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3Dconnexion and Vectorworks—The Next Power Couple?

Gaining full 3Dconnexion 3D mice support to Vectorworks 2017 gives its users a lot more power in the area of 3D model creation, editing and navigation.

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It used to be that all the nifty power CAD user hardware—outside of Apple’s tank-crushing old Power Macs—was built specifically (or first) for Windows users. That left many Mac users drooling and often out of luck. But times are changing.

Meet The New Power Couple

When Vectorworks, Inc., introduced their Service Pack 3 for Vectorworks 2017 earlier this year, the feature-heavy update had some big ticket news-worthy items that may have overshadowed the announcement about renewed 3Dconnexion 3D mice support.

Now for readers who may not be aware, 3Dconnexion is a hardware company devoted to making 3D mice for computers. Their SpaceNavigator product is the most famous and most accessible price-wise. Architosh originally reviewed this product back in 2007 and awarded it a rare 5 out of 5 perfect rating. The product at that time was pretty phenomenal, with our closing recommendation stating: “After using the SpaceNavigator with SketchUp for several days the thought of not using it becomes horrific.”

01 – Vectorworks’ latest patch included powerful new support for 3Dconnexion 3D mice devices, including their entire product line.

A year after that review—which is ten years ago now—the Vectorworks folks took to the SpaceNavigator as well. “We started our relationship with them back around Vectorworks 2008,” says Joshua Loy, user interaction manager at Vectorworks, Inc. But the novelty of 3D mice was just that, and while they provided interactive power for heavy modelers a decade ago, many CAD users were still firmly entrenched in the world of 2D CAD.

Going Enterprise

Fast forward ten years and BIM has largely taken over the AEC industry and 3D modeling is done daily by architects. Josh filled me in on what happened. “The product for us kind of stagnated over time,” he says. “We eventually got back in touch with them, and they reintroduced us to a whole bunch of new products they had created. And when we saw the new products we realized we needed to upgrade our support and provide a better user experience.”

The big thing Vectorworks has done in re-establishing support for 3Dconnexion is making the decision to support the enterprise pro products, things like the flagship SpaceMouse Enterprise. (see image 01 – 02). 3Dconnexion has a range of SpaceMouse devices that combine the 3D navigation widget of SpaceNavigator with a wrist pad type device loaded with customizable buttons, including a wireless option like the SpaceNavigator for laptop computers.

02 – In this image, the SpaceMouse Enterprise is shown at left with the CadMouse seen on the right. The former product brings Vectorworks tools down near the hands of the user, similar to the Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro but not with an active touch LED screen. The numbered buttons corresponding to the LED grid.

Josh told me that Vectorworks is fully supported from the Navigator to the SpaceMouse Enterprise, which means the customizable tools which contextually load into the LED guide display on the SpaceMouse Enterprise are fully supported as well. “Through the configuration tool you can remap all your buttons to Vectorworks functions,” says Josh regarding the Enterprise model.

In noting a visual similarity to the benefit of the Touch Bar on Apple’s new MacBook Pro, Josh commented on the value of the SpaceMouse Enterprise with its high level of customization. “The nice thing is you can maximize your screen real estate by eliminating tool palettes that are now closer to your hands where you are looking for the keyboard or device shortcuts, to begin with.”

To setup SpaceMouse products with Vectorworks the user does so from within the device drivers for the product. “The tools are in the drivers,” adds Josh. “We work with them to provide the Vectorworks tools that we are supporting for the devices.”

CAD Mouse and Other Future Improvements

3Dconnexion also makes a new and world’s first traditional mouse dedicated to the CAD market. CadMouse is the world’s first mouse engineered for the needs of CAD professionals. While its benefits are less impactful for Vectorworks, says Josh, “we fully support custom button mapping and their quick radial menus, that along with the silky-smooth precision on the supplied mouse pad make the mouse a nice-to-have. The dedicated middle mouse button can also help prevent those unwanted wheel zooms while panning around a Vectorworks drawing.”

03 – In this YouTube video, you can see the SpaceNavigator and 3Dconnexion products in detailed action with Vectorworks. 

Josh looks forward to 3Dconnexion SDK improvements on the Mac side of the equation. “I think they have a great SDK,” he says, “I can’t wait to see their Mac support up to the Windows level. At that point, we could even add more benefit and more capability to this technology for Vectorworks users. I’m excited about that going forward.”

Architosh Insights

3Dconnexion is a special company within the overall CAD and engineering software market with deeply robust support for point vendor solutions. Here are some key insights about both companies mentioned above:

The Key Takeaways

  • Vectorworks’ embrace of 3Dconnexion’s 3D mice product line was important to implement; according to the 3Dconnexion website, nearly all architecture industry BIM platforms are also supported…meaning AutoCAD, Revit, ArchiCAD, Allplan, BricsCAD, 
  • Today’s Vectorworks users and architects, in general, are also progressively adopting algorithmic design tools like Rhino + Grasshopper—if not Marionette built into Vectorworks—so it’s comforting to see early stage design tools also supported by 3Dconnexion. However, it is not clear from their support page if the Mac versions of those two respective tools are supported. We do know from their support docs that Mac tools like Autodesk Maya, Trimble SketchUp, Adobe Photoshop, etc are robustly supported, along with the new Vectorworks support. This may mean that only Marionette, as an algorithmic design tool on the Mac, is supported with 3Dconnexion mice. 
  • As Josh noted, making the SDK for Mac as robust and feature complete as their Windows version is greatly looked forward to. The 3Dconnexion device driver software is called 3DxWare 10 for Windows, Linux, and Mac. On the M&E side, Blender and Cinema 4D are also supported, in addition to Maya. 

To learn more about Vectorworks visit here. To see and learn more about 3Dconnexion and its 3D mice products and technologies, visit them here.

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