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nihkon

Autocad vs. Vectorworks

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Hi there. I'm new here. I was looking for some general info on Vectorworks. so I did a search, but could not find what I was looking for, so here goes. . .

My architectural firm has been using Autocad for the past 6.5 years. I personally have been on it for 8 years. Unfortunately, we only have one copy of Autocad at the office, and all the rest of the computers are running Intellicad. [Frown] Needless to say, we need to get rid of the Intellicad software. However, Autocad costs a furtune. My boss heard about Vectorworks, and so I'm trying to do some research about it, and see if it's the right solution for our firm.

So my questions are:

1. We deal 99% with 2d plans, elev's, etc. How well does VW deal with that? (I did a quick look through the VW website, and they tend to only show the 3d stuff. Looks cooler I guess. lol)

2. How different is the interface from Autocad? Am I going to have to completely learn a new software? Or will some of the commands/functions I use in Autocad roll over into VW? I use none of the icons that came with the newer versions of AC. I learned on the older versions of AC and have become accustomed to the key commands. I guess a second part to this question could be: For new employees we may get who are new to CAD altogether, how well would a generally computer literate person do in learning this program?

We had an ArchiCad rep come to our office a year or 2 ago to give us a presentation. Many times during his sales pitch he referred to AutoCad as "big pencil" software. Although I'll say there is some truth to what he said. . .that's also one of the things I like about Autocad. I can create just about anything I want. I use Autocad more as a canvas that I paint on. It's more like an art form to me. From what he showed us in his presentation, it looked almost as if you can only draw what Archicad wanted you to draw. . if that made any sense? lol. So I guess my third question is:

3. Is VW a "big pencil" like Autocad? Or are there limitations to what I can "freehand" in?

Thanks for any help you can give. Also if you have any other info that may help me and our firm decide on a software to buy, please let me know. Thanks again. . .

[ 12-08-2003, 06:05 AM: Message edited by: nihkon ]

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IMHO

1. 2D is very good. Accurate, intuitive and easily edited.

2. I don?t know AutoCAD very well. The company I was working with considered swapping to it. I went along to a couple of lessons and came away with the view that it was in the Stone Age compared to VW. AutoCAD seemed clunkier and much harder to master. I couldn?t understand how AutoCAD had become so ubiquitous. VW is very simple to learn. No complicated commands.

3. I use VW in the way you describe. I design furniture and these days beyond the very basic concept I go straight to VW, either in 2D or 3D. There are a few limitations on the 3D side, but with each new version they are reduced.

The only area that I can see that AutoCAD is better, is that AutoCAD is so common that everybody can read the drawings. VW can import/export DWG & DXF(and a load of other formats), but it?s not the same as creating the drawing in those formats.

Christian

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I was trained on Autocad and have been using VWA since '97. Here's my take:

1. Training. Vectorworks is easy to learn and intuitive. With Vectorworks your employer can hand a new employee a set of discs and they can learn the program on their own. Autocad might require another employee to train new employees thus costing the firm much more than the cost of the disks or the program. Archicad requires taking seminars from the reseller (hotels, meals, travel). This gets expensive.

2. 2D. Vectorworks drawings have always looked better than its competition's. It is one of the easiest 2D packages to learn on the market. Assigning pens and line weight control in Autocad is a nightmare. Drafting in Vectorworks is more like drafting by hand, requiring less specialized knowledge to become productive.

3. Import/export. Choosing any other program other than Autocad, one is in the business of translation. As an architect, even when I was using Autocad, bringing in engineering drawings still required modification of the drawings. Every firm has its own way of doing things so manipulation of information is inevitable. Personally, I have little trouble importing and exporting structural, mechanical and civil engineering files, but what I do is not that complicated. I have friends who use the program and import massive site plans without much trouble.

5. This all being said, Vectorworks is a good deal for the price. There is less front end costs (the training black hole) and it is less expensive software. However it, like all software, does have its quirks and problems. New releases are unstable and are compounded by the cross-platform availibility (Archicad has the same problem). (This is a good time to buy as the most stable releases are .5 series). This can be frustrating and expensive at times as we as users end up as the test bench. The flip side is this company has some of the best tech support of any software company out there.

I guess the most important advice I can impart is that you make sure everyone or at least the person writing the checks is convinced that if you are going to switch, that they are totally on board with it so that if (and when) things go haywire, your rear end is not the only one on the line. Good Luck.

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I mostly used AutoCAD (and AEC/ADT) for 10 years before switching to VW 6 months ago when I moved to an office using it.

I'll stick to 2D AutoCAD for my comparisons. (By the way, AutoCAD LT is inexpensive and if you're only using it for 2D you don't need full AutoCAD.)

VectorWorks has it's plus points:

- it's FAST, because you draw with walls, windows, doors etc, rather than lines, arcs, circles, even when working in 2D.

- it's COLORFUL, because all objects can have a solid fill color, unlike in AutoCAD (except in the very latest version). In the AutoCAD world we used to export to Photoshop and do colorfills before producing presentation drawings - whereas VW does it 'out of the box'

- it's CHEAP, you get full 3D and rendering, which are quick to grasp and fairly easy to use, for the price of a 2D package.

VW also has it's downsides:

- There are no PAPERSPACE or VIEWPORTS. You just plonk a drawing sheet on a layer in your model. Without viewports there is no way to have 2 different scales on the same sheet (without great trickery), nor can you just show one part of a plan and not the rest - you have to manually mask it out - painful!!

- There is no rotatable UCS for 2D, meaning if your building isn't square you're gonna have trouble working on it. Unlike AutoCAD, you can't rotate your view, you have to actually rotate the building - which can be disastrous if you're the one producing the site setting-out coordinates later!

- The way is displays SELECTED OBJECTS is very crude. Unlike AutoCAD which clearly highlights every line of anything you select, VW simply highlights 8 grips around the object, which don't even rotate with the object. This is more akin to a kiddie paint program than a professional CAD package.

These are just some of my gripes with VW, though I had many with AutoCAD too. My answer would be to you - if you're drawing small projects, housing etc, then you'll probably like Vectorworks, especially its value for money. If you're working with other consultants (swapping drawings etc) on bigger projects, with complex geometry, AutoCAD is a no-brainer.

The office I work in is somewhere between the two, and to be honest we struggle with VW's limitations. The trouble is you couldn't really do a mixed environment of the two, especially as we use Macs, and AutoCAD isn't available for Macs.

A note on conversion - VW IS NOTHING LIKE AUTOCAD. Your staff will have to learn a lot from scratch. I've also used Microstation, ArchiCAD and Revit, and I find VW to be most like ArchiCAD, though not as sophisticated.

Hope this helps.

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I guess I would differ with Chris D on a couple points.

"There are no PAPERSPACE or VIEWPORTS. You just plonk a drawing sheet on a layer in your model. Without viewports there is no way to have 2 different scales on the same sheet without great trickery"

With respect to having more than one scale on a page, this is incorrect. It is in fact very easy to have as many scales as you want. It is very easy since the program allows the saving of sets of layers and easy access to them. Those sets are the drawing "sheets" that you see in the final product.

My view is that the lack of paper space and viewpoints in an advantage. What you see is what you get. You always see what your drawing is going to look like. I think that only for the most elaborate projects would the lack of viewports be a problem.

"there is no rotatable UCS"

I have done many plans and details where there are multiple orientations. It is a snap to move things on an alternate grid once you have esablished the x' and y' directions with two lines. Using the offset duplicate tool is much like using the move tool, about the same number of steps, but new objects will move with the arbitrary orientation. There are typically multiple ways of doing things also so if you want to keep your head in x,y, you can group the object, rotate, work in xy, then rotate back. But the offset tool is fast and simple.

A couple other thoughts.

I think the object selection handles are fine. A highlight color instead, as an option, might be a nice improvement.

VW is different from autocad and in my experience the people who have the most trouble learning vw are people who have become facile with autocad. New CAD users pick it up pretty fast. There are a couple conceptual difficulties that require some mental agility and reprograming.

Here are the three biggest things in my opinion.

1. Layers have scale.

We don't draw 1:1. Draw a door jamb at 1"=1' and then paste it onto a layer at 3" = 1' and it will get 3 times larger. You see the border of your drawing and how big the detail is in relation to it. Freely position it where you want anytime you want. Sheet A1 of your set may have 4 layers with 4 different scales, one of which may contain common title information to all sheets in the set. Sheets A1-An can all be in one file if you like.

2. We categorize less.

Autocad has a category for everything and people who use the program well sometimes have a hard time categorizing less. A good and efficient vw user works with a simple file structure. Absolutely no need to have separate layers for solid lines, hatches, doors, text, you name it. In my opinion the really fast vw users distill the necessary layers down to the necessary scales.

3. (sorry) It is a graphical not a command line program.

Autocad users often have a hard time letting go of the old way here. But there are so many operations that are so much faster to run, by directly manipulating the objects and their position on the screen. This is partly because vw has had a very good and smart cursor from the begining. You can visually bring points to points exactly and much more quickly than you could working with the actual coordinates.

I guess that the last thing that makes the transition hard is that there can abe frustrating aspects to the program and some hurdles to overcome. Add this to the difficulty of learning something new and some will just up and run for cover.

If you read through the comments on the bulletin board and talk to other users I think you will find that the balance of opinion is favorable.

Bottom line:

You can make money with this program.

If you use it right.

Best,

Donald

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I am a new user of Vectorworks but have found the transition pretty easy. We do mainly 2D structural engineering drawings and have found it very fast. The learning curve is not as steep as other software.

I originally trained on Microstation then migrated to Autocad. When I set up myown practice I purchased Turbocad because I just couldnt afford AC or Microstation. TC, however, just doesnt cut it at the professional level. Having worked with Architects who used Minicad (earlier version Vectorworks) I was always impressed with the quality of the drawings, the results just seem to look so much better than AC.

After much testing of different packages I chose Vectorworks (a few months ago now) and have never looked back. AC and TC just seem so primitive when compared to VW.

Just my experience that I hope helps.

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Hey guys. Thanks for the great replies! Unfortunately I've been hit with that flue that's going around, so I can't think straight enough to make intelligent comments or ask any more questions right now. But I wanted to say thanks! [smile] I'll get back on here tomorrow hopefully to continue this.

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Sorry to hear flu, my 2 cents, "have been traveling some hard roads, too"

1. Have owned 8.0 from start!

2. Came from early Intergraph take-off, SNAP!

on a MAC

3. Concept problem on change-over, V-works

classes-layers thing!

4. TRIED Virtual PC & A'CAD LT on my MAC

5. Basically decided that I could not survive using V'works too slow, xrefs are a problem

6. SPENT 50 HOURS of Saturday time at a local community college learning "command-line" approach to A'cad 2000 and bought a >#! WINDOWS BOX#!#* to learn!!!!

7. Worth every minute-great and probably the greatest CAD concept ever dreamed up, that is if you believe in "WINDOWS/cisc" or "MAC/risc". IF YOU WANT "WYSISWYG" as you do it, then this, V'works is the way to be truly talented and free of limits-if they would simply opt you out of the class/layer morass! Do you really want to customize your workspace to suit your individuality.. create the workspace you want your designers to use, let them improve it- chicken or the egg? You came to the right place and asked the right question-the mind is the limit, the program is the tool, but apple must make the platform stable or all is naught!!!!

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We had two new project architects join our team from ACAD environments in the last few months.

I have to say retraining them to use VW turned out to be very easy. half a day of walking them thru the package to start with and from then a hour every day or so answering question as they start to explore features. it's very much a play an learn system.

the licencing for VW means you can start with one or two people on the system, although i wouldn't split a project across the two systems. Then as you get use to it add more seats. Here's where it pays to find a good local dealer.

I know the Guy we deal with is a part time Architect too, and it makes the process a joy. Oh the side befit of bang for buck is always good.

When people say Vectorworks is intuitive. They tend to mean that people who know how to put things together, like your architects and detailers, will pick up it, as easily as the regular cad people. there are a number of larger offices i know of that the design teams use Vectorworks and the documentation teams use Microstation.

Yep you don't have Viewports as such in Vectorworks.

the drawing reference system still needs a bit of work to be as intuititively practical as the rest of the package. you can't crop or rotate an updating link.

We use the package mostly as an overated drawing board, but the working environment scales so what you know of 2d leads you in to 3d. The 3d still at this stage is most useful for presentation and tends not to translate well to documentation. (although from what i've seen none of the packages really produce much more than pretty 3D).

Over All the package tends more to a precision graphic design package model than that of hard code traditional cad, but don't be fooled that it is any less powerful.

The Demo isn't the best for trying it out. It's best to do a real project to get use to it. Having someone on hand who has used the package always good, and they will probablely be looking forward to the day that one of the newbies teaches them something new.

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one real downside of VW as against ACad is the file sixe, especially when you have lots of workgroup refernces attached to the file. consequently this results in a slowing down for you system. I have to say that on any smallish job VW wins hands down for its easy to use interface speed and beautiful drawings but once you reach a certain size of complexity on a project it can get unwieldy. eg. we had file sizes of 70-80MB when we attached our refernce files. this was ridiculous.

ga

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ga:

I'm discovering this the hard way. I'm working on a three story, 3600 sq. ft. house. I have a set of plans,sections, details, specs,consultants plans etc., much of it referenced in. What a pain in the friggin' rear. Its a 70mb file! On top of that VWA won't print rendered elevations, so I have to use the bit map tool,render, print, delete bitmap. This adds another 30mb if I keep the bit maps! And since I want to include the specifications in the set (so the contractor will actually read them--a novel concept I know), and since the Text tool and worksheets are so juvenile, I'm then forced to import the spec text as a bit map, which inflates file size even more. This is stupid and insane. What is the point of a reference if if does not reduce file size? And forget saving, you have to go out for coffee and hope the power doesn't go off while your out while its saving. God forbid you crash this unstable software...

Living la vida loca ...

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Further to Donald's reply to my post:

quote:

With respect to having more than one scale on a page, this is incorrect. It is in fact very easy to have as many scales as you want. It is very easy since the program allows the saving of sets of layers and easy access to them. Those sets are the drawing "sheets" that you see in the final product.

Not true. Unless you design the objects on your site so that they fall in the right place on your layout sheet, the only practical way to arrange drawings on your sheet is to layer-link them through to the sheet, whereafter you can unlock them and position them to suit the sheet. Layer linking ignores the scale of the Model layer you are linking from, so that all objects on the sheet are at the scale of your title sheet.

The only workaround for this is to layer link the objects to a blank layer, position the link on this layer, and then simply allow this layer to show on your title sheet. THEN you've still got to mask out what you don't want! It's a real pain, and to compare this process to the simplicity of using viewports is preposterous.

The other headache of not having viewports is that your title sheet is not at 1:1. Instead you have to have a prepared title-frame for every scale you might wish to use in your office.

Wake up guys. VW has its good points, but burying your heads in the sand over its shortfalls is pointless.

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Hi ChrisD,

Your point about the difference between layer linking and viewports is correct. However, viewports have one specific disadvantage: when you change the scale of the viewport, dimensions and text don't keep their "real" sizes, they scale along with the viewport. It takes a bit more time in ACAD to fix that, in VW it's just checking an option box.

Cheers,

BaRa

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Chris, why are you limiting your sheets to having 1 visible layer? You can have multiple layers at multiple scales, containing links or not, and get more variety of scales and positions for drawings than anyone would ever want. As for title blocks, I do one per sheet size and assign them (arbitrarily) a 1/4" scale. The drawing itself is on a different layer at whatever scale desired. Never had the problems you describe using this system.

The one qualitative difference with viewports is that they can be easily cropped ("clipped" in ACAD parlance). Creating a mask as a workaround is possible but inconvenient.

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Further to P Retondo:

My sheets do have multiple layers. However, I never let the tail wag the dog, so when drawing my models I never give regard to the title sheet - after all one model could be used on several sheets. My elevations all have real world Y values, i.e. they're all drawn on one level so that a query of a spot height returns a value correct according to the site benchmark. My plans all sit on top of each other so that I can be sure that walls and services are in the correct position.

Now when I come to lay these out on Title Sheets, they are of course not in a convenient location. For consistency, the ONLY method I use to add model views to title sheets is to layer link them in, unlock them, arrange them, and then mask them. If I need to use more than one scale on the sheet (often from the same model layers...) then I have to layer link the model layers through to a blank layer with the scale I want, arrange with regard to the sheet, and then allow this layer to show through on the title sheet layer.

If you know a better way, I'd be glad to hear from you.

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Chris,

You said "Layer linking ignores the scale of the Model layer you are linking from, so that all objects on the sheet are at the scale of your title sheet."

Maybe I misunderstood what you were saying. It is true that layer linking is scale-flexible. I see that you understand your title block and drawing or link can be on layers of different scales, so I'm no longer clear about why you make the above assertion.

Since you also feel that you need to have a different title block for every scale of drawing, that adds to the impression that you were trying to put everything on one layer. If you are in fact using a different title block for every scale of drawing, you should definitely switch to using one title block (drawn at any scale you desire), and use additional layers at different scales for the display of the drawing content. . . unless I've missed the point of what you are saying. Regardless, I don't think it was appropriate to characterize people who might understand perfectly well what they are talking about as having their "heads in the sand."

[ 12-11-2003, 01:04 AM: Message edited by: P Retondo ]

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Apologies, I wasn't trying to cause offence, it's just that sometimes people become blinkered about their favourite program and refuse to recognise that another program may do something in a better way. I'm no apologist for AutoCAD....it has a lot of faults itself! :-)

I'm unclear what you mean by 'layer links are scale flexible'. Unless I'm mistaken, layer links take the scale of the layer they are are linked to. So if I take your advice and have a 1:1 title block, then layer link in my model layers, they would all be at 1:1. I recognise that you can have your sheet at 1:1 on one layer, then have other layers at your desired scale, onto which you layer link your model layers, then save the whole layer combination as a sheet. Indeed this is what I was referring to as a workaround in my original posting. I'm just saying -it can be done - but it's not as simple as viewports - and that's before you take masking into account.

The company I work for has 30 people using Vectorworks, and they have only used Minicad/Vectorworks since the company was set up 10 years ago. The idea of having a title sheet at each paper size, for each drawing scale is standard practice here. Perhaps better documentation is all that's required...

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Gosh,

It is true that a different title block design is needed for different size paper.

It is not true that title blocks cannot be 1:1 or that different title blocks are needed for different scales. I use one 1:1 title block for each file and these files may contain numerous sheets and 1-4 different scales per sheet, though there is no limit to the number.

I did not say previously, in this thread, anything untruthful, though there was some opinion which might be moot.

I now think that Chris D is mainly working in 3D or working a lot in 3D.

I do not use VW for 3D, only for 2D. I think 2D was the need in the post that started the thread, or at least I assumed that.

I do not use layer links at all. But to get the functionality I described, the use of saved sheets and an understanding of the options provided therein is needed.

Best,

Donald

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Donald, I'm intrigued. Without layer links, how do you arrange the items on the model layers on your sheet?

Say for instance you have a two storey building. You draw a simple plan for each on a separate layer. The plans are directly on top of each other, so that you can paste-in-place etc. You want your plans side by side on your title sheet - how do you achieve this without layer links?

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Chris, now I understand what you are saying. But I guess we just disagree about the relative difficulty of using multiple layers with links and possibly different scales, as opposed to the AutoCAD viewport/paperspace layouts system.

Viewports are nifty and easy to use, it is true (clipping the view is their best feature), but I often have to reset the scale and deal with lineweight issues, etc. I am used to setting up sheets using the VectorWorks method, and I don't find it at all cumbersome. In a way, the lack of the paperspace concept in VectorWorks makes things a little more straightforward - you have one space with a rectangle denoting what portion of it will print. Howevever, the ability to define a printer target and setup using ACAD layouts in paperspace is a definite advantage over VW, which is why I've asked NNA to consider saving sheet size and printer setup information along with the other Saved Sheets data.

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quote:

Originally posted by Chris D:

You want your plans side by side on your title sheet - how do you achieve this without layer links?

Personally, I would have a Full scale base sheet layer with my base sheet, then I would have my 1st floor plan layer visible at 1/8" or whatever. My second floor plan layer would be invisible, but I would layer link the second floor plan into the first floor layer. Then I would unlock the Second floor layer link and move it to the location that I want it in. It will stay there, and it will update with the changes to the second floor plan in the second floor layer. It took me awhile to realize that you can move layer links, and they will retain their new position and update, unlike workgroup references that revert back to their origional position after updating. [Frown]

I will have to say, as has been said many many times, VW biggest weakness is not having the ability to crop layer links and workgroup references. If NNA can acomplish this one thing, VW would become a much more productive tool, at least for me [big Grin]

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Mike and Chris, but asking VW to show multiple scales without layer links is like asking AutoCAD to set up a sheet without viewports. They are really conceptually equivalent - AutoCAD just has the edge with regard to some features.

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nikhon,

Are you interested in just drawing with a CAD program? That's how your original question sounds to me, but I think most of the replies are talking about something more complicated.

I've been working with VectorWorks for 5 years, doing all my construction drawings with it, and also doing a lot of things I would never have considered doing with AutoCad, and yet I've never used the Layer Links or Workgroup References that these people are arguing about. I used Viewports and Xrefs in AutoCad, of course, but only because there was no alternative.

AutoCad always felt to me like programming a computer to produce drawings. A lot of people use VectorWorks that way (especially people that started out in AutoCad), but with VectorWorks there's another option. Using it the way I do, VectorWorks feels like drawing with a pencil, only with extreme accuracy and unlimited erasing, re-drawing, and cut-and-paste. Like the pencil, it offers such basic drafting concepts as line weight and scale (I know AutoCad has line weight capability now, but I've yet to see anyone use it).

VectorWorks is so easy to use, and so flexible, that I completely stopped using paper after switching to it. I do my preliminary design sketching on the computer, even while discussing the design with a client. When surveying an existing building, I take along an old laptop and draw my field notes in VectorWorks. I use it to create business forms, advertising copy, CD labels and envelopes, and generally anything involving display or print-out of text and graphics. I draw full-color elevations and even isometric views (drawn in 2D) with a photo of the site behind.

As far as ease of learning, it took me about a week to feel confident with VectorWorks, and within a few weeks I was more productive with it than I was after many years of working with and customizing AutoCad.

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Say for instance you have a two storey building. You draw a simple plan for each on a separate layer. The plans are directly on top of each other, so that you can paste-in-place etc. You want your plans side by side on your title sheet - how do you achieve this without layer links? >

Chris,

My method may be atypical, but it is accurate and fast.

I work with plans stacked on different layers when I'm doing the initial layout. This allows the paste in place relationship which is very handy. Whether or not I put more than one floor plan on a page depends on the specific plan, its size and shape. Sometimes more than one will not fit on the page at an appropriate scale. If a sheet will only accomodate one plan, then I will leave the plans stacked for the rest of the job. If I really want more than one plan on a sheet, I leave them on separate sheets until the basic layout of each plan is well developed.

Maybe you have seen that at some point, your drawing package is no where near done, but the plans have settled down and the changes you make to them are local edits.

So at this point I move the plans.

(btw, this is most easily done if you have kept everything on one layer as I have talked about before---that is categorizing the plan information on different layers can get in the way, in particular if you use different scales for the information pertaining to one drawing).

This does leave the problem that there will be some revisions and their consequences need to get checked on both plans. Each plan must have a common point of reference. Usually there are many---grid lines, exterior walls, building corners, etc. Now instead of past in place, you copy the things you want to overlay onto the other plan *along with* some common point of reference, then group it all, then drag it across the page or cut, pan, paste, and postion the common reference. This leaves the objects you want to overlay in proper position. And, since they are in a group, they won't get mixed up with the loose objects of the other plan, unless you want them too.

It is not as instantaneosly gratifying as paste in place, but it is only a couple extra steps, and it is happening at a time when the plans are in good shape and mainly getting tweaked. However, should you need to do a big revision, the method works just the same. Just copy and drag across a bigger portion of the source plan. Sometimes for checking I give a color to the plan information I am overlaying, but changing the pen fore color in the attributes pallette.

So this way I do not use layer links. Also, I often set the plan scale to give the most readable and functional plan size on the drawing. No need to limit them to 1/4 or 1/8. Whatever fits best. I sort of disregard the ease of scaling paper output. Don't want to encourage it really.

Sorry for the long post. Hope it was clear. I believe you can do absolutely first rate working drawings with VW. But in my opinion while some of the tools and structures in the program are wonderful, others I think will make the process overly complicated without yielding better results so I avoid them. My drawings are very complex and detailed. But I make a point of keeping the process simple and flowing. Its hard to budget the time for very thorough drawings if you have to spend a lot of time working the program. Work the drawing instead, I say.

Best,

Donald

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