on the image to enlarge)
4.5 / 5
Excellent OS X support, extensive timesaving
drawing features, architecture-specific
document creation and management tools,
standards support, solid Autocad import/export,
built-in scripting support, 1/3 the
cost of Autocad.
No multiple windows, no docking tool
palettes in Mac version, 'Saved Sheets'
functions need refinements.
For existing users OS X version
a must upgrade. Autocad users should
give program a serious test run (on
Mac and Windows).
Runs equally well on Windows, Mac and
Mac OS X.
Nemetschek North America's
venerable VectorWorks (formerly MiniCAD) product line has been
one of the most anticipated products to reach native Mac OS
X status, having its development process discussed numerous
times here in this publication and ruminations of its eventual
outcome talked about in our forums. The longtime Macintosh product
has been a popular CAD application with architects, engineers
and other CAD professionals for well over a decade, but the
company's current trend has been to target specific industries
with a series of 'vertical' CAD and rendering products built
around a centralized CAD engine.
With the latest VectorWorks ARCHITECT 9.5
product, Architosh finally had the chance to put a true "carbonized"
VectorWorks product to the test and see how well it did in
the UNIX-based Mac OS X environment.
Built for Mac OS X
With the release of version
9.5, VectorWorks ARCHITECT has been completely transformed
into a native Mac
OS X application. In this review I will be looking at
the general application and specific ARCHITECT features. Outside
of some minor tweaks, many bug fixes and native OS X support,
version 9.5 differs little from the previous 9.x release.
However the company has worked hard to speed up the overall
performance of the productsomething that is really important
for all usersincluding OS X adopters.
For veteran VectorWorks (formerly MiniCAD) users the charm
of this program has always been weighed against Apple's often
finicky "classic" Mac OS. With this Mac OS X version,
if the application has a fit or two in the course of a week,
OS X will politely force quit the application without so much
as a scratch on the rest of the systemor other applications
for that matter. Combine this with the fact that this version
appears to be one of the more stable releases in years and
longtime Mac-based users are likely to wonder how they ever
got by with anything less.
The Aqua Experience
Nemetschek North America
has done a wonderful job of taking advantages of the Aqua
interface system. All of their tool palettes, dialogs and
menus look gorgeous in Mac OS X's Aqua interface. While the
new OS X Interface Guidelines entice developers to explore
more realistic and 3D versions of icons, Nemetschek wisely
left their existing icons alone. The combined look is very
satisfactory; there is really no need to shadow your zoom
icon's magnifying glass. Though I would not be surprised if
Nemetschek, eventually, did redesign their icons in response
to Apple's new OS. Time will tell and OS X users will likely
relay this information to Nemetschek.
Mac OS X menu palettes drop down and provide both transparency
and shadow over your open files (see graphics below) producing
a very nice effect with clear legibility of menu items; however,
the application does not yet take advantage of the new drop
down "Sheets" function in OS X, a particularly nice
and useful feature.
UNIX Strength: The Preemptive Multitasking Challenge
For many Mac VectorWorks users the ultimate benefit of moving
to version 9.5 on Mac OS X is to take advantage of the powerful
UNIX-based OS. To really test this out I put up a simple
lighted architectural model and rendered it at "Final
RenderWorks" quality while I quickly Command-Tab'd over
to Dreamweaver running in the Classic Mac OS 9 environment
to continue writing this review. Everything proceeded in the
rendering smoothly. To make it harder, I added two QuickTime
movie trailers to the very same task. While the total rendering
time increased, I was able to switch over and watch the QuickTime
movies and even check my email while the RenderWorks rendering
proceeded smoothly in the background.
palettes in OS X resemble their old Mac and Windows counter
This is what it's all about folks, and Nemetschek has delivered
one of the first true native OS X CAD programs that allows
CAD users to move over to OS X and finally reap the benefits
of a easy to use, modern UNIX-based operating system.
The CAD Environment: Easy and Powerful Drafting
VectorWorks ARCHITECT 9.5 offers users what is sometimes
called a "hybrid" 2D/3D CAD environment, meaning
that the program offers both 2D oriented CAD drawing capabilities
and 3D "virtual model" capabilities. With the latter,
users can literally build their project in a virtual 3D space
and view it from any angle or plane. And the ability to then
render Flyby animations and save them to QuickTime format
has been with the program for years.
Many users of VectorWorks prefer to tap the program's efficient
drafting features and since version 9 (and with 9.5 there
are more refinements) a number of key new items have dramatically
improved the program over VectorWorks 8.x and MiniCAD 7. One
of those is "associative dimensioning" where dimensions
automatically update when a dimensioned object is modified.
There are also new spell checking capabilities which include
the ability to customize the user dictionary and to utilize
spell checking ruleslike the ability to not check words
which have numbers in them or words in all caps.
The release has gone further than ever before with improving
text functions. With the new Find or Replace Text tools one
can search through an entire document (or just a selection
or layer) to find or replace a string of text or a single
word. You can even replace text within worksheets and record
fields. An example of where you might use this is with call
out notation. A simple call out like "plaster finish
1" could be used as a place holder to be replaced later
by "two coat plaster finish over 1/2" veneer plaster
board". With Find or Replace Text all instances of the
"first" would be replaced by all instances of the
In addition to the associative dimensioning functions mentioned
earlier, VectorWorks also features new "parametric constraints"
wherein you can set up geometric relationships between two
objects. A new Align and Distribute tool helpfully aligns
objects to a left, center or right side as well as distributes
them evenly. Taking a page from publishing apps, VectorWorks
features a new 2D/3D lasso cursor selection tool for conveniently
selecting irregular shaped objects as well. Some minor improvements
which will make existing users happy include such things as
changing the Object Nudge tool to the shift and arrow keys
and a much improved hatches creation and editing dialog box.
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