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Classes and Layers

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I'm trying to get a better understanding of the use of classes and layers. In my old software there were only layers. I used layers such as trees, shrubs, ground covers, plumbing, irrigation, existing structures (house, decks, surfaces), retaining walls, etc.

I saw in one of the VectorWorks videos that class are the "what" and layers are the "where". So in my mind I would use classes for trees, shrubs, ground covers, central irrigation, field irrigation, retaining walls, etc. In this case, I don't really know how to use layers because I could just turn the various classes on or off for viewing and editing. I guess it would make sense with a building construction where something like the plumbing layout could be exposed per floor using layers or something like that.

I would be very interested to know how other designers are using classes and layers in general and specifically in a landscaping drawing.


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  • Vectorworks, Inc Employee

Hi Mark

Definitely classes for "what" and layers for "where" or, also, for stages in the design process.

Classes can store graphic attributes such as fills and line weights, so are a great way to set up your own graphic style and apply it with ease to any project. Classes will also export to dwg as layers - so if you are sharing your work with users who have only layers, they will be able to interpret your intention by looking at your class (layer!) structure.

Classes are also great for showing and hiding different elements. For example, the plant symbols that come with Landmark are all classed, so you can turn them all on for your client to see a lovely colored plan, and turn them off for contractors who need to see a less detailed plan.

So, for Landscape design, you might have a layer for hardscape, a layer for buildings, a layer for general planting and another layer for trees. Layers can be re-ordered so that they "stack" and display objects as you would see them in a plan view. So, the tree layer would be at the top of the stack, followed by buildings etc.

Design layers also have a Z value (position in 3D space), so they can be used to separate areas on distinct levels. If you are designing a space where there are two levels, you can use layers to create those levels and then when you draw objects on them, they will be in the correct 3D space.

Did you take a look at the Landmark Getting Started Guide? It will talk you through these concepts.


Hope that helps

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Thank you, Tamsin!

I think I'm getting a better feel for classes and layers.

I'd like to ask for clarification of your explanation with the following example:

Classes: Plant symbols and all attributes associated with line styles, weights, effects, etc. could go in a single class labeled "Plants".

Layers: I could have a layer for Phase 1 Planting - Large Trees and a layer for Phase 2 Planting - Shrubs.

Likewise I could have classes for building and construction items and then have some layers for Existing Buildings, Proposed Workshop, Proposed Deck, etc.

Am I on the right track?

Thanks also for the link for the Getting Started Guide. I didn't know that was there! I have watched the first few videos and I think it will be very helpful.

I see you are the author of a book specifically for Landmark. I'll pick that up soon as well.

Thanks again!

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Layers: I could have a layer for Phase 1 Planting - Large Trees and a layer for Phase 2 Planting - Shrubs.

I'd choose classes to manage the items that I simply want to turn on/off.

Basically i try to minimise as much as possible creating unnecessary layers so I keep my toggling to a minimum

Edited by Kizza
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  • Vectorworks, Inc Employee

You could do what you propose with the plants - but I do urge you make use of the classes built into the plant symbols, as these will make your planting plans very flexible.

Layering your large trees and shrubs like this will have the benefit of being sure that all the tree canopies display above the shrubs in a plan view without having to keep sending plants to the front or back.

Yes, I've written a book, which I hope you will find useful, but the Getting Started Guide is also me so I am glad you are finding it useful.

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No expert, but in general, I have a class for all 273 things I have on my bid form, which pretty much means one class for every kind of thing I usually put on my plans, like Catch Basins, 3, 6, 8, 12 inch pipe, etc.

Makes it easier to select all for a quick quantity check, and better yet, to put in a worksheet to quickly create one.

I just used a phase 1 and phase 2 layer on a large project split over two years to split things out for a two phase bid form. Very handy!

I go back and forth on just a few layers or creating more. In an office of two people, you are going to have two different opinions on which way is better. I generally have a layer per contract phase - Analysis, Base, Prelim Design (with one each for all concept alternates) and CD layer.

Ditto classes, BTW, as I have had several staffers who prefer to draw everything in the none class, and then select similar to put them in the "proper" class afterwards. It has its merits, since it is inevitable that something gets drawn in the wrong class as you draw different items.

Also, have finally set up more or less standard sheet layers for dimensioning and labels, rather than putting those on design layers. Very nice!

But, that is just me......hope it sheds a little light on one way to do things. The subject comes up periodically over time and its always good to get a new perspective.

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Yes, I will use the built in classes for the plants at first.

I think I have a starting idea about how to work with classes and layers. I'm about to start designing a project for a working area of about three acres. This will be the first time that I really make use of Landmark instead of falling back on the more familiar TurboCAD. I don't like TurboCAD but I know it better.

I will post my "findings" about classes and layers as I wrestle with making good use of them.

Thanks, again.

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Ok, this is interesting. This makes sense to me. I like the idea of having a storehouse of classes with specific details about each item, and then using only a handful of layers to present the ideas.

Regarding dimensioning and labels, what is the benefit of using sheet layers? Is it because those items are more important for printing?


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I had formerly used a "text" "label" or "dimension" class on design layers, but designing on design layers and labeling on sheet layers is easier.

Say you have a courtyard on a large 100 scale site map, and also in a smaller 20 scale detail view, which you create with viewports on a separate sheet layer.

If you put the dimensions in a class on a design layer, you need to turn them off, etc. for certain types of plans. Possible, but if you put them in that 20 scale viewport on a sheet layer, they only show up on the final plan where you are getting ready to export, looking the way you want them to look.

Just seems like the way the program is designed to work, and it has saved me a little work.

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