Thursday, October 15, 2009

Convert to Lines #39

Serving the Seattle VectorWorks Users Group and Northwest VectorWorks users.

An archive of past newsletters can be found at
Vectorworks for Left Handers videos can be found at
To contact me, please write or call (206) 524-2808

In this issue:
• What's up with our meeting schedule?
• NNA comes to Seattle to demo V. 2010
• Why Unified View in V. 2010 is or isn't important
• Get to know Steve S.
• Tag Ends
• Upgrading: What's in it for me?

What, where, when do we meet? In an effort to tailor the user group experience I sent out email notices about our last meeting (held October 14) asking that you indicate a preference when attending. If you did not receive one of these, or would like to be notified for future group meetings, please contact me and ask to be placed on the mailing list. If you know anyone who might also be interested, I'd appreciate it if you could pass this on. Thanks!


Staff from NNA will be in Seattle to demo VectorWorks 2010 tenatively scheduled for November 4th. Mark your calendars.


I don't envy the engineers at NNA. They have the painful job of updating Vectorworks by extending one foot into the future while trying to keep older users happy with the other foot planted in the past. Thus we currently have these diverse and confusing ways to assemble and display our 3D models: Layer Links, Model View Tool, linked layers displayed on Design Layer Viewports (oh ya!), Stacked Layers and now, Unified View.

Layer linking was poorly named and unintuitive. Model View Tool was an improvement in ease of use but too little too late and now resides in the Legacy folder. Neither of these methods could reliably regenerate after changes. Linked layers on DVLP's was and is a work-around unsupported by NNA (see my own Hidden Line Tutorial to see how these work). Stacked Layers gave us a model that was easy to assemble but the on/off toggle was awkward—you were never sure what setting you were in—important since most tools would not work when in that mode, and while it gave you a means to hide the clutter of 2D line work it did not give you a way to easily measure between elements on the various assembled layers. It seemed to work better as a display tool than a development tool; lots of show, not a whole lot of go.

Is Unified View a breakthrough or just a name change? I see that the stack-of-paper symbol on the menu bar remains as before. What's different? When using Stacked Layers of old, you were prohibited from modifying elements on layers other than the selected, working layer. This has changed in V. 2010. You can reach into ANY layer provided you select Show/Snap/Modify Others as the display setting for Layer Options. I recently was able to reach into a collection of Layers and, although the active layer was the main story, I could select and change basement layer wall and window heights by using the Object Info palette or move entire elements on other layers using the Nudge or Move tools. I was even able to ungroup and edit a roof while on a different layer than that holding my 3D roof. This makes the model much more immediate than in the past. I still was unable to pull a 2D dimension between elements while viewing my model from the front but I could limp along by dragging a line from point to point, reading the output before dropping the snap.

There is a perverse way to be able to dimension-check your Unified model, again assuming that you want interim info and are not doing final annotations. Go to File > Unified View Options. Check “Display Screen Objects” and also check “Only on Active Layer”. Make a new layer called Dimension Layer. Check that layer to be visible. With Unified View toggled on and your new Dimension layer set to visible, all 2D line work will be hidden except that which you apply to this unique layer. Dimension as needed to determine if the model as developed meets your criteria. Feel free to change settings of any 3D element via the OIP (Object Info palette) or Move/Nudge to revise your model.

What confuses is why I am required to set Layer Option visibility manually to Show/Snap/Modify Others? Why, when the Unified View icon is toggled, doesn't the program tip you into this setting automatically? This would seem more intuitive than the user having to make this change manually. Perhaps because you wish to set certain layers to Gray and, tried it, doesn't work. There is only one setting to have all selected layers available for change and that requires them to be fully visible—no gray. So my point remains; until someone more informed offers a rebuttal, hitting the Unified View icon should toggle Show/Snap/Modify Others to an “on” position.

So far I'd say that Unified View is an important step in the right direction. I'm happy, if not ecstatic but check back after awhile. These changes can sometimes turn out to be indispensable.

One caveat to leaving Show/Snap/Modify Others on all the time. Unless you work by yourself or are experienced, it can be dangerous to leave Show/Snap/Modify Others on full time. This is because one can zero in on some element that seems like it shouldn't be on the layer you're working on. Did you forget to remove it from a while back? So you delete it only to discover later that you'd reached into a deeper layer beyond where you were working. This happens especially when you've come back to a file after some time and have not refreshed your memory. For this reason I work almost exclusively in Show/Snap Others.

URL linking to a NNA video describing Unified View

Lastly I should say that Unified View has not yet obsoleted linked layers on DLVP's. Until we have better line control, I plan to continue using this technique.


Steve Scaysbrook is an architectural technologist* from Great Britain. It was he who encouraged me to ship my videos to a more accessible site than my original public folder. Steve was also kind enough to watch several, create links to his site while saying positive things about their content.

As an architectural technologist, Steve has wide ranging exposure to all things relating to building construction and technology. Take a look at his home page and the links included therein

Here is a link to an iPhone CAD program and a review video by Steve:

Great work, Steve! We'll look forward to visiting again in the near future.

*Architectural Technologist:



Some other interesting Steve Scaysbrook links:
Dropbox. Great for sharing drag and drop files and folders between team members. Control over who has access to folders, automatic backup of files, 30 day undo history, free for Windows, Mac and Linux. Files backed up to Dropbox servers. Free 2 GB accounts with pay accounts up to 100 GB. Watch video here:
Take a tour:
The blog:
Glenn Fleishman's Practical Mac review of Dropbox in the Seattle Times


Here is a link showing free hour-long online videos offered by Resolve.


And finally, if you like iPhones, apps and art, here's one I came across on David Hockney drawing on his iPhone. Wonderful!
Here's a painting application. Don't know what Hockney used.
Video of a painting in progress on an iPhone
The Brushes application:


New movie from NNA on V.2010:

This video shows various projects that have some connection to “green design” and how Vwks can aid in displaying information. This is a fast flying video giving a broad overview of the talents of Vwks, not really intended as a how-to, but worth watching all the same, especially as it spends some time showing the Digital Terrain Modeler.


Great old video of an early CAD program from 1962 called Sketchpad which included 3D capability.
Part 1:
Part 2:
Contributed by R.Poulin from the Vwks Listserv.
Here is a modern video which serves as an overview of the above:


Upgrading: What's in if for me?

With every upgrade of Vectorworks there comes, in reply from users, a whole list of reasons why upgrading is less than a great idea. Here are a few:
• I'm in a new line of work.
• No budget for upgrading--I'm almost in a new line of work.
• I work in 2D. Have you heard of this SketchUp?
• I'm still learning 12.5 or I know everything about 12.5 so what's the rush?
• What's a Viewport? Or "What's the point in getting a few stroked-out tools if I haven't updated/changed my whole workflow?"
• I'm waiting for the first bug fix.
• Can't upgrade computers AND software at the same time.
• I really plan on upgrading but I still like to complain online in hopes NNA squirms a little.

These are all legitimate reasons to hold onto your checkbook, except for maybe the last one.
Most relavent for this discussion is the fourth reason; “What's the point in getting a few stroked-out tools if I haven't updated/changed my whole workflow?" What about your workflow? Easy for me to say, I know, having just myself to satisfy. Those with groups of users face a glacial response to change not because they lack gumption but because of cost. Implementing change costs money and change can't be allowed to shut down production. This happens when new computers are purchased, operating systems are upgraded, conflicts between applications occur or key applications are refreshed. For these interruptions to be as small as possible, change needs to be implemented steadily and constantly in a sort of drip-drip-drip of progress.

Vectorworks, despite my most fevered dreams, advances in a kind of drip-drip too. There is never a world shattering breakthrough where NNA buys SketchUp from Google, joins the two together with a few deft lines of code, and emerges triumphant above all the lumbering giants of the CAD world. Yet if you've read the last Convert to Lines (“SketchUp on Steroids”) and watched the videos showing SpaceClaim and Solid Edge push-pull technology, you can begin to see where Vwks is headed, dragged as it is into this new century by technology provided by Seimen's Parasolid.

In Convert to Lines #38 I suggested that such a change could bring about “a massive improvement in the user experience.” If the drip-drip of change is directed toward a steady improvement in how you utilize Vectorworks and other tech apps, then you will be there to reap the rewards. Looking back, the cumulative change may indeed be termed “massive.” For others, this unclaimed progress may simply be productivity gone down the drain.

That's a wrap. Thanks for reading and watching.


No comments: