Sunday, October 15, 2006

Viewing DWG/DXF Files

Sometimes I have to import or export my drawings to DXF or DWG. Importing isn’t such an issue but when you export a VectorWorks drawing to DXG or DWG, how do you know what you are sending, what will it look like when the other person gets it. 
Ideally if you have AutoCAD (and why would you) you can open the files and view your exported drawings. What if you don’t have AutoCAD? 
Someone suggested this site on the internet:
You can download a free DWG/DXF viewer for windows and macintosh from SolidWorks. I tried it and it works well. It’s a recommended procedure to check the drawings that you send to people. 
This software has a simple interface, you get to see what you have exported so that you can add a disclaimer to you email to say that you have checked the exported drawings and they look correct. 

Friday, October 13, 2006

Texturing Extruded Objects Doesn't Work

Sometimes you apply a texture to an extruded object and it still won’t render. What’s wrong?

Here is a typical example. You’ve made an object and you made the correct texture, but still the texture is not showing up.

You can see on the Object Info Palette that I have applied the texture correctly, but if you look at the Attributes Palette you can see that the object has no fill. This means that it will stay wireframe.

Look at this example. I have changed the Attributes Palette so that the object has a solid fill. Everything else has remained the same.

Now the object is displaying the correct texture.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

How To Save Corrupt Files (maybe)

How to save a Corrupt File (maybe)
This trick doesn’t always work, so it is a last hope solution. If you can get most of you drawing using this method, you may only have to redraw a small amount. Also, this trick only works with Design Layers, so all the annotations that you add to the viewports will be lost.
There is one trick that I have given out a few times lately where the file is corrupt or crashing frequently. Remember that this works sometimes, it doesn’t always work. If it can work then it is a life saver. I have sometimes used it to access a file that is so corrupt that it won’t open.
This trick uses WorkGroup Referencing. Refer to the VectorWorks Architect Manual, or the VectorWorks Landmark manual (also covered in the archoncad manual Setting up Large Projects available at ).
Leave the corrupt file closed and open a new file.
• From the Menu Bar chose
Tools > Workgroup References…
• We have to add the file that is corrupt, click on the New button.
Find the file on your computer. Then click on the Open button.
• The New Reference dialog box gives you control over which layers to attach to the current file.
Select all the layers that you want, but do not select any layers that have layer links on them, layer links can not be imported. Remember that only Design Layers can be imported.
Then click on the OK button.
• So far this is just the same as the manual. Now for the trick.
• Delete the Workgroup Reference. This will break the link to the corrupt file.
• You get a dialog box asking you what to do with all the resources that you have referenced into the current file. Choose to keep them all and they will all stay in the current file, imported from the corrupt file.
• The Workgroup References dialog box is empty. No files are currently linked, but the layers that you choose from the corrupt file remain in your file, and all the information on the imported layers comes in as well.

If this method doesn’t work the first time try importing the layers one at a time. Attach one layer, Save the file. Remove the layer. Save the file. Attach the next layer and so on. You may find that only one of the layers is corrupt. If you do, leave that layer out and attach the others and remove them, keeping all the resources.
You could end up with all but one layer saved. That is better than redrawing the complete file.
You should also have a backup strategy so that you could go back to yesterdays file, or the day before. That file may not be corrupt.

7th July 2009
I know people that are still accessing this blog, but it was written 3 years ago. Vectorworks now has a new interface for this area, so some of the instructions need to change.

You access the References from the Tool Menu, choose Organization...
Click on the References Tab
Click on the setting button.
Choose Design layer import

For detailed instructions on using Workgroup Referencing try this short shart manual:

Saturday, October 07, 2006

How To Send Large Files via Email

Sometimes I get my clients trying to send me large files over the internet. Even if you compress your files you might still have trouble sending large files. 
Here is my solution:
This site allows you to send large files (up t0 100Mb). The way that it works is that you upload your files and an email is send to the recipient. They get a link where they can download the big files at their leisure. 
Works really well....

New Rendering With HDRI Backgrounds

VectorWorks 12.5 introduces a new rendering options with HDRI backgrounds. HDRI means High Dynamic Range Image and it means that you can create more realistic rendered views. I used to use a program that allowed you to add environment maps, images that would be reflected in shiny objects. That’s what the HDRI backgrounds are all about. Making and environment that can be reflected. 
If you render a view with an HDRI background, you will notice the reflections of the background in the ball. This is the beauty of the HDRI backgrounds.
This will be a huge improvement in the quality of our renderings, but it takes longer to render. 

Friday, October 06, 2006

How To Get Rid Of The 2D Stuff in 3D Views

Often you want to have a view of your model, so you change to a 3D view. It looks OK, but then you notice all the 2D stuff. Wouldn’t it be nice to get rid of the 2D stuff? You could have it on a class and turn the class off.

There is a quick way to get rid of the 2D stuff. From the Menu Bar choose:
View > Stack Layers
This is the same view with Stack Layers turned on. Notice that all the 2D stuff has vanished?
Stack Layers is only available in Architect and Designer versions of VectorWorks.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Which Manual Should You Buy?

If you are interested in buying one of my manuals you might wonder which manual would suit you. I have tried to offer my advice on the manual order page, which says that if you are new to VectorWorks and want to buy the Architect manual, you are advised to buy the Essential manual as well. 
If you are new to VectorWorks and you want to buy the Landscape manual, you are advised to buy the Essential manual as well. 
The reason for this is that the Essential manual covers the stuff that I consider to be essential knowledge for using VectorWorks. I used to say that this manual covers the foundation knowledge that you need to build on if you want to use VectorWorks effectively. 
So, to summarize, when buying one of my advanced manuals ( architect , landscape) you should also buy the Essential manual UNLESS you are sure that you know all the basic stuff (how to use layers AND classes, viewports/sheet layers, graphics etc).

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Hot Keys with Vectorworks 2

Yesterday I told you how to find the Hot Keys for tools that you use. One of the things that I didn’t mention was that if you double-hit the hot key VectorWorks will carry out an action.
For example:
double X key = Deselect All
double C key = Zoom in 2x
double 1 key = opens the Create Line dialog box
double 4 key = opens the Create Rectangle dialog box
and so on. 

Friday, September 29, 2006

Hot Keys with Vectorworks

Hot Keys in VectorWorks, this is where you push a key on your keyboard and VectorWorks chooses a tool for you. There are many hot keys assigned to the keys on the keyboard, but how do you find these useful things? 
If you move your cursor to a tool on a palette, and leave your mouse there for a short time, a tool tip will pop-up to tell you what tool it is and what the hot key is. Notice the letter ‘X’ inside the brackets? That’s the hot key for the 2D Selection Tool. Now whenever you want the 2D Selection Tool, you can it the X key on your keyboard. 

Another tool that I use a lot is the Zoom Tool. Notice that you can use the letter C for selecting the Zoom tool. Double tapping the C key will Zoom you in 2X. 
Now you can find the hot keys for you favorite tools and get quicker at using VectorWorks.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

New Object Editing 2

As well the editing I showed you in the last blog, you can also edit the objects that can be created from a Polyline, such as hardscapes, plant groups, spaces, ceiling grids, property lines and so on by double clicking on it. 
Here is an example. Draw an area of hardscape.  You can use the hardscape tool to do this or you can draw the 2D shape that you want and then use the Objects From Polyline... command from the Modify menu.

With the 2D Selection tool, double click on the object. The handles will change from around the object to on the edges of the object. Your 2D Reshape tool is now the active tool. If you move the cursor to one of the middle handles and drag it down...
The object has been re-shaped. You can see the result, the hardscape area has been edited. This is a fast way to edit hardscapes and other similar objects like ceiling grids, spaces and so on.

New Object Editing 1

With VectorWorks 12.5 you will find it easier to edit the objects that can be created from a Polyline, such as hardscapes, plant groups, spaces, ceiling grids, property lines and so on.

Here is an example. Draw an area of hardscape.  You can use the hardscape tool to do this or you can draw the 2D shape that you want and then use the Objects From Polyline... command from the Modify menu.

Draw an area on top of your hardscape. Use a solid object like a rectangle, polygon or circle.
Select both objects.
From the Menu bar choose
Modify > Clip Surface.

You can see the result, the hardscape area has been edited to match. This will make it a lot faster to edit hardscapes and other similar objects like ceiling grids, spaces and so on.

How To Un-Sketch Your Elevations

If you set up your elevations using section viewports or a viewport from the front you will get this heavy red border. It means that the viewport needs to be updated. To update the viewport, click on the update button on the Object Info Palette. What if your elevation looks like this, but you don’t want it sketchy?

On the Object Info Palette click on the button for the Render settingS.
This will open the Hidden Line Render Settings.
If there is a tick on the Sketch Hidden Line results then click on it to turn it off.
If the tick is not on, but your elevation is still rendered you will have to go back the 3D Model layer and check the Document Default sketch style...
Click on the OK Button.

Update your elevation viewport by clicking on the update button on the Object Info Palette.
Now you have hard line elevations.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Eyedropper Tool Improvements

The new Eyedropper Tool in VectorWorks 12.5 now allows you to copy the attributes of one viewport (layers and classes assignment) and paste them on another viewport.

This will copy the class settings, the class overrides and you can copy the viewport attributes from one file to another. If a class doesn’t exist in new file you get a warning, but all the other classes are copied.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The New Offset Tool

With VectorWorks 12.5 Nemetschek North America have updated the offset tool. It would be fair to say that this is a major change to the Offset tool. 
Select the Offset tool.
Look at the Mode bar, see all the new options.  
You no longer have to choose the object that you want to offset BEFORE you choose the offset tool. If you choose the 5th mode then you click on the object to offset, then click on the side to offset it to. this is much faster than it used to be. 
The Offset preferences have been changed as well (the last button on the Mode Bar). 
Notice that you can choose all the mode bar options with the preferences.

Choose whether you use the selected object or you click on each object that you want to offset.
You can offset a duplicate or you can offset the original object. 
You can now offset walls!

This is a big improvement over the old offset tool. It will improve your workflow. 
I found that this new tool made drawing buildings easier because you can offset copies of walls, it has reduced the need to delete lines when I really only needed the offset... 
go, upgrade to 12.5...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Why The 2D Selection Tool Is Your Friend

When you start learning to use VectorWorks you might find that you leave the current tool on, and then try to do something else like selecting things.

When you are learning VectorWorks you will find it easier to change back to the 2D Selection tool after you have finished with a tool. This will stop you accidentally creating more things.

After you have placed a symbol from the Resource Browser change back to the 2D Selection tool. That will stop you accidentally adding more symbols in your file.

Some people have a habit of clicking in the drawing area when they have finished with a tool. Changing to the 2D Selection Tool will stop this being a problem.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Drawing Borders, or the VAA Title Block?

When you place a title block in your drawings, you can use the VectorWorks Drawing border, or you can use the VAA Title Block. The VAA Title Block is available if you are using VectorWorks Architect in Australia or New Zealand.  It gives you more ability to control title blocks, edit the text on the title blocks and customizing the title blocks is relatively straight forward. But there is a big bonus to using the VAA title block you can easily make a Document Transmittal sheet.

From the annotation tool set choose the VAA Title block tool.  When you choose this tool you get a ghost image of the title block on the screen.

Double click anywhere to place the title block. This tool is designed to fit the title block to your piece of paper, much like the VectorWorks Drawing border tool. The title block will come in with a border and crop marks. This is the default setting that you can adjust if you want to.

To get rid of the crop marks, go to the Object Info Palette and find the pop-up menu for Draw Crop Marks. Choose the option Not for Any Title Block to turn off the crop marks for all the title blocks in the file.

Finally, to get rid of the border, don’t turn the border off from the Object Info Palette. Use the Attributes palette to give the title block no fill and a line colour of white. The title block itself won’t be affected, just the border.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Should You Put Annotation on Design Layers, or Viewports?

This is a topic that comes up at the user group on a regular basis. I think that you have to find a way that suits your style, but I do have some advice to help out. Many people put all the annotation in the viewports, and I have tried that but for me, it doesn’t work. I like to put all my annotations on the design layers, and this works for all the plan or 2D viewports, but this doesn’t work for 3D viewports.

So the answer about putting annotation on design layers or viewports depends on what you are trying to show and what you have drawn so far.

For plans, I recommend putting all the annotations, dimensions and detail references on the design layer, the same design layer as the walls.

You can make several drawings from the same wall layer if you use classes to filter the information.

For example, you can draw the foundation plan on the same layer as the walls. By putting the foundation walls on a class and putting the foundation dimensions and detail references on the same class, you can turn off all the other notes, details and details references and see the ones for the foundations.

By putting all the other walls on classes and putting the framing dimensions, notes and detail references on the same class you can turn off the foundation walls, detail references and notes, leaving the framing plan the way you want.

These two example examples show that it’s better to include your annotation on the design layers for plan type drawings, or for drawings that are 2 dimensional.

For drawings that use the 3D parts of VectorWorks, it’s better to include the notes and dimensions in the Annotation part of the viewport.

In this example the elevations and sections are live views of the building using a front view for the elevation and using the section viewports for the sections. In this example you have to put the annotations in to the viewport, there is no other way.  If you try to put the dimensions and text on the design layer it will not show in the viewport.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


We’ve just finished the user group meetings for this week. The topic we covered this month was worksheets. The turnout to the user groups was disappointing again. That’s a real shame because the people that came to the meetings got so much out of the meetings...

 we gained a lot from the topics discussed. Especially interesting was the Worksheet tool, that has potential in so many areas. Also the Create Section Viewport tool has convinced us we need to upgrade to Version 12. Each user group session we do makes us realise the power Vectorworks has. Looking forward to the next one.

We have been attending the meetings for approximately the last 12 months and without exception, we have never left a meeting without having picked up at least one hint that has proved invaluable and not only made drawing easier but saved a huge amount of time.  It may only be something small and incredibly obvious to you but is often an aside from the general topic and may be a point made by you or one of the other users attending.

I have always thought that worksheets are an under-used area of VectorWorks. Worksheets are amazingly powerful. They can be used to calculate things like;

- the buliding/Site coverage;

- how many electrical objects in the building;

-  if you’re working on an interior design, how many desks in each are of the building;

- how many plants you have in each area of the landscape design. You can even set the spacing as an option and have VectorWorks calculate the number of plants for a drawn area. If you change the spacing, or change the area the number of plants will change.

All the people that came to the user group had a copy of my essential manual but many had not completed the exercises in the essential manual on worksheets. My advice to them was to go back and try out the worksheet exercises and play the movies, there is a lot of valuable stuff in the movies on how to use worksheets.

If you want to learn more about worksheets, buy my Essential Manual, or the short sharp manual on worksheets.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Tree Images

I just received an email from this place:
They have high quality images of NZ Native trees. I have tried to import them as images props and they work very well as the short movie here shows you. 
You get the nice image and a great image mask that cuts out the image for you. 
If you contact this site please tell them I sent you. 

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Repetitive Unit Tool

VectorWorks Architect has a tool called the Repetitive Unit Tool.
I’ve not used this tool a lot, not until I saw someone on the Nemetschek North America chat list that needed a corrugated iron symbol.

I have a corrugated iron symbol and so I tried placing it in the file that the Repetitive Unit tool uses. And it works really well. For Roofing you need to add your symbol file to the following folder on a windows machine:

Program files\VectorWorks 12\Libraries\Defaults\Repetitive Unit\Roofing

and on a Macintosh:

Applications: VectorWorks: Libraries: Defaults: Repetitive Unit: Roofing:

Now when you use the Repetitive Unit tool you will be asked to choose a folder first, choose the Roofing Folder, then you choose a symbol, choose your symbol for corrugated roofing.

Now draw the line for the roof and your corrugated roofing will be created.  The repetitive unit is really useful and can be used for roofing, wall cladding (siding) and for framing.

The podcast this week shows some of these uses...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Why Attend Courses?

Let’s say that you’ve got one of my manuals, or someone else’s manual, and you’re working through the manual. Why bother to come to a course? 
Well, there are a few reasons...
Some people don’t like to read a manual so they don’t put in the right effort and so their progress in is slow. Some people don’t read very well and so they make slow progress. Coming to a course can help these people because it’s a hands-on course. This means that I watch what oyu are doing to make sure that you are working correctly. 
Some people can work through the manual and it seems to make sense, but they not know how to apply it. Coming to a course gives you the opportunity to ask questions about how to apply the concepts.
Some people learn by watching and doing, not by following a book. If you have my manual then you can watch the movies and carry out the exercises, but it can still be a benefit to attend the course. 
Some people are too busy to read the manual. Coming to the course gets you out of the office and so you have not choice but to make progress in the course. You can’t answer your phone or work on other things, so you stay focused. 
Some people just like to learn from another person... 
To find out more about archoncad courses check out this web site:

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Layers and Classes

I’ve just finished a round of Essential and Architect courses in Auckland. In both courses the question of layers and classes came up. Do I have some simple rules on when to use layers and when to use classes...

I do have some simple rules...

Monday, June 26, 2006

Follow-up From the User Groups

The user group meetings this month were on Site Modelling. We covered how to make a site model from a series of 3D loci, how to make a site model from a scanned image and how to modify the site model when you’ve made it. One of the questions that came up was when I’m using 2D Ploys to 3D Contours why do I recommend using 3D Loci rather than  3D Polygons. My answer was that it makes a better site model, especially when you want to add site modifiers. My friend Don came to the user group and tried out my suggestions. This is what Don said...

I have been trying out what I learnt from this NZVWUG meeting on DTM creation.

Yes you are right. I used the Site Model from Scanned Image method on a set of dummy contours I had drawn. Traced my contours. I selected "Create 3D Loci" option from "2D Poly To 3D Contours". The resulting  DTM of course didn't match the drawn contours at all well. But I could copy the appropriate 3D Loci (i.e. one which had the same Z value as the contour) and paste at reasonable  intervals along each contour. Re-run "Site Mode" and voila a much more accurate DTM.

It seems that you should give far more emphasis to the"Create 3D Loci" option in your manuals and classes. It  just gives you far more control over editing the DTM.

That revelation was worth every bit and more of the $ for Tuesday night. Thanks Jonathon.

So I guess from now on I’ll emphasise the 3D Loci more...

Running VectorWorks on Intel-Mac

I have received my new MacBook, I’ve had extra RAM installed (the max) and a bigger HD (the max also) put in as well. As fa as price goes I reckon that this new MacBook is excellent value for money. As I often say get as much RAM as you can afford. In my case I decided to miss out on the DVD burner and invest that saving in RAM.
VectorWorks does not crash on it as soon as I start it and I have used VectorWorks on my MacBook to demonstrate it at the user groups to do site modelling. There have been others that I know that have found VectorWorks to be workable, which means it crashes a little but not too bad. 
I made a short movie of a house project which took just over 6 minutes to make n my Intel-Mac. The same movie on my Dual G5 1.8GHz took just over 9 minutes to complete. So I’m happy that my new laptop can hold it’s own with my desktop machine. 
I’ve also installed Parallel Systems on my MacBook. Now I have VectorWorks running on my Mac and Windows at the same time (If you want to do this you need to have a windows serial number). Now for the important part, how does VectorWorks run on windows on my MacBook ? It’s very fast. I used it recently to demonstrate site modelling at the User group meetings and it was very fast to use. I’ve also rendered a small kitchen and it was very quick (I think it even uses both parts of the dual core processor). Just be careful when you install parallel systems for the first time, I didn’t create a big enough virtual machine).

Friday, June 02, 2006

Upgrading to VectorWorks 12

When you upgrade to VectorWorks 12, especially if you are upgrading from a older version of VectorWorks (pre-11). One of the major changes that we have been using since VectorWorks 11 is viewports. Viewports are really powerful and will change (should change) the way you draw and set up your drawings. For example, before we had viewports we used to need to use layers with different scales to show the same information at different scales, now with viewports you can draw the information once and use two viewports at different scales on the same drawing. You can have different class settings on each viewport, something that was impossible without viewports.

It’s a bit hard to explain the implications of using ViewPorts in this blog, but if you are upgrading look for a good manual that will explain these new concepts to you. I have had some clients recently that upgraded from VectorWorks 9 to VectorWorks 12 and we discussed how they need to review my Essential manual so that they can get a grasp on the new concepts in VectorWorks 12.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Should You Buy an Intel-Mac?

Nemetschek North America are working hard to bring you a Universal Binary version of VectorWorks that will run on the Intel-based Macintoshes, but it has not been released yet. Information from Nemetschek North America suggests that you should be careful, that Nemetschek North America cannot recommend VectorWorks running in an Intel based Macintosh yet. There is full article at:

So, should you buy one? I think that that’s a tricky question. First your VectorWorks will not run well on it. If you are using other applications like Photoshop or InDesign, they will not run native on your new Intel-mac but the reports so far are that they will run, they just won’t run fast. All the Apple software such as iLife, iCal, iPhoto and Address Book will run native and will be FAST! I checked the Microsoft web site and all the Office applications will work on your Intel-Mac except Virtual PC.

So the real sticking point may be just VectorWorks. It’s not ready for Intel-Mac’s but it will be ready before too long. The version of VectorWorks that will work with Intel-Mac’s will be 12.5. Keep your eye open for it. If you really want to buy an Intel-Mac, go ahead and use it for everything except VectorWorks. Keep your old computer for a little while...

Friday, May 19, 2006

New Manual for Landscapers

I‘m really happy to tell you all that I have just put the finishing touches on my new VectorWorks manual for landscapers. This manual is specifically designed to get you going quickly with placing and counting plants (Landscapers have been telling me that they want to do this as quickly as possible). I show you 4 different projects and with each project you will learn a more about how you can use VectorWorks for landscaping.

The manual starts with placing and counting basic plants on a scanned plan. The next project we learn to import the scan, add some custom plants and count them. The third project shows you how to import a DXF/DWG file and add the plans and landscape areas and it also shows you how to count those areas.

The final project starts an empty file and works through setting up the file, creating a 3D site model, placing a 3D house on the site, adding plants, roads, adding site modifiers and creating a drawing.

The manual also contains an appendix where some topics are covered in greater detail.

This manual is available now from :

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Need for Foundations

The picture above is from a one of my manuals. The reason I’m using this picture is to demonstrate an issue that come up recently with a client. The client wanted to draw something like this but they hadn’t read my Essential Manual, so they were having trouble with basic concepts and they were missing basic skills. After some telephone chatting the client has been using the Essential Manual to improve and to build a basic knowledge (or foundation) in VectorWorks.

The Essential manual is like building good foundations before you a house.

Would you start to make the roof or make the windows of a house before you put the foundations down? Of course you wouldn’t, you’d do things in order and put in some good foundations first. Then you’d put in the floor structure and the walls and build up the house. That’s what the Essential Manual is designed for, to give you a foundation for your VectorWorks knowledge. All the other manuals will build on the knowledge that you get from going through the Essential Manual.

I know when you start the Essential Manual you might be thinking “I don’t see the relevance of this...” But stick with it. To understand the relevance try working on an office project or try working through one of the advanced manuals, you soon see that you need these basic skills, the foundation knowledge...

Friday, May 12, 2006

Is VectorWorks powerful enough

I was chatting to an old friend the other day and he suggested that there are many people that can use VectorWorks in a way that looks competent, but really they don’t understand the power of VectorWorks. 
That got me thinking, do people really understand the power of VectorWorks? For example I have know people that use groups instead of symbols, or they cut and paste instead of using layer linking (or design layer viewports). Some of these simple techniques can make VectorWorks faster and make it easier to use VectorWorks. 
there might be several (maybe hundreds) of tricks that could make you more effective at VectorWorks. These are the sorts of topics we cover in the cadsupportonline user group. check out the user group at:

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

How long does it take to learn VectorWorks?

I often get asked “how long will it take me to to get good at using VectorWorks?” The answer may surprise some people, it depends on how much effort you put in.

I have some clients that want to get started, and will put in a whole day of training, they will even pay me to be there for the whole day. While I’m there I get them to agree that they will use VectorWorks every day but when I leave they don’t use VectorWorks for weeks. When I call to see how they are getting, they tell me how hard it is to learn VectorWorks. “Are you using VectorWorks every day?” I ask. “Well, no,” they say “I’ve been busy...”

Learning VectorWorks is the same as learning anything. Keep using it. Use it every day. Work through the training exercises every day if you don’t want to work on a project. Really, it’s the training exercises that you should work through. My Essential Manual has gotten 100’s of people trained to use VectorWorks effectively. I have some clients that always use my manual to train their staff because it gives them a good foundation in VectorWorks...

So how long could it take? I have some clients that get their staff up and running in a couple of weeks, because they use my manual (with the exercises and movies) and because they use VectorWorks every day.

Some people benefit from a personal training. A day or two of personal training (combined with my manuals) and they are off and running. The personal training is really important for people that need help with sorting out the concept in their head of how VectorWorks makes drawings.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Stay In Touch...

Now that you are set up to work on your computer you should make sure that you keep your diary and contacts up to date. I don’t mean that nice black diary that you got from a supplier last year, I mean using your Mac for your contacts and calendars.

There is an Address Book for your contacts and iCal for your diary. They work OK but they are not designed for professional use. The Address Book is not a contact manager that can keep track of 1000’s of contacts, nor can it link to the calendar so that as you add notes to the meeting, the notes are linked to the contact file. That’s what a true contact manager would do, but it is really easy to use. So if you want to have better control over your contacts what can you do?

There are at least two options:

Now Contact and Now Up-To-Date


Now Contact and Now Up-To-Date

NUD (Now Contact and
Now Up-To-Date) are two separate

applications that work together to

give you a contact manager and a


Now Up to Date

Now Contact

I have been using NUD for several years and it has some great features, but it also has some ommisions. One of my favourite features is the way that it can link to my palm pilot and keep all my categories in tact. When I tried this with the standard Address Book and iCal the results were unpleasant, they would not keep the categories that I wanted and I found that the syncronsing was very slow. This is when I changed to NUD.

Connecting my Palm to NUD took a short time to sort out (a conflict in the conduits) and once sorted it has been fast and reliable. So reliable that I have come reply heavily on it. You can’t tell if a contact has been created on the computer or the Palm, and detailed meeting notes can be created on the computer and edited on the Palm. When I have synchronised you can’t tell where the notes were created or where they were edited.

With NUD you can link meeting

with a contact.

When you do this, NUD then adds the

meeting to the contacts details. This is

a great way to have a detailed record

of the meetings that you’ve had with

a client, especially if you’ve had the

client for several years.

This is pretty neat, but the best part of

this is that if you add notes to the

meeting on the calendar, the notes are

added to the contact. I have used this
function many times to record the

minutes of the meeting on my laptop.

The minutes are then added to the notesof the contact. When you go back to the client some time later, you can see

what you discussed last time, the action

you should have taken (normal meeting

stuff really) and so on, but the neat part is that it all appears in the notes for the client. You could have many years of notes… It has become a habit now to write the minutes of the meeting direct into the calender while I am on site, or to write them later when I have a moment (either on my laptop or my palm pilot).

NUD has the ability to dial a phone number but it will only use the internal modem on your computer, it can’t be switched to use your mobile phone for example. I think that this is a glaring fault and one that NowSoftware “are looking at adding to a future release…” But then they also said that when I got my fist copy of OS X, 3 years ago. The Apple address book has the ability to dial your mobile phone and send SMS.

NUD has the ability to store the contacts and calendar on a server and let everyone in the office synchronise to it. You can even set this up so that you can be off-site and still sync contacts and meetings. I have been doing this for the last 3 years with a server in a different town. Unit the last version of NUD it worked very well, but they really mucked up the upgrade and now it’s not working. I have spoken to the NZ distributor and they are unable to resolve this with the people that make NUD. I suspect that if you started with NUD now (without the legacy issues) it would work fine. It’s a shame really, it was a nice bit of software, so I have started to look at another contact manager that will be able to do all that NUD can do, and more!

Daylite 3.0

I will tell you more about Daylite 3.0 next month now that I have started to use it. It’s going to take me a while to get used to it.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Macintosh Tricks

Here is a trick I have been using a lot lately. Often when you’re working in VectorWorks you want to edit the plug-ins, edit the defaults libraries, edit templates and so on. All these things require you to find the VectorWorks folder. If you don’t know a shortcut, you have to open the hard-drive, find the Applications folder, then find the VectorWorks folder...

A really quick way to do this is to hold down the apple key on the keyboard then click on your copy of VectorWorks in the dock. It takes you straight to your VectorWorks folder.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

the week that was...

It’s been a busy week this week, so I haven’t had a lot of time to think about what to say. I’ve been helping a client with interiorCAD for the last two weeks. I’ve been on site with the staff for about 1 ½ hrs every day and now we are at the part where we connect to the CNC machine. I made a small change to set up in interiorCAD and the parts for the unit came into WoodWOP perfectly, not only that but they can be used directly in WoodNEST as well to optimise the parts on the boards. After a couple of weeks of training it’s all working out well.

A couple of issues have come up:

• memory - some people are trying to run VectorWorks and interiorCAD with a small amount of memory, you should have at least 1GB of memory to run VectorWorks or interiorCAD. Yes, you can manage on less but you are running a business. Surely it’s not about just managing, I thought the issue was about giving you and your staff the right tools for the job. I added 512MB of ram to my PC yesterday, it cost me $115NZ. That’s not a lot of money to keep VectorWorks running happily.

• screen size - I have been teaching VectorWorks to people that have a 15” monitor (1024x768 resolution). This is OK for my laptop, I only use it on the road, but my main machine has much more screen area than that. I use 2 monitors on my main machine, each one set to 1280x1024 resolution. This allows me to see a lot more of the drawing in VectorWorks and I can keep the Navigation Palette, Resource Browser and the Object Info Palette all open on the screen. I think that 1280x1024 (17” LCD) is the minimum for running VectorWorks. Get the tools that you need to do the job. The job will be a lot more fun that way...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

How Important is Training?

Some of you might know that as well as writing manuals and blogs, I also provide VectorWorks training and support for my clients and I run the VectorWorks User Group in New Zealand. How valuable is this support?

I was recently chatting to an overseas client on the internet. He has been using VectorWorks for a while but he has decided to invest in some training. After about ½ an hour training he said, “Oh, that’s cool. You’ve just saved me about 20mins a day!”

Think about that, 60 mins invested, 20min/day return. In the first week the return is 1hr and 20 mins. In the first month the return is 6 ½ hrs! Now, not every training session has such good returns, some training sessions will teach you how to do something new, some will reinforce that you are working in the right way.

I have some users that have been coming to the User Group for several years. They still get one or two tips from the User Group meetings. If you came to a user group once a month and and learned how to save 10 mins a day, it would save you nearly 3 ½ hours a month! Isn’t that worth it?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Drawing Details in 3D

A good friend was wondering if it was easy to make 3D details in VectorWorks. I used to this is all the time for small details that would be easier to understand as a 3D view.

We should be asking the building component manufactures to supply us with 3D CAD details. Some of them are starting to look at this but we need to ask them specifically for VectorWorks details so that they learn how many of us there are.

To quote my friend:

“The rational of this being, that as so many details in NZS 3604 are shown as 3D drawings to be able to easily create 3D details like post/beam junction complete with Bomac brackets, washers, bolts & nuts, would be very advantageous. And further, with the greater attention to flashings in E2, to be able to create these little darlings as 3D models in VectorWorks would also be wonderful. Like figure 13 from NZBC E2/AS1. (parapet to wall junction including saddle flashing). It will make it easier to get approval for the drawings, as it will be easier for the approving officer to see what you mean.”

And I guess this means it will be easier for the builder as well...

Thursday, March 02, 2006

When you use the roof framer, VectorWorks calls a text file that contains your standard roof framing sizes. This text file can be edited outside VectorWorks which makes it quicker to edit, and you can copy and paste between files. On a Mac this file is stored in:

your user name > Library > Application Support > VectorWorks > 12 > Plug-ins > VW_Arch > Data > here are the files.

I opened up the files in a simple text editor and edited the file. I got rid of all the sizes that I didn’t want and added the sizes that I wanted. Now it has al my standard sizes in it, and when I reinstall VectorWorks, I still have the sizes that I want.

I haven’t found these files on a windows machine but I will look today. If someone wants to email me and tell me, I’ll update this blog.

Editing Roof Framing Sizes

When you use the roof framer, VectorWorks calls a text file that contains your standard roof framing sizes. This text file can be edited outside VectorWorks which makes it quicker to edit, and you can copy and paste between files. On a Mac this file is stored in:
your user name > Library > Application Support > VectorWorks > 12 > Plug-ins > VW_Arch > Data > here are the files
I opened up the files in a simple text editor and edited the file. I got rid of all the sizes that I didn’t want and added the sizes that I wanted. Now it has al my standard sizes in it, and when I reinstall VectorWorks, I still have the sizes that I want.
I haven’t found these files on a windows machine but I will look today. If someone wants to email me and tell me, I’ll update this blog.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Getting DXF/DWG Imports to the correct Scale

Firstly, never import a dxf file into an existing drawing...
Then, when you import a dxf file and you can’t get the scale right, find an object that you know the size of, something with a dimension on it.
Measure that object after importing.
Select All
From the Menu Bar choose Modify > Scale Objects...
Rescale the drawing to suit using the Scale Objects command.
Select the options:
Scale Text
Entire Drawing
Enter the scale ratio as A/B where:
A= the original size of the object 
B= the size of the object in the imported file
Click on the OK button and the draw will rescale everything.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Drawing complex shapes

I had a phone call yesterday from a friend of mine. He was having trouble with the compose command. He’s tracing over the site plan with lines then filleting the corners and composing the shape.

I suggested to him that it would be a lot easier to use the Polygon tool to trace over the shape and then use the fillet tool, or use the 2D Reshape tool, to modify the shape to suit the site plan. It would be quicker and it removes the need to compose the shape at the end.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Have You Just Started with VectorWorks?

If you have just started with VectorWorks The next step for you is to practice VectorWorks every day. You learn VectorWorks by practicing it. I wish there was a magic way to learn, but there is not. Practice is the best thing that you can do. If you have the Essential VectorWorks manual, then work through it every day. Start off with the 2D exercises and practice these until you become fast. Then move onto the other chapters These will help you to make drawings and create the type of project information that you want. All the chapters in the manual are there to teach you a skill or a technique, that’s why it’s important for you to work through the manual.

Now you should work on a real project. Working on a real projects will put you under pressure to finish. This will help you to apply the skills that you have learned.

To improve your skill you should attend user group meetings and courses. The VectorWorks users that attend the user groups get better every month.

Monday, February 13, 2006

What Are Preferences?

What Are Preferences?
Preferences in VectorWorks are user choices that can change the way that VectorWorks appears to work, can change the way that drawings appear and can control some of the keyboard shortcuts.

There are two sorts of Preferences in VectorWorks, VectorWorks Preferences that affect all the files and Document Preferences that control settings specific to a file.

There are several preferences to choose from and the choices depend on your way of drawing. We will be covering Preferences in the first user group meeting this year, to be held in February.

Tip: The Right Mouse Button

I have been teaching a lot lately and one of the issues that I’ve noticed is how much faster you can draw if you add frequently used commands to the right-mouse click (ctrl-click if you only have one button). When you edit your workspace you will find two places to add menu items to the right mouse click:
Document Context where you right click away from everything;
Object Context where you right click on an object.

One of the commands I use a lot is Add Surface. I used to have a keyboard shortcut for this, but that means taking your hand off the mouse. I added this command to the right-mouse using the Workspace Editor. Now when I want to use Add Surface, I can right-mouse click and choose Add Surface straight away.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Why Upgrade to VectorWorks 12? (part 1)

I spent two days recently on-site with a client setting up their VectorWorks 12 and I was really amazed at the amount of customisation that you can do with VectorWorks 12. Most of the default resources can be edited so that they appear on every new project. For example, when you make stairs now in VectorWorks you can use a starter stair, one that has most of the setting the way you like. This stair (and many others) can be saved to a special folder and then it becomes available in every job. This means that you can create several stairs and have them available in every project. It will make it a lot faster for you to use the new stair objects in VectorWorks 12.

There are other reasons, and I’ll cover these as I have an example to write about.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

VW12 Architect Manual

We have just put the finishing touches on our new VectorWorks Architect manual. This is later than we had planned because we have completely re-written the manual and that took longer than we expected. The result is, we think, a fantastic manual that leads you through drawing a domestic 2 storey project and covers all the main topics that you need.

For more information check out the web site :