Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Convert to Lines #33

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:
• The January meeting time and place
• New movies available from Vectorworks for Left Handers
• Presentation topics for the quarter from NNA
•Jonathan Pickup offers limited free online access to his NZ User Group
• Simple explanation of Design Layers, Viewports, etc.
• Misc. thoughts, references
• How Vectorworks thinks you think


Greetings VectorWorks users! Join us Thursday, January 22nd, 6:30 to 8:30 PM for the first User Group meeting of the new year. We’re going to be showing how to use DLVP’s in VW 2009 to bring in details of surveys or existing structures into our plans in a way that keeps things simple. We’ll also want to share your ideas with the group and help with any questions you might have. I’ll have free calendars from NNA if you missed the party in early December. Great space, great food, by the way. Thanks to all of you who came and added to the happy mood despite the weather and the concerns of the economy.

Our meeting will take place 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.


I’ve created a movie called Hidden Line Editing which describes how to derive easily edited lines from a model for the purpose of creating hidden line elevations. It is intended to be a more visual description of the process I’d originally laid out in text form in the last Convert to Lines #32. The original process of converting a model to lines is not new. What is new is the method described that sends a snapshot of an assembled model back to the Design Layers for the converting process which provides a LIVE MODEL as a template so that when changes are made, the model can be easily reconverted or edited. In other words, the Design Layer Viewport of your model automatically updates as your design changes and so the Convert Copy to Lines process, which was once static, becomes dynamic.

There is also a companion process for sending rendered images of the model (Bitmap Render) to layers holding linework such that composite images of renderings be combined with lines.

This process works for Version 2008 forward through Version 2009.

The movie has something to offer new users as well as advanced. It’s a long video of almost 24 minutes and a correspondingly large download. I apologize for that, however it is fully packed with comment and visual technique and is free.

In the coming months I intend to add more movies designed for the newer user. This group will be called Vectorworks for Left Handers and will take a more right-brained approach to learning Vectorworks and thus, hopefully, be a little less sequential, a little more intuitive, will focus on looking at the whole instead of a collection of parts.

Viewing the movie using Windows requires downloading Apple’s Quicktime plugin.

To access the movie go to
Account: public
Password: vector

Click on the little down-pointing arrow at the end of the file row to begin the transfer. The Read Me is largely a summation of the above. Feel free to ignore it.

Also within the Public folder is a second 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 All is explained within the tutorial.

Lastly, I’ve written a bit of background at the end of this newsletter, if you have the time.


NNA continues to supply the user groups with videos. January’s will be on using Landmark in Vwks 2009. February brings a review of Spotlight. March focuses on Architect. I will forward these links to you as soon as they come in.


Jonathan Pickup is offering limited free seating to those that wish to sample his online user group training sessions.
Click on a class and email him to check on availability.
To read about his user group:
Also check out Pickup’s short but free movies on YouTube. Google Vectorworks to see his list of available videos.

He has also put the content of each months tutorial into a pdf downloadable for a fee. Want something explaining how to use the site modeling tools? For $16.50 you can drive it off the lot.


From the Vectorworks Listserv, James Wiley asks:
“Here's a question from a beginning VW user: Can someone
offer a simple description of how Design Layers, Saved Views,
Viewports, and Sheet Layers are related and used to create a single
finished drawing?”

Dave @ cowcreekroad replies:
“Very, very simply:
Design layers are like (3 dimensional) tracing paper. They stack on
top of each other vertically. They contain the objects in your drawings.

A saved view is a script that allows you to specify a group of layers
and objects in specific classes, that can be seen and worked with.
When you call up a saved view, you are returning to a known state.
Look at it as sort of a bookmark.

A Viewport is a snapshot of your drawing, showing particular layers,
and objects in specific classes. It's only a picture. You can't work
directly with the objects shown in a Viewport.

A Sheet layer is the virtual piece of paper on which you arrange


Vectorworks Misc.:

•The quality of the 2009 Learning Series CD’s by Resolve is quite high, in my opinion. Most important is their process of laying out and executing a task with a common goal in mind. Too often, tutorials were created in which every possible option was included which led to brain overload. Or, the language was Engineer-speak which is not native to a great many of us. Especially helpful was the Rendering Learning disk. Highly recommended.

•Custom Renderworks and Custom Radiosity has a Shadow Mapped rendering option as well as one for Ray Traced shadows. The latter offers sharp edged shadows while the former produces those that are softer edged. If you are generating HDRI views with the cloudy option on, use the Shadow Mapped style to better depict soft shadows from a shaded sun.
If you render an HDMI image, you can export it as a High Dynamic Image (HDMI) into Photoshop in order to protect against banding or other loss of fine detail.

• If you are using or tempted to experiment with HDRI backgrounds, here is a site with free sky views:
Not sure what I’m talking about? Check this out this simple structure by Billtheia:

• When rendering your large, fully textured models, test them first using low render settings. Set dpi from 40 to 72, Shadows set to Low. Then, once you are happy in general with the model, set the options high (not Highest) to create the best look for printing or exporting.

•3d solar collectors importable into Vwks can be found on the Google 3d Warehouse site under Velux>Velux Skylights>photovoltaic panel.

•The NNA website has been reorganized with the Tech Board renamed and moved to Community>Community Board. Also look at the new tutorials under Training>Free Resources. If you are unfamiliar with the Community Board, check it out. Lots of good
topics and a great way to learn from the generous contributions of expert users.

• In the movie Hidden Line Editing I describe the Boomerang tool which allows one to pan. You may find that simply holding down the scroll button of your mouse makes panning even easier since it eliminates use of the space bar. Be sure to check Mouse Wheel Zoom under Vectorworks Preferences. Other ways to move about include using the wheel for zooming in and out, using the option key plus wheel to scroll up or down and using the shift key plus wheel to scroll left or right.

• More DLVP ideas. You can drag a poly around an existing area slated for demolition and make a Design Layer Viewport of it. The opacity of the DLVP can be set be editing the layer via the Layers tab of the Navigation palette. Objects within the DLVP can register snaps so setting dimensions to walls and other objects is possible. This process also works when you want to display an existing, adjacent area. Create a new layer for the existing portion, then DLVP it (now its a verb) to the layer containing the adjacent new work. Previously this would have had to be controlled through class visibility settings. This tip comes from the NNA Community Board (I apologize for losing the name of the contributor).

• Pat Stanford, in his and Dan Jansenson’s December ‘08 PodCAD Podcast, mentions a small detail within Vwks 2009 that has to do with the accent colors that show up as light ghostly edging and backlighting on objects drawn and objects moused over. They may show the same colors in your stock settings but ideally, the object you’ve just drawn should have a different color than any adjacent object which your cursor happens to pass over. Go to Vwks Preferences, Interactive and click on the button marked Interactive Appearance Settings. Change the color of the choice marked Object Highlighting - Active Layer to be different from Object Highlighting - PreSelection - Active Layer. While you’re in there, make the borders (Size) wider so that you see a glow around the selected object. Change opacity as you see fit.

The (new) Vwks Help page for Object Highlighting brings a bit of clarity to an otherwise confusing maze of color options. Type ‘Configuring Interactive Display’ into the Vectorworks Help search box.


Understanding concepts of how we learn and how we organize ourselves may help bring clarity in your ongoing effort to master Vectorworks. Standing back and looking out across some decades of experience, it seems to me that, perhaps obviously, from chaos comes order. We move from the dynamic toward the static, from the flexible toward the inflexible, from a world of fewer rules toward one of more rules. This evolution is present in each and every part of life, from how I get dressed in the morning to the way in which design projects are resolved into finished plansets. But neither order nor chaos is the end goal. More important is the movement of both; one into the other, then back again.

Just like the spectrum above, people learn in very different ways . Vectorworks, I would contend, supports those who enjoy learning in a strictly ordered environment as well as those who, like myself, thrive in a more chaotic place where rules are meant to be bent or broken, where tools and processes are mixed round and around until meaning emerges. Parts of Vectorworks are decidedly left brained. The Setup process comes to mind, for instance. But happily for me, Vectorworks provides a lot of elbow room, where, if one route seems blocked, another can usually be found, and this is the genius buried in its DNA.

The left brained and the right brained can cooperate and even thrive if we view the other as not being wrong in how we essentially view the world; in how we learn, and how we structure ourselves and ultimately our drawings. There is a precedence for this, one advanced by some in the business community. It’s a process called “both/and” thinking where each of the two parties can be right. They contend we’re not in an “either/or” world where black and white, yes and no, win or lose is the only outcome.

The point here is that we need to stick together, to work together, to accept each other and to cherish the energy and ideas each bring to the 3d table. That’s where the growth can be found, both in our personal lives, and in the bottom line at NNA.

If you are interested in reading more on “and/or” thinking:
Brain handedness:


That’s a wrap. Thanks for reading and for watching the movies (!) too.

Tom Greggs
Greggs Building Design

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