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Ramblings from a wannabe migrant

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Our situation is this; we have an office equipped with 30 XP-based workstations running ACAD Arch-Desktop 02. It is obviously out of date, and we are looking at alternative solutions (however different from ACAD they may be). We are not concerned with having to re-tool/tutor our CAD staff if the benefits are substantial enough.

VW, on paper, offers these benefits at a fraction of the price of alternative products. In practice however it appears these benefits are marred by the constant problems the software seems to suffer from.

In example we bought two seats of VW Arch 09 to test the program thoroughly, and over the last two or three months we've had two drafters (that were already from a VW background) test it out.

The results are less than spectacular. Yes, the drawings look much better. Yes, they can seemingly produce 100 times faster than our ACAD guys whilst also getting more information into the drawings (we are impressed with the ideas behind BIM and wish to implement it fully). But what good is any of that if the drafter is so scared of his station crashing that he must attempt to save before and after almost any operation?

I saw one drafter have his VW program crash over and over again, seemingly randomly, and not even doing what I would consider a complex operation (he was adding a detail tag one time, and another simply tried updating a rendered viewport). It's not as if it's the same type of error all the time, either, as you'll sometimes see "illegal instruction" and other times see something related to VBbasic or some such coding languagey thing. The entire program "feels" unstable and badly put together.

And yes, we've spent hours on both this board and the tech support line in hopes of making the program more stable, but if anything only found more evidence on the contrary here on these boards. Our computers are fine according to NNA.

I suppose my questions are as follows. Do the above statements of instability ring accurate to your ears? Do you have a better experience with VW? Would switching to MacOS fix some of it? Or would you simply recommend something else?

Our current options are as follows: ACAD Arch 09, Revit 09, Arris, or VW. I personally would rather we switched to VW purely because it seems focused more towards design/architect types as opposed to people who prefer computer game style CAD. So please, if you can lend any helpful words, they'd be greatly appreciated.

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My 2?: I run VW's 2008 and 2009 on a Mac (Intel Core 2 Duo). While I cannot tell you that it never crashes, I can tell you that in its latest iteration (2009.2) it is quite stable. Besides which it only takes a second (or less!) to hit command-S.... And yes I do it all the time, as should all computer users, of any software...

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VW, on paper, offers these benefits at a fraction of the price of alternative products.

This should be considered in relation to the type & size of your projects. I am not entirely convinced that VW can efficiently used in very large projects. You might want to check the Ellicott Heights BIM-example by NNA. Then there is also the question about your architectural style. Any budding Gehrys, Hadids or Rashids as Associates? Budding Libeskinds could be happy with VW.

But what good is any of that if the drafter is so scared of his station crashing that he must attempt to save before and after almost any operation?

I know nothing about the Windows-platform, except that it obviously has great potential to become unstable. Maybe you have already done this: start from scratch with new machine (or at least rebuild), clean Windows-installation, latest drivers, absolute minimum of drivers and software.

The good news is that VW gives you the opportunity to switch to Macs... Depending on various factors, a mix of iMacs, MacBooks and Mac Pros.

May I ask why ArchiCAD & Bentley Architecture are not on your list?

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I am using Vectorworks on Windows Vista and at the risk of sounding suspiciously pro VW, Vectorworks very rarely crashes. Maybe once every couple of months.

Since this seems to be your first post how were you seeking help here?

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Peter,

Whilst I don't consider the software much of a blessing these days we have never had to worry about saving all the time in AutoCAD. It crashes probably 5% of the time VW does, although I realise it is much less advanced.

Panta,

Our projects are primarily large senior schools. The VW drafters here said that it became rather sluggish to do even general operations after they got to a certain stage of development, and these are all new machines not of a low spec by any means.

We are quite open to the idea of moving to MacOS, and already have a quote for refitting all the drafting stations with Mac Pro towers if we were to move to VW. A few employees here have been pushing the switch for quite some time now but we're hindered by ACAD being Windows only.

Indeed they started fresh. They even tested it on other machines but all seemed really quite flaky.

ArchiCAD and Bentley? I'll have to look into them. I am only going on the suggestions raised by our drafters.

Ray,

I believe one of the drafters registered here to get help, at least I must assume so. Perhaps we should look into trying VW in Vista if you're having a better experience.

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This should be considered in relation to the type & size of your projects. I am not entirely convinced that VW can efficiently used in very large projects.

VW is very much scalable for large projects. It just depends how you implement workgroup references.

As for the stability, It seems very stable at our end. I have rarely experienced VW crashing at the frequency you described. We tend to push the program as much as we can with highly detailed 3D models so it seems to handle it.

Either way it is certainly unjustified to be scared if you are backing up you file at a frequent interval. This is a preference you can set.

As I often say to others in conversation, I am not a VW sales rep but It does work very well for us.

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If VW is crashing in a Windows environment, I would check the system memory, the installed version of Quicktime (use the version supplied with your version of VW if possible), and most importantly, the video drivers. Check with the video card manufacturer for the drivers. PC suppliers often have versions that are out of date.

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Our projects are primarily large senior schools.

Daresay, that is one of the project types where VW's capabilites can really shine and where your firm can even extend the scope of services provided, eg. from facilites planning to facilities management.

The VW drafters here said that it became rather sluggish to do even general operations after they got to a certain stage of development, and these are all new machines not of a low spec by any means.

This could relate to a less than ideal implementation of reference files and various other aspects, but not only. With even some 200,000 objects, things can get sluggish.

However, with a properly implemented VW system, what in AutoCAD requires 200,000 entities, can be done with just a few thousand VW objects.

but we're hindered by ACAD being Windows only.

Surely you are aware that new Macs can run Windows, even concurrently? In your situation, you will want quite a few people with AutoCAD in their machines during the transition and some with the latest version even after that.

In any case, should you migrate, access to AutoCAD really must be limited on a need-to-use basis, otherwise the recalcitrants will just keep on drafting instead of modeling, BIMming and databasing.

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I have been using VectorWorks since 1994 (MiniCad 4) and I'm currently on 2009, all on Macs. Most of that time I administered VectorWorks in networked offices of up to 15 seats and consulted several firms of similar size mostly all Macs too. We have never had any real problems transferring drawings to consultants running Autocad. We also have to provide DWG final record drawings on state projects and have had no problems exporting and submitting them.

In all that time, I have never (that I can rember) lost a drawing due to VectorWorks instability (although there have been a few close calls) and that's with quite a few novices in the mix. I would say I have VectorWorks crash about once every 2-4 weeks, and that is usually on processor intensive tasks, like performing an operation on hundreds or thousands of selected objects. I've never used a version that was particularly more crash prone than any others. Of course that?s on Macs. There have been some problems, but they were usually fixed in subsequent minor upgrades. I sold an architecture firm on VectorWorks and they are all Windows (4-5 seats). I talk to them occasionally and they have never expressed having stability problems.

Other VectorWorks Benefits:

? Novices learn VectorWorks much faster and produce better quality drawings.

? People coming from Autocad usually bitch for a while, but almost end up preferring VectorWorks.

? VectorWorks 2009 has workgroup production capabilities that compete with anything on the market.

? VectorWorks has excellent interface customization and scripting capabilities that allow you to implement office CAD standards and create custom commands, tools and databases as needed.

? Its easier to produce drawings that are more readable and elegant. I have had many contractors and owners comment that our drawings were the clearest and most readable they had ever seen.

Mac OS X Benefits:

I would DEFINITELY recommend switching to OS X (I don't know how feasible that really is for your firm?but you put the question out there). OS X is extremely stable (after all its UNIX with an interface for humans), has much more consistency across the interface and most Apple and 3rd party apps, has excellent stable and full featured networking capability, etc, etc, etc. Besides you get ALL of the features of OS X plus lots of other software free with every Mac (or you get ALL of OS X with the retail version for $130 - to get all of Windows you pay $320 for Ultimate).

Macs and Mac networks also take much less administration and babysitting. Of all the offices I've worked in and consulted for, none had an dedicated IT person, and most needed little to no outside assistance, except for my consulting, which typically amounts to 0-16 hours per year per firm.

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In my experience VW runs just as well on XP. Pat's advice is very good, go the the video card manufacturers web site and download the latest drivers.

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He She Said

Here is an image of a School Project entirely modeled structure, finishes, and site all in Vectorworks. During the 2 weeks to model this project we only crashed once.

We work on Mac's which may be part of the story and have no experience on Windows.

Having worked in the other BIM type apps you mention, they to have had issues. They may not have crashed as often but we have had many many error messages denying the operation.

For the price difference in software you could buy all a 30" monitor.

This latest release of 2009 SP2 is quite stable comparitively for an application that gives you all this capability. It sounds like you already have a leg up in that you have users who are already familiar with the way the software works and will be able train the others.

Good luck.

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Vectorworks instability and crashing was in my experience worse in previous versions. VW 2008 was much better but buggy whereas VW 2009 is a dream come true for me at least

I run Vista business on both my machines, they are networked ? laptop wireless and desktop cable. They both have access to a network external hard drive for backup purposes and individual USB hard drives for individual back ups

Vista must be updated through Windows update daily in my view ? My situation is smaller I know but I run Zone Alarm Security Suite on both machines and tweak them so I have unnecessary processes not running and always have latest card drivers installed and the like

Vista in my experience is smoother and faster than XP

When working with VW I have automatic backups set to every seven minutes and by habit mostly always save prior to doing something complex

I really do not think it matters whether you go Windows or Mac. I do not believe Macs are that far superior to Vista Pcs at least ? XP is another story ? people who have historically been on Macs love them mostly ? perhaps too I would as well if I had used one earlier in life ? I did not - but find my two PCs to be great and I can do as I please

VW 2009 ? most days now I work all day when drawing without crashing ? sometimes a little thing will happen that causes a crash but now with 2009 that is rare

I have a friend who on a PC uses Excel a lot ? she has crashes ? most computers crash sometimes ? I do not know though how her computer is set up and what maintenance is applied to it

I have no doubt VW is the correct choice for you guys especially considering what should eventuate with new versions in the future

I think ArchiCAD is over rated ? a company over here I know of with a large staff of cad operators have abandoned using BIM as it was ?just too hard? ? whether VW at that level is easier for you or not I do not know ? others here may

I wonder though if this will be an area where NNA strives forward with VW in the future ? logically one would think it would

I have another friend ? years on Microstation then years on AutoCAD and ArchiCAD ? power user probably in all ? he works for a company but still does private building design work and says he is faster using Microstation ? I though did site modelling on a recent project using VW on a sloped site to gain final building levels

Another on ArchiCAD every day ? his own house design I used VW site modelling for final levels

The above two instances ? maybe just because they do not know how to use those tools in their software ? I do not know

Vectorworks can do a lot of good things ? operating system whatever you are comfortable with

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Well, Ray, I don't think you are qualified to compare the two platforms since you do not know how well VW works on the Mac. Neither am I: who knows, on XP, even those things that seem to take ages on the Mac, may happen instantaneously.

The look & feel and the overall workflow are parts of "working", don't you think? At least the workflow? Maybe also system maintenance? In one former client firm they had a half-time support person (MCNE, no less) for a staff of about 15 - and we are talking about word-processing & spreadsheets! (They had one person who used MapInfo and started to use VW.)

Of course the functionality is identical and that is what I tell prospective users when doing a demo, but refrain from further comparison because of my lack of experience. However, I recently got a somewhat angry phone call from one firm: VW on XP did not look nearly as good as it did in my demo. They decided not to buy VW after trying the demo version.

(Incidentally, VW 2008, until SP3, worked at least in one aspect significantly better on XP than on MacOS, so the platforms are not necessarily even functionally identical.)

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I agree I'm not qualified to compare the two platforms. That's why all my comments were about the Windows platform.

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I agree I'm not qualified to compare the two platforms. That's why all my comments were about the Windows platform.

Really, Ray?

In my experience VW runs just as well on XP.

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Boys, boys, boys,

OS platform "wars" of VW are unproductive and irrelevant. The software is developed to give users of either/both platforms the same general experience. While differences do occur, they are minor, unique instances related to the general quirkiness of each OS. We try hard to avoid these with every release, especially since v12.

Speed and graphics compatibility issues will rear their ugly heads on both platforms as we struggle to keep up with all the different options and combinations of OS, CPUs, GPUs, drivers, RAM, buses and graphic language support (why can't MS just accept OpenGL, huh?). Our engineers work hard with every release and service pack to "cover the bases", but sometimes the technology changes so fast, things slip past.

I'd rather listen to AutoCAD vs. VW drivel than the platform wars within VW. People will use what they are used to, know, or want. We just need to make sure the differences don't get in the way of productivity for the user of VW.

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For what it's worth, at the office where I work we run windows and I crash a minimum of a couple times a day and a dozen or so if I'm modeling (And I've rotated three machines during the past 2 years). While at home, keeping in mind I am only putting in a fraction of the time compared to the office and overall have a more powerful machine, I've been running VW on a Mac for a few months and have NEVER crashed!

Edited by C W

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And Jeffrey, I missed your last post before typing, but standby what I've experienced. If anything, keeping in mind I make no claims of being an engineer, I really wonder if Windows didn't all but have a marketing driven monopoly, that NNA wouldn't just come out and say VW is a Mac-based/driven program. And I say this because across many fields/uses (Including VW) I here arguments for the benefits of a Mac and time and time again the only arguments I here for Windows are, "That's what we've always used" or "The programs I use (ie AutoCAD) don't run on Macs." In fact, sooner or later AutoCAD will be offered for Macs and I would love to see VW just take ownership of the market before that happens... just my 2 cents.

Edited by C W

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(why can't MS just accept OpenGL, huh?)

So, OpenGL is not yet prevalent enough for MS to claim to be its invention?

Some years ago I read an article, quite obviously based on a press release, quite obviously from Redmond, referring to TrueType technology developed by Microsoft.

But of course Bill III also supplied Ark technology to Noah. According to Bill Jr, Noah didn't have a clue.

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Ray,

Perhaps we should look into trying VW in Vista if you're having a better experience.

I was replying to this, comparing XP to Vista.

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Panta Rhei

I just read your post re:Merry Christmas by Shaun and after having read your posts on this thread I must say you do seem to be a little over zealous with your criticism.

Just a thought...merry christmas, by the way.

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