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4 weeks after the Switch

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Some may remember my post a few weeks back asking about working on both VW and Acad, and employablity after.

Well I did buy a new copy of VW 11 and have been drafting on it stedily since. Slowly though.

I cannot believe the loss of efficiency. I am fighting back screams of frustration daily. Its the little things that drive you nuts. Having to try three times to make a command do what you want, getting used the selection tricks.

I've got a pile of projects coming up due, I am drafting at a snails pace and going mad. What would have taken a few minutes on Acad a month ago is taking 3 times as long as I regain my VW sea legs.

Okay enough wining.

Did I jump in two quick? I've read the posts by others who recommend doing some simple projects and gaining ability that way, while continuing to "work" on their current CAD.

Should I buy on the the books out there? I am I trial and error computer user myself but I am finding I don't have time for that process right now.

I can't go back to Acad, its just not a good option, but can anyone recommend some processes, tricks or moral support to help me through this transition?

Thanks in Advance for your input,


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Instead of scrabbling around in the dark just invest US$120 and buy yourself a copy of Jonathon Pickups 'Essential VectorWorks' manual.

Any new program is difficult to learn and 90% of the battle is finding out what's where, and what you use to do what.

You will only become productive when you get to the stage of thinking about what you are doing rather than how to do it. Jonathon's manual will help you on both fronts.

The philosophy of VectorWorks is quite different to AutoCads, but then so is Revits. I know of one Revit adoptee who is still struggling with that change after 6 months - he can't understand why I keep suggesting to him that he invest in training and/or some training resources. I have come to the conclusion that he is just plain stupid. (Selecting Revit rather than VectorWorks in the first place says that.)

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"Why pay more on manuals, you dont need this in autocad , I didnt need this in autocad" is maybe what youre thinking,but autocad is not as clever as vectorworks just more awkard and expensive.

Actually now your ripe for Jonathans manuals.

You will read and start realizing that this painful part was neceesary.

I do some training at times and the best to train are the ones like you who have ground it out for a while.

I was personally trained by Jonathan here in New Zealand and his manuals are for you.

As Mike said probably the autocad mentality is intruding on your progress.

So many here who have switched say they would never go back.

Its a bit like learning a new langauge to really progress is not to speak the language but to think it.

Sure I know this can sound like platitutes but is is the case.

Hope you hang in because you wont regret it.

Kind regards Brendan

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It may seem almost contradictory to take "valuable" drafting time to spend on training, but it will give you a break from the frustration and *guaranteed* you'll be faster when you get back.

I just purchased both Essential and Architect from Jonathon. I've been using VW+A for nearly ten years, so I'm pretty familiar with the program. I skimmed through both manuals in less than an hour and improved my productivity by another 5?10%. They would easily double your production.

When I first started, I had notes and keyboard shortcuts and "flow charts" taped all around my desk. Just by forcing myself to study the keyboard shortcuts, I discovered ways to do things. (You mean, I can Convert a PIO to a Group? And then edit it in ways not possible from the pallet? Cool. etc, etc.)

The most valuable thing I could share with you comes from my younger days learning my first foreign language. For several weeks, one is constantly "translating" in his head from English. Suddenly, with just barely enough syntax and vocabulary to get by, the day comes one realizes he's *thinking* in the new language. Progress from that point is rapid, almost easy.

As much as you can, stop trying to translate from ACad. In VW, you're drawing shapes, not lines. Zoom your thinking out a little. Think in shapes, objects, groups. Find the resources and tricks to get those components on screen. I frequently draw a detail in 3D because I can see if they're any mistakes in my design AND I can quickly develop various views with Viewports.

Don't get discouraged. Besides, you can always move to the beautiful Wasatch Front. Skiing is great and we desperately need another CAD jockey willing to get up to speed in VW.

Good luck,

A couple minutes later after rereading your post: Don't give in to the temptation to work in one while learning the other. The best, fastest way to learn a new language is by immersion. You're already wet, stay in the pool and you'll learn to swim quickly.

[ 02-18-2005, 01:54 AM: Message edited by: Travis ]

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there is also a CD tutorial out there called Vectorworks Foundation one For AutoCad users that speciallizes in working in it as an autocad user. Two seasoned Autocad users here have changed over in the past couple weeks after changing to Mac platform at the same time, and both said it was pretty useful in learning at the least all the basic commands...as that is generally the biggest frustration, knowing what you want to do, but not finding the commands, especially "sans" command prompt......

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you said:

"As much as you can, stop trying to translate from ACad. In VW, you're drawing shapes, not lines. Zoom your thinking out a little. Think in shapes, objects, groups."

That sounds like a very good suggestion. I've been studying VW, after years of working with AutoCad. Although I'm now fairly familiar with the VectorWorks' commands, I'm slow as mud with the program. I'm still drawing as I did with AutoCad, in lines. I'll give your suggestion a try. Thanks.


**sorry, the quote was missing from the first post**

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Thanks for all the input. You are all right its is worth the $ in order to save the frustration and time.

I will be going with Jonothan's books (does he have you all on staff? are you getting a cut?). I tried learning Acad from a worthless book and it was just painful. This student lifestyle is expensive though, new software, new manuals. Thank God its only 2 more months.

So if your drawing shapes instead of lines does that change your class (layer) system. Would you have a class for each type of material in section, with its fill set already? Something like a thick elevation outline would be on its own class,

school taught me to draft on CAD as if I was doing it manually line by line. Doing it that way you only save time by copying and easy hatching compared to manual drafting.

Good input, thanks again.


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Please keep us informed about your progress. I'm in the same boat and would like to improve my speed. Like yourself, I'm about 3-4 times slower with VW than with AutoCad.

I'd especially like to know how drawing shapes instead of lines is faster.

I was able to cut down on frustration with those smart points by turning off "grid snaps" and turning off the full screen cursor. They make the cursor jump around a lot.


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i would turn off Snap to Grid. But leave on the smart cursor, it does make it quicker.

An example I use in my Manual shows you how drawing shapes is quicker, but the simple answer is, to draw a rectangle with 4 lines requires 8 clicks, to draw the same rectangle with a rectangle takes 2 clicks! It has to be quicker to draw with shapes.

To draw a complex shape as a combination of lines and curves not only takes time, but as I helped a client understand yesterday, it can contain errors. Drawing the object as a shape and then editing it removes the ability to create the errors and it faster, much faster...

if you are still not convinced, i can make a short movie to show you...

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Okay here is an example of shape vs. Lines problem I am working on now.

I am doing up a section cut of a precast concrete wall.

Acad as taught:

Draw line for exterior edge

Offset for edge of insulation

offset for other edge of insulation

offset for interior edge

Draw line for Top/Bottom

Cut and Draw lines for projections

Add hatch

Vector 1st time:

Draw as above, trace with poly, add hatch.

Vector 2nd time:

Draw poly for outside section w hatch

-lots of editing handles (painful)

Draw poly for inside

Add line here and there

Using vector 'seemed' to take a long time fooling with poly handles and hard to stay accurate and straight. That would inprove to a degree with pratice.

Am I on the right track?


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Get into the habit of thinking shape first and line second.

If you use lines to draw your basic shape use the Compose command (Tool Menu) to turn it into a poly rather than trace over it with the poly tool.

Discover the following tools on the 2D Drawing Pallette:

- Offset tool (it works on lines and shapes)

- Double Line tool (with the cavity option it is a multi line tool)

- Double Polygon tool (with the cavity option it is a multi line tool)

Have a look at the Surface commands under Tool Menu and become familiar with what they do:

- Add surface

- Clip Surface

- Intersect Surface

- Combine into Surface

Using Clip surface can make getting hatch areas pretty simple. Also the 2D Reshape tool can 'Hide' edges so that if need be you can make up complex areas with simpler units. (I use it a lot to deal with 2D road intersections.)

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I think I'm beginning to understand what these guys are talking about.

The idea is to create an overall shape and then add and subtract smaller shapes until you end up with the shape you want. No lines involved.

For example, let's say you want to make a floor plan with overall dimensions of 35'x65' and lots of ins and outs. So you make a rectangle 35'X65'. Place in on the workspace. Let's say there's a 15'x12' notch in the plan you're trying to draw. So you superimpose a 15'x12' rectangle onto the 35'x65' rectangle and subtract it using clip surface under the tools menu.

When you're finished, you'll have the outline of the floor plan which you can then offset, say 6" to inside, and have exterior polygons which you can convert to walls. Then you can make skinny rectangles which will be the interior walls. These can be merged with the exterior walls (I'm not sure about the sequence here).

I'm going to experiment with this concept and see how it works. I recently drew up a residential floor plan using the line method and it took me about 9 hours. I could have done it in Autocad in less than 3.

I think the shapes idea also works in Autocad, but you have to use the trim tool instead of clip surface. I never thought of using it when I worked in Autocad, even though I used the concept when working with Autocad solids, that is, adding and subtracting solids from eachother.

best of luck.


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You can draw walls that way. But why not use the Wall Tool. It will draw your walls at whatever orientation you like. You can either drag the tool and watch the menu bar for dimension or you can enter the dimension into the menu bar and the tool will snap to that.

If you want to show materials such as plaster or drywall, you can show them by setting up the Wall Tool with Cavities.

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Kevin's point is most pertinent.

Use the Wall Tool for walls even when you want to only work in 2D . The ability to 'slide' walls with the connections remaining connected, and insert doors, windows can be a real time saver.

An added advantage is that if you decide to convert to 3D down the track the walls of your building are already partly modelled.

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You can draw walls that way. But why not use the Wall Tool. It will draw your walls at whatever orientation you like. You can either drag the tool and watch the menu bar for dimension or you can enter the dimension into the menu bar and the tool will snap to that.


Thanks for the advice. To be honest, I'm not planning to use walls right now because I'd like to avoid all 3-D until later. I thought that Tyler would want to use walls however.

Also, I'm trying to avoid using the data display bar because entering data is what's slowing me down in the first place. Maybe later after more familiarity. In Autocad, data is entered at the command line and is much easier.

Also, in Autocad, hatches can be inserted into any enclosed area. It doesn't have to be a polyline. In earlier versions, we would have to trace the area with a polyline.

From a Builders perspective,we move from 2d to 3d and then to construction by analysing Data, The ability to move back and forth at design stage saves us a lot of time wasting and money, designers and clients are much happier.

Chris, I can't argue that 3-D is not great for visualizing the design. And if it doesn't complicate the drafting, then it would be worth it. I don't think it was that easy in Autocad.


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You miss the point about walls - they are a 2D / 3D hybrid 0bject. If you don't want to use them in 3D you don't have to.

in the 2D mode you can still:

- Insert doors and windows with two mouse clicks

- Delete doors and windows with one click

- Move doors and windows along the wall by dragging them or move them precisely through the OIP.

- Join and unjoin walls with simple mouse movements.

- Through the use of cavities define the component parts of the wall and apply hatches

- Deal with complex component joins with the cavity join tool

You need to get out of the AutoCAD mode of 'electronic drafting' and into the 'object' mode. In the end it will make your work easier and improve your productivity.

One of the most valuable attributes of VW is that you can choose to work in 2D or 3D or somewherre in between without compromising what it is you do. This versatility and flexibility means it can be used for electronic drafting, sophisticated drawing and 3D modelling as you need and want. Use this to your advantage.

[ 02-21-2005, 04:03 AM: Message edited by: mike m oz ]

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Your points are well taken. However, this discussion began over the issue of speed, that is, just getting the walls (or other objects) in there as fast as possible.

Both Tyler and I are having problems getting up to speed. If I'm 3-4 times faster on Autocad than on VectorWorks, then something is wrong.

The question is, what? Drawing with walls isn't going to speed us up because they are placed no faster than just plain lines (although they are easier to work with later).

I think the problem is with data entry. I'm not sure that practice with the data display bar will help, but in time it might.

The approach of using shapes and clipping or adding them sounds interesting and might just be the solution we're looking for. This is what I'm planning to explore.

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Walls are quicker than lines once you become used to them.

What I do is draw them as plain walls in the Schematic design stage. ie as a single element with a fill.

When it comes to doing the working drawings I change them to show their compnents by using the eyedropper tool. For each wall type you change one section of a wall to the way you want it and then by using the eyedropper tool you can pick up the graphic attributes of this section of wall and drop them into all the rest.

This becomes simpler if you have used different classes for each wall type. By going to Active Class Only you can select all of them and with one click change their appearance.

It is always hard when you are trying to change work habits but it will become easier with time and you won't want to go back.

Hope this helps.

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I am with Mike on the wall tool. It can be a little finiky I've found, especially not being familiar with it but I can see the value.

On the Data entry part while drawing a polyline I've found that after tabbing and entering the first point set, when I tab for the next segment of line tab spits me to Length box instead of back to X axis box. This gets to be a pain as I am haveing to tab around to much.

David maybe you'll agee with this. If we could just enter "x=10" or "L=10" in a commad line like set up, instead of tabbing around. Could this be writen into a script?

This is a very helpful thread, thank you all.


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I agree that tabbing through can be a pain

Archicad's methodology which allows you to type in defining letters to indicate the method of drawing followed by the distance works well:

- x and y for cartesian

- a and l for polar.

I usually overcome the problem of having to tab by either:

- Setting the snap grid appropriately and 'eyeballing' it; or

- Drawing guide lines and then traceing over these.

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