Monday, October 22, 2007

Convert To Lines #26

Serving the Seattle VectorWorks Users Group and Northwest VectorWorks users.

An archive of past newsletters can be found at

In this issue:
• Our next user-group meeting (THIS WEEK!!)
• What’s new in Version 2008--thoughts and opinions
• Viewing the improvements in version ‘08
• Classing objects--why & how
• What’s with the naming change?
• The competition

Greetings VectorWorks users! Our next meeting is this Thursday, October 25th, from 6:00 to 8:00 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.
We’ll start right off with the N.N.A. Webinar--live from Baltimore--covering the new CAD-manager features. Sam will bring her Clearwire modem to log us in. This will be our first attempt at using the Clearwire system--we’re not certain we’ll be successful so cross your fingers [We were successful but the system introduced about a 2-1/2 minute lag of voice (over telephone) to video (over internet)]. I’ll give you a look at Version 2008 and we’ll also talk about editing Classes, and other miscellaneous tools and techniques. We’ll attempt to answer your questions regardless of which platform or version you’re working from.
If you can’t get there at six, come whenever as there will be lots of content throughout the evening. I’ll have some goodies to hand out too.

On Tuesday of last week, I attended VectorFest, the rollout event for VectorWorks, 2008, at the Washington Convention Center in downtown Seattle. Nemetschek would, in years past, typically drop in on our user-group or round up architects from some of the bigger firms in town to show off their new release. This time, they believed that the upgrade contained so many new items and some very new processes that it would be worth everyone’s time to do a more in-depth review and so they charged for the service, stepping us through the improvements, over five hours time, with lunch thrown in.
I’d originally thought that hey, if you wanted to buy a new car, Mr. Ford wouldn’t charge you to test-drive his product. Maybe Nemetschek made a mistake in proceeding as they had. However, it turns out N.N.A. has a point; if you don’t know about the tools or new ways to put them together, you are much less likely to employ them, life being short as it is, and thus have much less impetus to spend your hard-earned cash on the new release. In fact, some of the fresh processes are so new, the engineers themselves don’t yet have a solid workflow to pass on, waiting for us to create the best way to use the tools (which we eventually do). For example, you now can route newly created Viewports onto Design Layers and so work in Top/Plan view while a 3D model updates alongside! (More about this later.)

Below, in no particular order, are some of my impression of VectorWorks 2008.

•Tool icons have a cartoony kind of style but in cool way. They’re supposed to look good on big LCD screens and that may be true. Still, several of them look a little spongy and so it will take a while for me to bond their look to their function.
•All of the commands and tools that were on the bottom of the screen are now up at the top, reconfigured, in an area now called the View Bar. There’s an arrow located at the end that allows you to custom-configure this bar to your particular needs. Getting into your Classes and Layers or finding Saved Views will be easier but best of all, you’ll SEE exactly where you are with the active Class and Layer showing as well as view orientation. Sometimes while moving back and forth in our model making, we enter a 2D design layer not knowing we’re still in a 3D plan orientation. This view indicator will help tip us off.
•Draw a line. Immediately, adjacent to its end, a blue box with X and Y input boxes appears, allowing tabbing-in of dimensions. End your line with a click. There is no dimension or angle input box in the usual place at the top of the page (although you can custom tailor this function to act just like the old days). I drew my one line and it was so cool that I don't believe I'll ever want to draw in the old way again. Really. Besides saving space, this new method allows you to keep your eyes on the task at hand and not lose concentration by having to look toward the top or your monitor when input dimensions or angles and it also offers you a simple input for length versus the old negative/positive game. If you pull it to the right, all you need to input is length--this simplification eliminates one of the input boxes required in V. 12.5 and below.
•Typically, when you edit a group or an extrusion, using the usual double click puts you into an editing mode. This time around, there is a heavy colored line surrounding the page and a big, colored Exit Extrude command box at the upper right hand corner. Seems the old way caused quite a few people to miss the ultra-subtle indicator that earlier versions employed and so they would inadvertently wander into this trap. Let’s take a moment to honor those who have suffered while being lost in Edit land.
•Now, if you place a dimension onto a Viewport while in Annotations, changing the object's location in the Design Layer also changes the (Annotated) dimension. It’s associative.
•You can draw walls while in an isometric view. Doors and windows slap up against the walls as though magnetized. You can drag them around corners too. Click and they are set into the wall. Use the 3D Reshape tool to drag them along, up or down the wall.
•Draw an item. You’ll see it is now highlighted along its length or perimeter to a much greater degree. You'll notice it's factory-set to a throbbing action, which seemed cool at first, but soon had me going green as though I were getting sea sick. Turn it off under Prefs. While there, change the highlight color and opacity to something that suits you. The point of this change was to aid you when zoomed in on an object where its ends were out of sight, leaving you unable to see whether or not the object was truly selected. I find I liked the nodes a little better in that there was simply less "stuff" going on around my lines. I'm likely to get used to it so check back in a few months.
•Stack Layers has replaced Layer Linking for users of all but Fundamentals The Stack Layers command can now be found on the View bar. There is a tool for those wishing to convert layer-linked models to Viewports and Viewports of Stacked Layers back to Layer Links. Those still wanting Layer Links can add them via choosing “Standard” as their workspace or by editing a workspace. The Model View tool, more advanced than layer linking, is still available in ‘08, though oddly, if look in the Legacy folder in Workspaces, you'll find it (or a copy) there.
•If you do interiors, VW 2008 is a must-have. The color options now, versus what we had in 12.5, are huge. You’ll have many more colors, color sets from mainstream manufacturers plus the ability to make and modify your own sets. See the movie:
Expanding on the use of color, Renderworks has been improved with the addition of an advanced rendering option for Custom Render (my fav’ of all the choices) and is selectable via the Custom Render Options palette. Called “Final Gather”, this option takes a reasoned approach to Radiosity, giving us about 60% of the amount of rendering that a full-on radiosity call would generate but delivering most of the look of the “full-on” version with far less time spent in the rendering process. Best used for interiors or close-in views of buildings where there are enough shadows to benefit from reflected light. Bright, sunny views of exteriors is not where you’ll want to employ Final Gather. Check out this new rendering:
•You can now turn off, via automatically created Classes, the interior and exterior components of walls in (almost) any order, either in Viewports or on Design Layers. You still have the macro-choice of turning on or off all interior lines when in Viewports (under File/Document Preferences) .
•Opacity. You can now adjust objects for transparency on PC’s and Mac’s using the Attributes palette and a new slider bar found there. Opacity of Layers can be adjusted by Edit command of each layer too. Lastly, the gray level of underlying layers can be adjusted under Print by finding the VectorWorks radio button choice (this button also includes Print Settings, Paper Handling, etc.). Mac users should have Quartz enabled to use this feature.
•Viewports on Design Layers. Ok, this one twisted my mind for a little while but there really is great promise in this tool. (At the moment, NNA doesn’t really have a work flow to suggest for all the ways to use VPDL’s--it’s just too early.) What if we combine the VPDL with some part of the Opacity capability plus Classable Wall Components? This would allow one to make a Viewport of a Main Story floor plan, send it onto a fresh design layer, and overdraw with 2D framing elements. I could turn off my inner wall components to ease readability. I could also turn up the gray level of the underlaying layer prior to printing (previous grays would often disappear when photocopying output). Lastly, I'd be able to update my underlaying layers when the model changes since Viewports are live. Prior to this, if I wanted a reference, I’d have to copy and paste the whole floor onto another layer, thus losing the live link. But if I can edit all attributes of walls, perhaps I’ll skip management of gray via the printing command, even though it’s a brand new capability, and just print normally. Like I said, we'll figure it out eventually.
So far, Viewports on Design Layers is the most promising productivity improvement in VW2008, at least for me. Viewports first brought us the ability to keep our models live through our updating of Design Layers. All sheets bearing images containing 3D information, if done with a Viewport, would automatically rebuild to reflect any change. (For sake of brevity, I’m not even mentioning the great display and composition improvements that Viewports delivered.) Now, with VPDL, I can, in the same way, update reference drawings I'd placed below 2D data and thus dramatically cut time spent redrawing almost all pages of a planset.
VPDL will also blow the doors off the old way of using Workgroup Referencing. One can now organize workflow such that a large building can have Viewports of specialty rooms created by others and floated onto the base Design Layer of the main structure. Sheets can then be made of this composite for printing (via the usual way of first creating a VP of the area of interest). These files, other references, symbols and textures do not reside at the root level of the file any longer and so make management of shared resources easier while keeping file size down and eliminating naming conflicts.

Do take advantage by reading through the thorough listing of changes in V.2008 posted on the NNA website.
Click on the various flavors of VectorWorks and then work the tabs at the top of the following page. Impressive, I’d say.

Inevitably, advances rearrange our way of working. Change, within a well-oiled design process, is confusing and ultimately costly in time and money. New tools, once learned should give us a good return on the initial investment. An example of this is the growing emphasis--as Viewports gain traction--on the generation of and management of classes. You can place an object into a class to better manage its visibility. But if you wish to change an object’s visible attributes later on to better suite your preferences in assembling your sheets, it’s best to assign objects an editable status when first created. The process of learning this is not initially very user-friendly. In my own way of drawing, I like the freedom of working directly in the None class, placing miscellaneous elements there until a better idea comes along. I don’t like to auto-assign attributes to things drawn in None because I might want various line thickness' or colors to be immediately assigned, via the Attributes palette, to suit my whim. On the other hand, I might very much want cabinets or other sets of objects to always be automatically assigned attributes that can be changed on all members of the “Cabinets” class with one just a few clicks versus editing each cabinet, one by one. These changes to like-classed groups are done using the Edit button in Classes, either from the Navigation palette or the Class icon in the new View bar. (For those wanting to read the NNA manuals regarding this process, in Fundamentals, see p.98; Setting Class Properties and especially the explanation on p.101 (top of the page) of Use at Creation. See also, in the Design manual, p.469; Changing Class Properties of Design Layer Viewports.) Go through some quick and simple experiments where you create a new class BEFORE drawing anything. Click to Edit that class and check the Use at Creation box. Then draw a line or a circle. That circle now can be edited without needing to select it or its mates by using the Graphic Attributes palette called up via the Edit command. But this is not where the money is. Your ability to display information will soar once you are comfortable editing classes on VPDL's.

So why 2008 instead of VectorWorks 13? Could NNA format VectorWorks’ upgrades to be issued annually? What would be the advantage/disadvantage of an annual upgrade path? As users, we’d see changes a little quicker, perhaps, although a .5 upgrade was typically laden with helpful changes. These yearly half-point upgrades were free, remember. Looking around, we see that other industry CAD leaders have gone/are going to a licensing arrangement whereby the user no longer owns the software but rather leases it for a fixed term. Currently, ArchiCad, owned by N.N.A., sells the complete package--which you then own, for approx. $4250. You can also opt to buy an annual subscription, thus licensing the software for a renewable fee, as I write this, of $695. You must employ the most current version once on this path.
Corporations have an interest in smoothing out their revenue stream so an annual fee makes sense to them. Understand that I do not have any inside information on how NNA may or may not structure their sales in 2009. I will say that if you are on the fence about upgrading, having some knowledge of industry trends may help you with your decision.

This is mean. Check out the rather uninspiring renderings that Revit has put up in their galleries, especially Residential.
No knock on the designers; it's just that a heavy hitter like Revit should have some amazing gallery content.
It you were wondering, Revit Plus Autocad comes as a “suite” and sells today for $5696 US.

It’s a wrap. Thanks for reading and hope to see you Thursday or hear from you as time allows.

Tom Greggs
(206) 524-2808

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