While in use, VectorWorks provides constant on-screen feedback relating to co-ordinates, object attributes, and selection modes. This feedback comes mostly from the ‘Smart Cursor’. This feature automatically finds key points near the cursor, and snaps to geometry and useful targets. While doing so, it provides feedback, using cursor shapes, extension lines, text messages near the cursor (tool tips). The Smart Cursor also offers a slightly irritating audio feedback. Long overdue, VectorWorks now offers multiple undo/redo. There’s nothing worse than undoing an undo only to find that you have lost some of the things you wanted to do! Well, it’s sorted now. MiniCAD has always had a hybrid wall tool for creating floor plans that simultaneously generated 3D views of schemes along with 2D output of elevations from the 3D model. VectorWorks now includes better support for ‘Round Walls’, including the ability to join them cleanly and automatically to other wall types. The insertion of hybrid 2D/3D window and door symbols into walls, is astoundingly easy to master, shockingly fast, and although lacking the modelling capabilities of packages costing many times more, nothing comes close to the speed of VectorWorks when knocking out 3D models and 2D documents including sophisticated symbol elements and linked graphics and data. New roof modelling tools in this version now make it possible to knock out complex roofing structures simply by selecting bearing walls, and running one button commands. Once created, roofs can be reshaped, dormers added and holes cut for skylights. VectorWorks provides very powerful new collaboration and team-based support through new ‘Workgroup Referencing’ abilities. This lets different team members work on separate drawing components, which can be linked to a master document containing style guides and critical shared project data. Designed with bigger projects and larger design practices in mind, this level of team support – if used carefully – will allow small groups to tackle much larger jobs in a more efficient manner. Navigation in 3D is limited, and only responsive if the model is not over-worked. However, I can’t remember the last time I came across an architectural model that wasn’t overflowing with superfluous data and redundant structures. This being the norm, most CAD users will export 3D models to more capable animation tools for the creation of fly-overs and walkthroughs, and yes, the DXF/DWG import/export feature works first time, every time. Compatibility
If you’re running VectorWorks and someone is sending you DXF/DWG files that aren’t translating correctly, or, conversely, they can’t read your files, you can bet your bottom dollar the problem isn’t at your end. The ability to send files back and forth effortlessly between VectorWorks and AutoCAD 14 cannot be understated. Compatibility with the industry-standard AutoCAD is considered mandatory – although why anyone would want to buy a product that was as much as five times the price of VectorWorks, needs more hardware and has a steeper learning curve is hard to figure. This isn’t simply partisan Macintosh talk, nor is it favouritism for GraphSoft. In response, Autodesk will release a new version to stay one step ahead as it’s simply not in its interest to have strong applications like VectorWorks displaying high levels of compatibility with its products. It’s nice to know what really drives the development efforts of bigger CAD vendors. Rendering options
Diehl Graphsoft offers an optional rendering module called RenderWorks, to be had for £220 ex VAT. It's the company’s first stab at presentation rendering straight from VectorWorks. Unfortunately, it’s nothing to write home about – in fact it’s actually quite weak. If you want to produce stunning or even passable presentation material – I wouldn't be surprised if Graphsoft itself was to suggest there are better products out there. That said the lack of a top rendering option doesn't in anyway detract from the power, ease of use and value offered by VectorWorks.
To be blunt as a big soft pencil, VectorWorks is the best value CAD package out there. The returns for very minimal learning curves are extraordinary. Design groups will save huge amounts of money on the very special multi-user deals. What never fails to impress is the ample amount of high-end functionality to be had for so little cost and effort. If you use CAD and you haven’t seriously considered MiniCAD VectorWorks, then it’s time the penny dropped.