Home > Features > Product Review: VectorWorks 11.5

So what's new with this latest release of Nemetschek North America's VectorWorks 11.5? Well...the answer is quite a lot. For a free update this latest release packs many new features and fine tunes some older ones that were introduced in the seminal release of VectorWorks 11.

[Editor's note: 5 April 2005] - It's important however to point out that some of these new features in VectorWorks are particular to various Industry Series products the company ships, while others are common to all series products or the regular plain vanilla version of VectorWorks. We don't talk about every feature in this review and we therefore encourage readers to consult the Nemetschek website for a comprehensive listing as well as which features pertain to certain industry products.


Making the UI Better

For starters, the latest release is more Mac OS X Aqua compliant over previous versions; though to be honest there are still some missing Aqua and OS X interface compliant features, such as the attached slide-out Save-As dialog (support for Sheets technology) boxes that are common to all of Apple's applications. Perhaps more pleasing and even useful is the new button renderings in the tool palettes (see 001). For the first time ever, it seems, there's no mistaking which Snap settings you have on! And of course the buttons are nicely rendered in Aqua style on the Mac.

001 - new palettes rendered in Aqua

Some other improvements worth mentioning include the ability to hide the Page boundary in design layers. This may seem trivial for older users but it's not. For users using the Viewport functionality in VectorWorks 11 this is a useful feature, since the page boundary no longer has meaning if document printing is via printed "viewports". It will also make design layers feel more like "model space" for Autocad users since there is no reference to the printed page.

Lastly, Viewports themselves have been improved in their interface design. A new check-box allows you to edit "design layers" with the same object attribute settings as the viewport you are currently editing. This can help put layers or classes "on" which are normally turned "off" in specific Save Views. (see 002). We think is feature alone will be a huge hit with viewport users because it is a big time saver.

002 - new display using Viewport Attributes


Presentation and What's Really Cool About 11.5

Okay, now that we got the Apple and interface stuff out of the way, let's look at what's really cool about this update. Clearly, the heart of what's cool centers on the new built-in Sketch Mode functionality [that ships with Industry Series products]. VectorWorks 11.5 allows you to soften your hard CAD lines into a hand-drawn look. This new functionality is more than just a post-processing feature. You can actually drawn in sketch mode. Team up the program with a Wacom tablet and you are in Picasso mode!

So what can you sketch? Well, it turns out just about anything can be turned into a sketch mode drawing, including symbols and even hatches. ╩To begin you can select a typical CAD drawing object and apply one of five different sketch modes to it. These modes include Careful, Certain, Quick, Rough and Tentative. From the Object Info palette you choose a sketch style mode (see images 003 - 004). You can also apply a sketch mode to an entire viewport. Notice that the fill in the wall in image 4 doesn't follow the sketched wall outline but has its own natural sketch path...much like applying a color felt marker over a sketched wall in the pen and ink days. This natural wobble gives the function a high degree of credibility.

003 - no sketch applied
004 - sketch mode applied


The Sketch technology is also integrated into the various line rendering functionality of the program. A useful application is hidden-line rendering mode. Now in addition to perfectly straight CAD lines you have five sketch lines. The results can be very nice -- much like a sketchbook drawing. When you rotate a model the re-render function remembers you have chosen a specific sketch mode. Moreover, you can layer the sketch technology over RenderWorks rendering modes -- for those users who have the RenderWorks module --combining the best raster image rendering technology with your choice of sketch line mode.

The other big new feature involving presentations is Automatic Lighting. No longer will you have to spend time inserting lights and fiddling with their settings just to get a well lit scene. Instead a light source is automatically inserted into any scene once rendered and this light will dynamically track the camera providing perfect lighting parallel to the axis of the camera. Thus rotating objects or doing a fly-thru will not entail a multiple light source setup, unless you wish to tune lighting to be realistic. Once you insert your own lights into a scene, the automatic lighting is deactivated and your purposeful lighting takes over. For people who do a lot of OpenGL-based rendering work this function alone is worth the whole upgrade price to version 11.5 if you are using any older version of the program. It will simply save you that much time!

Some final notes about improvements to presentation features would include mentioning that there is now enhanced support for Piranesi export as well as [other RenderWorks] improvements to image props. And for QuickTime VR users you now have the ability to have your╩lights follow the model or the camera, another very nice addition to the rendering tools.

Next Page: Working Faster - New Drafting and Useful Functions

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Home > Features > Product Review: VectorWorks 11.5




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