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Newbies & or Switchers

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Still on my quest to find the ideal software for my one man office. I'm an architect that primarily does residential work, commercial tenant improvements and lite commercial.

Been using autocad for years. My drawings are 2-d and I use acad as an electronic drafting table knowing I'm not getting the most from the software. After drueling over the good design of Apple products I finally purchased a macbook pro. Love it. It is a little piece of aluminum heaven!

I have tried autocad for mac and am not planning to purchase it at this time. I looked at Powercadd & wildtools (a strong contender at this point) - great 2D tools. However, I love what I see about VW and VW architect.

Questions for any switchers or newbies with time to respond, What were your biggest challenges when starting with VW? and what do you like the most about it?



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Hi JM,

Great to see you embarking on a new stage of life. Many people I hear say that Apple is just about marketing. Yes, I would expect a design company to have a clear marketing message, but their products are much more nuanced than that. Good design has the ability to liberate our physical and mental lives and ways most of the non design community can't begin to understand. Try explaining the texture of an Apple products surface to a lay person - they say "So what?!" But that stuff goes in.

Great architecture is the same. People may not understand the light, air flow or texture of a space consciously, but they still feel it (which speaks of the massively important unconscious area of design). But I digress. All this is to say that the little piece "aluminium heaven" hopefully will be a joy for years to come.

For me coming from AutoCAD, I found the interface confusing; but then I can be slow on the uptake. If you think Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop (in terms of interface) I think you will get you head around it quicker.

The great strength of VW is it's flexibility; and herein lies it's greatest weakness. I have found those that pickup the 3D side of VW fastest are those that have come from ArchiCAD type CAD apps. These apps for the most part allow a person to draw a model one way, and tend to be weak in 2D, thus preventing the user from going back to a 2D workflow when it all gets too hard. VW has no such prevention method. In fact I would say if you want to use it to learn 3D, you might be better off using it for just that (with AutoCAD for 2D) so that your brain gets out of drawing board mode and exploits the real power of VW. I train our staff in the use of VW (for a firm of around 50), and find that ArchiCAD users pickup 3D BIM (and the concepts) in VW much faster than people who have used VW for many years.

I hope that assists you on your architectural journey, and of course, happy new year!


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When I learned Vwks I needed to keep producing drawings so the standard "best practices" described in the literature at the time was irrelevant to my needs since those came from the idea that you mostly already knew how to use the program. As a beginner, that, of course, is impossible. Begin by using just enough of Vwks to create just enough CAD drawing to get by, then add tools and processes as time allows. You'll want to use the 2D tools to their fullest and that is all for the good but will not advance you on the goal to 3D modeling and the benefits therein if you don't embrace deriving your 2D from the 3D.

To get the biggest bang for your buck, draw your walls using the wall tool and install (3D) doors and windows. Add a roof and work it in 3D as far as you can. At this stage, you'll be able to derive from your model: a 2D plan (Plan View), all of your elevations, and most of your sections plus line-work you can duplicate and transfer to your site plan. As time allows, add 3D extras like a floor volume, other misc. 3D elements (columns, beams, fixtures, etc.). Draw just enough 3D to solve your most pressing needs, then bail out of your model and finish in 2D.

An important realization to come is that you are solving many structural problems via 3D and via that process, nesting within the model all of the decisions you've made. A 3D element represents (holds) many design decisions whereas a series of 2D lines do not. The first (3D) has much of the info within itself, the other (2D) has info spread throughout other places such as folders, on margins of plans, in your head, etc. and so, over time, 2D is much less efficient at returning accurate information than 3D. I can find my floor-to-floor heights and all stair sizing info by looking at my model in cross section (as I've just done today on a project that has been in limbo for 6 weeks).

And of course, modeling in 3D is a joy when making aesthetic decisions.

There's lots more to say about how learning materials should be structured and the bottleneck when adding 2D lines to a (partial) representation of the 3D model and all of the BIM hoopla but those topics can wait for another day.

Best of luck.


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Hey JM,

I'm an Architect too doing exactly what you say you're doing. I use PC though. VW works very well for me and provides all that one needs to document a job. Take advantage of all the 3d capabilities because once you understand it it makes life easier.

I too used ACAD for many, many years since version 1 so learning VW was a challenge but the logic of the structure makes more sense than ACAD.

Like the others said, it's flexible. It works like all the other programs like Illustrator, no need for it because VW can do it.

There are some, not many, great add on's like ACAD has to make the program really shine.

Remember though, it's not the Mercedes of programs. There are limitations just like all other programs but it gives you what you need. I constantly get complements on the quality of the drawings.

Good Luck and give it a try.

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Hi JM,

I am a recent convert from AutoCAD to VW Architect on a PC. Although I am currently working for a company that uses AutoCAD throughout I was looking at what would offer me the greatest flexibility if I ever decided to "go it alone" in the future.

From a cost point of view I believe that VW wins hands down. The closest AutoCAD version would be LT which I find too restrictive as it cannot run lisp routines etc. which I uses quite frequently.

As with all CAD programs there are various pros and cons between each one however for me VW certainly seems to have far more pros (although I would like a xline equivalent!).

I'm not sure if it is the same program but I did use a program called PowerCADD back in the mid to late nineties. That was basically a 2D "drawing board", which being new to CAD, I found quite easy to learn and was quite powerful. I went on to use it fairly successfully on a number of large multi-million pound commercial projects. The only problem we had was that it didn't utilise drawing reference files or viewports so you were restricted to what you could actually draw on the page. That was a long time ago so I assume that if it is the same program things have moved on.

That being said I am more than happy with what I have been able to produce in the short time that I have had VW. I find now that I am often sitting at work doing a drawing on AutoCAD and I am thinking I could do it far easier and quicker on VW.



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Thanks for all the comments and suggestions. I have set up a project and started creating my model. I like the wall tools, windows, doors etc. Was really tired of lines and arcs in ACAD.

I like the suggestion of doing as much as possible on a project before falling back on linework to complete. I've been afraid of getting to drawing myself into a corner so to speak and not being able to finish a project.

I have found one thing cumbersome....placing interior walls precisely. I have all of my exterior walls, now am placing the interiors. What are your methods?

I should mention that I have VW 11 installed on my PC but never did anything with it. So currently I and am getting my feet wet before the big purchase. (got to see what I owe the taxman first!)



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One way I locate walls is to just put the wall where you think it should be, as many as you need, dimension the rooms and if it's wrong modify the dimension to move the wall. Of course you need a version like 13 to have that feature. I think with 11.5 I just used the dimension to tell me how far I was off and used the move command. So long ago, can't remember. And when you're done your plan is dimensioned too.

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There are many ways to gain dimensional precision while creating and placing walls. My favorite is to draw a simple line, exactly aligned to an exterior (or other) wall, then use the Move command to move it an exact distance. Then simply align the new interior wall to the line. You can also simply draw a new interior wall so that it is exactly aligned to an exterior (or other) wall, then use the Move command on the new wall... Also, you can turn on Grid Snapping, which will force any objects created to be Grid Aligned. In other words, if you set your grid to 6" then everything you draw will snap to the 6" grid (note: this is not my favorite method as it does not allow me the flexibility I generally desire)...

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