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Should I buy VW 2011?


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Hello forum. I wanted to gain your opinion. I am based in the UK and have used ACAD LT for 15 years. For several years I have been considering changing software and VW is at the top of my list as clients often want 3D views. i discounted Revit and ACAD Architecture on the grounds of cost and licensing.

My work is mostly domestic extensions, some new build and a little commercial work - all fairly small scale but it earns me a living. I don't have loads of money or time to go on courses and do most of my learning from books whilst I work.

I have spent some time mastering Sketchup this last year and have produced some good models which gives me a 3D model but it is limited in presentation as Layout is awful to use - very slow and very time consuming for detailed drawings. I don't think that you can produce construction drawings in Sketchup efficiently. I'm not saying it cant be done but I think it takes longer than it should. So I think that you need to combine Sketchup with another program to produce construction drawings but it seems wrong to me to be working in two programmes and switching between the two.

The appeal of 3D for me is that the sections are automatically generated which can be a big time saver but I don't want it to take longer to build a 3D model than it would to draw the plans elevations and sections separately. I also like that when you move a window for example, the plans and elevations automatically update by default so you don't get inconsistencies between drawings.

I have VW11 (Fundamentals) which I have never used. I was thinking of upgrading to VW Architect 2011 which will cost around ?1000.

I am concerned that it will take me a long time to learn VW, it will slow my work rate down so that earning becomes difficult during the learning process and that it will not give me the end result that I am hoping to achieve. I would like an attractive 3D colour model with material renderings (not necessarily photo real). Being in the UK we do a lot of work with brick buildings, rough cut stone, roof tiles etc. Most examples of what I have seen in VW are shiny glass buildings with smooth cladding and render or siding. Will it produce attractive images for traditional English materials?

In 2D I can produce a decent set of drawings in quite a short time period. I assume that building the 3D model will be more time consuming? I am hoping that you are going to tell me that it is easy to learn and as quick or quicker to use than LT.......and that what you tell me is true.

I was also unsure whether VW2011 is more geared towards commercial projects than domestic or whether this is not an issue at all.

Loads of questions, sorry about that, but I would welcome any comments that will help me decide to make the jump or stay as I am.


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Hi, try look at these videos bellow. You can start with your current workflow (a little bit improved) and then fluently transition to full VW 3D workflow

I attached alternative CAD link, but VW is definitely better ;)

And of course both apps have trial versions you can download and check.

(DoubleCad has one advantage for you. It is designed to compete with AutocadLT. It has similar interface with command line, more functions than LT and it allows scripting.)

Edited by starling75
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The learning curve is not much different from other similar Apps (Revit, ArchiCAD, Chief Architect etc (Bentley has a much steeper learning curve)) so changing to 3D CAD apps is going to cost you either way, the reason you are considering VWs is it's cheap! This also means you're going to hit on irritations in the program which are fewer in the expensive ones, (ie. first releases are Betas, PIOs are incomplete etc) however VWs has the flexibility to solve said problems with workarounds, the other apps are limited in this aspect.

If you need a safety net while making the change I suggest you download Draftsight and work in your familiar AC environment for free when the deadlines start to heap up. You can export all your work at any stage from VWs to dwg.

Moving away from AC is a very good thing!

VWs is my favorite(and I've work(ed) with quite a few)!

Edited by Vincent C
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Jump in, upgrade your Vectorworks, start learning with a good manual, or even better an online course. What ever you learn, you will have to invest time to learn the program.

Vectorworks is very powerful and you can easily make simple models to test your concepts (

). It is also very powerful for counting and scheduling.

viewports make Vectorworks very powerful for creating working drawings.

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I have VW11 (Fundamentals) which I have never used. I was thinking of upgrading to VW Architect 2011 which will cost around ?1000.

I was also unsure whether VW2011 is more geared towards commercial projects than domestic or whether this is not an issue at all.

Vectorworks works well with commercial and domestic projects, it works well for 3D modeling, and if you learn enough, you can customize Vectorworks to make it easier to use, or you can create your own tools.

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My practice is almost exactly as you describe yours, except that I do more new custom homes than additions. In 2007 I switched from Autocad-LT to VW and started 3D modeling from the beginning as a basis for all my drawings. The learning curve was steep but I have not looked back or regretted my decision. Once you learn 3D modeling, the work-flow for all 2D drawings based on the model is much faster than drawing straight 2D.

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I just watched a 30 minute video on how to begin in Vwks that I created in Sept. 2009 and uploaded to Viddler. It is good and free and I encourage anyone thinking about learning Vwks to review it and at least the following three videos that flesh out how to design in 3D using the simplest methods possible. These videos are not two-minute teasers nor do they teach you the official method of using Vwks--there are other (good and important) sources for that.

You do not have to own Vwks to get something out of these videos.


The other videos can be found listed at the lower right hand of the screen.

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Thanks Everyone, I really appreciate your comments and I think I am edging towards making the leap based on your comments as no one seems to have regretted it and the benefits seem apparent even though I don't know what they all are yet.

Jonathan & Tguy- thanks for the link to the videos which I will have a look through.

Starling75 - The SKP to VW video is good - I wonder if its as simple as the video shows but it looks like a very useful compatibility function. DoubleCAD looks good for free or the paid for Pro version but I think I want a full 3D program like VW. I like how VW seems to do a lot of the detailing for you once your wall floor and roof styles are set up and I like the look of the tools for stairs etc which must save time whilst adding useful detail.

As I would be upgrading from Fundamentals, would it be worth just learning Fundamentals first and then moving on to 'Architect' or should I jump in with both feet on Architect straight away? I assume tools such as stairs and roofs are not included on fundamentals?

In the meantime I shall plod on with my ACAD until I have the cash to do the upgrade - shouldn't be too long hopefully.

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Just remember when you do make the change, forget as much as you can about ACAD way of working, you will see that the 'new' way of doing things is much more logical and therefore easier!

Some tips:

- VW can have an unlimited amount of Design layers (AC model spaces) in the same file (deisgn layers can be greyed or viewed as traces in other design layers (like xrefing in AC)

- VW has Sheet layers (AC paper space)

- VW has DLVPs (Design Layer Viewports) (viewports in model space)

- VW has SLVP (Sheet Layer Viewports) ( AC viewports in paper space)

- VW has symbols (AC blocks)

- VW has classes (AC layers)

- VW has real pen weights (no need for color to line weight printing) this also means that Bylayer, Bycolor etc is redundant in VWs.

You can however assign special color, lineweight, linetypes settings to each class, which function in a similar fashion as Bylayer etc settings.

- In VWs you determine units when you create a file and always draw 1:1 in these units. You can however view (and draft) you're drawing in different scales, ie Design layer scale (remember this is only a visual aid (similar to AC ltscale) you will always be drawing 1:1 what ever the Design Layer scale.)


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Vincent, Just had a look at your website - do you use VW for all the projects shown on there?

Bit of a mix actually, if I recall correctly the first 3 are done in Bentley Architecture, the last one is a combination (ArchiCAD facades and VW 3D model), all the ones in between are VWs.

I loved referencing in Microstation (my last contact was with V8 XM)....

Edited by starling75
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as no one seems to have regretted it

There are problems, actually. I've used Acad, Microstation, and VW extensively on UK projects for many years with many of the smaller ones your size done on VW.

For the cost, VW is very good value indeed and is capable of the modelling and parametricism you appear to be looking for.

I think the thing you will find shocking however is that the Autodesk and Bentley programs come from the big world of 'products' where, like buying a new car, toaster, or pair of jeans, if bits of it don't work then it's very surprising, unusual, and is immediately replaced or refunded. VW is not like this, unfortunately. You will come across loads of little (and sometimes big) things which don't actually work properly, and these things often change with every Service Pack and upgrade. However if you manage your expectations and develop your work-arounds, you'll get there - with this in mind I'd recommend buying it.

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