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...