Home > Features > Product Review: VectorWorks 11.5



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Working Faster - New Drafting and Useful Functions

This latest free update also enables you to speed up your drafting. A new Recently Used Fonts option displays up to eight of your last font choices at the top of the Font menu. Other helpful drafting features include the automatic resizing of rectangular and polar grids to fit any page size.

The top new drafting tool in VectorWorks 11.5 is arguably the improved Freehand drawing tool. There is a new tool option dialog that allows you to determine the degree of "smoothing" that is applied to freehand shapes. This dramatically cuts down on the number of vertices that make up a free form shape, which in turn makes it much easier to edit the shape later on as well as reduce the file size. Additionally, there is a new Freehand Edit mode tool which makes it simple to alter a shape by simply drawing a new freehand form off the chosen editing shape.

In the golf course architecture example show here (images 005 - 006) I wish to alter the shape of the fringe grass (light green) that envelops the green -- this is the fairway level grass that is next to being the shortest cut grass on a golf hole, for those that don't know -- so that it cuts closer to the sand trap next to the green. This will make it easier for errant golf shots that miss the green to the right to roll into the sand trap, penalizing the golfer. Who said golf should be easy?

005 - selected fringe shape
006 - fixed fringe shape in one easy step

To do this I simply select the new Freehand Edit mode button and then select the freehand shape of the fridge grass form. Then I move the mouse and draw a new curved shape bringing it around towards the sand trap and back into the fringe form. Cursor clues tell me I've touched the edited shape line. Letting go of the mouse I now get a new resultant shape (see right image above).

Lastly, VectorWorks 11.5 has a dramatically improved offset tool. It is now possible to get dependable results offsetting on complex shapes such as these shown in the image below (image 007).

007 - new complex offsets are a breeze with version 11.5


2D Redrawing Speed

When Nemetschek North America launched VectorWorks 11 back in 2004, they did so at a special user conference -- a first for the company. At this conference many veteran users gave the company solicited advice about future development needs. A dominant theme in this advice was that VectorWorks (formerly known as MiniCAD) was special in the market partly because of its uniquely strong "graphics" qualities, something users said helped them secure the next job. The company even produced a rare book -- really a monograph -- on the outstanding work done by VectorWorks users worldwide. With VectorWorks 11.5 the company has responded even further with enhancing the program's graphics abilities, but such new features can take a toll on the overall performance of the program's general 2D speed.

VectorWorks 11 users who have discovered this fact in the course of their work will be happy to learn that version 11.5 makes some decent speed improvements in general navigational/redraw functions. In our test file -- a large repetitive skyscraper facade with subtle shading, color, shadow and gradient filled windows is redrawn from a series of saved views (far, medium and close) which can be seen outlined in red rectangles. (see images 8-9) Additionally, a series of horizontal and vertical scrolls were stopwatch timed to calculated 2D redraw scroll speed.

008 - selected fringe shape
009 - fixed fringe shape in one easy step

Speed Improvements in 11.5

In our series of "saved view" tests general speed improvements ranged from 12% to 44% with the most dramatic being from a saved "far view" to a saved "close view". At an ultra close view of the tower, our scroll tests yielded a general speed improvement of approximately 12%-15%, with a range of error of 2% in both directions. We conclude that general 2D pan, scroll and zoom (saved view) functions will approximate an improvement of speed in the 15% range overall. This is decent in terms of speed improvement but something we think the company should put more focus on. With more firms using VectorWorks in a range of sizable projects we think the ability to work quickly is vital in a competitive landscape.


VectorWorks 11.5 continues Nemetschek's tradition of providing the market with a uniquely positioned multipurpose, hybrid CAD program at a fraction of the cost of competitive systems. Arguably, the program lacks some features of more focused CAD systems and is not yet a true BIM application. Yet VectorWorks 11.5 continues to both threaten and erode the logic of users relying on industry heavyweight Autocad by Autodesk. For less than one third the price of Autocad, VectorWorks provides a robust and serious alternative to the monolith with capabilities that program still lacks. At the same time, VectorWorks is watching newcomers like Piranesi and SketchUp as it tries to both respond to its own heritage as a excellent presentation tool and take advantage of a new trend in the AEC industry for non-photorealistic rendering and artistic presentation features.

With the addition of the RenderWorks module users can obtain good photorealistic results, but the artistic rendering features of VectorWorks 11.5 (see cover image on page 1) are another avenue for creative expression that users will no doubt take advantage of.

Architosh's recommendation to current VectorWorks 11 users is to go ahead and definitely upgrade to this latest free update as it offers compelling new features (built-in sketch functions for Industry Series users) and more speed. For users still on VectorWorks 10 or worse 9, this latest update is adding features that you simply don't have substitutes for in the older versions. Moreover, if you are on OS X and loving that operating system, VectorWorks 11.5 is going to offer you the absolute best experience with Apple's platform, with improved stability, speed and integration. --- ANTHONY FRAUSTO-ROBLEDO, Editor-in-Chief.




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