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autocad to vectorworks problems

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is there a workaround for getting autocad .dwg files into vectorworks with the correct line weights and everything in the right place?

The company I'm working with gets a substantial number of files from clients who use autocad and need the files to transfer perfectly back and forth. please help, they are considering switching to autocad because of this.


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This issue come up again and again. It is both a technical issue.. how to as seemlessly as possible move files from VW to ACAD and back without losing data and preserving the drawing's appearance, fonts, lineweights etc. and a marketing issue.. how do you position this product in the market place?

On the second matter, VW needs to adapt a stategy for converting ACAD environments to VW.. if they want to capture market share... Converting the files of almost ANY size practice is a major issue when a firm considers switching software platforms. Does NNA have a plan for this? Or are they simply trying to sign up "new firms" that are just venturing into CAD based documents?

What are the reasons that a firm will convert from ACAD to VW? Of course it must be a bottom line issue for any business... aside from the "better look" of VW files. If there is a cost benefit... is there any information to support the change?

When I look at the ads I see mostly ACAD listings. So I understand the pressure of a firm when they feel surrounded by ACAD and the need to produce work and not spend time cleaning up files and dealing with software issues. I worked in an ACAD office for several years.. I did not work in ACAD.. but came to see that the program, although it had some neat features was basically a line by line process and very much like what DOS was like back then and how Windows and MAC OS were so graphical and WYSIWYG and SENSIBLE. I am quite addicted to see what I am doing on the screen being the "same" as what comes out of the printer.

So there are two battles.. seemless file tranfers and working in the entrenched ACAD universe.

Any ideas?

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Feel like I'm beating a dead horse, but have been on macs from day one as a true believer in the interface. Started from the basic drawing, can't really remember the name but before minicad. Then picked up a software program, hybrid of Intergraph, called "SNAP". Was familiar with fences, grouping, fonts, and layers. I still own AUTOCAD 12 for MAC, fancy that! Can honestly say that Vectorworks is the best way to produce engineering drawings. But I also have consultants and architects that I work with who have reservations about my drawings. I have tried what is posted on this board, modelspace, aligning text, freezing layers/classes, bought A'cad LT, and it still is a hassle. This whole concept of classes/layers is a problem in this co-existence with the "OTHER WORLD". I don't think autodesk is planning anything new to live with us in the MAC world. I know I'm only focused on my platform, but my world is threatened because the situation of compatibility is forcing me to consider going over there... Again, could we have some help out here, there are those of us who will fight for our interface to the end!!

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Actually... without meaning to offend NMA, I think they have dropped the ball on the file translation to ACAD. Yes you can import ACAD files, and save as DWG and DXF.. but they have not offered a SIMPLE protocol to fo these trasfers and preserve the data and present it ALL accurately. Not being a programmer and with little understanding of how these products work... all I know is that they BOTH produce a drawing. It would seem logical that there is a way to "DECONSTRUCT" the file.. ie the output we see... and reconstruct it in the OTHER file format.

I am thinking of something like a word processing document. You can produce identical documents using different software platforms.. Is it that difficult to preserve all the formatting and so on when the file is converted from say Word to Word Perfect? Admittedly when some "feature" is not present in one program.. it cannot be converted to something in the other. But this must be the exception and not the rule.

Another reason to make this process reliable, seemless and accurate, is that it opens up the ACAD environments to VW users. This would allow the VW user to work efficiently in HIS chosen platform and for the firm he works at to open his files, save his files in their standard. I am not sure how many offices would accept even this approach... but it would raise the issue that they can't access or use the VW files.

VW is pretty much the same on PC and MAC and that is an excellent thing. For whatever reason they decided to support both platforms. Now they have to bite the bullet and work out ALL the issues for a simple, quick, accurate, reliable way to move file to and from the ACAD environment. ACAD is not going away. Is it?

I suspect that the market share that VW may be acheiving is more related to new offices going CAD from pencil drafting than ACAD offices converting to VW.

The economics of this industry is such that they must produce upgrqades they can charge for and sell new licenses, or have huge sticker prices for their products. The more product out there the more tech support staff required and you see how many software companies are now charging to support their products.

What has happened when the mouse replaced the lead pencil was that a document no longer is a pice of paper that a draftsman worked on.. but it is a file that often many poeople work on. As such the software itself has risen in importance over the skill of the draftsman. Now your skill is measured not only by your "profssional" knowledge, but by your familiariity and skill with a software package.

Larger firms with layers of hierarchy will have only the lower levels as cad operators. The top levels will often pencil sketch and are often completely unskilled at any CAD work. They are completely reliant on their staff for output. Samller firms cannot let this happen and they must make a choice to be CAD proficient from almost the top down... or stick with the technology of pencil drafting they may have learned in school for their output.

Although schools are teaching CAD skills, it will be a while before drafting is completely abandoned. When it is the software employed in schools must be a good intuitive drawing and techical program... much like VW.

Had the graphical user interface, GUI and WYSIWYG, appeared earlier in the development of personal computers, ACAD may not have the dominance that it does today. And if MAC had a different marketing stategy they might be on 90% of the desks today on not Windows PCs. We can't rewrite history, but neither should we, the consumers, be forced to "suffer" from the chaos in the marketplace.

[ 09-04-2003, 09:00 AM: Message edited by: defjef ]

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I do have to add a point here.

Companies like ours and other Cad software companies are limited to what can and cannot be imported and exported. This limitation is controlled by the DXF Committee, a committee which gives the DXF file format information to various companies. They only have what AutoCad allows them to have, and over time, they obtain more and more information. You can't expect AC to turn over everything about their program and file structure for security and encryption purposes. Thus the DXF committe is left with what AC chooses to give them. That in turn, is what we are left to incorporate into our program.

There are many CAD software packagese that turn your documents into mush at best when exporting or importing a dxf/dwg file.

With AC 2k, true lineweights are supported, so all files going out of VW into AC and all 2k and later files coming into VW should have the correct line weights. Of course, this can all be thrown out the window if the import and export process is not fully understood by the user.

Viewports and xref's are difficult to deal with since the DXF committee has little information on this subject. Also, even if the DXF committe has all information about the file structure and so forth, VW's programming language and other limitations may get in the way to fully achieving perfect, seamless file translation.

Fonts - well VW uses the fonts installed on the computer, as does AutoCad. AutoCad also has their own COPYRIGHTED fonts, shx fonts. These fonts cannot be used with any other program at the moment.

If you are using a system font, that same system font has to be on the other persons computer.

Keep in mind you are exchanging CAD documents, not image documents. Everything is vectorized and has a definition, including fonts. The fonts used in the document have to be on the computer. You will find that to be the case with the majority of programs out there .. cad and non-cad.

If you are crossing the platform divide, of course there's a whole new problem to confront, but that's a mac vs pc issue, not a VW issue.

OS X has helped that situation with OS X by allowing PC ttf fonts to work on OS X.

Hooray for mac!

Never the less, it's going to probably be a struggle for years to come - being compatible with every single cad program out there. The list is infinite, technology moves faster than the speed of light, and everyone wants tomorrow's technology yesterday. It's a challenge none the less, and NNA is and has been for several years been keeping up with the drive forward with DXF conversion/compatibility.

If you've tried the DXF file conversion with other applications, you would find it to be more difficult and less data supported or supported accurately.

We pride ourselves with one of the best conversions on the market.

If there is a specific thing that the program cannot do or does not do acceptable for you, please send that information to bugsubmit@nemetschek.net.

If you need a reason as to why something doesn't work the way you think it should, email tech support at tech@nemetschek.net.

If you need to know why frozen layers don't import into VW, email tech support.

Please be as descriptive as possible when emailing either address.

That will allow the people in those depts to be as descriptive as possible in return.

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It is easy to assume the translation of one CAD format to another SHOULD be easy, especially if you are not a programmer. Understanding the nuances of such a task would make most men weep. ACAD and VW formats are not equal, and in many aspects, they are barely equivalent.

Katie's points are right on the money. The DXF committee does limit the published file formats of ACAD. VW handles more ACAD features that it ever did, and I have every reason to expect that will continue.

Now consider ACAD's position. They have the lion's share of the market. Every secret they give up can and will be used by others to usurp their customer base. If you were ACAD, would you share everything?

It would seem logical that there is a way to "DECONSTRUCT" the file.. ie the output we see... and reconstruct it in the OTHER file format.

I can appreciate your desire, but this is just wishful thinking. The task is not just monumental, it is also a moving target and subject to change. Without a key, which ACAD controls, programmers would just be guessing how things interact. As a parallel, if the Rosetta Stone had not been found, or written, I doubt we would have a sound understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphics. AutoDesk is the only one who can accurately describe their format.

Be grateful we have what we do. Much of it works, and it improves with each VW revision. Much of it can be made to work with a firm understanding of what each program can and cannot do. Unfortunately, this may require that you also learn more about ACAD. Lastly, it never hurts to ask for more features.

Best wishes in you endeavors,


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Don't want to be misunderstood, I for one am not unhappy with NNA nor V'works, but twice in the last three months have found myself sitting at a long conference table, with a project management architect/co-ordinator for a fast track design project, when the question of drawing compatibility was addressed. The electrical guy was all A'cad, as was the mechanical, the civil, and the structural guy. The manager type then made the decision that we should all co-ordinate jointly via x-refs, and I was getting my hat, when the architect of record pointed out that it might not be too good an idea since he was microstation... I have found my ways around most things, but still it is a hassle. For the rest of the world, I work 1:1, and plot my drawings the regular way. I just had to buy A'cad LT to know what I'm receiving and sending out, a unnecessary waste of money, I could have banked that and with a little job or two bought a G5

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Couple of comments: 1) coordinating via xrefs is a nifty idea, but only if everyone is working from the same file server and with the same color and other conventions. In the real world, consultants work by "faking" xref coordination - i.e., working with AutoCAD I have to copy my consultants' background updates to our server whenever I want my xrefs to be updated. Version control becomes a real problem.

2) VW's translation utilities could be greatly improved if the program would at least remember from one session to the next what color/line weight and other preferences had been selected. Better yet, there should be a set of files similar to .ctb files that we could name and scroll down when doing a conversion, so that we could select different sets of preferences for all the items we have to set up each time an import or export is done. One consultant uses red for a heavy line, another uses red for a light line, etc. This is something NNA could do without any cooperation from ACAD, and would actually make VW superior to the way AutoCAD users have to reset each other's colors whenever sharing xrefs.

Okay, I have a third point. 3) NNA could automate all the translation processes to make it easier for VW users to interact with AutoCAD users. Like Apple, VW has to try harder, but like Apple, we can succeed in making interoperability easier. It is now possible, via conversions, to present an AutoCAD user with an updatable xref, and, conversely, to use an AutoCAD file as a background in a VW project. We just need to make that easier to do, so that when a file is updated the converted drawings register together properly and share the same lineweight/color conventions. One idea: make "exporting" to .dwg more like a "save a copy as .dwg", so that the next time a save is made the program remembers all the settings and the location of (0,0,0) in the saved .dwg file automatically.

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I'm running VW Mechanical 9.5.1 on OS X 10.2.6,...and can't even export a simple, 2D drawing from VW to DXF format.

When I export the file to DXF and then import it again, the title block is "double exposed" by the default values. Latest word from NNA is that it's a genuine bug....not something I did on my end.

I raised this issue a few weeks ago, but nobody responded, suggesting it was an isolated case of "newbie error"

Has anyone else here experienced this, or can you replicate this on your system?

I really don't want to upgradeto v10 to fix a fundamental portability bug like this, which should have been fixed many versions ago. If i can't export to basic DXF, then VW is guilty of false advertising.

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Sorry, but that is not so.... You're doing something wrong! Where are you trying to go? Why are you trying "DXF" as your export, if you are trying to get to A'cad it is doable, not sure about that word, "DWG" is the route! Check you're method, don't throw rocks at NNA based on your failures, I can testify that the program does everything that it is advertised to do and does it very well. Polish up your skills!!

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As long as we're knee deep in AutoCad lamentations...

It's a bear working with VW AND Mac in a DWG and PC world. It does take some resolve, but I take comfort in knowing I can produce drawings faster than the others.

But to my question; when I export to dwg (2000), my client (using A2002), tells me all the line weights look the same, regardless of zooming. I don't have a clue about AutoCAD settings and can't understand what the problem is and how to correct it. Any ideas?


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Are the lineweights actually the same, or do they just look the same? Have them look at the line properties to determine the lineweights, then, if the lineweights are significantly different, they can set a preference in their program to show the difference.

Most ACAD users follow the antiquated color -> lineweight mapping system. (Makes for a colorful screen, but leads to a whole bunch of confusion and a disconnect between screen and plotted drawing.) You can map your lineweights to colors in order to work with an AutoCAD user that works that way.

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