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How to get AutoCAD user to lay plans out on separate layers

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We work with a structural engineer that lays out all their plans on one layer, side by side.

We'd like them instead to lay them out on separate layers stacked on top of one another and to send them as separate files.

As I don't have any AC experience I don't know the best way to go about asking them to do this. What should I say to them? And what are the likely advantages/disadvantages to them working in the way we would prefer? How can I sell it to them in other words.

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Just tell him he is brazenly ignorant sending you files like this

To get his act together

And ...... let?s hope he is not like a brick wall that talks back

Sees the light and runs AutoCAD new version on both his new Mac and ipad

That should fix it or convert him to VW ? that would be a big favour for him

BTW ? had a play with a Samsung Galaxy and HTC Desire yesterday ? both Androids and both play Flash

Would not be too surprised if iOS goes the same way so they are not left out in the cold as time meanders along

Your advice to me in a previous thread with regard to Flash

Stop using it. And think twice about forcing people to use proprietary, closed plugins to view your content in the future

What for ? maybe you should tell that to Google ? as if they need the advice

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He'll have to create a new file for each story, just like everybody else using AC......Assuming he isn't very backward he'll be creating each new story with the previous (the one next to it) one xrefed and moved underneath as a trace, this will be a similar workflow as i suggested above except the margins for error (ie moving stories to the wrong position) will no longer exist.

Edited by Vincent C
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It doesn't sound like the engineer is using AC in the way that it's intended. Could you at least ask him to draw the floor plans using seperate (AutoCad) layers while keeping them next to eachother? That way you have a little bit of class control during the import.

Or: is there a way that you could create your own xref file from their stuff and viewport into your primary file as needed?

just trying to help.


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Christiaan, I have the opposite experience, I know AutoCAD and I'm just learning Vectorworks.

A little understanding of each application terminology, feature and workflow history is needed. At the end, I'll suggest a solution.

The methodology the engineer is using is actually common for ACAD users who developed their office standards many versions ago when AutoCAD did not have multiple "Paper Space", aka "Sheet Layers" in VW.

As mentioned above, it was common (and best) to use different files and external references to accomplish what VW does with Design Layers. Easier to line floors or consultant files and allowed multiple users to work on a project.

Another common strategy (not best at all) was to just keep everything in one file with drawings spread all over the place and use "Blocks", aka "Symbols" as background info. As things changed, you would update the Block. Chaos! It sounds like the engineer is still doing this. As mentioned by Vincent, it's "backward" and prone for errors.

With the introduction of Paper Space, most design firms updated their office standards to use multiple files with xrefs. Model Space was only for "real world" drawing and Paper Space was for sheet specific annotations and plotting. However, most engineers stuck with their old-school ways and it drove us designers nuts. Smart firms adopted the National CAD Standards. This is a USA standard. I think Europe uses an ISO standard.

Even for AutoCAD users when collaborating with consultants, the best practice was for CAD Managers from different firms to meet and agree on a common CAD standard. Design firms that had their act together would provide templates of their standards to consultants or insist they use the NCS. The NCS brought sanity to collaboration between firms.

So, what's the best way to use the engineers files? It depends on if this is a time exchange of information or an ongoing collaboration.

If a one time thing: you will need to import the AutoCAD file into VW and move its "Layers, aka "Classes" to the appropriate VW Design Layer and line things up. Lots of work for you. Or convince them to rework their files for you. Good luck with that.

If you intend to use this consultant frequently, You should meet with them and show them how VW handles information and ask them to consider adopting some of the practices in the NCS. It will make it much easier to import into VW and it's just a smarter workflow to use. There's still more work than I wish, but easier because most of the AutoCAD Layers (Classes) will convert to VWArch naming standard Classes and it's easier to place separate AutoCAD files on the correct VW Design Layer.

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Models? heck, I bet there's absolutely nothing 3d about what the engineers are drawing - especially if they are splattering it all over the model space. I've used AutoCad on and off for 25 years, and only one Arch. firm I worked with during that time actually used the 3d features of Autocad. Even when I used Architetural Desktop several years ago, we were only using it for 2d drafting purposes. "Drawing with sticks"... as we called it.

I believe bclint is simply referring to Layer naming and coordination. As far as UCS alignment,it was up to the firm importing (or Xref-ing) the file to insure it's UCS was properly aligned.

IMHO, no one has created an ideal set of layer/class standards. All have their pro's and con's.


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Yes, mere 2-D plan work. Most often, each consultant would have their own origin (0,0). So, we would bring their files in as X-refs and then reposition, rescale, to line up with our drawings. Usually, this was just for redlining and coordinating not for plotting. And Matt is spot on for most AutoCAD users - 3D? - what's that?! :-)

And yes, when it comes to "Standards", it's like living with chronic pain. To be productive requires some pain-management.

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I see all of these issues when I get an ACad drawing from a consultant. I often have to tell the consultant to bind the drawing so the x-ref information can be imported. Many ACad users don't know how to do this, so I have to walk them through the steps.

I have also noticed a real lack of precision with many firms who use ACad & have drawings all over the place. I also note that despite the lack of 3-D often lines from ACad get imported as 3-D lines with ZERO as the thickness.

Back in VW10 or 12 one could just double click on an ACad drawing & VW would do the import & open the drawing. I liked that feature.

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What a revelation the layers/classes system was to me when I came over to Vectorworks. All the building storeys in one file!

Lots of AutoCAD users would like to have multiple model spaces to work with storeys, but I suspect they won't get it as Autodesk would steer them towards Revit.

In the AutoCAD world we used to draw each storey on a separate file and Xref them all together. This isn't as convenient as VW's layer system, but it works fine and you should suggest it to your engineer.

I have to say that Xrefs were very heavily used in AutoCAD which consequently meant that the xref system was VERY robust.....unlike referencing in VW which is a bit of a black art.

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Chris, why do you say "...a bit of a black art." ?

Because it's buggy, at least in VW2008. We've abandoned using it after constant problems with references disappearing when you try and refresh them. I can't even try it in the trial version of VW2011 as those files with references take 20 mins just to open in the latest version...besides, my trial copy expires today, and the verdict is...well, let's just say we hope they make less of a ham fist of VW2012.

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Hmm, I've never seen this happen, whenever I've found something odd or going away has been a result of me missing something. I ALWAYS bring objects or drawing elements into a file by referencing them, sometimes breaking the link, sometimes not. I guess I must lead a sheltered life. (sorry pun intended)

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