have numbers, not hatches - how does the contractor know what goes where?

I was also surprised that there was no Model layer, where you can rotate the whole building to see all sides and views - is this another tool due for the chop?

Some of the door architraves were missing, probably due to a class being inadvertently turned off somewhere, which leads me to another complaint of VW in general - when you toggle between Saved Views and Design Layers, classes can get turned off or on, which leads to mistakes.

Actually, with the number of Viewports this job uses, I wonder why they used Saved Views at all.

I am really concerned that the emphasis seems to be on the program and terribly clever but complicated techniques, and not on producing excellent documents for the builders.

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Thanks to all that contributed their thoughts so far - very interesting read here.

Jeffrey :

If I understand you well, some notation is done on the design layers and other in the sheet layer viewports - why and on what criteria do you separate them, if you don't mind my asking ?

Furthermore, your DLVP approach sounds interesting.

Finally, is there a place where I can see/download this Alexandria Lofts BIM project ?

D Wood :

About the absence of the MODEL layer : you can achieve this by using Stack Layers. Setting the layer options to p.e. Gray/Snap Others, you can draw in the active layer using references of others (to a certain extend even 3D).

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To each his own. If you read the intro to the Alexandria Lofts project you will note that there is a disclaimer about the "completeness" or extents of the drawings. It's not exhaustive. We're making an effort so that the next one will be.

There is no "Model Layer" because there is no need. If you look through the saved views you will see various 3D views of the model in different states saved. All these are based on proper design layer Z and delta-Z values and turning Stack Layers ON.

Saved Views are about navigating the model information. I can switch between various 2D or 3D configurations depending on what and how I need to edit something. They are also extremely useful for giving live presentations.

I find it interesting that you feel that your method is somehow inherently better or radically different than the proposed best practice. Section Viewports do the same thing that your methods does, but retains interactivity with the model. That is, if I change the model I simply Update the view of the Section Viewport rather than "re-cutting" the section. You can override the graphic attributes of classes inside a sheet layer viewport (e.g. make all lineweights .05 and grey), not affect the actual model graphic attributes, and "trace" just as you would with your method inside the Annotation Space of the Viewport. You can add notes, dimensions, textures, objects , etc. all to make a better drawing.

With these projects I am demonstrating "best practices" which describe the use of tools, as they were designed to be used, in the light of architectural design workflow. These demonstrations give new and existing users a practical reference to the use of new features, tools and workflows and their relationship to old features, tools and workflows.

You can love 'em or leave 'em. But they are what they are, NNA recommended best practices for the use of VectorWorks products.

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The BIM in Practice sample files can be found here:


The VW files are all in 2008 .vwx format.

brudgers is correct. Some annotations are attached directly to objects (e.g. doors, windows, spaces, framing member labels, lighting instruments, etc.) Sometimes a note, a dimension, or a piece of text is important to more than one plan view and thus is better tracked when located on a design layer and referenced into a viewport, than copied multiple times into various viewports.

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I don't think my methods are inherently better for everyone - they work better for me, that's all. I'm just putting my hand up for the solo practitioner, because I'm worried that systems and methods used and maybe needed by teams working in big practices will overwhelm the much simpler needs of users like me.

Alexandria Lofts is mentioned on the NNA website as an example, you refer to it constantly in your posts and exhort us to look at it, yet when I find it overly complicated behind the scenes and deficient in delivery, I'm told it isn't complete or exhaustive. If all that backroom stuff isn't delivering superb, comprehensive, unequivocal drawings, then I have to think - why do it that way?

I have obviously misunderstood the purpose of the Alexandria Lofts example - I thought it was to show how all the systems and tools came together in one project, but you seem to be saying it is much more limited than that, it just shows how some tools work within a project. A missed opportunity then, really.

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What is nice about VW is that it can be used with varying degrees of implementation. You don't have to use all of the features if you so choose. I for one do not do complete 3D models for all projects as some projects do not warrant it. But being aware of the functionality of certain items is very valuable whether you use it or not. I like reading about how others do things differently.

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When setting up a new project, I add a perspective and elevation view under the Auxiliary Plan type to my file. This automatically sets up my saved views which allows me to jump to either a perspective or elevation view with a single mouse click. I use the Model View Tool in the Visualization set to create my model views, and from there, it's just a matter of using the number pad to see the views you need. When I'm ready to create my four elevations simply go through the views and Convert Copy to Lines. Very fast and efficient. I prefer a screen as uncluttered as possible and saved views works very well to accommodate this.

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  • 3 months later...


i use both the stack layers +

"model" layer link methods;

stack layers for section view ports,

if i'm not doing any rendering.

"model" layer link if i'm rendering

and want lights, cameras, people etc.

in one place where it can't end up

cluttering a VP.

the best thing about VW is that you

aren't constrained to working in a

paradigm that doesn't suit you...

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