Home > Features > Product Review: VectorWorks Architect 2008

Nemetschek North America's VectorWorks Architect 2008 is easily the company's most ambitious update in the history of the program since it changed its name from MiniCAD to VectorWorks. There are several notable aspects to why this is so, but far and away the most noteworthy reason for this update being its most breathtaking is the progress the company has made with VectorWorks Architect 2008 as a true multi-user, building information modeling (BIM) application for the architecture market. The company has tackled convincingly true teamwork functionality through the use of "true external file referencing," centralized CAD management, and an array of BIM goodness, including the all important Industry Foundation Classes (IFC 2x3) data translation.

However, before we look at all that, we'll delve into the broad array of feature improvements in the core version of VectorWorks (Fundamentals).

General Improvements: Fundamentals

We'll start off this review by looking at some of the core improvements and this begins with the user interface itself. The VectorWorks UI has always been relatively simple compared to many of its CAD/BIM peers. The challenge with any software designer is keeping the user interface uncluttered, organized and logical while adding more features and functionality. In VectorWorks 2008 Nemetschek North America has made some minor but very smart improvements while maintaining the simplicity and elegance of its classic Mac graphics software heritage. Gone are the view-related tools at the bottom of the main window. Instead the view bar contains such items as Zoom controls, Fit to Objects, Fit to Area, and some brand new tools such as the new rotate functionality and the new "floating data bar" (head's up display). (see images 01 – 02).

01 - Click on this image to see the whole horizontal new data bar. Note the teapot icon represents rendering modes; the teapot is an icon within the 3d graphics community.
02 - The new "floating data bar" display system controls visibility here in the drop-down menu. Click on this image to read the various options.

Numerical input has always been in the program, it was just not under the cursor where it is far more efficient. Of course, there are legacy modes still available so those who do not like such functionality can optionally utilize the old data bar. (see options in image 02– floating data bar).

Head's Up Display and Other Improvements

The new Head's Up Display or "floating data bar" marks a major improvement for users who do an intense amount of numeric input. Essentially, it locates the data bar under the cursor and the user has several degrees of control with it. Most users will likely always utilize the floating data bar but some might prefer to invoke it by hitting the Tab key, which is an option.

The floating data bar allows you to swiftly create objects of precise shape directly under the cursor. Watch this series of QuickTime movies as we create a piece of furniture with exact dimensions and then locate it on the plan precisely 1" away from two walls in the corner. (see QuickTime QT-01).

QT-01 - Here we create a furniture piece for this room. We input precise dimensions and then we locate it precisely 1" off the walls in the corner of the room.

When moving an object by simply dragging it the floating data bar is a particular benefit. Often users need to make minor adjustments to locations of elements and having such quick numeric control directly at the point of interaction is a real boost to users' productivity. (see QT-02).

QT-02 - In this QuickTime we manipulate a column or pier, moving it, using the floating data bar's numerical inputs. Having immediate access to these under the cursor offers speed.

Now in VectorWorks 2008 users can select multiple objects (of the same type) and make edit adjustments to them. In previous versions if a user selected say, five rectangles, the dimensional data fields in the Object Info palette would be turned off. Now they are available, making it easy to change the size of multiple objects at once. Although Nemetschek touts this functionality improvement relative to doors and windows inserted into walls, it can be useful to manipulating several objects that are the same but not turned into a symbol (eg: chairs around a dining room table, a series of posts or columns, et cetera). (see QT-03).

QT-03 - In this QuickTime we were able to select multiple piers and manipulate their size all at once. There are however limitations when selecting objects other than doors and windows.
Sometimes these other objects in formation may not all move (grow or shrink) as anticipated. Users must be careful when using this feature.


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