Tuesday, July 04, 2006


February 3, 2005

In this issue:
VectorWorks manuals
Setting up the model

Greetings VectorWorks Users! Our next Seattle User Group meeting is February 23rd beginning at 6:00 PM and finishing at 8:00 PM.

Let’s get right into the first topic.

Consider the authors of the VectorWorks manuals. How do you go about structuring information when there are so many tools for drawing lines, so many processes for assembling sheets for the printing of finished work, so many ways to put together and highlight a model. In a highly engineered product that is constantly being churned, old ideas and tools roll out while new ideas, techniques, and methods roll in. Listing all of these processes, options and choices is the job of the lexicographer--the dictionary editor.
But would you make a cake while trying to pull a recipe from a dictionary? No. Better to read from something written by one who actually makes a living sifting flour and mixing butter. Those of us who bought VectorWorks may have thought, reasonably, that the manuals which came with the product would be both dictionary and recipe book. We may have expected that at some point in our reading we would encounter a soothing voice that would tell us how best to navigate through the confusion.
Nemetschek, you will be happy to hear, is serious about doing what they can to provide us with the best instruction out there. They have recognized, evidenced by steps they’ve recently taken, that you should have the best manuals available to you, regardless of where they were produced. They have also indicated a sincere interest in improving the web site by providing more how-to tutorials of all kinds.
My point in this is that you will benefit by owning a 3rd party manual which will speed the learning of VectorWorks. You might choose one of the new NNA Training Guides:
or one of several books offered here:
Buy one of these. Whether you purchase it yourself or NNA provides the book and buries the cost in the next upgrade is (as I’ve suggested to them) beside the point. The newer user proceeding without 3rd party guidance will struggle needlessly.
I have found that manuals I’ve purchased for my own use have provided me with relevant information month after month. An idea closed to me at an earlier stage of growth becomes clearer later and so the manual keeps giving back. If you read the book, learn everything, and want to move on, I will help you sell it. Just approach VectorWorks with the understanding that the factory manuals are, for the most part, very much like dictionaries. The hard-won, practical knowledge that you’ll need to really take off will be found at one of the web sites listed above.

OK, back to our next meeting. We’ll keep on with our approach of having a mix of topics that run from beginner to advanced. Work Group Referencing is something we think of as an advanced topic but a new user, working by themselves, can use WGR to set up a very interesting file structure which is designed to limit the number of alterations rippling through the plan when primary changes are made. Stuart Gerger will start off this part of the demo. Poppi Handy will talk about Fences and why she really likes this tool (Poppi: email me!). Those of you using VW10.5 and down will hear more about how Sheets has had its name changed to Views in VW11. You’ll find the change won’t alter your methods at all but only give you new and improved composition options. I may extrude some knee braces or trellises. This is a fun way to get some simple 3D accessories into your work. I’ll also bring an illustration graphically showing the benefits of exporting VW 3D models into Photoshop for touchup prior to printing.
We’ll meet at the Wood Construction Center located at 23rd Avenue South and South Lane Street. Parking is available in the gated lot off South King Street, one block south of Jackson Street. The lecture hall is the building directly adjacent to the parking lot at its south side.

The process of setting up a file in VectorWorks depends on who you work for. If you have an employer who has already worked out the job specifics such as height of objects and their stacking order, then you might appreciate a tool such as Model Setup which is found in VW Architect. With Model Setup you just plug in floor to floor heights and a manageable set of Layers are automatically created for you. Model Setup is part of a package of tools including Document Setup, Create Standard Viewports and Standard Naming. These tools, particularly Standard Viewports and Standard Naming are going to be part of a system that will be handed down to you. The logic for naming Layers, Classes, and Sheets will have come from somewhere else.
If you’re self-employed or have a good deal of autonomy at work, then everything is different. In this world, since you are responsible for what sits on a Layer or what object inhabits a class, you’ll want to use your own terminology. The terms MOD and SLAB* preceding every Layer name--as automatically created by Model Setup--may not help readability. We also rarely know for certain the heights of our walls and floors until after we’ve drawn for a while. I don’t like being pinned down ahead of time and so whenever I draw a new set of walls on a Layer, I use the Object Info palette to set the wall’s overall height and the height of its base and skip over entering these numbers in the Layer Setup dialog box leaving those input boxes blank.
If there‘s a bug with this method, it is that (with the exception of things that stick to walls like windows and doors) a bed or a sink-base placed on a Second Story layer will default to 0’ winding up, effectively, on the Main Story when viewed in 3D**. If this were to happen, you could move them all at once with the Move Tool or individually, one by one, with the Object Info palette. I like the flexibility of using the OI palette enough that I am willing to put up with moving object to their correct heights rather than be forced to preset the Layer height in Layer Setup. If you populate your multistory drawings with lots of 3D elements, you may find my system harder than just setting up heights as God and Nemetschek intended in the Layer Setup dialog box. Bottom line, you have three ways to set your object heights: Layer Setup, Model Setup or via the Object Info palette.

*Rather than use Mod or Slab as prefixes to label Layers, why not use something that makes for easier reading while still giving you an identifier that marks the Layer as belonging to the Model or as having a 3D entity within? In that case, if the Main Story contains live 3D walls, the Layer name might be “Main Story (3D)”. Use “3D” as a suffix. The roof framing plan may have no 3D elements within so no special label would be needed. All Layers lacking a 3D suffix would be assumed to be composed of only 2D elements.

**The only reason to preset a height of any given Layer is that whatever you draw there will stick on the base setting of that height. If you decide to set your wall’s total height and base height as you go along (as I do), avoiding the Layer Setup options, note this one proviso: at some point before you start placing doors and windows into those walls, set, at least, their base height. If you are drawing on the Basement Layer and have not set a base height for those walls, when you do begin to place doors and windows, they will naturally default to 0’ and so will show up as though on the Main Story Layer when you look at your assembled model in 3D. If you later come back to set the wall’s height, the doors or windows previously placed will not automatically adjust and you will have to set the window or door base height for each via the Object Info palette. However, they will automatically adjust if they read the wall’s base height first.

See you on the 23rd.

Tom Greggs

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