VectorWorks 2008 Review

VectorWorks has been one of the premiere CAD (computer-aided design) programs for the Macintosh for many years. It combines a powerful 2D drafting environment with integrated 3D modelling functionality.

VectorWorks comprises six modules aimed at specific types of professional users: Fundamentals for core 2D and 3D capabilities; Architect for architects; Landmark for landscape designers; Spotlight for the entertainment industry; Machine Design for mechanical engineers; RenderWorks is a high-end rendering model that can be combined with any other module and, finally, VectorWorks Designer, which combines all six modules.

In a wide-reaching interface overhaul, VectorWorks 2008 debuts a new floating data bar (also known as a heads-up display) that shows the dimensions and angles of your drawing in a floating display that moves with your cursor. This allows you to focus on your drawing without having to refer back to a palette or display on another part of the interface.

Non-rendered 2D and 3D elements in VectorWorks 2008 are no longer limited to the Mac’s system colours. In addition, VectorWorks 2008 includes colour swatches from Pantone and other paint vendors. This new version also gives you full control over opacity. If you purchase RenderWorks, you’ll find that improved bump shaders give a more realistic effect to textured surfaces.

VectorWorks 2008 adds import and export capabilities for the popular AutoCAD format – the industry standard – through the 2007/2008 formats. Nemetschek is doing a good job of keeping VectorWorks updated to work with the latest versions of AutoCAD.

VectorWorks 2008 also has a new file format, but Export functions let you go back to VectorWorks versions 12, 11, and 10, if necessary.

All versions of VectorWorks 2008 except for Fundamentals simply and elegantly solve the problem of drawing areas or sections of your plans that are set at different angles from each other – for a house with a wing set at 60 degrees to the rest of the layout, for instance. When you want to work on parts of your drawing located in these different areas, you can temporarily rotate your plan and continue to draw at 0 and 90 degrees relative to your view on the screen.

VectorWorks 2008 has made workgroup management much easier by allowing you to manage content, resources, and preferences in external custom folders where managers can control where object libraries, symbols, details, textures, and hatches are stored, and who has access to them. This makes it easier to upgrade or add CAD stations to your office.

Viewports is a page layout feature that lets you create sheets showing multiple views of the same model or drawing. Each view can have an independent scale, orientation, rendering, layer, and class visibility setting. All versions of VectorWorks 2008 except Fundamentals expand on viewports by allowing them to reference external VectorWorks files and images so you can display them from within your drawing.

If you’re working with the Architect, Landmark, Spotlight, or Designer modules, a new modelling capability enables you to edit wall components in 3D. Prior to 2008, wall components had to be edited in the 2D Plan view. There’s also an expanded object library that includes a Herman Miller Furniture library, an updated Marvin Windows and Doors library, and a new Sub-Zero and Wolf appliance library.

Finally, VectorWorks Landmark offers a slew of new items (see ‘Lay of the land’, left) while Spotlight 2008 adds advanced beam geometry, including elliptical light sources and support for shutter cuts in both wireframe and rendered modes. You can also control the light source in a lighting instrument with the Visualization palette, accessing brightness, spread, colour, and fall.

OUR VERDICT

This new version is extensive and its additions are significant. If you just want a basic CAD program for drafting, VectorWorks 2008 Fundamentals can handle that with ease. But there are less expensive alternatives for basic drafting. With VectorWorks, you will want to leverage 3D modelling, rendering, and workflow tools to justify your purchase.

The VectorWorks download site, at http://www.nemetschek.net/downloads/fundamentals/index.php, has available a viewer allowing Windows and Mac OS X users to view files created in VectorWorks 2008 as well as the earlier 9, 10, 11 and 12.

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