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Vectorworks Architect, Chief Architect, Punch

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I always like walking down the aisle at Staples and checking out the cheap cad software on the shelf. It's truly amazing what some of those cheap cad programs can do for an interior or a deck. It takes me forever to get a decent kitchen interior done. That, and the buggy reports and worksheets for materials lists is what's pushing my current review of Chief Architect. From what I see so far, it's only limitations are it's lack of customizability for commercial work, and I hear that it's 2d line work is a little difficult when it comesto drawings a detail library.

I do almost soley residentials. I've been trying to do more interior shots for clients, and I've also been trying to add material and budgets lists. But I gotta say, why have all these fields and settings, if half of them don't show up in the reports correctly. Buggy as hell. One of the VW techs emailed me a prototype house they were doing to showcase VW abilitis for doing a custom home with lots of reports and schedules. He actually told me in the mail that he had to stop because the reports and schedules were too buggy. A VW tech actually said that. Geez. Enough with the upgrades. Fix the dam program already.

Check my website for the type of work I usually do and tell me if you think VW or Chief Architect is the way to go.


Anyone have comments?

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Enjoyed reviewing your website. You guys are hot : )

With VW you can easily add some eye-catching examples of plans, details, elevations, sections, and 3D renderings.

Even include fly-overs with animations of your design work morphing from concept into reality.

Regardless of which CAD app. you settle on. Your skill and construction expertise will continue to out class them all.

Keep up the good work.

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I use both Chief Architect and Vectorworks depending on the Project (although I am considering selling Chief Architect-make me an offer).

Making a choice between them is really a question of what you consider important. Both have strengths and weaknesses.

If your bread and butter is traditional residential design 'Chief Architect' has a lot of pluses. You can create 3D models quick and it has great rendering tools. It is weak in commercial architecture and doing good looking working drawings.

I can model houses in Vectorworks that look the same as Chief. It just takes me longer to do. I can create much better looking construction docs in Vectorworks.

Looking at your Website I would say you could swing either way.

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I've been seriously considering jumping ship to Chief Architect myself. I've had VW for several years, and while I think our drawings look fantastic, we've never tapped the 3-D side of it, nor it's rendering abilities. Our firm does what I'll describe as upper-mid to very high end turn key internal remodeling, with an emphasis on kitchen and bath remodeling.

The fact they we do only residential work is a key reason for my consideration. Much of the work we do is highly custom, and I haven't been able to use Vectorworks' built in cabinetry and symbols for that. I need the ability to change the rails and stile widths of cabinetry doors. I need to extend stiles on face frame cabinetry. I need to be able to build custom cabinets with many different door and drawer openings. And of course, there are so many cabinetry doorstyles that need to be represented. At present we we hand draw perspectives for the client, and draw individual detailed cabinet drawings (in VW) for our various cabinet companies to use in production.

I feel we need to make the next step to using 3-dimensional, rendered concepts to illustrate the finished project to our clients. We're not doing that now with VWArch/RenderW. While I sure it's possible, I haven't been able to produce any results that I'd be comfortable presenting to clients. Maybe I'm missing something? Is there a "catalog" available that offers customizable cabinets, etc. that may be available from a third party? I've searched and can't find one. Also, the lighting and rendering is so difficult to even approach anything that begins to look "realistic" that it's just wasted on me. I admit that I'm sure 85% of my frustration is user error. But when I see how easily chief Arch. renders I become very jealous. I don't want to have to export my files and use yet another piece of software to create my presentation renders either.

I've also considered InteriorCad to use with VW to give me more of what I'm seeking, but it seems that Chief Arch may be exactly what I'm looking for pretty much out of the box due to our residential work. I realize that I may be living in a dream world, but I had visions (with VW) of being able to draw our projects accurately, and with enough detail to use the single item, a custom base cabinet in the design for instance, for all the views (elevations, perspectives, production detail). As I use it now, we do our plan drawing, then do detailed elevations separately, but within the same file. So if the client wants to change something based on the elevation drawing, we have to go back to each individual drawing and make the change. I absolutely need to speed the drawing process!

And I haven't even mentioned attaching moldings and casework within the design! Can someone enlighten me?

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I checked the InteriorCad site. Their samples of their interior kitchens look vague and detail-less. I think VW works great for modern stuff that is all slabs, extrudes, and solids. I do remember reading one thing a while back about CAD programs. They were comparing cheapo programs like Home & Garden Cad, Punch, Datacad, etc....They were saying that they often "dumb it down" to make the program easier to use. The easier it is, the less custumizing you can do. I see that with Chief and VW. You can probably do anything with VW, but it will be harder because everything is custom. Great example, why can't VW have some kind of automatic 3D feature that draws crown molding, base molding, and chair rails as part of the wall? Why do I need to draw it as a profile and extrude it along a path? That's stupid, and too many steps. I'm pretty sure Chief does it easier. I played with the trial today and it definitely has that ability with kitchen cabinets. I don't know i fthey are custom enough for you, but I was impressed.

BTW, I think you REALLY need to jump to 3d.

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I think you should really give InteriorCad another, more detailed look. I've had a chance to work with it for some time, and its power, easy-to-use interface and expandability raise it to a professional level that is generally unmatched by other CAD programs. It really competes with professional cabinetry programs such as Planit (http://www.cabnetware.com/) but with the advantage of VW's ease-of-use, and the fact that it is fully integrated into the Vectorworks/Renderworks workflow. They also have terrific customer support, which is an extremely important consideration.

If cabinetry and casegoods are an important part of your business, especially with highly-decorative, detailed cabinetry, you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't take a close look at InteriorCad.

Just my own two cents' worth...

Dan Jansenson

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am an InteriorCAD user, and it sounds like what you need if you can spend the money. The light version may work for you if you are not building the case work. I use InteriorCAD to design and build custom high end cabinets and furniture. It has the level of control I need, and exports all cut list data to your choice of third party optimization software. I am having great results with Cutlist Plus. You can design in something like Schetch-up, but never have the control that is needed to accurately lay out a high end interior. If you want a pro result use a pro tool. As a builder this is one of a large number of overhead cost. As a designer it one of your only major expenses. It's worth a try.

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I've heard of it. They actually just sent me their promotional stuff yesterday. It's not cheap. And a few parts of it come in modules that you buy seperately. And you have to make your purchase decision at the initial purchase time. You can't add the modules later.

Renders look good. Material lists look excellent. But I don't know ANYONE using it. I at least have heard of a few people using Chief. There must be a reason for that.

A couple of people on the Chieftalk forum said they used it and they said the roof tool was very simple and quicker then Chief, but it was very limiting. You couldn't custumize it. They said that with Chief, if you can build it, you can design it.

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What I like about Chief is that one can model in SketchUp and bring into Chief and Chief will determine the 2D representation automatically. Now, if vw could do this, one could model a 3D symbol, rotate that symbol in any plane x,y, or z and vw would determine all different 2D views for that symbol in plan.

Secondly, I like the 2D window and 3D window-it reminds me a bit of ArchiCAD-none of that wireframe non-sense.

I think each program has it's pro's and con's though because Chief cannot keep a linked Elevation to the model. If the Plan/Model changes, then the effected elevations have to be manually corrected. Anyway, that's the way I think it works-I could be wrong.

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I mightbe wrong also, but I've been playing with the trial version lately. Probably going to buy the program by the end of the month and make a gradual migration over to it during the fall.

From what I see the auto elevations sets up snap shot cameras of all the elevations for you. Whatever changes you make to the model and floor plan will automatically show up in the elevations. And a big plus, the elvations have the siding and roof hatching drawn automatically. I know VW kinda does this with the rendered Viewport Elevations, but waiting for the computerto update a hidden line render with an Open GL or Final Renderworks overlay takes FOREVER. Even on my lightning fast computer.

And I played with the materials list which is much better than the worksheets in VW.

Basically what I've learned is, VW is great because it's so customizable. It can drawn anything....an engineering object, a house, a commercial building, etc.....But my bread and butter is regular residential housing. And Chief is totally geared towards that. I'm just mad I've been stuck on VW for the last 11 years. I should have switched to Chief years ago.

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  • 6 years later...

This conversation is making me sad.  


We are brand new to VW (2017), coming from SketchUp and CAD.  There are major bonuses, clearly, to VW, but as we move forward with our first ground-up build, I am having a difficult time with custom cabinetry.  We only ever do custom millwork.  I was looking forward to all the strengths that VW has to offer--the precision over SketchUp, specifically--but I am reading this and feeling as though we may need to model in SketchUp, our millwork and import it into our VW models.  Is the plug-in really that great and useful or is it basically a more robust version of what is already in the main software?  

We do a mix of hospitality, commercial, and high-end residential, with a major focus on residential.  Our works is always bespoke.


Thank you all for being a part of this conversation.




Rafi Kalichstein, Principal

FORM Design Studio


Edited by FORM-DesignStudio
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We do a wide range of projects and Retail Pharmacies & Physicians' offices is one part of our work in consultation with a Store Fixture & Millwork shop. This is a collaborative process & for a while we were sharing VW files with their ACAD & vice versa. After a long process of evaluation, these folks have finally decided to go with VW together with Interior CAD as the way to work up both Client Illustrations &  shop drawings. I'll be interested to see what they can do, the screen shots from their evaluation seem outstanding, but the devil is in the details. (pun intended)

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