Friday, February 26, 2010

Electronic books

I have been looking at ebooks on the Internet lately, and I am starting to see them as being more useful.

I've been looking at ebooks since I got my first Palm Pilot, about ten years ago. At first I found them to be too small to read, and too many pages. A small novel turns into a thousand pages. The would end up with writing was too small, or there would end up with just one paragraph on each page.

Lately, I've been trying out ebooks on my iPhone. The screen is small, but not too small. The text is easy to resize. You can read landscape or portrait, and it's easy to change the brightness.

Ideally, if the iPhone was bigger, it would be even better, like the Kindle from Amazon. I would love to try out a Kindle, but they don't sell the kindle where I live. Is there anyone out there with a kindle willing to tell me what it is like? Please leave a comment, or email me.

The new Apple iPad should be the answer. Like an iPhone, but bigger.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Vectorworks Irrigation Tools

I'm just starting to write my notes for my Short Sharp Training (monthly) subscription. In march we are looking at the irrigation tools in Vectorworks. We will be looking at the standard irrigation tools for pipe runs and emitters, and we will be looking at how to schedule these.

The irrigation tools are only available in Vectorworks Landmark, but what if you have Vectorworks Architect and still want to use irrigation tools? I will also be looking at other ways of creating an irrigation plan and how you can use irrigation in 3D.

If you are using these tools, please leave a comment or get in touch at  Are you happy with the irrigation tools and scheduling? Let em know...

It's hard to sit down...

It's hard to sit down when you are not allowed to move the chairs...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

101 Vectorworks Landmark Online Course - March 2010

In March 2010, I have a 101 Landmark course starting. This course is ideal for users that have yet to get started with Vectorworks Landmark. This is a structured online training system, designed to teach you Vectorworks, delivered to your computer in bite-sized chunks. We use a high speed Internet connection so you can see my computer screen and you can talk to me and the other students. If we need to, your screen can be shown so I can watch you working and correct any mistakes.

There are two (one hour) sessions each week, and we progress through a series of projects. You are expected to be an active participant and complete set homework. I have a youtube movie that will show you what we cover in this course:

For more information, and to register for this course, please visit this web site.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Best Practice for Importing DXF/DWG

A few months ago, the Vectorworks online user group covered the topic of importing and exporting DXF/DWG files. The result is this short manual: 
We often have to work with consultants and clients that do not use Vectorworks. DXF or DWG (AutoCAD) is usually the best way to do this. It will allow the you to use their information in Vectorworks, or it will allow them to import your work.

When you import a DXF/DWG file, there are many options to choose. Choosing the correct options will make it easy, choosing the wrong options can really mess up your drawing. And what should you do if the drawings are always the wrong scale?

This short manual has 34 pages and over 170 screen shots to show you clearly what you need to learn. You can purchase this manual for downloading at this page.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Short Sharp Training (monthly) finished

I have just finished the manual for my Short Sharp Training (monthly). This month we covered stack layers/Unified View and how to set up layers.

Stack Layers and Unified View really needs to have correctly set up layers. Several of my clients have trouble getting all the layers to sit nicely on top of each other, and mostly the can't get the roof to sit nicely on the walls.

This topic was requested by the subscribers, and it seems to be well recieved. Those that attended said that they now understand about setting up layers now. I think they will all avoid that Model Setup dialog box now. I think it causes a lot of confusion, and it doesn't suit many projects.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Model View Tool, broken, or a waste of time?

I have just been trying to use the model view tool.

This tool is an old one and dates back to the time before we could make live sections and elevations on sheet layers. I saw an email where a Vectorworks user was having trouble with it.

I haven't used this tool for ages, so I thought I would have a play with it. There are a couple of challenges with it. First it uses layer links so that it can rotate the layer links to the chosen orientation. The problem with this is that layer links are not as powerful as viewports. The other problem is that you can't look at the model view with Top/Plan view turned on. You get the roof in plan, while the walls are in 3D.

Instead of using the Model view tool, you are better to make your own viewports on sheet layers. 

Should reading and user groups be in work time?

Over the years, I've had a lot of discussions with clients over the timing of  my Vectorworks user groups. Some say the user group meetings should be after hours, so that it doesn't get in the way of work. Mainly it's the employers and self-employed that say this. 

The employees tend to say that if the user group is an advantage to the employer, then the user groups should be in work time. After all, if they get better at Vectorworks that is an advantage to the business. 

If you went to a seminar on improved insulation, solar water heating, or some other construction technology, would you expect that to be after hours? All the building seminars I've seen are in work time. the presenters don't want to work after hours, so why is it the that the expectation is that the user group meetings should occur after hours?

AS it's turned out, I run 4 different sessions times each month for my subscribers. They can choose a time during work, or in the evening. As it turns out, the most popular time is Friday morning...

I recently started reading a book to help my business. Should I be reading this during business hours. The common wisdom is that I shouldn't read this during business hours. If the book turned out to be a real bonus to my business, why not read the book during work time. 

It is alright for me, I'm self employed, so I only have myself to answer to. Image if you worked in a large company and you were sitting back reading a book when your boss walked past. Ouch, you'd probably get fired. But if you learned something that would help the business, it would be a good thing...

By the way, the book I am reading is The 4 Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris. you can read more about here at the blog of Timothy Ferris

Friday, February 12, 2010

Setting the Layer Height for a Roof

I have just finished my Vectorworks online user group meeting. We spent ages talking about setting the layer height for the roof. The others at the session had many questions about layer heights.

One of the frequent questiions was about setting the layer height for a roof. I use this: set the Layer Z of the roof layer to the same height as the layer Z of the floor supporting the roof.

Another question was about using the Model Setup command. I never use the Model Setup command. The main problem to watch out for is the roof height. The layer Z of the roof layer should be the same as the layer Z of the floor supporting the roof, but this dialog box shows the setting for the roof layer to the underside of the roof. This causes confusion every time you use this dialog box.

If you have a building with 3 floors and 2 roof heights, the model setup can not cope, so you still have to learn how to set up the layers correctly. If you learn how to set up the layers correctly, you don't have to use the Model Setup, and you will get your layers faster.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Using Layers or Classes in Vectorworks

I have been reading a discussion on the Vectorworks Discussion email list about how to set up drawings for a renovation project. Some people prefer to use a extra layer for the existing building, I prefer to use one layer for each story of the building. Everything that relates to that floor of the building is on that layer. Yes, this means lots of classes, but with the visibility tool, they are easy to turn on and off. 

This post has moved here....

I have written a new manual for Layers and Classes. You can read more about it here...

Friday, February 05, 2010

Stacked Layers/Unified View

This month the Vectorworks online User Group is looking at Stacked Layers/Unified View and how to set up your layer heights correctly.

Stacked layers was a new technique introduced in Vectorworks 2008. Before Vectorworks 2008, if you wanted to see a complete view of your project, you would make a new layer for 3D viewing. Then you could layer link all your design layers to the 3D model layer. 

In order to view your model, you would change to this layer and make all the Layer Options Active only. This would be the place to set up views for rendering, creating elevations and so on. 

With Vectorworks 2008 and 2009, you do not have to set up the 3D model layer. Stacked Layers allow you to see all the visible layers in your file, and when you move the view around, all the layers look like they are joined together. Vectorworks uses the layer Z height to get all the layers to set correctly in 3D. 

Stacked layers in Vectorworks 2008 and 2009 had some limitations:
you can't use Show/Snap/Modify others for the layer options, 
all of the 2D tools don't work 

You will find yourself turning stacked layers on, just for visualization. You will have to turn Stacked Layers off to work.

The Unified View in Vectorworks 2010 is a big improvement, you can edit everything, on all the layers.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Monthly Manuals work again and again

Hi Jonathan,

a thank you for your excellent support products, had a problem with
wanting to cut out a section of eaves on a colonial roof to slot in a
veranda, was nearly going to call you then looked up your tutorials, and
YEP there it was, Cut out in a standard roof, page 13, dealing with roof's

Independance is great,, Many Thanks... Peter

Join the monthly tutorials at

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Vectorworks for quick Visualization

I have been working on a visualization project for a client this week. I'm surprised how fast the project has come together. Using wall styles allowed me to texture all the walls together. Plant image props and furniture have made it fast to populate the scene.

I used a lot of floors because the site is completely flat. The easy way the get the polygon for the floors is to use the 2D polygon tool with the second mode, the paintpot. It was so fast to create all the floors.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


I know, everybody is talking about the iPad ( But I have been thinking about it, and while some people have pointed out all the things that are missing, I think they are missing the point of the ipad.

The ipad is not a laptop with a touch screen. It would have been easy to make a macbook with a touch screen, but that is not the purpose of the iPad. I have seen many people point out that the iPad is missing a USB port, keyboard and so on. these are things that a laptop has. If you want all these things in your iPad, then you really want a laptop.

I remember when the first iMac came out. Everyone complained that it was missing a floppy disk. But Apple stuck to it and soon the floppy was a forgotten storage system. The iMac did not have a serial bus. Everyone complained that they could not use their old keyboards, mouse and scanners. Now we don't even think about the change we made, it's all USB.

I think of the iPad as being like the first iPod. When the iPod first arrived, we did see the change that it would make to our music habits. Until then we listened to albums or CDs, we did not listen to our library. We could not shuffle our entire music collection. Now, it would be hard to remember what it was like before. Imagine having to get up and change the CD when you've only heard two songs. Now we have shuffle, genuis playlists and even movies and tv shows on our iPods. I didn't see that coming when we had the first iPod.

I believe the iPad is similar. We can't see where the iPad will be in a year's time. We are judging the iPad from our current understanding, which is limited to our history. We need to judge the iPad on what we will be able to do with it, and that we don't know. Software developers are starting to image what they can do with it, and when they tell us, we will be amazed at what the iPad can do.

The iPad is not a big phone, it is not a laptop, it is something completely different. How does this fit with Vectorworks ( Maybe it will be an input device, maybe a Vectorworks viewer. If nothing else, it makes a nice PDF viewer to carry your drawings to site and make notes.

Maybe it will change your computer buying habits. Instead of buying a Macbook pro (or PC equivalent),  you will buy a desktop machine and an iPad. More power when you need it, more portability when you want it.

Monday, February 01, 2010

archoncad Newsletter February 2010

I hope you all enjoyed the last newsletter, I know several of you read it. I would like you to tell me what you would like to hear about future newsletters.
In this newsletter have 6 topics for you:
  1. The Vectorworks online user group is meeting again in February. There is a free meeting in the 2nd week of February. Be quick, the January meeting filled up in 30 on this link to see the calendar.
  2. Backing up your work is vital. Install  automated backup software to save time, and save your work.  click on this link.
  3. Many of my clients do not know that we have created some of the best short manuals for Vectorworks. These are short task-based manuals without movies. There are about 16 manuals on a range of topics. click on this link.
  4. Courses are starting again. Learn Vectorworks in the new classroom, online. Small classes, interactive, click on this link for details
  5. The second edition of my Landmark and 3D Modeling manuals have started shipping. I've got mine! click on this link
  6. Here is one of my popular youtube movies on the Snap Loupe tool in Vectorworks 2009 and 2010 click on this link

Jonathan Pickup
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Using iWeb for blogging

Until recently, I have been usin iWeb (the Apple application) for writing my blogs. I recently made some changes to the name of my blog, and iWeb changed the names of all my podcasts and blogs.

This has broken all my podcast and blog links. So, every link to a blog or podcast that I have written or created is now broken. This is not the effect I wanted.

I'm really dissapointed, I really enjoy using iWeb to create my blogs. It's very easy to use, maybe it's too easy, and so it turned out to be too good to be true.

One of the things I just found out about iWeb, is that you can't copy the text off the screen when you look at the web. When you look at a iWeb site in a browser, instead off seeing text that you can copy and paste, you see an image. No copy and pasting, and my guess is that robots and spiders can't read the image.

So, for now, I'm back to using this site for blogging. If you have any suggestions for software to use for blogging, leave a comment below.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone