Introduction to VectorWorks (Working with VectorWorks Tutorial)

31 Mar, 2008 By: Jonathan Pickup

Learn the basics of setting up documents and templates.

Editor's note: This tutorial provided courtesy of ArchonCAD.

What is VectorWorks?
VectorWorks is a 2D drawing and a 3D modeling program that you can use for building information modeling (BIM) as well as for reports and scheduling information.

2D drawings. Sometimes you don't want to create a 3D model of an object to make a drawing, so VectorWorks has some powerful 2D drawing tools, as you would expect from any competent CAD program.

3D modeling. VectorWorks can make simple 3D models easily using extruded objects, and it can also make very complex 3D shapes using NURBS modeling. It has some very powerful tools that enable easy creation of 3D models.

BIM. You can use VectorWorks as a BIM tool because VectorWorks models several architectural components such as walls, doors, windows, roofs, beams, and so on. You can build a structure model and then create the sections, elevations, views, and drawings.

As a BIM tool, VectorWorks can be used to create a solar animation or a solar study of your project

Reporting. When you create an object in VectorWorks you can attach information to the object. Essentially, it creates a report or a schedule for you. For example, you could create report on a landscape project that showed the plants used, quantities of each plant, areas of hard landscaping and grass, and even the volume of topsoil needed.

Click for larger image VectorWorks can create a report of your landscape architecture project and material usage. (Click image for larger version)

Customization. VectorWorks has a built-in program language called VectorScript. This structured language is based on Pascal, and it allows you to make your own tools and objects. If VectorWorks can't do what you want, you can customize VectorWorks to make your own tools and commands and make it do exactly what you want in the way you want.

Getting Started
VectorWorks draws with objects. If you are used to drawing lines, then you might find this practice unusual. If you use another CAD program, you may find this is normal. Drawing with objects provides several advantages: you can create BIM objects, you can find areas of things, you can attach information to the objects (for reporting) — and it's just the quickest way to draw.

In VectorWorks, you draw with objects such as the box shown here.

To make sure we are all looking at the same set of tools and commands, go to the Menu bar: Choose Tools > Workspaces > Standard

If you want to use VectorWorks efficiently, setting up a template is important. You can use a template file to start a project and maintain your standard settings. If you set up a file with your standard settings, then you can save it as your template.

Go to the Menu Bar and choose File > Page Setup. Next, click on the Printer Setup button and choose the settings for your printer. Click on the OK button and then check the Page Setup. You should have one page horizontal and one page vertical, as shown below.

VectorWorks' Page Setup menu.

To see the whole page, click the Fit to Page Area button on the view bar. Go to the Menu bar and choose File > Document Setup > Units. Next, click on the General Display tab.

This image below shows the settings for metric units. Choosing the units and rounding will make it easier for you to see what you have drawn. Notice that I have chosen square meters as the Area. This selection will make VectorWorks convert areas on the Object Info Palette to square meters, which I find more useful. If you are working in feet and inches, you might find it better to have areas displayed in square feet.

VectorWorks lets you select units for all of your work.

To control the settings for primary dimensions, click on the Dimension Objects (Primary) tab. Check these settings carefully, because this is where most people get it wrong. If you choose the wrong rounding precision for your dimensions, then every dimension will be wrong. Setting the correct rounding precision will save you a lot of time.

The Dimension Objects (Primary) menu under Units.

To control the settings for secondary dimensions, click on the Dimension Objects (Secondary) tab. When you create a dimension standard, you can choose whether it displays primary or secondary dimensions.

The Dimension Objects (Secondary) menu under Units.

You can mix units so that your secondary units are different from your primary units. For example, I work mostly in metric, but I might have overseas clients that prefer imperial measurements. I could set all my primary units in millimeters, then set my secondary units in feet and inches to let me draw in the units I want and dimension in the units I need.

To save the file to your Templates folder (it's in the VectorWorks application folder), first go to the Menu bar and choose File > Save As Template. Name the file Default.sta. Every time you start VectorWorks, it will use this file.

Making a template in VectorWorks.

The page size and unit settings will be the way you like, so you will save time and aggravation. You can save other settings in your template file, and I will cover these in future "Working with VectorWorks" tutorials.

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