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Product Review: Nemetschek Vectorworks Architect 2009

In this product review Architosh looks at Nemetschek North America’s Vectorworks Architect 2009, a 2D/3D CAD architectural CAD and BIM (building information modeling) solution used worldwide — and the number one CAD program on the Mac platform.

Continued from page 1

Snap Box and Selection Box

Two new visible items in Vectorworks 2009 are the new Snap Box and Selection Box, indicators of which are fully customizable in the application preferences under the Interactive tab. (see image 02). The Snap Box, the larger of the two, indicates the area from which the current snap will be obtained. The Selection Box, the smaller of the two, indicates the area where geometry can be recognized and selected. At their default settings these two new features may confuse and bother existing Vectorworks users. They present a lot of graphical information directly under the cursor (compare the movies below).

02 - New Snap Box and Selection Box preferences allow you to set size of boxes, color, thickness and transparency of line.

02 – New Snap Box and Selection Box preferences allow you to set size of boxes, color, thickness and transparency of line. And you can turn these boxes on or off. To see the new Interactive selection interface technology in action view any of the QuickTime movies in this product review. 

However, you can customize them by turning them off or on, choosing just one (say Snap Box) to be on, the other off, or by customizing their line color, transparency and line thickness. Users will have to experiment to find what is most helpful and comfortable.

QT-01 – In this QuickTime we can observe the SmartCursor technology in Vectorworks 2008, much as it has been for many years even in prior versions. Notice that there is no Selection Box and Snap Box indicators like in Vectorworks 2009 (see movie below). Notice too the differences in smart edges (guides for the cursor and relations between objects) versus what Vectorworks 2009 provides below. (Note: To view movies full size click on far right triangle and select Save as QuickTime Movie, save to your desktop and then open.)

A greatly improved feature of the new snap technology is projected guide lines (dashed red) along edges of objects or from vertices. You also get a confirmation that a point has been pre-snapped with a red box. Together these two new features speed up production by providing graphical feedback on items that in the past either took longer to obtain or were not obtainable at all. For instance it is now possible to obtain the half and quarter point distances between two objects and move an item to that point. You can’t do this in Vectorworks 2008 at all! The QuickTime movie below highlights differences in snap technology in Vectorworks 2009.

QT-02 – In this QuickTime we can observe the SmartCursor technology in Vectorworks 2009, complete with new found abilities. For instance, the new smart edges appear as dashed red lines (the color is customizable) while new mid-point and quarter-points appear as “marks” along these lines and the edges of objects. They also appear between objects — a very useful new feature!

We have spent some time on this new world-class snapping technology in Vectorworks 2009 because we think it is a bigger feature than many users realize. And with sharp customization users can tailor it exactly to their needs for optimal performance.

User Interface Improvements

In addition to the excellent new snapping and selection technology — all of which should be categorized as user interface improvements — there are several other interface improvements which contribute to a better workflow.

03 - Navigate back to Design Layer viewport option.

03 – Navigate back to Design Layer viewport option.

04 - Hit the orange button in the upper right to return to your Design Layer Viewport.

04 – Hit the orange button in the upper right to return to your Design Layer Viewport.

05 - The Navigation palette can now open referenced files directly.

05 – The Navigation palette can now open referenced files directly.

The best of these is probably the new Navigate Back to Design Layer Viewport from Design Layers. (see images 03 – 04). And now you can open up referenced files from within the Navigation Palette (see image 05). Lastly, the new Loupe Tool is a unique feature in Vectorworks 2009 that we have not seen before in a CAD or BIM application. By hitting a custom keyboard shortcut in the middle of an editing or creation process you can substantially zoom into the area under the cursor — greatly increasing your accuracy. This makes users more productive because they have to zoom in and out less frequently. (see image 06 below).

06 - The new Loupe tool. Zoom into any area from far back on the drawing to snap more accurately.

06 – The new Loupe tool. Zoom into any area from far back in the drawing to snap more accurately to objects, make quick adjustments and generally deal with zooming in and out less often. 

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Reader Comments

  1. Posted by:
    February 24, 2009 02:48 am EST

    Covering both the 2D basic drawing techniques as well as the BIM capacities of Vectorworks and lots of aspects in between, this is a quite complete and professional review. As a long time MiniCAD/Vectorworks user, I also appreciate this article as a well structured “What’s New in this version” guide.
    Thanks, Anthony – good work.

  2. Gerrit,

    Thanks for the feedback. With apps we have reviewed before we will begin focusing more on the “what’s new” aspects and do less of an “overall view” of the entire application. Glad to hear you appreciated that focus.

  3. Dear Anthony,

    I agree with Gerrit that you’ve provided a thorough look at Vectorworks 2009; very good review. Software developers often tout their product release’s features, but I find it’s always helpful to see which new features and improvements new users find compelling. Reviews like your are great because sometimes a “minor” enhancement that gets a small mention in the official literature turns out to be a huge hit. A few years ago, for example, Vectorworks incorporated double-click editing of high-level objects like parametrics, symbols, and groups. That small change made a huge difference in the user experience and efficiency.

    Here’s a short list of new features that I find really compelling in my day-to-day work with Vectorworks, some of which you mentioned, which I take the liberty of posting here, in no particular order:

    –Gray/snap others while in groups
    –Snap loupe
    –New Move and Position features for Doors and Windows in walls
    –Drag and drop files into drawing area
    –Snap to PDF (and the undocumented feature of ungrouping vector-drawn PDFs)
    –Renderworks textures to wall and floor edges
    –“Concave” holes in walls
    –Faster Sheet Layer Viewport renderings

    If you don’t mind the plug, I discuss those features with Patrick Stanford and Dan Jansenson on their PodCad podcast:

  4. This is excellent…to hear readers chime in on their views. That’s why we built in this commentary feature into the site itself. Even AppleInsider doesn’t have this…and we are thrilled to see people start using it. And readers should not feel shy about minor plugs and links to their websites. Architosh is a community. – AFR

  5. Posted by:
    October 1, 2009 07:06 am EDT

    I found the upgrade to 2009 extremely frustrating – stability issues completely blighted the experience. Not until SP4 did most of these issue get resolved. The response from Nemetschek was that all applications when they are first released are inherently unstable. This I accept given the wide range of legacy OS’s out here and platform configurations it is difficult to chart all potential bugs, however in some areas of basic functionality there are some continuing issues. I believe that if reviewers also considered rigorously crash testing application software developers would be a little less blasé about this issue when an application is launched. Instability is a serious drain of productivity.

Comments are closed.

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