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Embarrasing VW failures

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The other day I sat in front of a class of design students intending to demonstrate using the various Split, Trim, Combine options. Instead, through an increasingly unpleasant 20 minutes, I managed to demonstrate how flakey and unreliable these tools are in VW.

A 4 week old Lab of brand new Dells running XP with VW11.1 freshly installed

2D resolution set to Very High, Snap radius 1 Pixel.

As making edges Tangent to arcs is a fundamental part of making manufactured objects the task was:

New file. Scale 1:10

Start a circle, and Tab to set a radius of 250.

Place a Locus 700 below the centre of the circle.

Turn on Tangent snaps and drag a line from the circle to the locus.

Repeat for the other side to make an inverted "teardrop".

Turn the circle and tangents into a single polyline for extruding.

Demonstrating the Trim tool on the small sector of circle between the tangents reliably deleted ALL the circle insead of trimming it to the tangents. The lines were not snapped to the circle DESPITE having been originated FROM it.

Failure 1

I explain that despite the intended function, no software is perfect, and that the updated version has improved the trim tool.

On many subsequent tries of the same task, on different systems with different versions including VW11.5, the trim tool fails about 40% of the time.

Next try

Using the Split tool to split the circle between the the tangents I explain that we should be able to trim each end of the resulting Arc back to the tangents. The Split tool repeatedly just fails to split the circle.

Failure 2

I offer the doubtful looking students the explanation that "it usually works". I'm feeling a bit stupid.

On many subsequent tries of the same task on different systems with different versions including VW11.5 the split tool not only fails about 10% of the time, but sometimes actually RESIZED THE RESULTING ARC to, variously, 245, 248, 239.3, etc. On one subsequent retest I discover that the circle that was made by tabbing in 250 was actually 250.02(!?)

Eventually I give up and use the Split by line option.

Next try

Not very confident, I attempt to use the Trim tool on each side of the arc to trim back to the tangents on each side.

First side works. Students are looking less doubtful.

Other side; deletes the entire arc. Students are now asking me why it worked on one side but not the other. I have nothing to offer them. Now I'm feeling really uncomfortable.

Failure 3

On many subsequent tries of the same task on different systems with different versions including VW11.5 the Trim tool fails 90% of the time. Even after removing the tangents and re-snapping new lines to the Arc, it still fails most of the time. The only thing I could do to make it trim reliably was to add as little as 0.0000000001 to the radius.

Next try

I now show them the Combine/Connect tool and explain that it can be used to trim, combine, connect etc.

In the third mode I start at the arc on one side and drag to the adjacent tangent.

Nothing happens.

Try again starting at the tangent and this time it works.

Students want to know why it didn't work the first time. I offer weakly that some functions need to be done in a particular order. They have "well how are we supposed to know which?" looks on their faces.

Now the other side. almost NO combination of options will succesfully join the remaining tangent to the curve of the polyline. About 5% success rate there, and no repeatability.

Failure 4

On many subsequent tries of the same task on different systems with different versions including VW11.5 this operation fails about 80% of the time.

Now each of these "steps" has not been just "one go".

Each step has taken several goes and re-goes to get it to work at all. After my considerable advocacy of VW to the Faculty and the students about what how appropriate VW is for our needs, and how it's a much better solution than ACad, I'm looking pretty shaky. The students are now looking openly resentful and want to know how, if I cant get the tools to work, are they expected to? "What is the use of these tools", they ask, if they only work sometimes or not at all?

But the pain's not over yet.

Having failed to get the Trim, Split, Combine/connect tools to yield a simple arc with 2 tangents that can be composed into a polyline for a later extrusion, I explain that there are other options to make the polyline that we require.

Next try

I explain that, as we ultimately want a surface, we can use the surface commands to get the desired outcome.

Selecting the Circle and the tangents, I remind them that the Combine into Surface command will use boundary objects to make a new surface. OK, I use that inside the margin of the tangents and circle and make a new "sector" surface, then, I say, that can be added to the original circle with the Add Surface command.

Guess what?

Failure 5

Intsead of adding properly, there is a sliver on only one HALF of what was the margin between the circle and the "sector" surface where the surfaces have not met. The students are now either laughing openly or muttering about what crap this is.

I undo back to the original circle and tangents, move the objects and zoom a little to centre them on the screen, remake the sector, and re add it to the circle. THIS time it works and I have a polyline.

"What did you do"? they ask, "why did it work the second time" and not the first?.....................................................

Well: WHY?

I don't know.

Why would repeating the same sequence of construction and use of tools and commands work sometimes and not others?

I have subsequently tested this task repeatedly on 6 different combinations of machines, operating systems, and versions of VW including11.5 to try to offer my students an explanation, and the only thing that was repeatable was that sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't.

The split tool failing to split the circle, the tangent snap failing to snap to the circle, the combine connect sometimes joining the tangent to the arc, the erratic surface commands; in this task were all unreliable AT BEST.

It's not as if this was a big ask; joining a pair of tangents to an arc is nearly as basic as geometry gets.

Why is VW such a flakey piece of software? Or am I misguided; is all CAD software this unreliable?

What am I supposed to tell the students?

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As I was not in front of a class I tried your exercise and it was very interesting. Not all my results were the same as yours, sometimes I got different errors (eg. it may be me but I couldn't get a tangent to come off the left side of the circle downwards).

Though I abhor ACAD I tried the same exercise there and it went without a hitch.

Note: units were milimeters.

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Although I haven't tried the experiment, I've had to endure using vectorworks for 6 years now and can confirm that it is a very poorly written piece of software that is at best buggy,I've experienced the problems in the experiment in actual practice, daily.I use only the most basic tools in the package because I find most of those "cool new tools" in every release work only part of the time if at all.Its not my video driver, its just crappy software. Why would you keep adding new features when the core features that are basic to any 2d cad package are totally unreliable, specifically the trim commands and the filet tool, those are the worst but the others freak out for no apparent reason on occasion too.(I can say the line tool has been pretty reliable).Fix the basic stuff, then add new cool features, thats how I would do it.Forget about the 3d, make the 2d work flawlessly,Cinema 4D is a wonderful piece of software, just use that for making 3D models, isn't there a plugin for that? Wait, that broke when 11.5 came out, my bad. (Sorry, I started to rant here, very cathartic) The term "polishing a turd" comes to mind when I think of vectorworks.I use it because thats what my employer has chosen for us to use.I currently use vectorworks on a windows machine but also used it on the mac platform for 3 years as well,I find it to be less of a problem with windows.I could go on for hours but I'm tired.Read my follow up for a wonderful alternative.

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Anybody looking for a good alternative that is 2D only should try Smartsketch by intergraph.Dont let the name fool you its a wonderfully streamlined piece of software that does alot, and it works. From what I understand it is the 2D conponent of SolidEdge.It has viewports, it supports interactive excel worksheets, symbols, everything. I can do everything I do with vectorworks with this program.Pay attention to the constraints, that is how they are supposed to work, same goes for the detail blowup tool, that is a viewport.I can't say enough good things about this program.Free download to try at the intergraph website,same price range as vectorworks.Vectorworks programming people should all go and download this program immediately.Sorry, no mac version.

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I stopped using the v8 Trim tool long ago because of the low reliability rate Nicholas mentioned. I thought that reliability problem was solved with later versions, so I'm surprised to hear of it in v11.

In place of the Trim tool I started using the Trim command instead, which I found to be 100 percent reliable. I taught one of my Function keys to issue the Trim command and then the Cut command, and I use that constantly, deleting the unwanted ends of trimmed lines after the trim. I can draw a temporary line and use it as the trimming line. Or if a line that's already there looks like it'll do the trick, I can still use my Function key, followed by another Function key that issues the Paste-in-Place command.

VectorWorks certainly has more of these reliability issues than Autocad, in fact probably more than any other software I use. But that's not to say it's flakier in general. The upside is that it's extremely resourceful, efficient, and accomodating. I can simply avoid using the few features I know to be unreliable, and still there are plenty of ways to get the job done. Autocad's flakiness, which bothers me a hundred times more, is that it systematically prevents me from doing what I want by any method, and that every procedure is cumbersome and involves two or three times as many clicks as it should, and that it constantly requires me to do the simple arithmetic and clerical work that the computer could handle for me so easily. VectorWorks is brilliant in all those areas.

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Oh, I was just reminded, by another thread, that there IS an application more prone to features not working the way they're supposed to. In fact it's much, much worse than VectorWorks in that respect. I'm talking about Sketchup.

But still I love Sketchup, and use it for everything except construction drawings. As with VectorWorks, and particularly with v8 and earlier, compared to their CAD contemporaries, it's well worth putting up with a little misbehavior from a program that does so much more, and does it so much more easily, than any other.

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I can now reproduce the Split by Line resizing problem.

Once the cursor has come close enough to the circle to change from the cross to the arrow shape, if the mouse is moved at all while clicking the arc will be resized by a random amount.

If it's moved inwards the arc will enlarge, and if the cursor is on the inside of the circle and moves outwards, the arc will get smaller. :-O

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Regardless of the above whiners (whose motives are suspect), it seems to me that the overwhelming majority of VW's functions work as advertised. I've had my share of problems, but most of them have been my own fault.

I learned and used AutoCad back in the late 80's. Been using VW since V4. This is for design, presentation, including 3D renderings and animation, as well as full CD production.

Our architectural practice is AutoCad-based, except for me. We send and receive consulting civil, mechanical, electrical, and structural engineers' AutoCad (various versions) base drawings. Very smart AutoCad architects in our office receive the engineers' drawings, which we must integrate into our AutoCad sets, coordinate and publish. Many issues and time-consuming problems. These include version incompatibility, font incompatibility, arcane pen table files, not to mention scale and printing problems. The smart people do solve these problems - every one of them. But, it takes them gobs of time. Even printing AutoCad in our office has presented major time-consuming problems. It's the scale issues and screwy text problems that make me wonder why these folks choose to do manual drafting on a computer.

I use AutoCad engineers analogously, and export VW .dwgs to them. It seems I have fewer problems with the engineers and their drawings than do the smart AutoCad people in our office. (By the way, I think to use AutoCad today, you have to be a lot smarter than I am.)

VW developers have done a superb job in delivering a solid, reliable cross-platform product, and have removed bugs and enhanced the functionality many-fold over the years. Tech support is fantastic, and this discussion group is an invaluable resource. There are, no doubt, thousands of satisfied customers. So far there are about three who are dissatisfied.

[ 03-23-2005, 10:52 PM: Message edited by: ErichR ]

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Originally posted by ErichR:

Regardless of the above whiners (whose motives are suspect), it seems to me that the overwhelming majority of VW's functions work as advertised.


Apart from having no manners, you appear to be both paranoid and deluded.

Apart from the previous statement, I have never, in this board or in any other, felt the need to stoop to perjorative terms like "whiners".

As for "suspect motives": what the hell are you talking about? Do you think I'm some sort of "subversive agent for the enemy" trying to stir up unrest? Get a grip....

My post related EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED when I demonstrated basic 2D functions "as advertised".

The trim tool IS FLAKEY. It has been flakey ever since it was introduced, and after the several successive versions since, it is still flakey.

In the task described I have repeated (in a new VW11.5 file), the same steps over and over, and FIFTY PERCENT of the time the trim tool will fail.

Maybe you are not publicly accountable for your work, but I can tell you I was embarrassed and humiliated to have to sit in front of a group of paying students and have the product WHICH I WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR INTRODUCING INTO THE FACULTY fail and fail and fail again.

It's not as if I was asking it to do something testing, or for which it was not intended; simply to reliably work "as advertised"

Quite apart from the many thousands of dollars I have personally spent over the years faithfully purchasing each update, I have been a consistent advocate for this product. Additionally, I have always acknowleged on this board the difficult and complex task that the programmers have in writing code, and have always done my best to help others on this board solve problems when I could. In fact, my last post describes the results of my unpaid "Beta testing" to identify one of the bugs I described.

The recent release of 11.5 has brought a stream of new problems to this board. If you believe VW functions as advertised then you haven't been paying attention have you erich?

I was upset when I made that post but I had a right to be.

The product we had paid for at my behest had very publicly failed to work "as advertised" (in a way that I have never seen in, for example, Photoshop or Illustrator) and I, as the De Facto representative of NNA was the one copping it.

Moreover, if the most constructive thing you can offer to a discussion is to call names and make bizzare accusations, maybe you'd best take a pill and have a lie down 'till the bad men go away.

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I think it is unfair to say there are only 3 dissatisfied customers. This is the whole purpose of the tech board to discuss problems and seek NNA's advice and to develope VW as customers want it. There would be no point just having a board for praising VW.

Whilst I prefer VW I believe AutoCAD to be more accurate [with option for lines fixed to draw only horizontally and vertically, for instance] and unfortunatly AutoCAD is the industry standard in the UK. So it is good that VW has developed the import / export function which makes it less problematic in file exchange. A few years ago I worked for a practice who used VW and exported files to AutoCAD for construction and unfortunately a road was built in the wrong place!

The biggest failure for me is that NNA have not recognised the need for the new sketch mode in all industry disciplines and should be introduced in the Standard version and not just Architect.

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It seems you can not add any criticisms or negetive discussion points to this site as you are all die hard Vectorworkers!

The product can only improve if we voice our concerns and surely there is always room for improvement!?

Mike to answer your points:

1. This was some years ago and done on version 8 which did not export/import too well to AutoCAD. All other consultations were working in AutoCAD except the architects. The client and contractor insisted that AutoCAD was the CAD package for the job - which is pretty normal in the UK. In export / import, somehow the road moved by 500mm. Good job someone pushed for improvements in this area as version 11 is far better at import / export.

2. The construction drawings were emailed between consultants in .dwg format - again pretty standard in the UK.

Alan thanks for your insight on constrained and unconstrained lines - great help - I am sure it was not on earlier versions but I could be wrong.

Another great use of this site - for learning - if we are allowed to use the site as much.

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Drawing constraint is as simple as holding the Shift key down when you draw - this will constrain your lines to 0?, 30?, 45?, 60?, 90? and your selected Custom Angle on the Attribute Pallette (plus the the other quadrants of course).

You can also select Constrained or Unconstrained mode when drawing lines or multiple lines. I will concede that this mode should also work on polygons and walls but doesn't! (NNA - please add this!)

[ 03-24-2005, 06:53 AM: Message edited by: mike m oz ]

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I frequent three different Tech Boards: VW, C4D Cafe and Artlantis. C4D users seem to be the most enthusiastic about their product, the Artlantis forum has deteriorated to unproductive name calling. Hopefully we won't end up at the Artlantis end of the spectrum.

I've used VW since V6 and Autocad 14 thru Arch Desktop 2004 (plus VIZ). I also use C4D and Artlantis. They ALL have strengths and weaknesses.

Problems over the years exporting to Autocad are mainly the result of AUTODESK protecting the DWG coding. This has forced other developers (I think it was called the DWG Alliance?) to try to "reverse engineer" to export to AC. This is an ongoing effort, as the code changes with each new AC release.

This site is called a "Tech Board", but it is really a "User's Forum". More response from NNA to the problems we encounter would reduce the feeling of "yelling in the dark".


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Originally posted by ErichR:

Regardless of the above whiners (whose motives are suspect), ...

One thing that I very much like about this discussion board is that the majority of users are respectful of each other. Opinions are usually limited to discussing the software and not people.

I welcome open discussion about the software. I do not appreciate derogatory commentary on the users who share their time, knowledge, and concerrns.

The majority of us are professionals. I hope that we will strive to always conduct ourselves appropriately.

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Originally posted by mike m oz:


You can also select Constrained or Unconstrained mode when drawing lines or multiple lines. I will concede that this mode should also work on polygons and walls but doesn't! (NNA - please add this!)

You can draw walls and polygons using the snap to angle constraint. Whatever value you have in the Snap to Angle constraint will be aplicable to walls and polygon's, just as lines.

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Just because people haven't posted on here, doesn't mean we haven't read it. Unfortunately, there are only a few of us available to moderate the board. Personally, I've had to prioritize with other duties. Usually I attend to the message board outside of working hours, but I haven't been able to lately for other reasons. I'm sorry that you feel we've been quiet. The discussion has been interresting to follow. I just haven't been able to get a big list of answers worked out to post in here. I have attended to the message board with as much time as possible with posts containing a higher triage.

I will work on this post more in depth later today, possibly emailing some of the people having problems with VectorWorks.

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Originally posted by Katie:


Just because people haven't posted on here, doesn't mean we haven't read it.


One of the many advantages afforded to VW users is the responsiveness of NNA to problems and requests.

I have been talking to one of the engineers who responded privately to the problems I uncovered and they have identified at least some of the bugs.

VW may have bugs which ought not be there, but NNA usually do act responsibly (and responsively) to deal with them even if it is not immediately apparent.



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Nicholas; That is a very good point. Many of us communicate with NNA by phone or email in conjunction with issues that we post on this Board.

It would be courtious of all, to publicly acknowledge the efforts and answers that are afforded us in private, by the hard working staff at NNA.

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Katie - I need to clarify the point I was trying to make on constraints.

Line drawing has a Constrained Mode which allows you to only draw on the angles set in Angle Constraint on the Attribute Pallette. This works really well as it absolutely prevents marginal straying from the selected angles. (I would like to see the Shift key toggle the constraint off though - the opposite of what it does in the Unconstrained Mode.)

I think there would be some advantages to also having this Constrained and Unconstrained Mode choice with the Polygon Tool and the Wall Tool. A 'Wish List' request if you like.

[ 03-25-2005, 09:58 PM: Message edited by: mike m oz ]

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I started with MiniCAD 4 almost 12 years ago and have been exporting to DXF and then DWG constantly since. In one of the larger offices I worked in I did all of the exporting for the consultants and the Government Authority we did a fair chunk of our work for. Also all of the importing of the DXF and DWG drawings.

In all of that time I have never experienced an 'object' shift' problem like you have described going either way. In fact it sounds to me like VW became the scapegoat for a human error.

Even if the error occurred someone should have picked up the discrepancy in the checking process - a dimensional shift of that magnitude would have been obvious as soon as you compared the architectural to the engineering drawings.

It is always the Architect who is responsible for co-ordinating the work of all disciplines and ensuring that the consultants have it correct - to leave it up to the consultants is foolhardy and costly, as the firm you worked for obviously found out.

[ 03-26-2005, 04:03 AM: Message edited by: mike m oz ]

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