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Architect Getting Started Guide - What would you want?

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  • Vectorworks, Inc Employee

We are looking to dramatically revamp a major component of our training series, the Architectural Getting Started Guide (GSG). I would like to get your feedback. This won't be just a yearly update, we are most likely going to be completely reworking it from the ground up, so any and all criticism is welcome.


What did you like about the 2016 guide? What did you hate about it? Was the model too complicated? Not complicated enough? Did we repeat things too many times? Did we not repeat things enough? Did you hate the color of the walls? Too long? Too short?

But this feedback is welcome to go further. What did you expect to get out of the guide that you did not? Was there anything specific you feel EVERY user of Vectorworks Architect should know and that should be included in the guide but was absent? Go nuts. All criticisms will be heard and taken into account. Now is the time!

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I didn't like the design very much.

I would go for some neutral classic modern project no one can complain about.

You can often find 2D plans of those in the internet.

Modo had an Architectural Modeling Tutorial using the (Ray and) Charles Eames House.

It is nice looking with many filigran parts and a solid core.



It works well for explaining standard Walls/Doors/Roof/Slab/Framing/... Modeling

+ Curtain Wall

+ interesting Custom Trusses

(Custom Workplanes, Arrays, Symbols, ....)

Also Interior Design, Rendering, maybe even Landscape :


Or Le Corbusiers Villa Savoie,


Mostly standard Arch Components but some Round (Curtain)Walls, Stairs and

Window Additions.

Something like this.

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I have no idea who these videos are aimed at. Are they for experienced users or mid-level users, certainly not beginners. Please let us know what the target audience is so we can choose what to watch.

Following on then maybe a essentials, intermediate and advanced split (or along those lines).

Try explaining why you are doing certain things in the videos. They are mostly click this and you get this. Tell me that when you select a tool you have the various modes.

Don't make assumptions. Click zero on the keypad to get top plan view. What if I am on a Mac book - I don't have a keypad. Show me the various ways to get to top plan.

Why do I need to be in top plan - rarely explained.

I could go on but the target audience and the level of detail needs attention.

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  • Vectorworks, Inc Employee

The Architect guide currently assumes that a user has already completed Basics and Fundamentals. It is not intended as a stand-alone guide for brand new users using Vectorworks for the first time, it is intended to be more of an intermediate level course.

That said, the new focus of the training is intended to be more "Why?" focused, where we show a number of different ways to address a particular issue and encourage the user to decide which method they prefer by providing them with the pros and cons of each. Currently the guide is a very spoon-fed affair where the goal is mainly just to complete the given project, which I do not feel is the correct approach.

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I also don't like these guides mainly because of the obscure model that is used. It would be far better in my view, particularly for beginners, to show how to model a normal house as used in the UK or USA. By that I mean basically a box with four walls, a ground floor and a first floor and a sloping roof. By doing that you can go through the same basic steps but starting with how to draw an accurate floor plan from a measured survey, then moving on to developing it into a 3D model.


The stair explanation in the tutorial is poor and doesn't relate to normal stairs as used in houses, your revised 'simple house' tutorial could show how to draw flights with winders, balusters, handrails and landings. This will be an excellent point to introduce an improved stair tool.

Folding doors

The tutorial also doesn't mention bi-fold doors, again this would be an opportunity to introduce a custom folding door tool.


The tutorial needs to show how to model simple pitched roofs, how to change from gables to hipped ends, and how to work with roof faces to add roof extensions, again the roof tool will probably need improving at the same time.


This tool needs improving to make dormers fully customisable without having to backtrack to alter the window size.

These are all applicable to normal domestic projects which is what I would suggest many users are involved with rather than complex 3D surface models. Such an approach to tutorials will enable people to go on and use VW in whatever direction they want to go rather than as you say completing an irrelevant exercise. If the basics are right the VW will become a brilliant tool for everyone

BTW there are a few odd things going on with the soundtrack of the adding the Stairs and Handrails tutorial, particularly right at the beginning e.g. staircase description one

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I think it is the need to do the Basic and Fundamental before the Arch Tutorials

is ok. The Arch Tut focus on explaining the Arch Tools only, beside standard Tools

explained when used in a specific way for specific Arch Problems.

It should give an Overview, explain Basic Use of Arch Tools and show Strategies

to solve Arch related Tasks and its special drawbacks.

So I see them for beginners starting with VW or switchers that come from other

CAD Apps.

For everything more in depth and special cases, I think the separated Vides like

found in Help/How To'S/101s/ .... are better suited.

The problems and frustrations I ran into these tutorials, PDF or Video, was when

you do, supposed, as told and it doesn't work for you at all and you stuck for

half an hour to get it working.

Because you don't have the overview and there is any little tool or other setting

you have overseen.

And for the next step when users apply there Tutorial experience to own projects,

be honest and show all restrictions of the Tools and refer to Special Task Videos

dealing with special Cases.

For example there was a nice Tutorial about Wall Projections and it was concealed

that you can never uses these where they normally occur, at the ends of walls

where you can't connect these to other walls.

Or that a "rounded" Wall is not rounded but a just radial wall only and will never follow

any B-Spline Path. And that Windows assigned to that wall will never be round and

such things.

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  • Vectorworks, Inc Employee

I definitely want to have multiple projects, not just one that tries to cater to everyone thus failing to cater to anyone.

There is also the international issue, where design styles (things like gabled roofs with traditional dormers) are not commonly used in modern style architecture, but are still very important to some markets. Rather than making some monstrosity project that hybridizes the two styles, I feel that having multiple example models showcasing where certain tools and workflows work and WHY you would use them differently given the different models makes more sense to me.

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^ +1 for small projects that you can start from scratch and finish in a Tutorial time frame.

Things like Villa Savoye is a bit too big and has so many walls that it gets boring.

Large projects where you can't follow the steps and cheat with the delivered

files for each step are dangerous too.

What I really like are the short videos that capture one particular theme only.

There was a newsletter with some of the updated basic explanations of things

like snapping, UI, visibilities, ....

that also showed what VW meant how to use the tools and what intention they

thought of + some information on what VW thinks should be the default settings.

That was quite interesting.

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+1 for a small project.

We'd really like to be able to give this to a new starter who has limited or zero VWs experience [but has used other 3D CAD software] and them to be able to draw a very simple building with walls, windows, roofs, doors and slabs in a half day to a full day.

It should include using storeys as this is something we're struggling to communicate to even more experienced users.

It should include drawing spaces. Perhaps starting with spaces and then adding the walls, then the doors etc.

It should include a basic stair.

It should communicate some of the little short cuts that makes using VWs quicker and easier but that are necessarily obvious.

The current one is too long and the building is too convoluted to be of much use. New starters tend to get a bit bogged down and confused to complete it!

They guys from Computers Unlimited [uK VWs distributors] had a really good demo project at the last UK design day. I think it was called the cube and built up a simple office building from spaces through to walls/windows/roofs etc. It also demonstrated a UK BIM workflow which would also be pretty useful to communicate [classes, layer standards, wall standards, etc]

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Another +1 for a "small" residential renovation / addition project as billtheia suggests.

Also include discussion about how to use (or not use) the not-so-new Levels / Stories system. This might be worth a tutorial by itself, as it is utterly confusing how to effectively use them.

Personally, I've been disapponted when the GSG is essentially the same as the previous version year(s) GSGs. There might be a new little bit about some new feature, like with the Curtainwall tool, but the rest is virtually unchanged.

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IMO, there is a high level problem with the GSG and that is, quite simply, it's not teaching or training, it's "follow the bouncing ball". In other words - you need to add context.

"How to do it" is not nearly as important as "Why am I doing it?". Think of the best teacher you ever had - I would contend that he/she made the information you were expected to learn pertinent, and that they gave relevant, contextual background. That's how one learns.

For example: You can make a video and have the viewer add some classes, however if they don't understand classes conceptually, they are just repeating steps. By simply explaining (in short form) how VectorWorks uses classes (and how that might compare with other software paradigms), the viewer gains insight rather that just learning how to do something, but not know why they are doing it. If the context is discipline-specific, even better.

Not an easy task, but there are many training options for other software that succeed in this sense.



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For me its all about knowing the program and how to use as may of the tools as possible because the more I know about the program the more options I have at my disposal when faced with a problem or task.

So doing a residential or commercial or what ever will follow a process but within that process of drawing you use many tool (Plugins) etc so you can only touch on each one.

I feel you need to learn each part of the program you are using along the way in depth.

Take a wall for instance, Do I use an unstyled or styled wall, do I use textures and do I place that on the component or object in the ifo pallet, or do I place it in the wall style as class or object etc etc etc. Unless you learn all that's available to you with walls and why you use walls one way or the other you are limited and will get frustrated when blame the program because its got a bug. Usually the problem is facing the screen.

So I would like to see a series of comprehensive videos about the above that covers as many parts of the program as possible. How, what , when and why you use a styled wall and not (as an example) because there are many more to choose from.

The Help file covers each aspect but doesn't talk about the how and why fully.

Well that,s my 2 cents worth.

Best of Luck its a daunting prospect.

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In latest Videos, VW is already doing the "Why am I using this" or "What is the meaning of"

It looks like this is for subscribers only, not on youtube.

If you have a select contract you can login and find these, marked with a "New" banner, under :

Training > Tips and Tricks > "Introduction to Classes"

These new ones are great.

I think this is the way to go for all in depth videos of Tools and Components.

Beside the GSG that should give a kind of basic overview.

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I totally agree with zoomer. If you tried to go in depth about everything [classes] it would be a really confusing tutorial.

Or maybe there are two version, one for small sole practitioner who needs to know everything in one tutorial. Then one for a CAD monkey in a larger practice who needs to know the basics and can then pick up all the subtleties from colleagues as they get more comfortable with things?

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  • Vectorworks, Inc Employee

I am extremely glad to see that so many of my own concerns about the existing guide and how to address them were echoed here. This is indeed a daunting task but I think it can be broken down into much more manageable chunks that will allow for it to constantly be upgraded and added to, rather than being monolithic as it is now.

More than likely because of time constraints, the guide will not go as far as I would like right away. Renovations/existing conditions especially is something very common but since it conceptually would take place after acclimating a user to starting from a scan or from scratch I think it would like be an expansion released a bit later, but not have to wait an entire release cycle as was occurring before.

We'd really like to be able to give this to a new starter who has limited or zero VWs experience [but has used other 3D CAD software] and them to be able to draw a very simple building with walls, windows, roofs, doors and slabs in a half day to a full day.

It should include using storeys as this is something we're struggling to communicate to even more experienced users.

It should include drawing spaces. Perhaps starting with spaces and then adding the walls, then the doors etc.

It should include a basic stair.

It should communicate some of the little short cuts that makes using VWs quicker and easier but that are necessarily obvious.

The above will absolutely be in the first revision upon release. Also, I very much agree with getting the user accustomed to the basic workflows, but also providing navigational breadcrumbs from the training interface that would let them deep dive into a section on, say, EVERYTHING about the Door Tool that would be inappropriate to just cram into the "normal" guide.

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There is a famous Dilbert Cartoon where Dilbert says to his boss "I just finished the interactive user guide" The Boss reply's "Great! Print off 300 copies!"

But the truth of the matter is (& Mr Pickup seems to have grasped this) it is while an interactive screen based training manual is good, nothing beats having a spiral bound dead tree version.

The reason I say this is even with two monitors, it is hard to follow along and then try it yourself in VW.

What would be nice is a dead tree version. Perhaps you could work with Johnathan Pickup on this.

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  • Vectorworks, Inc Employee

There will be print versions same as we've been doing, they'll be more limited since they cant link in to the additional material in the video library but they will cover everything covered in the guide itself.

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