A Beginner Tests Out the New Vectorworks 2015

December 5, 2014 | Comments

By Jeffrey Heimgartner

Not having used any Vectorworks software before, my goal was to evaluate how easy it would be for a beginner. To get started, I worked my way through the installation and then into learning and using the software. For the purposes of this article, I will be reviewing Vectorworks Designer.

First, a bit of background: Nemetschek Vectorworks is a subsidiary of the European software company Nemetschek AG. Nemetschek Vectorworks has been developing CAD (computer-aided design) software since 1985, and now has editions for architects and engineers, and for the construction, entertainment, landscape, and urban planning industries. The family of software includes Vectorworks Designer, Architect, Landmark, Spotlight, Fundamentals, and Renderworks, and its users number at more than half a million.

Installing Vectorworks

While most users download the software directly, Vectorworks sent me the software, which arrived in a brown cardboard box, with the software itself in a nice sleeved package. Inside was the Vectorworks 2015 “Let’s Get Started” pamphlet with a welcoming message from the Nemetschek Vectorworks team. There was a bulleted list of instructions for installing the software and a “How Do I Get Started?” section that included information on training guides, how to get help, and answers to commonly asked questions. Of course, the pamphlet also housed the Vectorworks 2015 installation DVD and a “Getting Started Guides” DVD.

After reading through the information and instructions, I was ready to begin the Vectorworks installation. The install screen asked me to input my license information: Name, Company, and Serial Number, as seen below in figure 1.


Figure 1: License information screen during installation

The final two screens contained the “ReadMe” document and the selection boxes for “Register your copy of Vectorworks after the installation” and “Download and install your content libraries after installation.” The installation process up to this point took less than 15 minutes and was user-friendly.

Upon completion of the installation, I was taken to the Vectorworks software registration Web page. In a separate window, the Vectorworks Package Manager listed all the libraries available for installation: Fundamentals (basic CAD), Architect (AEC design), Spotlight (lighting design), Landmark (landscape design), and Renderworks (rendering). I choose to install all of them, and with a single click, I downloaded them over the Internet. With my slow Internet connection at home and about seven gigabytes worth of libraries, it took several hours for them all to download.

After the installation, I was ready to open Vectorworks. Before fully opening, a final window indicated that Vectorworks required activation over the Internet. I selected “Activate,” and then Vectorworks was up and running (see figure 2).


Figure 2: Vectorworks Designer showing its initial interface

Getting Started

Having never used Vectorworks before, I did the obvious and began with the “Getting Started Guides” DVD. There were six folders: exercises, getting-started-guides, PDFs, resources, video-assets, ZIP, and an HTML file named “getting-started-guides.” I decided to start with the HTML file. This option proved to be the right one as it took me to the Getting Started Guides interface (see figure 3).


Figure 3: Vectorworks 2015 getting started guide

I started by watching the introduction video, which assured me that these starting guides are “designed for users of any level of expertise.” As a beginner, I was ready to put the statement to the test! The video player was the primary focus of the interface, but there also were PDFs of the same material for those who would rather follow along that way. Nemetschek Vectorworks recommends two monitors, one for watching the video and another for using Vectorworks. If you don’t have two monitors, however, Nemetschek Vectorworks has done its best to make sure that the videos can be viewed on mobile devices, such as a Smartphone or tablet.

Core Concepts

Before diving in to the guides, I reviewed the Core Concepts section. This section was designed to “provide you with a strong base as you learn to use the Vectorworks software to design, communicate, and document the ideas that you are passionate about.”

The first chapter in the Core Concepts section went over the user interface elements, introducing me to the locations of items such as the document window, menu bar, view bar, toolbars, and message bar.

The second chapter covered customizable elements, including the workspace, tool palettes, and preferences. It also described how to use tool hotkeys and menu shortcuts – along with how to find the full list of these hotkeys and shortcuts in the user guide.

Chapter three went into tool behaviors and modes and how to use them to help me “draft fast and accurately.”

The final chapter in this section covered some of the basic conventions unique to Vectorworks, such as container objects, stacking order, and hybrid objects.

Going through the Core Concepts section gave me a good understanding of how the software worked and how to use the interface to get to the appropriate commands and functions. I was now ready to get started with drafting!

Vectorworks Architect

I chose the Vectorworks Architect guide, which began with file and document setup. It introduced me to the process of creating layers, as well as importing and scaling sketches (see figure 4).


Figure 4: Inserting and scaling a sketch

Moving on into chapter two, I next drew walls by tracing right over the sketch using theWall, Round Wall, and Wall Join tools (see figure 5). I also set up additional layers needed for the second-floor walls and the foundation, which I completed in this chapter.


Figure 5: Tracing walls over the sketch

Moving along to chapters three and four, I added roofs and roof flashing (waterproof membrane) to the project by utilizing a pair of polygon commands, Extrude Along Pathand Extract. I formed parapet walls (roofless walls) using the Create Roof Face command and the Inner Boundary mode of the Polygon tool. I found the Inner Boundary mode a quick, efficient, one-click method of selecting objects. The added roofs and flashing are shown in figure 6.


Figure 6: Adding roofs and flashing

Chapters five and six had me adding the floor slabs and concrete pads. Again, I used the Polygon tool extensively. I also was introduced to the Sweep command to create the handicap ramp, and then used the Extrude command and Push/Pull tool to create the shapes. Finally, the Intersect Solids command formed the ramp itself from the shapes

Next, it was on to chapters seven through nine to add doors using configurations of the parametric Door object. I placed single leaf, bi-parting, and sliding doors. I added configurations of the Window object and building entrances. Figure 7 shows the progress to this point.


Figure 7: Adding windows and doors

Chapter 10 went on to add stairs and handrails to the project. I was impressed with the number of options and level of control contained in the Stair Settings dialog box within the Stair Tool preferences, as shown in figure 8.


Figure 8: Options displayed by the Stair Settings dialog box

At just over 30 minutes, chapter 11 was the longest tutorial video in the Architect section, but it was also my favorite. This was the chapter in which I got to create the presentation materials for my project, such as generating the floor plans, sections and elevations, and perspective views. Here I also learned how to annotate the project using the Dimensionsand Notes tools. By now my project was more or less complete (see figure 9).


Figure 9: Completed tutorial

The final chapter was an addendum that ran through creating curtain walls (decorative, non-load bearing walls).


I started this review with no Vectorworks experience whatsoever. Yet, in just a little over three hours of training, I felt I had a firm grasp of the software’s basics. I did have to rewind here and there, and found I had to restart a couple of the tutorials to make sure I was on track. The ability to download the step-by-step PDFs came in handy more than once when trying to figure things out.

At times, however, the tutorial project seemed a little too complex for me, but I assume that this was meant to give a broad view of the commands and the software’s overall ability. I think that a tutorial that was even more entry-level would have helped me dive in quicker.

I was impressed with the number of resources available on the DVD and the effort Nemetschek Vectorworks put into supplying links and locations for further information. While I scratched only the surface of what Vectorworks is capable of doing, the tools I used during my review gave me a good understanding of the fundamentals of Designer, and they did so fairly quickly. I look forward to delving into the software in more detail to continue to better learn the tool sets and applications of Vectorworks Designer.



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