What we offer

Architecture, Interior Design, Planning, Design, Home planing, AdditionsHere, we offer plans, help and advice about architecture, interior design and planning. We will answer basic quesitons for free so don't hesitate to send them.Our business is architecture, planning, interior design, and construction. We have offices in Italy and Southern California.We also offer drafting and 3D renderings to professionals. We work hourly or by fixed fee. Tell us about your project. Contact us: hmarch@hotmail.com and visit our main website http://www.hm-architects.com/

People Props for VectorworksVECTORWORKS PEOPLE PROPS A collection of props for Vectorworks using pictures of real people. To use them just load the file and select the symbol to place it in your drawing. Props take up very little file space and they always face the rendered view. To purchase them click on the links below. Use just a few of them once and the savings in time over making your own pays for them and you can use them as many times as you like. See a short video here: http://youtu.be/TfbmgxU8dJ0 NOTE: It is also available for previous versions of VW, let us know which one you need. Click on the purchase link and have People Props to use in minutes.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

REVIEW OF Vectorworks software 2020
By John Helm Architect

Vectorworks software has been the only design and drafting program we use in our architectural office for several years now.  Every year I look forward to any new improvements or new features that have been developed over the last year.  Some years ago, I started writing a review to let others see what is new and exciting.  I focus mostly on the things that concern architecture, and I concentrate on those that stand out to me. Also, I am a bit of a promoter of Vectorworks software just because I like it, so I am perhaps somewhat biased.  Don´t expect an under the hood look, I am a user not a programmer. 

What is Vectorworks software?

Vectorworks software is a BIM/design tool for all designers, architects, landscape architects, stage lighting designers, or anyone who designs almost anything.  It is a stand-alone program that supports most, perhaps all of an architect’s needs.  It will take the architect from design concept through client presentations to final construction documents without having the need for any other programs. It is designed to be intuitive and follows the concept of what you see is what you get.  It is designed to be a program that the architect himself can use without having to go back to school or hire specialized BIM designers and drafters. 

What makes Vectorworks software unique?

Vectorworks software is not just a collection of tools for the architect, it is a collection of tools for the designer. Just about anything can be designed using Vectorworks software, really anything.  What I mean by that is that there are not restrictions.  A design can be a free form chair or a tall and twisting high rise.  The 3D design tools rival many dedicated programs, the presentation tools allow one to make a very sophisticated rendering within Vectorworks software and the tools for completing construction docs makes it almost fun. 

The way it works

Vectorworks software for architects is a bit different from many other programs.  I remember the days when we used tracing paper to create a base drawing and then traced over it for the various sheets that make up a set of plans.  We would also copy or trace details etc.  Vectorworks software functions in a similar way.  Design is done on design layers that can be a bit like the old tracing paper, but it is all digital.  You turn layers on and off to create the various drawings; in addition to layers there are classes, like doors and windows, notes, dimensions etc. which can also be turned on and off.  The final documents are virtual sheets of paper just like the old days.  They are sheet layers.  We organize our sheets by topic, floor plans, elevations, and details.  But any sheet can contain anything we want with various scales and various views, perspectives and elevations.  The way sheets are formatted is simple, you see a sheet of paper with your border on the screen then using what they call viewports, you paste up your sheets, what you see is what you get/print. Copy and paste makes it easy to copy viewports on the same sheet or others, changing the scale and turning off layers and classes to create other views.  Finally, we have our list of sheets that we can scroll through for review and then print.  What you see is what you get in the final print.  That is what I like. 

Now let’s talk new and improved features.  If you want more details and a list of changes go here.
Vectorworks software photo

Faster graphics

As a model is created it becomes more and more complicated obviously, the problem is that when viewing the model in 3D the more complex the model the more work the program has to do to generate each view.  So, panning, zooming and flying around it creates more and more work for the graphics card and computer.  The thing is that on every object much of the object is not seen but it still must be generated by the program.  Vectorworks software has done some magic in order to reduce the time spent on those unseen pieces of the model.  The result is that the parts we see are generated much faster and moving around in Open GL for example is much faster and smoother.  This is a good improvement especially for those of us who like to design in 3D.  Make a change then zoom in look around quickly to see how the change affects the overall design – great stuff. 

Data manager

This one is a big deal and they have done a lot on It, so it is worth exploring.  What you make of this depends a lot on your approach to the documentation of your project.  If your output is mostly graphics, as mine is, then you might not use it so much.  However, it is a top of the pack resource for those who can use it to make lists of parts, quantity take-offs and manufacturer's numbers. It is a tool that allows you to manage all of your different forms of data – such as object parameters, custom records and IFC data – all in one place. You can consolidate and organize this data into custom Data Sheets, giving you easier access to the data that is relevant to your workflow

Location GIS

 Now all you need is your project sites address in order to place it on the map.  Geolocate and instantly incorporate street map, satellite and other imagery through ArcGIS and WMS servers.  I believe you must subscribe to one of those services to get the best views and then really learn how to use.  Once properly set up your project can be integrated into a true view of the site. 


You know you thought your relationship was going just fine, everyone was getting along even as changes were made but suddenly your partner slams the door in your face, and you don´t know why.  It is one of those things about life that no one wants to talk about or deal with.  And so, it also is with software.  The developers don´t want to admit that their beloved programs have faults and that sometimes things just get the best of them.  The door slams in your face just when you finished a series of complex operations and have not taken the few seconds it takes save your work.  It makes me so nervous that it seems every time I do something important, I click the save button.   Anyway, Vectorworks software has really done a good job on this latest version of taking that fear away.  So, you can be a lot more relaxed, the program seems very stable and it is not by accident, they have been working on it. 

History based modeling

The new feature keeps track of all the changes you made while designing that super complex curved whatever thing you are working on.  So, if you want to change a fillet or chamfer, for example, you can go back to previous versions and change them, remove them or add to them, without having to start all over.  In the past, you might have not wanted to make a change to something sort of deep in the object because it would mean having to redo a bunch of work. Now you can go ahead and make the change without losing a bunch of time – nice.  
Improved PDF import export

They have made some nice improvements but, I must complain that when one imports a group of pdf pages or sheets from a consultant, they all go into just one layer.  Hopefully they will fix this problem soon as it is a total pain to move them to layers.  The PDF file is also imported as an image, so it cannot be converted to lines or polygons.

Revit export

Last year I complained that one could import Revit drawings but not export.  This year they have included a limited bit of Revit export.  That is, it is limited to exporting 3D geometry, but it is a start and can be very useful when needing to coordinate with Revit users.

Horizontal sections

Now you can cut a horizontal section through your model.  Why not just cut a section through the model at any elevation level, good idea especially for presentations of room and furniture layouts.  Or on the real BIM show a view of say the heating and cooling duct work just below the floor above.  There are all sorts of possibilities.  
Vectorworks software photo

Data Tag improvements

Several improvements have been made in data tagging.  This is a very useful tool. Data tags allow you to display any information you wish from objects like doors, windows, fixtures and walls directly on your drawing. You can now use tags to sequence all the doors in a plan. Then use the reports tool to create a door schedule. That option applies to just about anything you can tag and if you think about it, it can really change the way you work. It's a good reason to check out the Data Tag improvements video. Also referring back to the Data Manager, once you have objects in your model, windows and doors for example, information can be extracted using the data management tools, like Data Tags, Data Sheets and Reports. 

Live Data Visualization

This is really a big thing in Vectorworks software, why, because I believe it is somewhat unique in the BIM world.  If your data is connected to or listed for various objects such as fire walls you can ask Vectorworks software to highlight them and instantly see where they are and see if any are missing.

Vectorworks software photo

The problem with BIM

Building information modeling would be great if only everyone would use it.  It takes time to build a model and it takes time to learn how to do it.  Vectorworks software makes it fairly easy and for the original designer of a project the time spent is worth it in presentations, and in creating the construction documents, and a lot of time is saved along the way.  But much is lost when the consultants are still working in 2D.  They can´t easily see the overall picture and may make mistakes placing ductwork in a location where it conflicts with the structure for example.  At least in my practice I see most consultants still working in 2D and they don´t even ask to see my model nor would they be able to really study it should they want to.
Vectorworks software photo, how BIM should be fully integrated

People props, past reviews

If you are using your model to make 3D presentations, you really need to put people in the final rendering.  People give a rendering scale and life.  Vectorworks software props are a way to add lots of things, trees, objects, and people without using up a lot of data space.  Making props for people takes a bit of time even if easy to do; each prop needs an alpha picture of a person with no background and then you can make it.  I have made a collection of them which are available here.  On the blog you can also find several of my past reviews.  Have a look at the past reviews, you might find something that was new a year or so ago that you never really realized was available. 

People props


This year’s update is not one that is full of block buster new features.  Most of the improvements are things that will impress current users as they are bits and pieces that make their work easier, more efficient, more reliable and cost effective.  Anytime the product one uses makes their work go faster they save money and thus updating to Vectorworks 2020 becomes a no brainer. 
I am most impressed by the animation update.  Because the really big wow factor when designing in 3D and making BIMs is seeing the design, the new building virtually.  You can make a video that takes the client on a walkthrough of their project using various camera angles, zooming, and speeding up or slowing down even stopping for a better look.  The amount of detail included is just up to the amount of time available, include furniture, paintings on the wall, landscaping and people to make the project seem real. 
Vectorworks software is as said above one program that does it all for the architect.  There are of course programs more dedicated to some of what Vectorworks software does and perhaps better for their specific use but who has the time or money to waste using a bunch of programs when what they really need can be had from just one box.  Architects are best off focusing on their work rather than learning to use a mix of software.

Pros and Cons

What´s a review without them.  They have not changed much from last year.

1.    Rated as one of the most complete and versatile BIM and design programs available.
2.    Equally useable for 2D and 3D
3.    Easy to learn, works the way architects work.
4.    Reasonably priced.
5.    Comes with the most used export tools for work with others including IFC, PDF, Revit (new) and DWG
6.    Has the most used import tools including DWG, PDF and Revit.
7.    It can be the only program needed for design, presentation and construction drawings.
8.    It has excellent presentation tools, including, animations, videos, photo realistic renderings, and virtual 3D walk throughs.

1.    The user base is lower than AutoCAD and Revit, so employment may be limited.
2.    A well-equipped computer is required to take full advantage of some features.

To find out more  like our Facebook page. For everything VECTORWORKS check out Novedge.
Also check out our Novedge Webinar Playlist for great Vectorworks tips and tricks.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

REVIEW OF Vectorworks 2019
By John Helm Architect

Fall is that time of year when the kids are back in school, the weather changes, it’s cooler outside, gets dark earlier and we don’t mind so much settling down to work.  What better time to have a new package of designer tricks for the software we use, or are considering buying to review. This year Vectorworks is there as it has been this time of year for several years with its own full bag of improvements, time savers and added usefulness in Vectorworks 2019.  I have been writing a yearly review of Vectorworks for a few years now and since I am an architect I focus mostly on architecture.  Also, Vectorworks is a hugely capable program so I can only cover some of the new features that impress me the most. Have a look at my past reviews for some of the other more recent improvements.  Just search my name and Vectorworks together. 

So here we go with some of my favorites not necessarily in any order, but first:

What is Vectorworks?
Vectorworks is a BIM/design tool for all designers, architects, landscape architects, stage lighting designers, or anyone who designs almost anything.  It is a stand-alone program that supports most, perhaps all of an architect’s needs.  It will take the architect from design concept through client presentations to final construction documents without having the need for any other programs. It is designed to be intuitive and follows the concept of what you see is what you get.  It is designed to be a program that the architect himself can use without having to go back to school or hire specialized BIM designers and drafters. 

What makes Vectorworks unique?
What I like about Vectorworks is that while it has most if not all the tools needed to create detailed Building Information Models (BIM) it does not limit the designer. That is an architect can use the basic tools like walls, doors and windows or any designer can go off in any direction.  Look at the ceiling below that I did some time ago for an interior designer.  It uses many of the tools that come standard with Vectorworks without having restrictions imposed by a dedicated software.  Vectorworks is I believe unique in this regard. 

Design most anything

3D Site Model Sculpting
I’ve never been that good at creating site models, even though Vectorworks has some great tools that make it fairly easy.  So, I have often wished I could just sort of sculpt the site model rather than have to work with all those messy contour lines.  Now they have made that possible.  You can create a model from contour lines or just start with a flat model.  Then push and pull the model up and down as you please to shape the site that fits your design.  This ought to make landscape architects go nuts with pleasure and architects can easily create that mound that hides the ugly parking area. 
Push and pull to model the site.

Symbols in Elevations and Sections
In Vectorworks you can easily create an elevation or section of your model.  But in the past, interior elevations were a bit messy as the sinks, toilets, cabinets, etc. would show up in full detail as would sections through doors and windows.  That made for a cluttered drawing that was not all that legible.  The way around the problem was to explode the section and then erase the unwanted detail. But, of course, this eliminated the automatic updating when changes were made to the model.  Now by selecting the amount of detail you want on each symbol the drawing is clear, uncluttered, and best of all updates along with drawing changes.  A big drawback to this is that most symbols will have to be edited in order for the various views to be simplified.  
Select the amount of detail you want

Sections and Elevations
Vectorworks uses section lines to create both sections and elevations. So, an elevation is created by making a section through the model without cutting the building as one would do making an actual section.  That seems a little odd at first but in reality, it works just fine. Several improvements have been made which allow one to show or not show various features either in front of or behind the cut plane. This is controlled mostly by turning on or off various classes.  You could for example show cars parked in front of the elevation but not anything else, or show the landscaping behind the building leaving out other objects. You can also control line weight, color, line type and fill.
Full control of elevations

VGM Vectorworks Graphic Module
Speed is the goal when working in 3D as the model can get complicated and put a heavy load on graphics processing.  Improvements in the VGM without getting into the mechanics of how it works have accomplished a very nice improvement in how fast the view updates as one zooms in and out or pans around.  It’s one of those things you only notice when it’s a problem.  That problem is pretty much gone now.

The other big new addition to the VGM, which is Vectorworks’ custom OpenGL rendering engine is that the Sheet Layers are now generated from the VGM technology itself, lending design layer navigation speed to all sheet layer navigation. The point is, 2D navigation is now much faster in Sheet Layers thanks to the VGM being applied to this area of rendering what we see on the screen.

Title Blocks
The title block on any drawing or project set is what ties all the various sheets together so while talking about them may not seem so exciting or on the edge of technology making them easy to create and use is vital to the workflow.  Small improvements and fixes have been made for 2019 to title blocks, but the biggest is having the ability to manage title blocks across multiple documents from a single file.  In other words, if your project consists of several files you can have one setup for all of them and if an issue date or sheet number for example is changed on one file it can automatically update all the other files and sheets from the file where the change is made.  Pretty cool and another time saver, not to mention mistake saver.

One border setup for several files.

QR Codes
Vectorworks lets you insert hyperlinks to other sheets, details and even websites.  This feature has been around for a while and works also on exported PDF files. They can be big time savers.  But they aren’t much use out in the field with a printed sheet.  Now those hyperlinks can be made into QR Codes which can be easily used in the field taking you to the site of a manufacturer for more information, installation instructions, photos, even videos. Just use your tablet or smart phone connected to the internet.  I imagine this might save a lot of calls to the architect’s office for clarifications on how to install that item the contractor has never seen before.  Might even save a lot of requests for substitutions.

Image Effects
Here is another handy little tool.  Wow can you believe that many or maybe most print shops will now print your “blueprints” in full living color for the same price as the old B&W.  So, we’re talking full-color renderings, right there on the plans, as well as colored lines, textures, hatches and imported photos of existing conditions or manufacturers products. But, sometimes renderings or imported images can lack contrast, be too dark or be a bit off color. In the past the only way to improve a rendered image was to export it to perhaps Photoshop, fix it and import back into Vectorworks.  With image affects you have the basic tools to adjust exposure, contrast highlights, etc. within the program.  No more back and forth import and export.
Full-color elevations

BIM Workflow design in 3D
At nearly the sketch on a napkin stage Vectorworks has many tools in 3D modeling that allow a designer to freely express himself; there is no need to use other programs such as Sketchup in the initial design phase.  You can sketch freely and then extrude, push/pull, reshape as you like and design anything from a freeform chair to a twisting skyscraper.  However, those fancy shapes don’t automatically turn into BIM models.  You will have to come back to earth to create walls, roofs and slabs using the normal tools, preset objects and forms.  The advantage is that your original design is right there within Vectorworks to be copied or traced and sometimes used as is. 

Additions and changes both in the quality of output and the speed at which it is accomplished make the overall process smoother and faster.

Space Planning
The tool has been around for several years.  But now it is incredibly powerful.  You can create a matrix of spaces with a numerical number assigned to the relationships between spaces.  That is say the kitchen should be close to the dining room, or the CEO’s bathroom should be attached to his office, whatever is important to the client.  Then Vectorworks will create a layout of basic spaces.  Or you can create your own spaces by drawing them and changing their shapes at will then define them picking any of the predefined space styles or make your own.  Basically, everything about a space can be set from the energy consumption to the paint on the wall and of course the use of the space and its size. There are just too many parameters to mention here.  Once all the spaces are set and organized in plan, walls are created almost at the push of a button and from there the model goes up.  Finish and rooms schedules can be created automatically.  The potential to speed the workflow is amazing, but it will take some study to make full use of it. 
Typical space plan layout

Data Tags
This is one of the biggest changes this year, and perhaps one of the hardest to get a grip on.  Why? Because it is so feature rich; one needs to spend some time learning how to use it and then setting it up.  It replaces the number stamp and the data stamp features, with added capabilities, for example change a start number and all the following numbers change automatically.  Tags don’t just give a number or letter to an object but they can contain lots of information about the object.  Use it to tag a window and all the information in the window symbol can be listed in an automatic window schedule.  Reports can be created for any group of objects one chooses, plumbing fixtures, furniture, whatever.  If you chose a mode, say windows it will only let you chose window symbols, click on a door and it won’t allow the tag.  Perhaps the big time saver is multi tags, it will select all the windows on a plan and then give all similar windows the same tag and give sequential tags to other windows.  Combine that with an automatically generated window schedule and wow, tagging and schedule all done in seconds.  If you are working in a BIM environment, reports can be organized to fit into IFC or Cobie formats all done automatically using the tag system, making it efficient to exchange files with designers using other CAD or management programs.  Needless to say, none of this automation comes without proper organization by the architect or managers.

 Data tags recognize the windows

What is BIM?
Sometimes it seems a hard concept to grasp, because it might describe a simple 3D model of a design idea to a fully integrated building information model that contains just about everything one might need to know about a proposed and even constructed building.  Creating a model of a project, the designer is essentially building the building or whatever he is designing virtually.  That virtual building can then be studied, dissected and used to produce any manner of information output from drawings to material lists.  If errors are found or changes made then all other aspects of the model are updated automatically.  There is no waiting for a process of passing the changes down the line to those who produce the final output.  In other words, the designer becomes more integrated into the ongoing flow of the design and construction process. On a practical level find a change that needs to be made and within hours the changes are made and minutes later show up on the construction supers tablet computer with printed plans delivered shortly thereafter.

BIM and IFC Collaboration
While creating the BIM model is straight forward enough making it useful to others not using Vectorworks requires a pretty strong degree of discipline and organization.  You can find a detailed step-by-step list on how to export to IFC in the Vectorworks help file. The project will need to all be in one file which can be an issue for very large projects and also the way some offices split projects into more than one file.  If the project is initially set up using stories for each floor the export tool will assign or that is map layers to the proper IFC layers.  If not, then layers can be assigned manually.  BIM and subsequently IFC exporting and importing is most useful when all the objects in a building are identified or mapped to IFC data types and tagged with record information.  Vectorworks has all the tools needed to accomplish this.  They have made extensive changes to IFC data mapping which give much more control over the IFC export.  But there is no avoiding the work required to identify and map data to all the objects in a building. Vectorworks does make this easier by pre-assigning typical data to most common objects.  Anything beyond the basic info must be done for each object.  It’s all great stuff given that the architect has a client willing to pay for the time it takes.
BIM is what you want it to be

DWG Export
A big part of collaboration is having to export even simple 2D drawings to others using the DWG format. In the past this required a bit of work to simplify drawings in order to make the exported file suitable for use by others such as engineers.  Through the last few issues this has gotten easier.  This year I find it even better, just export a sheet layer and it all looks nearly just like the original Vectorworks drawing, with one little problem in that sometimes text which is in mirrored symbols does not get mirrored and appears backwards.         

Working with Revit
Vectorworks has made importing Revit files easier by adding batch import and other improvements that make imported files more compatible with Vectorworks.  The main advantage is being able to import batches of manufacture’s product files.  It is also working well for the person switching from Revit to Vectorworks.  Being able to get a good clean import of an existing project done in Revit is important.  It is really too bad that there is still no direct way to export Vectorworks to Revit.  Wouldn’t it be nice if Vectorworks and Revit users could work back and forth in a wonderful world of interchangeability?

PDF Import/Export
PDF pretty much wins the prize as the most used import/export program, so, it is important also to the Vectorworks user. They have made some improvements, I’m talking about snapping to objects and annotations on an imported file.   Snapping seems to work well enough and if you have a program that lets you annotate a PDF file you can turn them on or off in the Vectorworks file.  If you export a Vectorworks file you can export the layers as individual layers that is cool.  The rub is when you import a file with layers.  They all get combined into one layer, that’s not cool.  Also, it does not have a way to recognize the scale of the imported file.  That has to be adjusted by the old scale objects tool, which requires a bit of back and forth.  Another thing that seems lacking here is that you can easily import a PDF file that has several pages and the pages are kept separate, but once again they are all on one layer.  There should be an option to create separate layers for each page.

Clip Cubes and Viewports
Viewports are these odd things in Vectorworks which take a bit of understanding.  You design on design layers and print or review from sheet layers.  OK, now once you have some bit of design on a layer or layers you can box all or part of it in then tell Vectorworks to create a viewport.  The viewport can be moved, copied and pasted on other design or sheet layers without disturbing the original work, but not copied between design and sheet layers.  Viewports are very powerful because so much can be changed within them, classes and layers can be turned on or off, scales can be set and views changed and they can of course be 3D and rendered.  This is old news to the Vectorworks user.  The only downside to them is that they can’t be copied to other files.  I have always liked how simple it is to copy something like a detail, floor plan or whatever from one file to another by just copying and pasting without the need to reference other files. It’s just one less complication in the process.  So, if you like setting up viewports with notes, dimensions and such in annotations be careful as you can’t just past those details into the next similar project.   

Now we enter into clip cubes.  These are also very handy.  Turn on clip cube then drag the walls of the cube that surrounds your BIM and you only see what is inside the cube.  Everything outside of it is cut out.  This is cool, you can change views, render or not, fly around and all that stuff.  Cut out the building in front of another and see just the one behind.  Now the latest feature in 2019 is that the clip cube can be saved as a viewport.  That’s right, cut out the top two stories and the ceiling and you can have a 3D rendered view of the lower floor.  Or save a 3D view of the interior of a space in just a few seconds.  Then put that view on a sheet layer to become part of the presentation or even construction docs.  This could be a lot of fun to work with.

Clip cube viewport

Layers and Classes- New Search and Filter
I should mention for those not familiar with Vectorworks that it uses two systems for classifying items in the project file.  Layers and Classes make organizing your project much easier.  As a non-AutoCAD user, I find it confusing when I try to understand what all the layers in a typical DWG file are.  In Vectorworks it is much more intuitive.  There was a time when we would draw on tracing paper, the floor plan on one layer for example then overlay it with another layer of paper to trace and locate for example the electrical layout.  In Vectorworks we do the same digitally.  That is the general floor plan is on a layer, then we might make a layer for the electrical layout and if both layers are on we see them together.  But also, the components of each layer are grouped into classes, for example, windows, doors, electrical outlets, lights, etc.  The classes can be turned on and off or grayed.  So, the general floor plan can have the doors and windows turned off when used to create a structural plan.  This year they have introduced class and layer search and filter options.  Now you can make just the classes that are in use visible and search for groups say doors for example.  You can filter layers so you just see the layers on the second story. Once you get used to using it, it saves time spent scrolling through a long list of layers or classes each time you need to access one. 
Search and filter classes and layers

Props are not new but they are one of the things I like about Vectorworks.  They come in many forms such as trees and cut outs of people.  They are unique because they are not 3D but simple elevations like props on a stage so they take very little space in the drawing file. 
People Props

Every year new features are added and old ones improved.  This year there are several that stand out. Hopefully, I have given you a taste of the ones I believe are most useful.  As always, the decision to buy or to upgrade is not easy.  I am guessing that the percentage of firms that might make full use of Vectorworks BIM capabilities is relatively small.  Even so, the reason to buy is pretty straight forward.  Vectorworks gives you a big bang for the buck.  It is easy to learn and can be used for anything from 2D drafting to full on BIM. For the upgrader it is improved capabilities and time/cost savings that make the upgrade worth the price. From a time-savings cost analysis perspective, the tools that will be most used that make it worth it are Data Tags, 2D components for hybrid objects, Class and Layer Filtering, Clip Cube Viewports, Space Planning, Site Model Sculpting, and Image Editing.  Well that is a pretty decent list and there are many more improvements that I have not mentioned.  Here is a list on the company site: https://www.vectorworks.net/why-upgrade.

1.    Rated as one of the most complete and versatile BIM and design programs available.
2.    Equally useable for 2D and 3D
3.    Easy to learn, works the way architects work.
4.    Reasonably priced.
5.    Comes with the most used export tools for work with others including IFC, PDF and DWG
6.    Has the most used import tools including DWG, PDF and Revit.
7.    It can be the only program needed for design, presentation and construction drawings.
8.    It has excellent presentation tools, including, animations, videos, photo realistic renderings, and virtual 3D walk throughs.

1.    The user base is lower than AutoCAD and Revit, so employment may be limited.
2.    Files cannot be exported to Revit.
3.    A well-equipped computer is required to take full advantage of some features.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

REVIEW OF Vectorworks 2018

By John Helm Architect


Are you ready for 2018? It seems the years go by too fast, maybe it’s just my age and wishing things would slow down a bit.  But the people at Vectorworks haven’t slowed down, so here we are with another year a bunch of new improvements and a few great ones.  As usual I will stick mostly to architecture.  That’s what I do. Also I will stick to the changes and improvements that impressed me most.  There are complete lists and videos of all the new and/or improved features on the Vectorworks 2018 website so there is no need for me to try and duplicate them. 


What is Vectorworks

Vectorworks is the BIM/ design tool for all designers, architects, landscape architects, stage lighting designers, or anyone who designs almost anything.  It is a stand-alone program that supports all of an architect’s needs.  It will take the architect from design concept through client presentations to final construction documents without having the need for any other programs.  It is unique in that respect.  It is designed to be intuitive and follows the concept of what you see is what you get.  It is designed to be a program that the architect himself can use without having to go back to school or hire specialized BIM designers and drafters. 


3D Modeling

How creative do you want to be?  As I said above Vectorworks can take you from the concept to completion.  There is no need to model using say SketchUp because you can do it right in Vectorworks.  This video will give you an idea of the possibilities and also show you how the new multiple drawing views feature works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LF7QonacMi8 It is also a great tool for just doing block layouts that later turn into buildings or creating a simple design for a curved railing, as in the example below.  Or for more sophisticated designs you can get into subdivision modeling which will allow you to create shapes without limits. 


Design your own railing profile 


Multiple Drawing Views

This is the one that many people have been asking about for a long time.  You can have almost as many views of your project going on at the same time as your eyes and computer can stand.  You just click an icon then split up the screen as you choose.  Now you can watch your 3D model change as you modify the floor plan.  There is no more need to switch back and forth between saved views while updating and making changes.  Is your time worth anything? Really, how much time have you lost just sitting there while your computer loads up the model after you made some changes in window sizes and you want to see how it looks? I’m guessing lots.


Multi view panes


Live Editing of Elevations and Sections

Elevations and sections are fundamental to the work of an architect and now they can be edited live.  This is a great new feature.  I understand that it required a huge amount of work to implement it, and the time spent has made a great tool much better.  It is now possible to edit an elevation while actually looking at the elevation.  So if you want to say line up some windows vertically, you can do it live while looking at the elevation, and the floor plan and every other instance of the windows is updated.  That is much better than having to go back and forth between the floor plans and the elevation.  It is another one of those features that not only save time but makes the work more pleasant.  And of course it helps pay for the upgrade in money/time saved.  The only downside here is that refreshing the original viewport can take a bit of time depending on the capability of your computer and the size of your project. 


Resource Manager

This is one of those things that makes Vectorworks shine.  Why? Well because when working in the digital environment, it’s the things that are already drawn that makes the work go faster.  The problem in the past has been keeping track of them and finding when you need them.  The Resource Manager was here last year, this year it has been improved.  What it does is allow easy access to thousands of pre-drawn items.  They could be chairs, appliances, wall types or really anything.  You can make up your own or import others.  But the best part is the search feature.  Search for what you need and bam they pop up.  Then just click on the one you want, and you are done.

Typical view in the Resource Manager


Title Blocks

This year they have improved the title block feature making it more inclusive and automated.  But even more important is the concept.  What I mean is that going back years as mentioned above, Vectorworks has been the what you see is what you get BIM program.  In Vectorworks, you easily set up your sheets the way you want them and that is how they will print out. In the end no matter how much we talk about BIM, virtual models, videos, etc. we still send printed copies of our drawings to the job site.  And each one of those drawings typically has a border and a title block that gives dates, names, who is responsible and addresses.  So, making that easy to do is to be expected.

Typical Title Block



Renderworks just gets better and faster.  Now it is upgraded with natively integrated MAXON CineRender R18. When you need to make a real rendering Renderworks can’t be beat.  We do need to remember that it is not just push a button and get a great result.  There is a bit of a learning curve and a few settings may need some changing.  Which is something I was a bit frustrated with at first, call me lazy if you want.  However, the possibilities and the effects of lighting, reflections, day and night scenes, and sky backgrounds are great and really lead to near photo quality renderings.  And all of it is built right into Vectorworks.  There is no need to export your file to another program. 

Renderworks rendering


Open GL

I have to say I love this thing.  Really, it has been around for a long time and I can’t exactly say what they have done to it.  But it hauls ass. Working on a project like the one I have shown here, the 3D model is always there, rotate around it, zoom in and out, whatever you want and it is like live action – no waiting around.  If you are working in 3D or BIM if you prefer that term, what more do you want?  Combine that with multiple drawing views and you can really have some fun.  In fact this is the fun factor in architecture and design today, designing in a virtual world. The quality of renderings you get from it is just fine for many presentations, like colored elevations and sections.  In fact, today, many print shops will print color for the same price as black and white so why not add some colored elevations to your construction documents.  OpenGL makes that easy.

Open GL fly around all you want


Import Revit

Here is a rather one sided feature but still very handy.  You could import Revit to some extent in the past, but now you can directly import Revit models and they are converted into native Vectorworks symbols and objects with textures. It is only one sided because you cannot export back to Revit.  That I’m told is an issue that is not under the control of the people at Vectorworks.   But it is great for importing all sorts of Revit items made by manufacturers and designers for use in your Vectorworks designs.  And, you can directly import the work of Revit users that you may be collaborating with.  


Web View

Last year, I made the comments below on web view, but I also said it was a work in progress.  This year it is much improved, the possible size of the model for 3D viewing is much larger, the interface is better and the virtual view works well.


You the designer can take your 3D model, your BIM, of your latest project to the level of detail you want.  Then while being online click on the new export feature that sends the model to the Vectorworks cloud.  Or you can save it locally. After a bit of a wait your model will pop up in your internet viewer.  Now you can explore the model in 3D.  You can send the link to a client and by clicking on it, the client can also view the model in 3D.  But here comes the fun part.  Copy the link and open it on a smart phone then click on the virtual reality icon. Now the image of the model will change to a stereoscopic view.  Put the phone in your Google goggles, cardboard or plastic and you are in. That is you are inside the model virtually.  You can walk around and look around all you want.  You can go up and down stairs.  Of course there are a few limitations.  It’s not going to be high definition and there are some limits on the size of the model. But really the sense of actually being in the space and being able to walk around in it is amazing. 


Rendered Panoramas

This is a nice addition to the client presentation possibilities.  You can step inside your model no matter how big it is and create a 360-degree interactive view.  It is like those 360-degree photos we get sometimes but it is your new design.  It’s easy to use and easy for the client to view.


360-degree view



Although I do not use this feature a lot, worksheets is one feature that has tremendous potential.  An organized professional can use it to automate the creation of reports, schedules, cost estimates, and various other worksheets.  For example if you organize the door symbols with detailed information, like hardware, style, materials, etc. You can practically just push a button and get a very detailed door schedule. 


Site Model Contour Editing

What is a 3D model of your project without a model of the site?  OK, your site is flat so no big deal.  But in reality, every site has its curves, dips, and drainage channels, not to mention are bit of sloping terrain or hillside lots.  So once using the regular site modeling tools, you have created a model of the site, and it is now easy to modify an existing or new contour line and immediately change the model by editing its polyline.  I used this a bunch on a current project and found it easy to use.  


Trees and People

Props are a feature of Vectorworks that has been around for a long time, but still a great tool for rendering without increasing file size.  Props are symbols made in such a way that in 3D views they can always face the viewer, similar to props in a stage setting..  This is useful for making and placing objects in rendered views.  Since, they are 2D they add very little to the file size. There are many landscape props, and I have made several using pictures of real people.  They are for sale here:   https://johnhelm.selz.com/


Props of people add scale and realism to a rendering at little cost in file size


Why Upgrade,

That is always a question which current users need to answer when a new version comes out.  Fortunately, Vectorworks is still a program which you can buy and then keep on using as long as you like.  So, spending the money to upgrade is always a question to be asked by those who are not already on the Vectorworks Service Select and maintenance program.  Is it worth the expense of upgrading? 


There are many improvements this year and two major reasons for upgrading are multi views and direct section and elevation editing.  But there is one other big reason.  No one likes to talk about bugs in software, after all if you buy a shirt, you don’t expect to have to accept it with some flaw in the material.  But software, especially something as complex as a BIM program always comes with a few, sometimes more than a few and we just have to live with them.  Vectorworks has a great group of beta testers and they spend every year going after bugs in the program.  I have seen some of the lists of things that have been fixed some were old and some resulted from changes in the program.  Lots of things that may have bugged you in the past are gone.  The news here is that Vectorworks 2018 runs smoothly, it hums along like a supercharged diesel engine with plenty of power to haul a heavy load up a steep hill without a single misfire.  In other words sometimes a new release of an existing program is just better because it’s better. 



If you want to see how beautiful Vectorworks can be and get a glimpse of what it can do have a look at this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COGrQx8ZOVQ



Perhaps the best thing that can be said about Vectorworks software is that once designers and architects get familiar with it and use it in their work they rarely switch to another program.  They stick with it even though some other programs may have more users.  It is a design program that knows no limits; from chairs to sky scrapers, it makes designing fun.


There are many features - some new some old - that I have not touched on.  The best way to find out more about them is to visit the Vectorworks website: www.Vectorworks .net.  And read my past reviews at http://www.helpudesign.blogspot.com.



1.    It is intuitive, and works like an architect works.

2.    Final plans are generally all in one file composed of sheets to be plotted looking much like they would look if hand drawn only better.

3.    The thinking one needs to do is much like in many other programs, like copy and paste, plus many of the keyboard entries are the same as found in other programs such as Microsoft Office. 

4.    It can be self-taught, of course you can take classes or just get a good book by someone like Jonathan Pickup and in a week or less you are in business.

5.    3D design comes along without any real effort.  Draw a wall and it already has a height. Draw a floor plan with wall heights and it is already a 3D model.

6.     Open GL makes it easy to see the design in 3D

7.    Renderworks gives you all the tools you need to make beautiful renderings, videos, etc.

8.    Multi view screens and live editing of elevations and sections make the work flow easy.

9.    Web view brings the virtual world to your designs and can be viewed by clients anywhere. 

10. File sharing among teams is easy.

11. The price is reasonable.

12. It allows cross-over work from architecture to design, lighting, stage design, site design and landscape design.

13. BIM is built in and easy to use.

14. Window and door schedules, quantity takeoffs, etc. can be automatic.

15. Numerous presentation possibilities – renderings, animations, videos, walk throughs, and panoramas.



1.    A capable computer and graphic card is needed to avoid slow refreshing of viewports and renderings. 

2.    No direct export to Revit, import only.

3.    Cannot copy viewports between drawing files.

4.    Direct editing of elevations and sections works well, but refreshing is slow on less capable computers.



I like and have used Vectorworks for years in my architectural practice.


John Helm

Helm & Melacini Architects