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.



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