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Performance of CAD software is rarely discussed in much technical detail outside the domains of OpenGL performance or rendering crunch times. It is one of those areas that gets into the "touchy-feely" world of the end user--the CAD user. Architosh however has a history of trying to dig under surface to reveal the tech behind speed. In this segment we don't actually get our hands dirty like in the past. Mr. Flaherty reminds us that CAD users get into a type of "rhythm" while they work.

Yet his comments shouldn't be misconstrued as showing a lack of confidence in VectorWorks 2008's speed, yet they do vaguely resemble the indefinite. What grabs our attention here, if even just a bit, are the comments about options, trade-offs and productivity wins at the expensive of initial speed. Here Mr. Flaherty discusses the transparent nature of the new object selection highlighting. Another is the note about the new rotation tool. Both exhibit initial trade-offs with speed but give back the user something more in return. Net result? Greater productivity. If chosen.

What is so interesting about VectorWorks 2008 is the degree to which it goes to provide the user with options. This will most definitely been seen by VectorWorks users as a big plus.


Performance: Quartz Extreme and GDI Plus

AFR: What have you done to increase performance in VectorWorks 2008?

(SF): We are trying to take the smarter approach when we don't have control over the speed of the technology. For example, we have taken more of an option approach with some of the new technologies, so the customer can turn them on or off.

Sometimes we use new technologies that people keep saying are so wonderful. People say use Quartz because Apple says it is wonderful, or use GDI Plus because Microsoft says it is so wonderful, yet these new technologies are actually often slower.

A mistake we have made in the past that we won't make in the future was embracing these new technologies, without acknowledging that people still use the old ones. So now, we are providing Quartz for you so, if you have got the latest and greatest machines, you can use it. But, if you are on a G5, you can turn it off.

How do people talk about speed to you?

(SF): It is interesting that when we hear customers' concerns about speed it is almost never in one of the measurable areas. We measure things like file saving times, screen redraw, rendering times, and operational times.

The comments tend to be described as symptoms like sluggishness or the data bar doesn't come back as quickly as before. Those are much more difficult for us to quantify.

So how have you dealt with speed items in VectorWorks 2008?

(SF): Generally in this release we have made a big push to keep the same kind of feeling overall, because people get into a VectorWorks rhythm as they draw and they like things to happen at this certain kind of lag. It is comparable to 12.5.

We have a translucent stroke selection now. And really there is no way to do this faster. We have given you the option to turn it off. The productivity wins with stroke selection by always knowing what is selected. It is a big win and worth the additional time it takes [the computer] to image a translucent overlay. As the machines get faster we may take the option out.

There are people out there who just want to crank out drawings.

(SF): We understand that. In some cases you might turn things off, in others you wouldn't want to. Like the rotated plan tools--when you rotate the plan it actually animates the rotation of the drawing. We've had a lot of requests to turn that effect off. But it can be disconcerting jumping from one rotation to another. With the effect you know exactly what is happening.

So the approach is, give the users the option. And the lesson is, sometimes a slower item is a productivity win, so let the new technology and productivity win you over.

(SF): Exactly!

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