Thursday, January 21, 2010

Convert to Lines #41

Serving the Seattle VectorWorks Users Group and Northwest VectorWorks users.

An archive of past newsletters can be found at
Video tutorials can be found at
To contact me, please write or call (206) 524-2808

In this issue:
• Next meeting time and place
• New video tutorials available from NNA
• Learning credits (CEU's) now available
• Various VectorWorks tips
• Misc links
• The Recipe within the Recipe

Next Meeting

Hey everybody, welcome the new year! Things can only get better, right? Let's bring our positive energy together for a meeting February 3rd, a Wednesday, between 6:30 PM and 8:00 PM at 7001 31st Ave NE located just east of the Roosevelt District. If the technology gods smile on us, we will be watching one of the new NNA videos called Key Concepts. It is an hour long and so should deliver a lot of bang for the buck especially considering that we get to see for free what is otherwise a $25 debit on anyone else's charge card. We'll also cover any of your questions and have a few goodies to give away too.

Bring a beverage or snacks but only if you are so moved. If you come directly from work, we'll have enough goodies to tide you over. Here's the Google Maps URL:,+Seattle,+WA+98115&gl=us&ei=yVT4SrjrLY_ysQPy3OEd&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=title&resnum=1&ved=0CAgQ8gEwAA

An RSVP appreciated but not required.


Webinars from NNA

NNA has recently provided a variety of new tutorial Webinars at $25 each, repriced down from $75 as of a couple of days ago. As noted above, one of them will be made available to our user group. To view the complete list and showing times, go to this URL:

As time goes on, video webinars or tutorials of all kinds can only increase in number. I believe the way these are handled and presented will have a great impact on all providers of CAD. Further comments can be read below under The Recipe Within the Recipe.


CEU's from NNA
For the first time, NNA is providing learning credit classes for those in need of continuing education units. Below are two classes from the NNA website:

Jan 28
Creating Sustainable Sites Using Computer Aided Design (CAD): 2 LA CES or 2 APLD CEU
CAD programs in general have the ability to extract data from simple geometry, such as lines and polygons. However, with the right software tools you are able to create, model and present within one application, as well as analyze, report, and select materials more appropriately. The intuitive processes mentioned in this session will address the ‘Areas of Focus’, such as soils, hydrology, vegetation, materials and human well being, as proposed in the latest Sustainable Sites Initiative Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks – Draft 2009, Copyright © 2009 by the Sustainable Sites Initiative. All Rights reserved.

Learning Objectives:
1. Understanding each the 5 Areas of Focus as proposed by the Sustainable Sites Initiative
2. Learn how purpose built site analysis tools such as Digital Terrain Modeling (DTM) and GIS file integration can make conceptual and preliminary site plans easier.
3. Learn how tools such as the multifaceted Landscape Area Object; Site Modifier Objects; 2D/3D Plant Data Objects; Plant Database, Solar Animation, Custom Reports, and many others can be essential tools in meeting the expectations of a sustainable site.

Time: 2:00pm EST to 4:00pm EST
Register Now:

Jan 29
BIM In Perspective: 1 AIA CEU
Join us for this “big-picture” presentation about Building Information Modeling (BIM) and its historical and technological precedents. Learn how BIM differs from CAD, how BIM affects the design and construction team, and the implications of BIM for the design and construction process.
[A certificate of attendance will be provided, if requested, for those not affilliated with AIA]

Learning Objectives of Program:
 1. Describe some of the historical precedents for BIM
2. Motivations for why architects would want to use BIM in their practice
3. Compare and contrast between a "CAD workflow" and a "BIM workflow"
 4. Describe the meanings of the acronyms IPD, IDM and MVD

Time: 3:00pm EST to 4:00pm EST
Register Now:


Various Vwks Tips

• Checkout the Model to Floorplan command which converts a 3D solid model into a walls, etc. in one go. This might be helpful for those importing models from another program such as SketchUp. From Vwks 2010 Help:

If a solid model has been used to develop a massing study, Vectorworks Architect can extract information from the model to begin work on the floorplans. Specifically, gross area polylines can be created automatically for each building level directly from the solid model with the Model to Floorplan command. A stacking diagram can display the sum of the areas of these polylines, which makes it easy to determine the amount of floor area provided by a solid model before creating the floorplans. In addition, exterior walls can be created automatically. If the model changes after the polylines and walls are created, run the Model to Floorplan command again to update the polylines and walls.

Tip provided by Vincent C, NNA Community Board

• Use World Z for origin of textures to get bricks, siding, etc. to get them to align across walls, something that has frequently frustrated me when adjacent areas won't align. To find the appropriate checkbox for World Z, select your 3D object, apply a texture then go to the Object Info Box and click Textures at the top of the palette. Objects, selected and with textures applied should trigger the inclusion of a check box found toward the bottom of the OIP Textures palette. Check World Z and your various textures should align. See additional details under Vwks Help.

Contributed by Michael Sipes, Community Board

• This brief solids primer is a must-view for newer users. To see this, locate the first post of the thread and download his zaha shapes 03.vwx which is designed to work with Vwks 2010. If you use Vwks 2008 or 2009, a link to those files can be found further down in the sixth post.)

From Michael Young, Community Board

• Here is a suggested workflow for Vwks 3D models taken INTO Sketchup for textures and colors:
We use a combination of Vectorworks, Sketchup and Artlantis (for final rendering) What we have found is that in Vectorworks you can relatively quickly generate the geometry for building elements particularly doors and windows that you could model in Sketchup but would take far longer. So our workflow goes:

1. Create base model in Vectorworks

2. Export to Sketchup to apply colours and materials. We are not fans of Renderworks and find the images that we get from Sketchup are preferable. We also finish off some of the modeling in Sketchup as it can be quicker and easier to do this.

3. If the occasion and project demands we then export the Sketchup model into Artlantis and/or Piranesi for adding lights and high quality rendering.

4. Finally we export to Photoshop for formatting the finished images.

Sounds cumbersome but we find the above process is an quick and efficient workflow

By Eoin R, Architect, Dublin, from Community Board

• Move along path animation video tutorial

• Creating a custom color palette, in this case a color from Kilz paints:
You can create your own custom color palette by using the magnifying glass of the Standard Color Picker and selecting any color sample off of your desktop. 

To create your Kilz paint colors. Go to the Kilz color web page and set it so you can see it in the background while you have VW open.
To create a custom color click on the color box on the Attributes Palette. 
This opens the Color Palette of what is active in your drawing. 
Click on the Standard Color Picker (color wheel) at the top to open the Colors Palette. 

Click on the magnifying glass icon (at the top near the color sample bar) and go to your desktop to pick a custom color sample.  This color is now activated and in your document. You can save these samples in the row across the bottom for future use if needed. 

If Kilz is a brand of paint that you tend to use for most of your set design you can create your own library of color samples by clicking on the Color Palette Manger (wrench and pencil) to create a new library of colors that can be named with the paint color number and then accessed in the Pick Color library by going through the steps above for each and every color... A lot of work but worth it once done.  

From Brian Hores, Co-chair Boston Vectorworks Usergroup

• Animating a movement through a model has always confounded me. Here is a video that makes understanding the process astoundingly simple:


Miscellaneous Links

•Check out these baseball stadiums—in their original configurations—designed and displayed in 3D renderings by Thomas Woodman using VectorWorks as his only tool. Very impressive!

• Watch Captain Sully Sullenberger land his jet on the Hudson river in this CAD modeled and rendered video.

• VectorWorks 3D models can be imported into two lighting analysis programs for extended lighting analysis. From the Visual 3D website:

The Visual Professional Edition is a comprehensive lighting analysis tool designed for demanding interior and exterior applications. The Professional Edition combines an advanced 3-D interface with the latest advances in radiosity theory to provide efficient and highly accurate analysis of complex architectural spaces. A unique approach has been taken in the design of the 3-D modeling environment, resulting in an intuitive and powerful design experience.
Watch Getting Started video under Fundamentals
If this ingreges, see this alternative software called DIALux


The Recipe Within the Recipe

Cookbooks can be irritating. Yes, you're given a list of ingredients—the essentials—but rarely the knowledge of which combination really puts a dish over the top. To get that info requires time and experimentation. It's not enough to simply read a book. One has to understand a finer level of finesse, of combination and maybe timing. This second level of insight I call the recipe within the recipe. In regard to using VectorWorks, the best way I know to get that kind of insight is via video tutorials; the best way yet invented to learn VectorWorks, as I see it.

NNA has video tutorials on their website which fulfill various functions. Below is a link to New in 2010 videos:
These are helpful but ultimately intended as a brief introduction to Vwks and therefore more of a sales tool. Still, they're worth watching if you haven't viewed them yet.

There is a new set of videos—webinars—available from NNA and these can be found here:
These are pay-to-view. I haven't seen any of them yet so can't comment on their quality except to say that they are more about process and this is important since the Help* file within VectorWorks tells you at the outset that the Help system is not designed to give you a process-based understanding. Individual cost as I've previously noted $25 each.

Jon Pickup has two video tutorials (for both V. 2010 & V.2009) called Movie-Based Manuals. Look at Guide to Productivity 2010 at $135. Playing time not listed.

Of course, by now you know about my own several videos. Their URL is posted at the top of page 1.

In my mind the best video tutorials are informal and loose. It's OK if they take forks or digress as needed to make a point. Rigidity in format is acceptable but tends to miss opportunities to relate context which is a key process of learning. Understanding context, especially in a big program like Vwks, is huge.

In a perfect world, these videos would cover the whole spectrum of VectorWorks, be easily updated as tools evolved, give newcomers, journeymen and advanced users each a different fork of understanding. And they would be free. (NNA took a big step in the right direction when they substantially revised the cost of their webinars.)

In my opinion, the goal of learning videos first and formost would be to give new users the confidence to know there would be learning content waiting for them, on hand when they might need it, and so give them the confidence to buy the program against all other CAD competitors. If there's no sale in the first place, there will, of course, be no upgrade sale down the road.

As regards free, I would argue that free has a function—sales—and if that function becomes a generator of income, as I contend, the outcome is more money into NNA's coffers and not less. Online tutorials are the greatest of sales tools. They bond the user to the future. 


That's it for now. Thanks for flying with Convert to Lines.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Convert to Lines #40

Serving the Seattle VectorWorks Users Group and Northwest VectorWorks users.

An archive of past newsletters can be found at
Video tutorials can be found at
To contact me, please write or call (206) 524-2808

In this issue:
• Our next meeting time and place
• More review of Vwks 2010: HDRI’s, Planar Graphics, Viewport creation
• Piranesi—what is it?
• TouchCAD author speaks out
• CAD video of local urban disaster


Had a great demo of Vwks 2010 November 4th by Don of NNA with Kristine and Marcus providing support. Terrific food and drink was served with coffee cups in mid-century colors provided as take home gifts. I really hope they video Don presenting v2010 to a general audience and post it for others to view because his demo goes way further than what you've seen so far watching various vid's from the NNA website. The software has so much more depth than can be captured by the typical highlights fly-by.

Our next meeting will be on December 1st, a Tuesday, between 6:30 PM and 8:00 PM at 7001 31st Ave NE which is located east of the Roosevelt District. I'll be exploring beginning 3D so if you are struggling, please be sure and attend as we'll be looking at the easiest way to get the biggest return on your efforts. We'll also cover HDRI backgrounds and rendering. I'll have my computer hooked up to a big screen TV so the viewing should be good.

Feel free to bring a beverage or snacks. If you come from work, we'll have enough goodies to tide you over. Here's the Google Maps URL:,+Seattle,+WA+98115&gl=us&ei=yVT4SrjrLY_ysQPy3OEd&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=title&resnum=1&ved=0CAgQ8gEwAA

Let me know if you plan to attend.


Mini review of v2010

Planar graphics has been one of the highlighted features of the new release. I tried it out by taking an older plot plan, selecting all the 2D lines that described the driveway, walks and property lines and then used the Object Info palette's new pull-down button to transfer those lines from their default setting of Screen Plane to a new setting called Layer Plane. I then transferred the lines to one of my story layers, clicked on Unified View, then used the Flyover Tool to rotate the whole collection.

This worked quite well with some conditions. Most important is that line work, once only able to show in 2D, now imparts context to the scene. This can't be overstated. Being able to see boundaries of all kinds is a key advantage in communicating a sense of scale.

This will be a great tool in locations where building lots are less sloped versus those with steeper terrain. For the latter, the DTM module or a process of subtracting solids from a ground volume might be a better way to communicate changes in elevation via line work.

One oddity was to find that lines composed of unjoined segments did not stick together when rotated and appeared to have gone through my laundry, shrinking at their ends. It might be wise to convert those segments into one line. I'll need to go back and try this and see if it works. Use Modify > Compose to join line ends. Way cool was to see that text selected along with lines when converted to the Layer Plane showed in 3D too. At least that's how it worked in the NNA demo of v2010. Trying it myself I see a planar box but no text within.

In order to get our attention, NNA has placed a new button on the View Bar called the Active Planes List showing choices of Active Layer Plane or Screen Plane. This new button takes up a large amount of menu bar territory and I get the feeling they really want us to see this new command. I also get the sense that we should be drawing with this button bar set to a default of Layer Plane so all our lines (and eventually text and dimensions) can take on a Planer Graphics view if needed. Lines set to Screen Plane should be used only when constructing 2D symbols.

I'm guessing that the next improvements delivered in v2011 might include dimensions and text staying oriented with the model when rotated. Let's hope.

The process of creating Viewports has also changed. In the past Vwks didn't like you to use the same name for design layer, viewport or sheet but of course that would seem the best way to keep track of what you'd made. Instead we needed three different names for essentially the same information. In my case, I found a way to trick Vwks by adding a suffix to my viewport and also to my sheet, coming back later to add a number to each sheet corresponding to my planset needs.

VectorWorks now does something similar. I used “Design Layer-1” as the name for the design layer, the viewport and the sheet with the only difference being the sheet has an automatic number (prefix) created. This is a great improvement as we can now proceed without having to have three different names for the same information or trick Vwks with prefix/suffix additions. There is a new box called Drawing Title which ties into automatic naming of the title block created via the Sheet Border tool.

Let's talk about object libraries for a moment. Since many, many of us work in residential design, we live and die by what we can import into our drawings pre-made. This is to save time as well as aid us in doing what-if scenarios where an object, even if it is not perfect, is a stand-in for the one we would eventually like to install. We should have a ready source of modern fixtures and furnishings with a means to revise finishes simply and quickly.

In Vwks 2010 I opened the Residential Furniture library and reviewed the contents. Scrolling down through the furnishings I noted that the models looks rather out of date. The CRT TV in a console may have outlived its usefulness, for instance. I counted out the number of pieces, then set out to review the same folder going back to version 12.5 to see what has changed. NOTHING HAS CHANGED. We have the exact same pieces from content provided four major upgrades ago. What's going on? Yes, we can download scads of objects from 3D Warehouse, Google's wonderful collection of just about everything. Problem is Vwks can't as of yet handle the import of colors and textures so instead we get exquisite models the color of clay. If the model has very many facets filling these in can be a job and a half. If you work in landscape design and import these models, render in Hidden Line / Sketch then hand-color, you just might have a really cool drawing. Or if you simply want to import and place silhouettes, then no color is needed. For those wanting realism, you're out of luck unless you use a third party program to aid in translation.

We can also import 3DS (.3ds) models from various websites with textures intact but the worthwhile models average $40 per piece. A collection the size of the Residential Folder--86 models--times $40 and you've rung up a cool $3,440. Any other ideas?

While TurboSquid is a prime place to go to buy models, if you prefer free, try this site:
I downloaded a great looking free Volkswagen Touran, among other models.
Here's a site which lists other sites of .3ds interest:
Bundled .3ds objects for sale:

Sketchup Pro can export .skp to .3ds. I tested this option and found the export/export/import process of .skp to .3ds to .vwx effective if somewhat time consuming.

A tool doesn't really go mainstream until it's easy to use. Thus, way back in v12.5 one could import HDRI backgrounds into drawings but only a few used this advance. In v. 2010, after assembling the model using Unified View and tipping it to best effect, you can go to View > Set Renderworks Background and choose from a number of interior and exterior HDRI backgrounds. The command has been relocated to the menu bar and therefore is more likely to be noticed and used.

I like Custom Renderworks for my general rendering method and found test-rendering from design layers much faster than doing the same from viewports on sheets. This is great as you can check the backgrounds without a time penalty. Once you have identified the preferred HDRI background, make a viewport of your model, send it to a new sheet, and use the Object Info palette to activate and/or modify the HDRI pattern under RW Background.

Take time to also explore the Lighting Options button to fine tune your lights. I expect you've added one or two. Doesn't matter which layer you place them on as long as they are on one of the visible layers you've selected to display your model. Note that there is another place to make HDRI adjustments and this is on the bottom half of the lighting palette. Now you are ready to hit Update on the OIP to render the model. It will take longer to render but the results will be worth it. Here is a recent rendering of mine using an HDRI background rendered in Custom Renderworks.

This was rendered on a 2.5 GHz MacBook Pro with 4 megs or RAM. The Mac OS was Snow Leopard. The rendering time was nine minutes.

While the model is not a major advance in architecture, the rendering does deliver a dramatic sense to the viewer. I found, in using various backgrounds while on my Design Layer, that I had quite varied reflection patterns develop on the window glazing. Also, faces of elements which would have been vague in renderings without the HDRI background now rendered with crisp detail. The set of stairs that face the viewer head on are an example of this. Previously, they would have rendered without clear demarkation between the treads.

Lastly, to change HDRI settings such as rotation, right-click on the HDRI in the Resource browser to activate the Edit Renderworks Background dialog box. Click the Options radio button and adjust settings in the Edit Image Environment (HDRI) Background dialog box.


Unfolding TouchCAD

There was a discussion a while back on the Listserv over the new unfold tool in Vwks 2010. Here’s a description of this tool taken from the Help file in Vwks 2010:

“The Unfold Surfaces command creates flattened, 2D representations of developable surfaces. A developable surface is curved in one dimension only, so that it is able to be flattened into a plane with no distortion. For example, cones and cylinders can be unfolded, but spheres cannot.”

One user wanted a more robust solution since his model was not unfolding as expected. Someone said why can’t Vwks be more like TouchCAD, a software package from Sweden that is quite advanced in its way of unfolding Vwks models. The TouchCAD author responded below.

“Perhaps I should comment, since my name was mentioned.

The VW unfold features should perhaps try to catch up with the more simple unfolding features, such as found in Rhino or formZ, instead of aiming towards catching up with TouchCAD.

As for TouchCAD, many seem to look upon it as some sort of utility program, which its not. It is also a very fast and highly accurate free form 3D modeling tool. The unfolding is not something bolted on at the end of the process. Unfolding and production preparation is an integrated part of the design process from step one, which is what separates it from pretty much all other programs with similar features.

The tent below[*] can be seen as an example. 1,000 square meters of floor area. Just under 4,000 square meters of fabrics used, distributed over 987 unfolded panels. With a material width of 1.6 meters, the imaginary roll used would be something like 3.2 kilometers (two miles). The design took just under two days, modeling it from scratch to sending a fully optimized ready to machine cut file , in a combined design and training session (it was the very first project where the customer used TouchCAD). The picture to the right was taken less than six weeks later, where the tent was in full use.

Would I even dream of doing this design in Vectorworks? Of course not. Nor would I use any other program. As much as I love Vectorworks, I really do, it is simply a question of using the right program for any given job. When drawing a house, Vectorworks is my obvious choice. The same would apply for complex solid modeling. VW is also my preferred
tool for 2D drafting. That does not mean that I have to use VW for everything. Of course not.  I for example use Photoshop to create Renderworks textures. I think most of us do.  Some architects prefer using Sketchup to do sketching. Perhaps not my personal choice, but as long as it works for you, fine. And so on.”

Claes Lundstrom

[*Contact Mr Lundstrom to view these images]

See TouchCAD here and be sure to watch the Why TouchCAD movie.



Inspired by some recent success in Renderworks, I set out to explore the world of rendering and modeling+rendering software and was blown away by the multitude of programs. I looked at (Mac supported) Maxwell Render, Kerkythea, Blender, Modo, Cheetah 3D, Lightwave, Maya, Form•Z, Cinema 4D, Artlantis, LuxRender and Strata 3D.

In my world I don’t get paid to primarily render so while advanced modeling is important, a photorealistic model is not essential to my clients. Still it’s empowering to approach realism, if not actually arrive. But after looking at the galleries of the providers above, after gazing upon the crystal air shimmering around those perfect creations, I stumbled over the opposite—a painterly style-and damned if it didn’t look good, maybe better. I had found Piranesi.

VectorWorks exports to the Piranesi EPX file format and has since Vwks v12.5. Assemble your model in Vwks and give it a perspective view. Export to Epix/Piranesi from a design layer, not a viewport. Next, download the free Piranesi 15 day demo. Use “Open” to find your EPX file. Since you’ve now watched the Piranesi videos you’ll be able to experiment with several painting effects.

What’s cool, as shown in the videos, is the ability to easily paste in scalable images, import 3D objects such as those from the SketchUp vault at 3D Warehouse. (Didn’t one tutorial show a menu bar button to link directly with the Warehouse?) and keep the live model and its elements segregated for fast application of paint and textures.

The nice part of this process is that the model need not be perfectly complete and correct. In fact the whole point is to keep a loose “in-progress” sense to the design. This way the client may not feel locked out of the design process as though each little detail has already been decided upon. The opposite of that scenario can also be avoided. An example is when the client fixates on one of those details which is subsequently changed later in the design. “Why doesn’t it look like the picture?”

Bottom line is these renderings exude a warm and organic feeling with a soft, kinetic sense of style.

To end this discussion, let’s go in a slightly different direction from the live model of Piranesi. You’ve no doubt tried using the Artistic options in Renderworks by now. They have their plusses and minuses. I’ve found another method that gives good result though it relies on Photoshop. Here the model should be more detailed, as opposed to my suggestion above regarding Piranesi. For my model I’ve included a sky which came via the addition of an HDRI background.

Tip: When doing a Vwks Help search for HDRI, use the term ‘background’ instead of HDRI.

Set up your lighting of the model, set perspective, create viewport, export image (jpg, tiff, etc.)

Second tip: Make sure you set the dpi of your model high, 150 to 300, depending on printer. If exporting from the viewport, edit the viewport to find the input field for dpi. Viewports with line work and text (vector info) print great at 72 dpi but any images (bitmap) need the dpi set much higher than the default 72 of monitor screen resolution.

Import your image file into Photoshop, then adjust using the filter called Poster Edges found in the Artistic group. The result is another way to soften a detailed rendering. One nice outcome using this method is the lack of hard cut lines where walls are joined. In Renderworks, the Artistic options show lines where walls are segmented or cut.


Piranesi video tutorials

The real Piranesi:


Quake, Rattle and Roll

See a video of our waterfront freeway, the Alaskan Way Viaduct, depicting what would occur in the event of an earthquake. Graphic evidence of why you might want to reconsider buying a view waterfront condo. There is raging debate here about drilling an alternative tunnel but no video so far about what would happen to a tunnel built below sea level in the same area in the same quake scenario.


That's it! Thanks for reading

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Convert to Lines #39

Serving the Seattle VectorWorks Users Group and Northwest VectorWorks users.

An archive of past newsletters can be found at
Vectorworks for Left Handers videos can be found at
To contact me, please write or call (206) 524-2808

In this issue:
• What's up with our meeting schedule?
• NNA comes to Seattle to demo V. 2010
• Why Unified View in V. 2010 is or isn't important
• Get to know Steve S.
• Tag Ends
• Upgrading: What's in it for me?

What, where, when do we meet? In an effort to tailor the user group experience I sent out email notices about our last meeting (held October 14) asking that you indicate a preference when attending. If you did not receive one of these, or would like to be notified for future group meetings, please contact me and ask to be placed on the mailing list. If you know anyone who might also be interested, I'd appreciate it if you could pass this on. Thanks!


Staff from NNA will be in Seattle to demo VectorWorks 2010 tenatively scheduled for November 4th. Mark your calendars.


I don't envy the engineers at NNA. They have the painful job of updating Vectorworks by extending one foot into the future while trying to keep older users happy with the other foot planted in the past. Thus we currently have these diverse and confusing ways to assemble and display our 3D models: Layer Links, Model View Tool, linked layers displayed on Design Layer Viewports (oh ya!), Stacked Layers and now, Unified View.

Layer linking was poorly named and unintuitive. Model View Tool was an improvement in ease of use but too little too late and now resides in the Legacy folder. Neither of these methods could reliably regenerate after changes. Linked layers on DVLP's was and is a work-around unsupported by NNA (see my own Hidden Line Tutorial to see how these work). Stacked Layers gave us a model that was easy to assemble but the on/off toggle was awkward—you were never sure what setting you were in—important since most tools would not work when in that mode, and while it gave you a means to hide the clutter of 2D line work it did not give you a way to easily measure between elements on the various assembled layers. It seemed to work better as a display tool than a development tool; lots of show, not a whole lot of go.

Is Unified View a breakthrough or just a name change? I see that the stack-of-paper symbol on the menu bar remains as before. What's different? When using Stacked Layers of old, you were prohibited from modifying elements on layers other than the selected, working layer. This has changed in V. 2010. You can reach into ANY layer provided you select Show/Snap/Modify Others as the display setting for Layer Options. I recently was able to reach into a collection of Layers and, although the active layer was the main story, I could select and change basement layer wall and window heights by using the Object Info palette or move entire elements on other layers using the Nudge or Move tools. I was even able to ungroup and edit a roof while on a different layer than that holding my 3D roof. This makes the model much more immediate than in the past. I still was unable to pull a 2D dimension between elements while viewing my model from the front but I could limp along by dragging a line from point to point, reading the output before dropping the snap.

There is a perverse way to be able to dimension-check your Unified model, again assuming that you want interim info and are not doing final annotations. Go to File > Unified View Options. Check “Display Screen Objects” and also check “Only on Active Layer”. Make a new layer called Dimension Layer. Check that layer to be visible. With Unified View toggled on and your new Dimension layer set to visible, all 2D line work will be hidden except that which you apply to this unique layer. Dimension as needed to determine if the model as developed meets your criteria. Feel free to change settings of any 3D element via the OIP (Object Info palette) or Move/Nudge to revise your model.

What confuses is why I am required to set Layer Option visibility manually to Show/Snap/Modify Others? Why, when the Unified View icon is toggled, doesn't the program tip you into this setting automatically? This would seem more intuitive than the user having to make this change manually. Perhaps because you wish to set certain layers to Gray and, tried it, doesn't work. There is only one setting to have all selected layers available for change and that requires them to be fully visible—no gray. So my point remains; until someone more informed offers a rebuttal, hitting the Unified View icon should toggle Show/Snap/Modify Others to an “on” position.

So far I'd say that Unified View is an important step in the right direction. I'm happy, if not ecstatic but check back after awhile. These changes can sometimes turn out to be indispensable.

One caveat to leaving Show/Snap/Modify Others on all the time. Unless you work by yourself or are experienced, it can be dangerous to leave Show/Snap/Modify Others on full time. This is because one can zero in on some element that seems like it shouldn't be on the layer you're working on. Did you forget to remove it from a while back? So you delete it only to discover later that you'd reached into a deeper layer beyond where you were working. This happens especially when you've come back to a file after some time and have not refreshed your memory. For this reason I work almost exclusively in Show/Snap Others.

URL linking to a NNA video describing Unified View

Lastly I should say that Unified View has not yet obsoleted linked layers on DLVP's. Until we have better line control, I plan to continue using this technique.


Steve Scaysbrook is an architectural technologist* from Great Britain. It was he who encouraged me to ship my videos to a more accessible site than my original public folder. Steve was also kind enough to watch several, create links to his site while saying positive things about their content.

As an architectural technologist, Steve has wide ranging exposure to all things relating to building construction and technology. Take a look at his home page and the links included therein

Here is a link to an iPhone CAD program and a review video by Steve:

Great work, Steve! We'll look forward to visiting again in the near future.

*Architectural Technologist:



Some other interesting Steve Scaysbrook links:
Dropbox. Great for sharing drag and drop files and folders between team members. Control over who has access to folders, automatic backup of files, 30 day undo history, free for Windows, Mac and Linux. Files backed up to Dropbox servers. Free 2 GB accounts with pay accounts up to 100 GB. Watch video here:
Take a tour:
The blog:
Glenn Fleishman's Practical Mac review of Dropbox in the Seattle Times


Here is a link showing free hour-long online videos offered by Resolve.


And finally, if you like iPhones, apps and art, here's one I came across on David Hockney drawing on his iPhone. Wonderful!
Here's a painting application. Don't know what Hockney used.
Video of a painting in progress on an iPhone
The Brushes application:


New movie from NNA on V.2010:

This video shows various projects that have some connection to “green design” and how Vwks can aid in displaying information. This is a fast flying video giving a broad overview of the talents of Vwks, not really intended as a how-to, but worth watching all the same, especially as it spends some time showing the Digital Terrain Modeler.


Great old video of an early CAD program from 1962 called Sketchpad which included 3D capability.
Part 1:
Part 2:
Contributed by R.Poulin from the Vwks Listserv.
Here is a modern video which serves as an overview of the above:


Upgrading: What's in if for me?

With every upgrade of Vectorworks there comes, in reply from users, a whole list of reasons why upgrading is less than a great idea. Here are a few:
• I'm in a new line of work.
• No budget for upgrading--I'm almost in a new line of work.
• I work in 2D. Have you heard of this SketchUp?
• I'm still learning 12.5 or I know everything about 12.5 so what's the rush?
• What's a Viewport? Or "What's the point in getting a few stroked-out tools if I haven't updated/changed my whole workflow?"
• I'm waiting for the first bug fix.
• Can't upgrade computers AND software at the same time.
• I really plan on upgrading but I still like to complain online in hopes NNA squirms a little.

These are all legitimate reasons to hold onto your checkbook, except for maybe the last one.
Most relavent for this discussion is the fourth reason; “What's the point in getting a few stroked-out tools if I haven't updated/changed my whole workflow?" What about your workflow? Easy for me to say, I know, having just myself to satisfy. Those with groups of users face a glacial response to change not because they lack gumption but because of cost. Implementing change costs money and change can't be allowed to shut down production. This happens when new computers are purchased, operating systems are upgraded, conflicts between applications occur or key applications are refreshed. For these interruptions to be as small as possible, change needs to be implemented steadily and constantly in a sort of drip-drip-drip of progress.

Vectorworks, despite my most fevered dreams, advances in a kind of drip-drip too. There is never a world shattering breakthrough where NNA buys SketchUp from Google, joins the two together with a few deft lines of code, and emerges triumphant above all the lumbering giants of the CAD world. Yet if you've read the last Convert to Lines (“SketchUp on Steroids”) and watched the videos showing SpaceClaim and Solid Edge push-pull technology, you can begin to see where Vwks is headed, dragged as it is into this new century by technology provided by Seimen's Parasolid.

In Convert to Lines #38 I suggested that such a change could bring about “a massive improvement in the user experience.” If the drip-drip of change is directed toward a steady improvement in how you utilize Vectorworks and other tech apps, then you will be there to reap the rewards. Looking back, the cumulative change may indeed be termed “massive.” For others, this unclaimed progress may simply be productivity gone down the drain.

That's a wrap. Thanks for reading and watching.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Convert to Lines #38

Serving the Seattle VectorWorks Users Group and Northwest VectorWorks users.

An archive of past newsletters can be found at
To contact me, please write or call (206) 524-2808

In this issue:
• Refreshed video group: newest video added
• How Transom and Clerestory windows work
• SketchUp expert puts Cheney WA on map
• Official Guide “Getting Started with Vwks 2010” gets it right
• Digital Terrain Modeling advice
• SketchUp on steroids: the future of Vwks?
• More Resource Library points of view


Welcome to Fall. The leaves are turning, the days shortening, and production is rising, at least here in my basement where I compose the Convert to Lines newsletters. Since issuing CTL #37, I’ve been able to produce one more tutorial, this one called Viewports Tutorial and it has been placed with the others onto (Google VectorWorks for Left Handers to see any one of them and view the list on the lower right hand side of the Viddler page.)

I rewrote the intro to CTL #37 to announce these new and revised videos. Do scroll down to read the expansion of that letter, done since it was last mailed to you.


In Vwks Architect, what’s the difference between Transom and Clerestory selections on the Object Info palette (OIP)? Doors and windows, once inserted into a wall, have an option on the OIP to choose transom or clerestory. If you have a door and you click on the transom button on the OIP or you go into the Custom palette of the OIP for a finer array of choices, you’ll find, once you indicate the height of the transom window, that it shows as connected to the door or window. Windows work the same way. If you want to place a window or a series of windows above a door or another window and wish them to be spaced such that they don’t appear to be mullioned together at the manufacturer, then the clerestory button is the one to check. Sometimes a transom window’s OIP choices are limited so even if you want them connected you may decide to try the clerestory route.

To create a clerestory unit, put your door or window into the wall first. Then select the window tool and click over the window or door. Don’t insert it down the wall expecting to drag the window over the unit below. This causes a wall to appear across your original opening. Now, with the new window selected and sitting above the base unit, click on the clerestory button. The window will turn into a simplified line which looks a little funny over a door but blends in over a window such that it isn’t visible. If you don’t like the look of the clerestory in Top/Plan view over your base opening, make a class called Clerestory, move the clerestory unit there via the OIP, and then turn it to invisible. Turn it on once you make a 3D viewport so that it always shows up in that 3D view.


Visit virtual downtown Cheney WA by way of SketchUp / Google Earth format!
Check out the alley view of the Odd Fellows Hall (3D rotate). Eeww. I joke, but only someone with a deep altruistic streak or a powerful love of their environment would spend this kind of time fleshing out their town and environs in such a unique way. That person is Ron Hall.

For those of you who aren’t Washingtonians, Cheney is a sleepy little college town in the wheat fields of Eastern Washington. The models shown are all created by Mr. Hall who has also made an impressive collection of E.W.U. buildings plus other Eastern Washington building collections.

Ron is an interesting guy. Golf course builder, advocate for cleaning up the Spokane River, urban planner+computer science combination Masters degree, GIS certified, MBA in finance/risk analysis from Wharton, not to mention his SketchUp skills which had Google flying him into Boulder Colorado in August for a two day conference where he was one of twenty “Super Modelers”. NNA would kill for that kind of passion--right?
Check this out:
Nez Pierce Historic trail:
Bill Gates’ high school building Bliss Hall



NNA has produced several “Getting Started” PDF’s for Vwks 2010 which are available for download off their website. On the right hand side of the main page, click on Free Resources. Spotlight, Landmark, Fundamentals and Architect all have tutorial style How-to’s created. So far I’ve only read through the Architect guide but I’m impressed. In the past, NNA has tried to show too many whistles and bells. This one is worth your time, even if you are an experienced user, but especially if you are not. While the authors don’t take time to delve into the why’s of Z or Delta Z (See Vwks for Left Handers: 3D Tutorials), the guide none the less has plenty of info for new users working in 2D who might be interested in 3D.

Take a look at Page 16 on how Constrain Collinear works in keeping certain walls fixed in relation to each other, and, later a quick look at the Select Similar tool which looks like a magic wand providing a nice shortcut to having to use Custom Selection to select like-minded elements.

If you are interested in the authors, their blog can be found here:
Worth checking out.


DTM advice from the web:
I'm trying my first "real" DTM (doing it the real way and not just using the Loft Tool). I have a dwg of a site plan. The contour lines are in 3D, and each contour line is a symbol. Each symbol is made up of many, many 3D polys. It appears that each poly is a ca. 15" line - or a 3D poly w/ only 2 vertices.Do I have to get the 3D polys "out" of the symbols? Or trace over them?
Any suggestions?

From Peter Cipes:
I personally find it easier to trace over, but others might have different opinions. Do the following: 1) On a new clean design layer, trace over each contour, using the POLYLINE tool, starting with the LOWEST and working to the HIGHEST elevation. 2) Select all of the 2d Polylines and run the menu command: MODIFY/CONVERT?CONVERT TO POLYGONS. 3) Select all the Polygons and run the menu command: AEC/SURVEY INPUT/ 2d POLY'S to 3d CONTOURS. During this process you will be given some choices, like the elevation interval between contours, etc. then, each of your 2d polygons will highlight, one at a time, starting with the first created, and then the next, etc, each time you click Next. When all of them have been converted you will be asked if you want to save the originals. If you do, put them on another layer (you may want them later...) 4) Select all the new 3d Contours (which are actually 3d Poly's) and change their fill to None (in the attributes palette). 5) With them still selected run the menu command:AEC/Terrain/Create Site Model. There are lots of choices here, all of which can be modified after creation, so don;t worry too much about every single one.

From Chad McNeely:
I'll say that I generally disagree with this method, since polyline to polygon conversion creates huge vertex counts, and I've never had any luck with the 2d polys to 3d polys (contours) saving me any time. I'd further avoid any conversion attempt of dwg imported geometry for the same "control my vertex count" reason, as well as the likelihood that there are overlaps and other faults that could be tough to troubleshoot.

Instead, I trace my survey info with 2d polygons so that I can control my vertex count. Only I know where I need tight spacing, or not. Vertex reduction has always been very important for DTM/Site Models. I generally throw in some 3d loci as well where I have point elevations that I need. Next, select all the 2d polygons and convert to 3d polygons, ungroup to get individuals, set fill to none, and then select and enter each z-height in the OIP. Check the look of the 3d poly and loci 'cloud' from an isometric view or two, rotate the view with the flyover tool to make sure nothing is missed or whacky (zero, or 100" high instead of 100', etc.), then run the create Site Model command.

Next, check the look of the Site Model in the format you need. It will likely look great in 2d (w/ 2009), but if you use any 3d format beside extruded contours, you'll likely have some dirt spilling over (or have some dirt washed out from under) your contours. After copying this into a fresh file and sending it to NNA as a bugsubmit, a few tricks to try to massage the result that sometimes work are to add additional (or trace existing) contours and convert them to site modifier "pads" (with a fence), adding some 3d loci, adding some 3d polygons, moving the existing 3d polygons just a smidge (check them in a iso view to make sure they didn't get moved to z=0), etc. Note site modifier "pads" do not need to be enclosed shapes- a line can be used even.

The DTM/Site Model tool has always been an almost great tool- they keep chipping away at the edges, but can't seem to get it to "just work".


SketchUp on steroids?

Very cool video of a mechanical modeling program in action:
Loved the narrator too.

If you enjoyed watching the above SpaceClaim vid’, take a look at this one produced by Siemens, makers of Solid Edge and authors of Parasolid; the 3D kernel VectorWorks is now almost entirely based on. Note that 3D animations occur about halfway in.

Can we see Vwks’ future? VectorWorks 2010 encompasses several features which seem to point the way. They are:
•Unified View
•3D snapping and working plane graphics
•Planar graphics (which might yield 3D text and dimensions eventually)
•Parametric constraints (locking relationships between various components)
•Wall sculpting

The decision by NNA to invest in Siemen’s Parasolid kernel could eventually extend the push-pull methods of Siemen’s Synchronous Technology into VectorWorks and thus bring forth a massive improvement to the user experience.


More on Resource Libraries.
This from the NNA Listserve:

Hello Everyone,

This is my first post to the list and I was hoping to get some input from everyone.

I'm in a fairly new office of 8 people that is using VW2009 Architect. As such, there hasn't ever been a "symbol" or "resource" library (A "Favorite") established before, so the task is now mine. This library would have our custom hatches, custom symbols, our vectorscripts, etc. As it is a work in progress, it will be changing and growing for quite a while.

In VW2009's Preferences, I have found that one can specify "Workgroup and Project Folders" on a shared hard drive (our server), so I am planning on building a file there that has all of our custom resources, then pointing everyone's VW at it. The file that I am building would have all of our resources, available in the Resource Browser and divided up into folders wherever possible for easy sorting & locating. By having it as a shared file in a "Workgroup folder" any changes I make to it would be available to any user each time they restarted VW, so I wouldn't have to install the new additions/change on each machine individually.

Does this overall approach sound like a good way of setting such a shared resource? If not, what would you recommend?
If it does sound like a good way of doing such a thing, might you have any tips as I'm building this file?


From Garrit Vanoppen:

Here's a few personal suggestions :

1. I would go for several Library files rather than one, so you can keep file size low enough to both work with and link to. Personally, I have a file for every type of Resources.
2. Find a good naming convention before you start adding all the resources. Symbol folders are a possible solution for symbols. Personally, as an overall solution, I have all of my Resource names to begin with numbers : this has proven to be a nice way to sort resources other than by alphabet, and the numeric codes refer to the Descriptive articles and the Bill of Materials.

From Julian Carr:

Here is what we tell our users:

1. Create a folder on the server (say "ACME Libraries") then within that folder, create some or all of the following directories:

  +ACME Libraries
    +Templates <- store VW template files in here
    +Standards <- store VW standards files in here if any
    +Favorites <- store shortcuts to library files in here for the Resource Browser
        +Attributes - Gradients <- store VW gradient files in here
        +Attributes - Hatches <- store VW hatch files in here
        +Attributes - Image Fills <- store VW image fill files in here

Not that files in the defaults folder populate the various menus and popups within Vectorworks such as the Attributes palette, texture tab in the Obj Info palette, etc. Utilise these in preference to adding the library as a Favorite file unless you prefer that workflow.

2. Remove only these folders from the user folder on each of the client machines:

Although most of these will get recreated, they will be empty. You can access the User Folder by going the Vectorworks Preferences/User Folders tab, then clicking the Explore button (Windows) or Reveal In Finder button (Mac) at top right.

3. Optionally, remove the files in these folders from the Vectorworks application folder on each of the client machines:

This will prevent the default USA Templates and Standards from appearing in the lists in Vectorworks. This suggestion is probably more appropriate for users outside the USA.

4. In Vectorworks Preferences/User Folders tab, click the Add button in the Workgroup and Project Folders section. Navigate to the ACME Libraries folder on the server and click Choose. Notice that once you add a workgroup folder, the Explore/Reveal In Finder button is available for that directory too. Quit and restart VW.

Now all these files will be read from the server instead of the local machine.

5. Note that if/when you create a new resource, you can locate it in the Resource Browser, right click on it, choose Export, then export the resource to the appropriate folder.

6. Note that with a system setup like this, if you disconnect a machine from the network (like a laptop), the it will obviously not have access to your library folder. In this case you can replicate the library folder in the user folder on those machines, though it will need discipline to keep them coordinated.

7. Do not be tempted to add the Workspace or Settings folders to the master library. These need to be unique on each computer and stay in the User Folder.


That’s it!

Thanks for reading and watching.


Thursday, August 27, 2009


Serving the Seattle VectorWorks Users Group and Northwest VectorWorks users.

An archive of past newsletters can be found at
To contact me, please write or call (206) 524-2808

In this issue:
• New free 3D videos
• Axio into Perspective
• Successful DTM’ing
• The history of VectorWorks
• New video from NNA
• CONfused about BIM?
• Vwks VS SketchUp
• Importing your own stuff
• Late breaking news on Snow Leopard (Mac OS) & Vwks 2009 compatability
• Healing oneself

New free how-to videos have been uploaded to

Last year, in response to writing these newsletters, I was asked if I couldn’t please illustrate my text-only explanations with pictures or videos of some kind. That winter, I began creating a series of videos designed for the newer user, the sole proprietor and those working in the residential, light construction market. Recently I’ve produced a couple of new videos plus rewritten others such that there is now a block of tutorials which gives the user an overview of 3D object creation and display via Viewports. Also explored is the creation of Design Layer Viewports and hybrid ways to control unwanted lines. The videos available are:

VectorWorks for Left Handers: 3D Tutorial Part 1
VectorWorks for Left Handers: 3D Tutorial Part 2
VectorWorks for Left Handers: 3D Tutorial Part 3
VectorWorks for Left Handers: Hidden Line Tutorial
VectorWorks for Left Handers: Viewports Tutorial
VectorWorks for Left Handers: Color and Texture
VectorWorks for Left Handers: Workspace Editing

I’ve called this group VectorWorks for Left Handers because I’ve felt for a long time that the process of creating layers and setting heights of the elements within those layers was easier than implied by the software itself as well as the online manual. I’d like to provide a left-of-center, right-brained approach to using this powerful software, a tool I find indispensable in my professional life.

There is no wrong way to use VectorWorks, in my opinion, only ways to be more effective and efficient in how you display your work. Conversely, there is no single right way to teach VectorWorks. I expect that others, having invested hard-won time in developing their own methods, will have important perspective to add to any discussion on technique or that advanced users may wish to look elsewhere for more focused help.

It has been my pleasure to create and provide these. I want to especially thank Steve Scaysbrook for his encouragement in my getting them uploaded to Viddler. Take a moment to view one of Steve’s videos here:


The following was taken from the NNA Community Board ( I regret I did not record the author) and gives some methods for rotating a model from axiometric, which is the default Vwks projection, into perspective view.

Once you've rotated your model into an axo view (non-perspective) that you like,

- Go to the "Visualization" tool set, then:
- Get into perspective mode quickly by choosing the Walkthrough tool [Shift + U]. (But don't move the cursor around.)
- Now choose the Translate View tool [Shift + V]. You can slide the model around in the perspective window with it.

- While you are in the Translate View tool (in perspective), hold down the Alt/Option key. Now click and drag left and right, up and down.

- Alt/Option Drag LEFT moves the model into the distance.
- Alt/Option Drag RIGHT move the model closer.

- Alt/Option Drag DOWN increases the perpective effect.
- Alt/Option Drag UP decreases the perspective effect

- Dragging UP and DOWN changes the angle of the lens, controlling how dramatic your perspective is. Drag DOWN to widen the lens, making the perspective more dramatic.

- Dragging DOWN to increase the perspective effect also makes the model appear closer. Drag LEFT to decrese its size.

- Dragging UP decreases the perspective effect, but makes the model seem smaller. Drag RIGHT to increase its size.

To get out of perspective, go to View > Perspective > Orthogonal. If you do a lot of perspective, you'll want to use a shortcut for that.

For a shortcut out of a perspective view when on a Mac try using Command + 5 or Option + 0 or use, if you have a numeric key pad, simply press 0. On a PC use Ctrl + 5 or 0 on the numeric key pad. Note that the Camera tool gives much the same fine control—and then some. Escape from the Camera Tool view the same way.

Unsure of what axio means?


Peter Cipes of Cipes Design, Ashland OR, gives a short but useful description of using the DTM or Digital Terrain Modelor in the NNA Community Board.

Try this in a new blank file:

1) Using the POLYLINE tool draw four or five (fictitious) contour lines
2) Select all of them
4) Select all of them
5) Run the menu command AEC/SURVEY INPUT/2d POLY'S to 3d CONTOURS. You will be given some choices in the dialog. Set the contour interval at 24" (2ft) then click NEXT at each highlighted Polygon. When finished you will be asked if you want to keep the originals. In this case (for demonstration) choose NO.
6) If you select each of the newly created 3d polygons you can look in the object info palette and will notice that they each have a "Z" value (ie: an elevation).
7) Select all of them and make sure sure that their FILL is set to NONE (in the attributes palette)
8) With them all selected run the menu command AEC/TERRIAN/CREATE SITE MODEL. You can either accept all of the default settings or make choices as desired. You can always go back later and change all of these so don't worry.

If you follow all of the above steps you should have your first (albeit very basic) Site Model.

Thanks, Peter!
Here is the link to the original post:

If you’d like to follow a subset of this thread (DWG contours):


Ever wonder about the history of VectorWorks?

Scroll to the bottom for a timeline.


New video from NNA called Understanding the Object Info Palette, 11:52 minutes
Description- In this video we discuss the versatility of the object info palette along with the various editing options that you have available to you through the Object Info Palette. We will also explain why the OIP is the most important palette in Vectorworks.
For QT movie in downloadable format:

For QT Movie in streaming format:

Be sure to watch the discussion of Data Tab options.

Confused about BIM and NNA? Robert Anderson has provided links to a video that was made of a slide show he delivered recently.

BIMfusion hosts Robert’s video plus others. If you take time to listen to the end you will see a description of how InteriorCAD—a cabinet builders tool—works on top of VectorWorks. Robert also says the following:

“We let him [the user] develop workflows that might be outside what we are telling him that he has to do. As long as he can solve his problems, that makes us happy.”

And that makes me happy too.


Back to the Community Board yet again with this reference to an opinion on using SketchUp versus—or maybe with—VectorWorks.
Check out gmm18’s thoughts.


Jeffrey Ouellette of NNA posted the following process, taken from the Vwks manual, on how to make a library of your details which can then be imported into new drawings. I usually don’t simply cut and paste from the manual but here I thought isolating the text might be helpful.

How to Make a Library

Resources in Favorites
For quick access, the Resource Browser can store links to VectorWorks files that contain resources that you use frequently. You can then import resources from a Favorites file into any VectorWorks file and not have to search for the file again. Remove the link when the file is of no further use. Favorite files are remembered for future sessions.
Use the Files menu in the Resource Browser to create, use, and manage your Favorites list. Alternatively, add files (or aliases or shortcuts to the files) to the appropriate Favorites folder manually.
Making the Current File a Favorite
To make the current file a favorite:
In the Resource Browser, select Add Current to Favorites from the Files menu.
The file is added to the File list under Favorites.
The file must be saved to be added as a favorite.
Making an Unopened File a Favorite
To make an unopened file a favorite:
1. In the Resource Browser, select Add New Favorite Files from the Files menu.
The standard Open dialog box opens.
2. Select the file to make a favorite, and then click Open.
The file is added to the File list under Favorites.
The file must be saved in the same version of VectorWorks as the current file to be added as a favorite.
Multiple files can be selected and added as favorites at the same time; alternatively, press Ctrl+A (Windows) or Command+A (Macintosh) to select all files at once.
Opening the Current Favorite
To open the current favorite:
1. In the Resource Browser, select the favorite file to open from the File list.
2. Select Open Current Favorite from the Files menu.
The file opens.
Importing a Resource from a Favorite
To import a resource from a favorite file:
1. In the Resource Browser, select the favorite file to access from the File list.
The file name is displayed as the current file in the File list, and its resources display in the resource window.
2. Select the desired resource from the resource display window. To import the resource for future use, select Import from the Resources menu. To use the resource immediately, double-click it to activate it, or select Apply or Make Active, if applicable, from the Resources menu. (Alternatively, drag the resource onto an object or to a location in the current file.)
Once the resource is placed or applied in the drawing, it is added to the Resource Browser for the current file.
Multiple resources can be selected and imported at the same time.
Refreshing Favorites from Disk
To update the resources from all favorite files:
In the Resource Browser, select Refresh Favorites from Disk from the Files menu.
All current favorite files are reloaded into the Resource Browser, to reflect any changes that occurred since they were loaded when this VectorWorks session began.
Revealing the Location of the Current Favorite
To reveal the location of a favorite file:
1. In the Resource Browser, select the favorite file to reveal from the File list.
The file name is displayed as the current file in the File list, and its resources display in the resource window.
2. Select Reveal Current Favorite from the Files menu.
Either Windows Explorer or Macintosh Finder opens to the folder that contains the file.
Removing Favorites
To remove a single favorite file:
1. In the Resource Browser, select the favorite file to delete from the File list.
2. Select Remove Current Favorite from the Files menu.
The file is removed from the Favorites list.
To remove all favorite files:
1. In the Resource Browser, select Remove All Favorites from the Files menu.
A confirmation dialog box opens.
2. Click Yes to remove all favorites.
All favorite files are removed from the Favorites list.
Adding a Favorite Manually
To create a favorite manually (not through the Resource Browser):
1. Place the file that you want to appear on the Favorites list (or a shortcut or alias that points to the file) in one of the following folders.
Favorites Folder


The file appears in the Favorites list of any user who has the workgroup folder set up in VectorWorks preferences
The file is added to the File list under Favorites.
2. In the Resource Browser, select Refresh Favorites from Disk from the Files menu.
Only files that are in your user Favorites folder can be removed with the commands in the Resource Browser. (See User Folders Preferences for more information.) Files that were placed in a workgroup Favorites folder must be removed manually.

You can read the above on page 148, in the Vwks 2008 Fundamentals manual or find the same online here:


Scroll down to Resources in Favorites


Technical Bulletin
Vectorworks 2009 and Mac OS X Snow Leopard (v.10.6) Stability Concerns
As many of you know, Apple will be releasing Snow Leopard on August 28,2009. And as many of our customers work on a Mac platform, the release of Snow Leopard naturally brings up questions of compatibility.

Understanding that for the majority of our customer base, our software is a key component of their work flow, our CTO, Dr. Biplab Sarkar, does not
recommend running Vectorworks 2009 (Service Pack 4 or earlier) on Snow Leopard at this point in time. Dr. Sarkar and his team are already in process, developing a version of Vectorworks 2009 that will be fully
compatible with Snow Leopard and free to all Vectorworks 2009 users. Expect
to hear notice of this version availability in early November, 2009. And, if
you?re not already subscribed to our monthly e-Dispatch newsletter, please
subscribe now so that you?ll get the announcement.
For those customers with software versions earlier than Vectorworks 2009,
please note we do not have plans to update these older versions to support
Mac OS X Snow Leopard (v.10.6).

Thank you for your understanding and patience. If you wish to read a more
detailed technical explanation of the current stability issues with Snow
Leopard, you?ll find that information on our ever-growing Vectorworks
Knowledge Base site: If you wish to be kept abreast of
all our latest updates on the Vectorworks Knowledge Base, you can subscribe
to the feed of new posts there.

Juan Almansa
Product Support Manager
Nemetschek North America, Inc.
T 410-290-5114
D 443-542-0716
S jalmansamd


The ecomonic downturn globally and nationally has taken momentum out of most markets, CAD especially. I liken the effect on the user community to an injury of some kind, the type that takes a while to recover from both physically and mentally. We’ve lost our momentum too, and some of our joy, as we hunker down to get through this difficult period.

The one thing that we can do for ourselves, as our doctors have been prescribing, is to retrain, to get up and excercise, to strengthen and stretch and get back to where we were, fully engaged and invested in our work and our lives. If you’ve had an accident or an operation you know how hard it is to get out of bed or off the couch. I won’t discount your struggle. But having gone through such a recovery, I know that it will work out, and the sooner you heal yourself, as much as you can, the happier you will be.

The markets will come back, the work will come back, along with the joy and a willingness to invest time in making yourself better in all ways.

Thanks for reading.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Convert to Lines #36

Serving the Seattle VectorWorks Users Group and Northwest Vectorworks users.

An archive of past newsletters can be found at
To contact me, please write to or call (206) 524-2808

In this issue:
• New video from VectorWorks for Left Handers
• Sort of new videos from NNA
• Bits and pieces

I’ve been on a breakneck pace since December getting out newsletters and how-to videos and I’m going to go light on the writing this month and focus on making a how-to video on adding colors and textures to 3D objects. Called Color and Texture, it is 17 minutes long and 48 MB in size. Fundamentals users may lack the texture libraries shown in this tutorial.

I will place this video in my public folder which contains several others. It can be found at:
You will be presented with a dialog box into which you should type the following:
Account: public
Password: vector
Click on the little down-pointing arrow at the end of the file row to begin the transfer.

I’m really pleased with the transition from the all-text nature of my newsletters to text-plus-video. Video clearly communicates that Vwks can be useful right out of the box provided there is a little help from your friends.

I’m happy to add a small bit of learning material to what is available to you from other, more established sources. You get what you pay for and that’s no lie. But it is equally true that the best things in life are free. Enjoy!

You’ve already had a chance to see the DWG tutorial video which was listed on the last NNA eDispatch newsletter. If you missed it, here is the URL:
Also available from NNA is a video on sustainable design:
Coming up from NNA:
Late April: Photorealistic Rendering
How and when to use HDRI, Final Gather and Radiosity to achieve superior rendering results.

Late May: Architectural Modeling
How 3D modeling tools like “Loft Surface” and “Create Contours” can help when designing organic 3D architectural shapes.
Late June: Key Elements with the Vectorworks Interface
How different palettes and menus like “OIP (Object Info Palette)”, “Resource Browser” and “The View Bar menu” can help on your day-to-day design process.


Here’s a new Vwks blog to bookmark:
The author, Brian J. Poole, or BJP, is a long time user of Vwks, is enthusiastic and has provided a solid place for community and for learning. Check it out.
See his very nice work on his website too

Last time I talked a little about printers. Pam Lund wrote to tell me that she uses an HP 500 N photocopier. She draws at 1/16”=1’ and then enlarges 200% to get to 1/8” scale.


That’s it! Hope you enjoy the video.

Tom Greggs

Monday, March 23, 2009

Convert to Lines #35

Serving the Seattle VectorWorks Users Group and Northwest VectorWorks users.

Scroll down to read past newsletters
To contact me, please write to or call (206) 524-2808

In this issue:
• No User Group meeting in March
• New NNA video tutorial (it’s a good’un)
• ANOTHER (!!!) video tutorial available from VectorWorks for Left Handers
• Cheap printing
• Misc. tips


There will be no meeting for the month of March. The good news is that the Wood Construction Center will remain at its current location and, I assume, continue to be available for us for future user group meetings. I made mention of interest in having someone step into the role of user group leader. So far, no takers. Let me know if you have an inkling of interest.

[The Urban Dictionary defines “inkling”, in its second definition, as “A small angry man or dwarf that runs through public areas kicking people in the shin.”]


Here is a link to NNA’s latest video tutorial, made especially for the User Groups, on “Using Spotlight in Exhibit Design.”
This is a splendid tutorial that should be seen by anyone using or about to use VectorWorks because it shows a relatively simple project that delivers a lot of bang for the effort. The renderings created in a very short time look great. This is the kind of enabling from NNA I like to see.
Spotlight using Lighting designers may also be interested in this URL of a review of Spotlight:

Lastly, the latest Dispatch has a great little tutorial on how to take a jpg or other image file and turn it into wall art, including the picture frame. This video builds on the core of the Exhibit Design tutorial:


Not to be outdone, I’ve created my second beginners video, called Preferences Tutorial, which can be downloaded same as earlier ones by following the directions below. This tutorial is intended to give the new user a base for starting out and is not an exhaustive definition of all pref’s and their actions and consequences.

Not yet created will be a second basic tutorial covering use of the 2D tools. It is my hope that, together, these two, along with the 3D tutorial, will be a helpful introductory trio for any new user and/or the more experienced upgrader.

To lock these preferences in, be sure to make a template of your file for future projects. To make a template, go to File > Save As Template.

Download the Preferences from here (107 MB, about 28 minutes):
You will be presented with a dialog box into which you should type the following:
Account: public
Password: vector

Click on the little down-pointing arrow at the end of the file row to begin the transfer.

Also within the Public folder is an advanced tutorial called Hidden Line Editing plus a Read Me, another tutorial on Workspace Editing along with a Vwks 2009 version of keyboard shortcuts (VWKeyboardShortcuts.pdf), a shorthand version of frequently used commands (Tom’s Keyboard Shortcuts.pdf) and a copy of an edited workspace (Tom’s Architect

The latest Quicktime player can be had at


There has been some discussion lately on the NNA Listserv concerning best laser type printers. Several posters suggested that you could save money both in the cost of the printer and in the cost of consumables by printing using a large format photocopier set to 50% the size of your sheet scale. This assumes you would eventually send full sized PDF’s out for final printing somewhere.

The best bang for the buck seemed to recommend a used HP Laserjet 5000 N and 12 x 18 paper. The N designates the addition of a JetDirect print server which allows printing in a workgroup setting but also connects single machines, Macs in particular, through their ethernet ports or ports on a router. Here are two resellers:
These are about $500 refurbished and will print 11 x 17 and 12 x 18 when hand-fed. If you draw typically in Arch D size on 24 x 36 paper at 1/4” per foot, you can switch to A1 (23.4”x33.1”) as your preferred sheet size and then print to the HP 5000 using a 50% reduction which should print an accurate sheet at 1/8” per foot onto 12 x 18 paper. Use this process to proof your drawings, then send out your PDF’s for final printing. Make sure the printer has A1 paper in stock.
HP 5000 N manuals here:
Dan Belfiori, posting to my questions about the HP 5000 on the NNA Listserv, said that he’d originally started scaling half sized sheets per the above process but found that staying with 11 x17 sheets meant that paper fed more easily and was more readily accessible even though the reduction process meant that to fit the image from 24 x 36 onto 11 x 17 sheets, the percentage dropped to about 46% and thus was no longer reliably scalable to 1/8” per foot. He said he finds that scaling in his work has not been much of a factor and when it has been important, he adds a scale bar. He also suggests looking at other 11 x17 printers such as the 5100, 8000 and 8500.


Miscellaneous bits:
• For those looking for a schematic showing how one might set up a filing structure for a multi-user environment:
From the Community Board. Scroll down until you see the post from highpass showing an attachment (PDF) labeled as Drawing Tools.

• Speaking of multi-users, the NNA Community Board has added a folder to serve the same and it has only been in service since November of ‘08. There is an interesting thread there on how to set up to serve several:

• Xfrog is a group that has provided 2D and 3D plants for Vwks Architect and Landmark. Take a look at this lushly rendered landscape from their Gallery:
Click on Top Images to see more.

Here’s a link to their For Sale libraries:

• Are you finding that Section Viewports need more editing than the tool allows? If drawing over your section in Annotations is less than fulfilling, and you don’t need an updatable template as described in my Hidden Line Editing video tutorial, take a look at this nice description of a simple process that will break your Section Viewport into editable parts. By Pat Stanford.


That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. 

Tom  Greggs
Greggs Building Design