Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Serving the Seattle VectorWorks Users Group

In this issue:
•Our next meeting time
•Why is learning CAD so hard?
•More misc. thoughts on V. 12
• VW team coming to Bellingham
• craigslist

Greetings VectorWorks users! Our next meeting is next Thursday, the 26th, from 6:30 to 8:30 at the Seattle Central Community College Wood Construction Center lecture hall. The hall is located at 2310 S. Lane St. (intersection of 23rd Avenue South and South Lane Street). Parking is available in the gated lot off South King Street, just one block south of Jackson Street. The lecture hall is the building directly adjacent to the parking lot at its south side. Walk up the wooden side-ramp to the second door.
If you, your business and your choice of CAD program were fixed in space, everything would be so easy and predictable. Some CAD programs are tightly targeted to a specific need and they may be easier to learn such as some 2D-only programs, as well as those that only do a subset of 2D/3D such as SketchUp. If your needs are simple, then VectorWorks is easy to learn. If your needs are complex, the time to learn gets longer, of course, but the real sleeper is realizing that one must evolve their personal drawing and thinking style to best employ the choice of CAD software.
This isn’t necessarily a case of having to fit your working style to the demands of a computer program, but rather how one changes to best utilize the new tools at hand. After years of doing things one way, change does not come easily nor without some pain. The bottom line is that you are really juggling three slippery elements--a deep CAD program, your ability to adapt new tools to your work in new ways, and the stress of doing all this while maintaining a business and getting work out the door.
The best strategy in leaning CAD, in my opinion, is to learn only those parts of VW that allow you to get your work done. Start out working in 2D only if that keeps you going forward. Draw only on one layer if that helps with getting work out the door. For those doing architectural work, draw floorplans with 3D walls containing doors and windows and put a roof on. Then go to side views and convert the image to a copy of lines (Convert Copy to Lines) and then do cross sections (stick with 3D Section and don’t yet use Create Section Viewport). Then push, push, push to extend your knowledge of the program to take advantage of each new tool, but only as time allows.
Here is a letter to the VW Listserve that addresses a question from a potential new user coming over from using the 2D program called PowerCadd:
VW can be used just like PowerCadd while ignoring the 3D aspects of the program. It would be acceptable to begin drawing in 2D to meet production deadlines and, as time allows, begin exploring the 3D tools. In fact, you can get right to it by designing floors, walls (with windows and doors) and roof all on one layer if you want simplicity. (There really is no wrong way to use VW but there are many, many ways to be more efficient.)
What does take time is simply thinking how to best build-out or assemble your project in 3D and where to quit 3D and begin the job of finishing production drawings. This may be a process that is never-ending assuming each project is unique enough to cause you to consider a slightly more efficient way of generating the model or the fact that there is always another tool that you haven't yet tried that may be helpful to your workflow.
Regarding 3D, there are time savings to be had when creating elevations and sections, of course, but the real help will be in solving structural fit problems (roofs to walls, for instance) and in getting the little creative boost when you see your model in 3D and find that the solution for fixing the trim issue which has bedeviled you is now plain as day. Or, will the 3D beam stick out of the 3D roof (yes). And, of course, you finally have, after all that, the option of getting a really nice looking 3D model with all the whistles, bells, gravy and giblets you could possibly desire.
Find the tools that help you get work out the door and then, as time allows, delve into the 3D tools. The "How to build a house" CD has, in my opinion, too many steps for a newbie to digest to be helpful. It takes a "how to build a 5-course French meal" approach instead of "how to build a 3D birdhouse" which would be my suggestion for the next Learning CD. I haven't yet seen the V.12 Learning CD's but others I've looked at have been well done and worthwhile.
And budget for a book on VW since the manuals from Nemetschek are tool- based rather than process-based; that is, they are more of a dictionary than a manual on usage.“

Jumping from VW 11.5 to Version 12 will demand some time to adjust to the location of new tools. I’ve become an expert in using the Workspace Editor since I wanted to place old commands back where they were or locate those tools I use most frequently a step or two closer to my mouse button. VectorWorks has evolved to the place where users should absolutely customize the workspace for their own way of working (This will be confusing as all get-out in our user meetings when everyone is helping me find a tool in twelve different places).
Adapting to the new wall tools in V.12 will also challenge our routines learned in V.11.5. The more choices one has, the longer it takes to implement those choices--a fact of life. If you’ve seen Julian Carr’s Windoor program for creating windows and doors in VectorWorks, you know that having more control means spending more time to make those choices. VectorWorks 12 gives us more choices and takes much more time in creating and modifying walls than ever before. In 12, rather than create a wall, you “Un-Style an existing wall. This is an unfortunate term since “Edit” would have conveyed the command’s directive more clearly.
One begins by taking one of the very many new walls in the library (of course, almost none of them are exactly how I like my walls shown) and Un-Styling it to an editable position. This includes even giving any library wall a simple color fill--you must Un-Style it first. We are encouraged to create our own library of walls which we then make available in the Resource Browser. The practical way to proceed is to begin creating a wall library of your own that you will then have available for each future drawing thus keeping editing to a minimum.
The VectorWorks demo team is coming to Bellingham to show Version 12 to the Bellingham VW Users Group. If you know someone in that area interested in CAD, consider passing this on:
Meet at “Barnacles” at the Alaska Ferry Terminal, 355 Harris Avenue, Bellingham, Wednesday, Feb. 1st.
RSVP to Debra Todd at dtbuildingdesign.com.
And lastly, as was suggested earlier, please consider using craigslist for all inquiries concerning employment and VectorWorks.

See you next Thursday, the 26th!

Tom Greggs
Greggs Building Design
(206) 524-2808

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