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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.

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Vectorworks 2009 also now supports the latest AutoCAD 2009 file formats and a new feature enables the batch exporting of Vectworks layers (sheet and design layers) as separate DXF/DWG files. You can also import ADT objects like walls, doors and windows and their plan rotation angles and geometry stay intact.

Additional new features and improvements in Vectorworks Architect 2009 include the Parasolid integration of site models. Now you will get more reliable cut and fill calculations. Moreover, there is the ability to modify existing site models using site modifiers. (see image 11).

13 - Use site modifiers to alter existing site models prior to showing proposing changes.

11 – Use site modifiers to alter existing site models prior to showing proposing changes.

And lastly you can now snap to imported PDF files so you can use them as the basis of your designs. In our tests of this feature we had mixed results however.

Lastly users now have pre-set levels of magnification in worksheets so that you can work easier within them. You can also drag and drop copies of rows and columns or do a move of data this way. This wraps up our discussion of improvements in three broad areas. You can visit their website to learn about several dozen smaller areas of improvement.

Closing Comments

We mentioned in the opening of this article that Vectorworks 2009 with its integration of Siemen’s Parasolid geometry kernel was a serious shot across the bow of Autodesk and Bentley. This is especially relevant to BIM (Building Information Modeling) and the ongoing trend of the use of CAID tools like Rhino in architectural design. Even tools like Rhino are not backed up with modeling kernels as feature-laden and robust as Parasolid-backed applications. This is one reason why some have cried out for SolidWorks to enter the BIM and AEC market. And partly why structural engineers in the UK are using a product based on it.

From this perspective, Vectorworks Architect 2009 and its future have become much more exciting. If there was one feature area improvement where we think this is indicative of the level of changes that will be made in the future we think it’s the new world-class snapping and updated SmartCursor technology.

As for the product today, Vectorworks Architect 2009 is easily the most robust version ever shipped. The improvements to the walls, new methods of placing openings in them, and substantial new improvements to file import/export and latest AutoCAD 2009 file support make this a worthwhile update.

Recommendations

Architects on the latest computers with good graphics cards will appreciate the quickness of the new world-class snapping and SmartCursor technologies as these are now partially calculated on the graphics card. All existing users will immediately feel the difference in snapping. For those using Vectoworks Architect as a true BIM application the new Parasolid-driven walls and floors will add new robustness and make complex model designs more possible.

On the 2D front some of the design-layer viewport improvements — though subtle and minor — work to round out what is in this author’s opinion the most advanced and flexible viewport system in existence. For those using older versions — older than version 2008 — Vectorworks Architect 2009 is a major jump forward. For those on version 2008, that quantum jump ahead will largely depend on how you value the new world-class snapping system and the importance of the Parasolid-driven 3D environment.

All in all this is best and most capable version of Vectorworks ever and easily one of the most well-rounded 2D/3D CAD system on the planet. — ANTHONY FRAUSTO-ROBLEDO, EIC.

Pros: New world-class snapping and updated SmartCursor technology makes overall environment more efficient, once you use 2009 going back to older versions will feel painful; new Siemens Parasolid kernel integrated throughout (50% of) the program, walls allow for more complex holes in them, including doors and window symbols; continued improvements to superb “best-in-breed” Viewport technology; new native Parasolid file format support, new AutoCAD 2009 import/export, better batch export features to DXF/DWG, new Drag & Drop import feature; excellent integration with sister product Maxon Cinema 4D Architectural Edition, good rendering capabilities with RenderWorks add-on.

Cons: Doors, windows and roof objects are not yet Parasolid-based; SmartCursor technology needs updating to 3D cursor; still lacks integration with 3rd party BIM tools — including tools by sister companies in Europe; big BIM weaknesses include no built-in collision-detection system, no SE or MEP modules. 

Advice: Program is truly a BIM worthy competitor, especially for small and mid-sized firms or large firms on the Mac. Multi-file workgroup formation for BIM teams is superior from the point of view of limiting file size and working with remote offices. All firms considering BIM should short-list Vectorworks Architect 2009.

Cost: $2,395 new, $480.USD upgrade / Mac OS X Universal Binary and Windows XP/Vista.

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Reader Comments

  1. Posted by:
    Gerrit
    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: http://podcad.tv/Home.html.

  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:
    TLDesign
    October 1, 2009 07:06 am EST

    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.

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