People Props for Vectorworks

VECTORWORKS 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: NOTE: It is also available for previous versions of VW, let us know which one you need.
INTERIOR DESIGN INVOICES A complete system of invoices, purchase orders and client estimates for interior designers just $15.
SPREAD SHEETS 1, Compare home loans, interest rate points, etc. 2, Loan calculator, amount remaining, principal, interest etc. paid. Just $6.95 save a lot of time and get the best loan.
NOTE, Clicking on the purchase link and have People Props to use in minutes.

Architecture, Interior Design, Planning, Design, Home planing, Additions

Here, 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.
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Sunday, January 04, 2015



By John Helm Architect

 The newest version of Vectorworks  (VW) is out and as usual there are many new features to consider.  In fact there are too many to cover in a single review.  What I typically do is start using the program then take a look at the various changes and additions.  I then choose a few that look like they would be interesting, solve some past problems or most importantly make it easier and faster to get my work done.  I focus mostly on architecture for the obvious reason that I’m an architect and I look at things from a practical aspect leaving the highly technical issues up to those reviewers who have a better understanding of them.

64 bit computing
You might say it’s about time.  I mean it’s been around for a long time, even my 12 year old Windows XP desktop was 64 bit.  However, forgiving the lateness it is still a big improvement and should make everything run smoother and faster.  Being more compatible with commonly used processors has to be a good thing.

Open GL

I mention a bit more about open GL below, but in general it seems that they have made open GL the de facto mode for use in 3D design.  Can I say it’s wonderful?  Yes, it makes working in 3D a pleasure.  Easily go from a 2D plan view to 3D.  Then work your model.  Change things, move around, fly over and hold down the B key to get a quick wire frame view.  Select an object to modify it, add color, add texture or change its size and see the results instantly.  Now we can even use the shift key and arrows to move an object while watching it move in 3D.  And the quality of the rendering when you include, show shadows and textures is starting to compete with final quality Renderworks.   

Deform tool

For architects this is a Frank Gehry tool.  For example you can take any shape, then stretch and pull it to make a variety of free forms, walls and roofs for example.  Then listen to the contractors tell you it’s impossible to build, but at least you had fun trying.  Now go back and design something more rational you’re not that famous.  Anyway I think it’s cool, probably furniture and small tool designers can go nuts with it and hopefully a few architects will get to use it too.  I gave it a try and have to admit it’s going to take some study.




                                                                                                                                   Here’s my high rise design

Text Styles by Class

Here’s a nifty little item, assign text styles to a class, size, font, etc. Then either go to the class before typing your text or change the class after typing.  This makes it easier to be consistent and keep an office set of text standards.  What’s not to like.

Crop PDF pages

So much of what we get these days is in PDF format.   Now it seems faster and easier to import a PDF file and use it for reference or as a base for tracing a floor plan.  But it was in the past kind of a pain to modify the part of the file we wanted to include in our drawings.  Now it’s easy.  Import the whole file then crop it as we like.  This makes it easy to use parts of a file in more than one place as reference for details, pictures, and plans or elevations of the existing in a remodel for example.  Or include a picture of a specified product.

Rectangle Wall Mode

I like this a lot.  Just select your wall type, and then draw rectangles to make the walls.  This works great when drawing over a sketch imported as a PDF or drawing over a layout made with the space tool.  When done the trim tool can be used to quickly clean out the un-needed walls. 

Curtain Walls
Anyone doing commercial design will love the curtain wall feature.   Here you can now draw the curtain wall without having to manually input vertical and horizontal mullions.  It’s all done automatically and the best part is that you can change your mind and make changes later without having to start all over again. 

Speed of rendering and open GL

There certainly seems a big improvement when using open GL.  Flying around a model, changing views and doing virtual walkthrus seem almost flawless and fast.  However I did do my own little comparison test of the model shown below using VW 2014 vs 2015.  Doing a hidden line rendering took 4 to 5  seconds in 2015 and 4 in 2014.  Doing a final quality Renderworks rendering took in minutes 2: 47 in 2015 and 1:47 in 2014.  The model I used was first made in 2014 then imported into 2015.  I made a lot of changes to it then exported it back to 2014 in order to have something the same in both versions.  I don’t know if this qualifies as an accurate test or not.  The picture shown here is the one done in version 2015 and I think it is a bit nicer looking than the one done with the older version.  Some things are a lot better for example the windshield of the Corvette is transparent in 2015 but not in 2014.  I can’t explain why the new version took so much longer to render, perhaps I need to change some settings.



Final Renderworks rendered model with much improved tree symbols


There is always a lot of talk about which program is best for BIM and I won’t attempt to answer the question.  What I want to say is that what most of us make are not Building Information Models they are really just Building Models.  VW lets us make models without restrictions of just about anything we can imagine.  When we make a building model there is a certain amount of information, maybe a lot of information that just comes from the fact that we have a 3D view of the project which can be looked at from a multitude of angles and positions.  I suppose you can call that information.  But VW comes alive in BIM when we start using the actual information tools that are built into the software.  Something as simple as a door can contain every bit of information one might want to know about the door, its material, door knobs, hinges, finish material and its cost.  All of this information can be output to an automatically created door schedule for example.  Of course, inputting all the information takes time and that’s where the whole BIM thing starts to get shall I say difficult.  I mean who is going to pay me to do all that extra work.  This takes us to the crux of the BIM movement.  Can I export my model to a spec writer, who will do that work and an estimator who will crunch the numbers using my model imported into an estimating package.  Can my model be then used by the structural and mechanical engineers to include their designs.  The VW people say it can.  But I have to admit that it’s beyond the scope of this article to test.  Perhaps I’ll do a little test for another article.

Memory and crashing Issues

An old problem that doesn’t seem to want to go away is that the program sucks up memory and won’t let go.  Doing a lot of 3D work or rendering and all of a sudden my undo cache says there are no more undos.  This is a problem, for if you make a mistake you can’t go back and the only way to fix it is to close and restart VW.   Sometimes restarting the computer is also required.   My computer is not the latest but it’s not bad, Windows 8.1 Core I7, 8 gb of ram and a 1gb Geforce video card.  I have also had a few crashes. 

Import Sketchup

Here is a nifty improvement.  Now it is very easy to import 3DS or SKI files.  So those great 3D drawings you can find in 3D Warehouse or Turbosquid can be easily incorporated into your Resources.  Check out the Corvette I imported in the drawing below and compare it to the typical car symbol next to it. 


Rendered view showing a Sketchup model imported into Vectorworks

New Resources

While looking at the Corvette also have a look at the trees; there are new landscape props available that are much more realistic.  They render quickly and look great. 

You can also notice the realistic people prop from my own collection of People Props for Vectorworks.  They can be purchased here: or you can also see a video at:

Space planning

Here’s a tool that has been around for a while that I haven’t talked about much in the past.  This can be a time saver and also make exploring various options at the schematic design stage much faster which allows one to explore more potential solutions.  The best way to use this is to make a program for your project.  It doesn’t matter if it is a simple house or a complex office building.  Create a spread sheet outside of VW with columns listing all the rooms in your building, with sizes and areas.  Then save it as a comma separated file.  Import into VW and it creates an adjacency matrix and rectangles for each space.  Now you can move the spaces around, reshape them, etc. to create the floor plan.  Then automatically create walls.  

This could be a very powerful tool.  There are some features I would change.  For example when you manually make a space there is no read out of the length and width as when drawing normal rectangles.  I would change that and also it would be great to get a read out of the total area as one draws the space.   Or how about creating an option to keep a space the same size area wise no matter how you reshape.

Actually it has a way to go before it can be really useful.  In fact I had a hard time understanding how to use it.  Making a matrix on a spread sheet is tedious and difficult too much so for any kind of complex project.  The VW help file is useless.  I did find better instructions by searching on Google.  But then after trying it a few times VW crashed so I decided to forget about it for now.  I think it is useful if you make a list of the spaces in a spread sheet import it into VW then delete the matrix and then move the spaces manually. 

Clip cube Caps

The clip cube is an important tool, it is used to make sections easily and it also lets you quickly cut open your model anyplace you want and even dynamically move the cut around while your client watches in amazement.  In previous versions the cut line would show the hollow walls, floors and roofs.  Now they added a cap at the cut line which just looks a lot nicer.


Section made using clip cube (the color of the caps can be changed)

Instant Elevations & Roof plans

This has been around for a while but with the latest improvements it just gets better.  Use the multiple viewports tool, to create hidden line views of the elevations and the roof plan.  If you make changes just update the viewports.  Turn layers and classes off or on as needed.  Use annotation to add notes and dimensions.  Textured surfaces in your model will now show up with automatic hatches if you use the proper textures.  My model used for this test needs a little more work, but you can get the idea.


Elevations and Roof Plan made from the model using create multiple viewports

 3D Hatching for hidden line rendering

This is another one of those important new features than can really make a difference.  At first it doesn’t seem such a big deal.  But remember how you had to add a hatch to an elevation.  Draw a polygon around an area of the elevation then find the right hatch to apply.  Do it enough times and you’re really going to get bored.  Now what happens if you make changes in the elevations or worse yet you change the 3D model and use it to revise the elevations.  Go back and revise all those polygons and hope you don’t miss any.  With this new feature many of the textures come with premade hatches.  So when you do a hidden line rendering the hatch magically appears and if you change the model it changes automatically.




Open GL rendered view                                                  Hidden line rendering (my model needs a fascia)

Manuals, tutorials and help files

The built in help system is very good, even if there are a few places that need improvement.  It is easy to access and you can just search for what you need to do.  But I have complained in the past that they don’t do printed manuals anymore.  Now they supply a disk with the program, called “Getting Started Guides”.  It seems very good.  There are tutorials that take you through most of the basics, and there are pdf files which are accompanied by videos.  Their research told them that most users like to see how things are done on a video so they did the videos and also included the pdf files repeating what is in the videos which can be printed or viewed on the computer. 

No Improvements

The biggest item not addressed once again is how do several designers work on a project at the same time.  If you search the VW website you will find a nice little explanation of how to get multiple designers working on the same project.  It can be done and those big firms in Japan where VW has captured most of the CAD market must be doing it successfully.  But still it’s not easy.  VW still in some ways seems to be a small shop tool.  Perhaps they want to keep it that way so the parent company can sell its other products.  But if they asked me, I’d tell them to spend the next year fixing this problem. 

 Other improvements not covered.

I could go on for many more pages.  The important thing to note is that there is a lot of good stuff in this new release some small and some that make a big difference.  Here is a list of some of the items I have not written about.  Some speak for themselves and others you can read about in the VW help files or on their web site.

New level constraint system

Variable Tab Widths

Text under Dimensions

Outside Mode for Text

Dimension Text Position in Viewports

Elevation Benchmark Improvements

Callout Tool improvements

Drawing Label Improvements

Notes Manager Improvements

Better 3D

Better 3D Working

Better Rendering

More Advanced 3D Modeling Tools

Working Planes Palette


Easier to use stair tool

 Spaces Easier to Manage

More Control over Door and Window objects

Faster Drawing

Better Site Modeling

More Accurate Planting

Better Viewports

Worksheet Improvements Worksheet menus

More Control over Stories

Better Control over Walls

Improved Annotation

Wire frame viewing improvements


There are two groups to consider.  The first, those just getting CAD or those thinking to change systems and the second current users of VW who need to decide if it’s worth upgrading to the latest version.

For the first group if you main consideration is choosing the best program to get your work done and make it easier to express your creativity VW could be your first choice. 

For the second group if you are just doing 2D drawings maybe your current version is good enough.  But if you are into or want to get into 3D modeling and design and or BIM then why short change yourself for a few bucks.  The improvements in open GL alone are enough to make it worth the change.  The only problem is that every year now they are making so many improvements that it takes time to really get into them.

 Let’s not forget that a CAD program is just a tool, like the pencil and paper used to be, or still is.  We need a lot of tools to get the job done and we can buy various software programs, like Photoshop, AutoCAD, etc. Or we can buy one program that has them all.  Vectorworks is not just a CAD or BIM tool; it is really the nearly perfect and complete toolbox for just about every architect or designer.  From preliminary design to photo realistic renderings and construction drawings it has all the tools in one package. 

In general VW makes working almost fun.  Well yeah you would rather be fishing, skiing, or messing with your partner/spouse, but using the tools that come with the program really makes designing , presenting and even doing construction documents faster, more intuitive, and enjoyable.  The better you get with the program the more fun it is and every year it just gets better. 








Thursday, September 25, 2014

Review of Vectorworks Architect Tutorial Manual 2014 by Jonathan Pickup

Book Review

By John Helm, Architect
Helm & Melacini Architects

Vectorworks Architect Tutorial Manual by Jonathan Pickup

 Jonathan Pickup is an architect who has been teaching the use of Vectorworks and writing manuals for users since 1992.  He calls himself the Vectorworks guru and rightly so.  This, his latest book or manual is a step by step tutorial on how to use Vectorworks Architect, which is the architects version of the program. 

Physically it is spiral bound, at a size of one half of an A4 page, printed on both sides.  There are 246 pages.  The choice of spiral binding makes it easy to handle while going through the tutorial.  The page size is convenient however it does make the screen captures of which there many a bit hard to read.  In side there are 14 chapters that begin with the most basic on how to set up a file and then take you through a more or less complete architectural project.  Also included is a disk containing a pdf file of the book and videos which can be opened while reading through the tutorial.  The videos actually repeat everything you would be doing while working through the tutorials. 

I have been using the program for many years so I think I already know everything about it.  But of course with a complex program like Vectorworks we all know that is impossible.  I imagine Jonathan would say the same about himself.  Anyway in order to do an honest report I decided to go through some of the tutorials myself.  I started on page one and went through the complete site model section. 

 Yes I have to admit that I did learn a thing or two.  I’ve never had a good grasp of making 3D site models and the manual showed me how to do it quick and pretty easy.  I guess an old dog can learn new tricks, which is a reason even experienced users can benefit from this.

 There is a previous book “Vectorworks Essentials” which we are also in the process of reviewing that attacks the learning process at a more fundamental level.  Jonathan recommends that one with little or no CAD experience start with that one.  But for anyone with some knowledge the architect version stands alone.  So what is his approach.

His approach is really step by step. 
                     Screen capture from the pdf file, his instructions are clear and easy to follow.

There is no guessing about what to do next.  The reader or more accurately student is not really expected to know anything about a CAD program or Vectorworks. 

Screen capture from the pdf, he shows the easy way to create a 3D site model.

The expectation is that by going through the entire manual the student will arrive at a level of competency which will allow him or her to be productive in the office within a learning period of at most two weeks.  So what we really have here is a CAD teacher in a book.  The book can be used for the individual practitioner to learn the program and it can be the office tutorial for any new hires.  Considering the cost of a principal’s or project architect’s time the idea that he or she can just sit the new hire down in front of a computer and leave her alone while she learns the program makes the purchase a no brainer.

If I have anything to criticize it might be the lack of reasons why.  That is in some cases the student is just told do something and not told why it is done that way rather than another.  But you can’t do everything within a logical context and the student once using the program on a daily basis will see the wisdom in Jonathan’s methods.  I also found it hard to read the settings in screen captures.   So I opened up the pdf which eliminated the problem.  Just keep it open while working through the manual and you will also have quick access to the videos which show him doing what you should be doing.

             Screen capture dialog boxes a bit hard to read, so refer to the pdf file if need be.

One should also realize that this is not really a manual.  It’s a tutorial, a teacher; it’s not a book to look in the index for a particular topic on Vectorworks.  There is no index.  The Vectorworks software help files serve that purpose.   
This tutorial should have its place in just about every architect’s office that uses Vectorworks software, simply because it is the easiest way for new hires to learn the program and old pros to learn better ways to use the software.

Makes learning Vectorworks Architect easy.
Easy to follow and clear step by step instructions.
No guess work in following the lessons.
Includes screen captures of every step, plus pdf version of the manual and videos.

Screen captures of dialog boxes hard to read.
Not always an explanation of why things are done a certain way.
No index – not a reference manual.

My be purchased from Amazon.Com, see the link at the top.







Monday, June 23, 2014

How to make people props in Vectorworks

Here is a short video on how to make people props in Vectorworks and information on how and why to buy my collection of readymade people props as symbols.

You can also view this video on the Vectorworks Youtube channel:

Monday, June 09, 2014


Perhaps a nice glass of Italian wine will help get those creative juices flowing.  Check our just finished app for Android available on the Google Play Store.  Look for WINE TOUR ITALY.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Here's a project we are working on, it's an interactive children's museum for the city we are in Belluno Italy.  Have a look on Facebook.  We will welcome ideas from architects.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Review of Vectorworks 2014
By John Helm, architect

130 new functions and improvements

That’s what they are telling us; there are 130 changes, improvements and new functions in total in this year’s release.  And a quick look at their web site will let you see that there is a lot to review.  The gang at Nemetschek has provided several videos to make it easy to get a good feel for all that’s new.  As usual my review will focus mainly on areas most used by architects, and I can’t really address them all.  So I will look at some that seem most useful. 
Here is the VW PDF file that pretty much describes all the new features:
I have been using the program since the Minicad days.  The reasons for using it then are pretty much the same now.  It is an intuitive program, Most of an architect’s projects can be accomplished in one file that ends up looking like a complete set of drawing sheets.  Select the sheets to be printed and send them to your plotter or your printing service and the job is done.  I’m working in Italy most of the time and when I have work back in California I just create a pdf set and send it to the local printer who prints and delivers it in just a matter of a few hours.  But now I’m getting too personal.  The point is that VW has grown but continues to be easy to learn, functional and extremely flexible.  As I have preached in the past an architect, interior designer, landscape architect or anyone else who needs to use a design and drafting tool shouldn’t have to go back to school to learn to use the tool or as with some programs really become more of a CAD drafter than an architect.  This is what has always attracted me by VW; it’s a tool that is relatively easy to pick up and use and doesn’t require one to change the focus of one’s profession.
I have to say that my first impression of the latest installment was amazement.  So I’m going to have to be careful.  It can’t be all flowers, there must be a few thorns here and there.  I will try to point them out as we go.

Still simple to use for basic drafting

VW has become a program which has a great depth of possible uses, has a wide range of tools and fits into many design professions.  In fact if you really look into everything the developers have done with the program lately you might decide that it is one of the most technically advanced programs around.  But it still retains the possibility of being used for simple drafting projects.  With a bit of study one can open up the program and just start drawing.  Pick an icon from the menu and draw lines, rectangles, circles, walls etc. then hit the print button and print what one sees on the screen - WYSIWYG.  It does not require one to spend a lot of time setting up a project just to start.  Copy and paste, cut and paste, back up using control Z and other commands are familiar to anyone familiar with typical windows commands and though I’m not a mac user I believe it’s pretty much the same there.   The advantage here is that if you are like me a person who wants to be able to start using a program without taking a bunch of classes you can do it.   You can then progress to more complex features one step at a time.  At that point you may benefit for online classes, books, etc.

The Help Files

Regarding progressing to more complex features, the help feature works well, and is very easy to use.  Just open it up and search for what you want to do.  It’s very inclusive so you can pretty much use it to learn as you go, but there does seem to be a few things missing.  For example I searched for Model to Floorplan and it didn’t show up.  It would also be good to have a printed manual to study and brose but it doesn’t seem to be the industry standard to include them these days and there are various guides that can be purchased separately. Such as those from Jonathan Pickup
And here is an idea, someone needs to create a list of all the things that can be done with the program.  It seems a basic request, but I don’t think it exists.  Anyway even experienced users can go on doing things in the same old way they always have not knowing there is an easier way or a new tool.  It would just be a list without explanation letting us know what it can do.

The main new features

  • A new visualization engine which allows designers to work in a rendered mode.
  • Open GL now allows a consistent 3D view with no switching back to wire frame with large models. 
  • Revised walk through tool works with new visualization engine to provide clean and consistent walk through viewing.
  • A new 3D X-ray Select tool that allows users to see a wire frame view while still in a rendered mode, just press the B key.
  • A new twist and taper tool that allows for twisting solids and tapering faces of solids.
  • The ability to directly reference DWG/DXF or DWF files in Vectorworks projects without importing the file.
  • Increased compatibility with DWG/DXG or DWF files.
  • Support for Python scripting language.
  • The ability to create sections from a clip cube’s section that update when changes are made to the drawings.
  • Self-healing wall joints, walls stay connected when moved.
  • The ability to import images and crop them within the program.
  • Mirror tool preview feature, allows a preview of the mirror before accepting it.
  • The ability to directly measure objects on sheet layer viewports (paper space) without entering annotations.
  • Added texture tools for more photo realistic representations of textured surfaces.
My favorite new features

Open GL
Wow, this is a big change.  I’m kind of a bottom line guy, in that all the technical stuff is great to read about but I just want to know if it’s going to help me get my work done faster and better.  Well yeah this one does that.  At least it does for those of us who love working and designing in 3D.  Your 3D/BIM model will now stay rendered as you move around it no matter how complicated the model.  Press the B key and a round window pops up that shows whatever you put the cursor over in wire frame view; where you can also select what you see, move it or change it.



Press the B key in open GL and get a wireframe view
Along with this the walk through feature has gotten much more fluid and easy to use.   I almost can’t say enough about this.  It’s just too much fun to use and your clients will love it too.
Lately we are all thinking green, check out the solar modeling feature, open GL makes it easy to do a real time exam of how the sun will affect your building at various times of the year and hour.  You can spend a couple of days scrolling around the model while sliding back and forth on the time of day and month watching those cute little shadows move around.  Someone needs to write an app that gives you the best orientation considering solar heat gain, lighting etc. automatically.  I almost went insane doing it manually on a small project with three identical homes attached only at the navel, I mean garage.
Read a good article about the new Vectorworks graphic module here:

Fast Interactive Display

This is cool.  Make changes to your model and see the appear almost instantly.  It’s a great way to try out various textures, colors, or even move walls, etc.

What about Increased Compatibility

One of my biggest hangups has been the ongoing issue of working with other professionals that use programs with the dwg format (like AutoCAD).  So this year VW promises increased compatibility.  What I really like here is the ability to bring in referenced dwg and dwf files without having to actually convert the original file. This can be huge for several reasons.  But the main one is that the original file can be modified by the outside professional and the changes he or she makes are then easily updated in the referenced file.  Another thing is that when importing a dwg file the VW file can get cluttered up with a bunch of new classes which have little use in the VW way of doing things.  That’s because Autocad uses layers for everything and they usually get converted to classes in VW.  I would normally import a dwg into a blank VW file then consolidate the classes into just a few, before importing that file into my working file.  The problem here is that one can’t really export the revised original file back to whomever created it, without their file system being messed up.  As one user told me DWG import export is pretty good but it will never be good enough, probably because as fast as other programs update their compatibility those AutoCAD people change their program.

Section Viewports and Clipcube  

You’ve been wining about the lack of good sections that can be created and change when changes are made to the design.  Now you have them, they can also be flattened placed on a drawing sheet annotated and then they automatically change when changes are made.  This seems a very powerful tool and will take some getting used to.  The sections can be made on sheet or design layers.  Section lines are added automatically and can be moved around in 2D or 3D views automatically changing the section.  If you click on the section line and look at the object info another click can take you to the section viewport.
Study model of three units, note the shadows that are accurate using the Heliodon tool
Clip Cube cut through the model
Section from the Clip Cube

Shaped Windows

Several new shapes appear in the window selections and 3D tags remain on the outside of the wall.  Doors can have several glass panels inserted wherever one wants them.

Wall Tool Improvements

The big thing here is that when moving a wall it remains joined to other walls, it’s a small change but a time saver.  Now you don’t have to go back and reconnect walls that get moved.

Roof Tool Improvements

Several changes here, but the one most interesting is the ability to use the clip tool to cut holes in the roof for placement of skylights, etc.

Eye Dropper Tool

In the past this seemed somewhat hit and miss, maybe I never really understood it, but now I find it very easy to use and I like how one can select from the tool bar to be in drop mode without holding down a key.  Just select it and go around dropping in the features in the eyedropper.  It is very handy for a lot of things, especially applying things like textures to walls.

Taper Face and Twist

These two seem like small changes, but they speak to something much more interesting. VW has become a real 3D design tool.   One can really design using three dimensional shapes, build them, stretch, combine, subtract, twist, cut, and slope. 
The Twist tool
There doesn’t seem to be a limit to what one can do in design, other than ones design talent and ability to understand how best to use the features available in 3D Modeling.  According to some experienced users free form NURBS shaping is not up to speed but better than ArchiCAD or Revit. I finally learned how to use the model to floor plan tool.  It’s hidden in the space planning tools.  It will convert most basic 3D objects to walls, so one can model with shapes only and then convert the shapes to a floor plan.  If you have complicated twisted shapes for example you need to convert them to NURBS surfaces in pieces in order to create a form somewhat like a wall.
The taper tool allows one to taper most any selected surface.
Select a surface and drag it out to create a tapered wall
Create a model using 3D blocks, convert model to walls, set wall heights, add texture, create polygons from walls, create objects from polygons (slabs, spaces, etc,)
Here we might talk a bit about what is VW really.  Part of its problem and at the same time its advantage is that it’s not just dedicated to one design profession.  It’s not just a program for architects.  It’s kind of a universal design and rendering program.  I like that because I don’t want to have to use 3 or 4 different programs to accomplish my work.  It can be used for most any design project from a paste up poster for your kids school play to that high rise building project you’ve always dreamed of.   But in being the one program for all it may lack some features that would make say the architects work more automated. 

Crop Imports

In the past if you imported a graphic, picture, etc. you had to crop it before the import or create a viewport and crop the viewport.  Now you can simply crop the imported image in VW and just keep the part you want.  That’s a nice change.

Publish Command

Well now you can select all the types of publishing you want to do all at once with one command.  That is publish to the printer, pdf, dwg all at the same time.  It’s an interesting idea, I wonder how much use it will get.  I think most people tend to do one or the other and not all at the same time.

But what is still missing or on the wish lists

The stair tool seems to still be getting lots of complaints.  DWG import export is much improved but since it doesn’t produce native drawings in that format there will always be issues.  Referencing them eliminates a lot of the issues there.  Free form NURBS shaping is very useful and probably more than enough for architectural use, but for designers working mostly with NURBS there are better programs. 
I did also have a couple of problems during this test.  One is hung over from last year.  Whenever I try to print to my 10 year old HP 1050c plotter directly from VW my computer using windows 8.1 crashes completely.  I have been working with tech support to try and solve this, but no luck so far.  The other is that importing a file that originally came from version 2010 had a couple of problems.  As you see in the pictures below the model looks pretty good and the clip cube worked fine cutting through the model, but when I tried several times to make a section I got nothing.  Also exporting an image to jpeg got me just a kind of greyed out version of the image.  I did try everything several times and then went to the other model shown earlier and got a good result so it wasn’t that I was doing something wrong.

Model and Clip Cube imported from a much earlier version would not produce a section


All in all it’s quite a nice group of improvements.  For anyone working in 3D and BIM the new open GL engine alone is probably worth the upgrade.   Is VW the CAD program for you?  That depends.  It is probably the most CAD for the money on the market today.   Some designers might prefer a more specialized and or simpler program.  And some may just have to use a program like Revit that is more integrated with AutoCAD which is still the industry leader in number of users.  The debate goes on, especially between Revit and Vectorworks.  I don’t know enough about Revit to really make a comparison and searching the internet for opinions only leads to more confusion as everyone has his favorite.  There are even people who will argue that AutoCAD is the best, of course they are kidding themselves.  The final choice might not depend so much on which is the best program.  If you are a sole proprietor or someone in charge of making a decision for a one program office VW is a good choice.  If you are wanting to maximize your chances of finding a job I’m sorry to say you may have to spend your time learning to use an inferior program that is more commonly used. 
One should also keep in mind that VW is highly customizable.  So while out of the box it may not seem perfect spend some time setting up office standards, work sheets, or even writing custom tools using the Python scripting language, and it will probably become perfect for your needs.
Also have a look at my last year’s review of VW 2013.  The site is listed below.  You will find more useful insights into VW.

 Links: The VW main site The Service Select website  Our office website Our blog about design and architecture Jonathan Pickup’s site for manuals and videos
Compatible with Windows and Mac, including Windows 8.1 and Maverick.  One of the best Open GL renderers on the market.  Fast and stable walkthroughs.  Flexible scripting using Python. Can reference dwg without importing.  Excellent  BIM capabilities. Ability to export to many other programs, including IFC and gbXML for energy calculations. Great rendering capabilities. Simple file structure.  Works the way architects think.  Many new features.  Useable by several of the design professions.
Still no major improvements in the workgroup or team capabilities, no SE, MEP or energy modules. No window-tiling options. NURBS surface capabilities somewhat weak.  
The latest update includes the completely revised Open GL rendering engine which is worth the cost of the update alone.  Add to that the dwg reference feature, the revised section viewports and the rest of the 130 improvements and it becomes even sweeter.  For the small office the ability to just buy and use one program for all the design, production, rendering and presentation needs makes VW a powerful choice.  For the larger office VW is somewhat weak in workgroup or team capabilities, however there are many large firms, some very famous, using it and it doesn’t seem to hold them back. 
Cost: Vectorworks 2014 comes in many versions. In this review we focused on Architect and discussed Renderworks . We did not fully review Renderworks 2014 or the other features in the Designer package.
Prices: (from the VW online shopping site, note upgrades can only be done from version 2013)
Architect alone                             $2,595             Upgrade       $  908
Architect w/ Renderworks           $3,145                                    $1,101
Designer w/ Renderworks            $3,945                                    $1,381
Designer alone                              $3,395                                   $1,069