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National CAD Standard compatibility improvements in VW 2009?

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We are an architecture firm that works with several US Federal Government agencies. We have found meeting their CAD file requirements to be a challenge using VW 2008 (and before), but have survived so far. Does anyone have any input as to AutoCAD compatibility improvements in VW '09 that would make our life any easier in this department?

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One example of our struggles: Setting up the AutoCAD export so that the client can plot from that AutoCAD file with pen settings, fonts provided as if I were an AutoCAD user sending my files to him or her. I have been providing .pdf files along with our AutoCAD files for years to smooth over this process. Wording in a recent RFP from a client tells me that this compromise may not cut it in the future. Also, the National CAD Standards calls out screen pen weights associated with AutoCAD layers that aren't necessarily intended to translate directly to plotting pen weights. Since I am printing WYSIWYG from VW, I have been fudging the pen weights for a better print. I don't expect for that to continue as a satisfactory solution. I am spending almost as much time trying to satisfy strict AutoCAD-using-clients with my files as I am doing real work. Any solutions, shared experiences or sympathetic gripes would be appreciated.

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Just to clarify: I have been using VectorWorks since it graduated from MiniCAD and like it. I have enjoyed using the new features as it has grown from version 8. AutoCAD strikes me as a blunt instrument approach to solving fine problems. Unfortunately, it is AutoCAD users who sometimes determine whether my project is a success or not, partly by the nuts and bolts of my .dwg file configuration. I am trying to avoid the situation where I have an AutoCAD user "clean up" my files before submission or (worse) I become a part-time AutoCAD user and clean up my own files. I am very interested in what other experienced users have to say on this topic - Thanks.

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I agree that NNA should go the extra mile to ensure VW / ACAD cross-compatibility. VW should have the ability to take a file round-trip from VW to ACAD & back to VW without any data loss or conversion (ie. being able to read DWG/DXF files without translating them first to .vwx files).

Part of this is fonts and since some ACAD users insist on using SHX font files instead of TT fonts, this might be difficult to achieve.

As a mac user, there are no suitable dwg viewers available either.

A good FREE DWG/DXF viewer for both Mac and Windows is eDrawings. With OSX Leopard's Quicklook, it will even give you a very small thumbnail preview of the file in the Finder.



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I have found running AutoDesk's TrueView (free viewer) a must for conversion sanity. We bought Windows XP for our Mac specifically for that purpose. It gives you the ability to view a .dwg file in exactly the same way that an AutoCAD user will see it. Having files kicked back to you as "unacceptable" a few times costs more than adding a Windows license to a Mac. I appreciate the feedback thus far. Any .dwg export improvements between '08 and '09 that I could look forward to utilizing?

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I agree with Ray - it is obvious that NNA is working hard on the compatibility issues. Compared to a previous architecture-specific package that we used, I have found VectorWorks export capabilities to be very useful and reliable. Utilizing a little trial and error, I rarely have problems trading drawings with other people in the real world (where time is money). My issue is 1) certain clients examining our files with an eye for detail that make us wonder where they find the time and 2) the practical problems that come with an AutoCAD user trying to accurately print our files - if they insist on using a .dwg file instead of .pdf. If a client or other professionals are willing to grant us the slightest amount of flexibility, VectorWorks has excellent capabilities for .dwg export. If a client has very specific .dwg format requirements, I'm not sure that VW or any other non-AutoDesk software will be a reliable solution. I'm hoping that some others have some stories working with the National CAD Standards in VW that they would be willing to share?

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Trying to prime the discussion a little: Anyone using VW on US Federal Govnmt work? Our experience working with the US Air Force, the FAA & the Veterans Administration is that they say that the National CAD Standards is their rule, but don't actually enforce it to the full extent. Setting up the AIA layering adopted in the National CAD Standards (classes in VW) is not a problem - that has been our clients' primary concern up to this point. Setting up .dwg exports so that the end user can reliably print our files in AutoCAD would be a problem - a requirement coming soon for us. Any advice or experiences shared would be appreciated.

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Yes - providing .pdf files has been our relief valve over the years. Up to this point, I have been providing .dwg files and .pdf files for each project. Our problems are going to start once our federal and/or state clients begin insisting upon .dwg format files that are printable, regardless of whether we also provide .pdf files - we have a project starting soon that appears to have that requirement. As to the .dwg file requirements in general: it helps the agency coordinate administrative or record drawings of their facility/installation/base. Despite my frequent frustrations with some of our clients and their file standards, I don't envy the people whose jobs involve coordinating and compiling all manner of plans for a base with hundreds of buildings, streets, site utilities, etc. That is why the ACAD layering is so critical - and why there are rigid standards. VW works well with that component. If I could work with an ACAD user to give me a standard pen settings file and then somehow hack the .dwg export from VW to recognize that file ... I would be way over my head.

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I googled up this page: http://www.wbdg.org/ccb/browse_org.php?o=76

It claims that the .ctb file is official.

If you have autocad you can read it and write down the colors and their properties.

I would recommend getting an offical .ctb from your client.

I would also recommend reading this FAQ at the official site:


Finally, I would recommend purchasing a copy if you haven't already. In my opinion, relying on the client to describe the requirements in a standard you are contractually obligated to meet is a milestone on the road to litigation.

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