What is Vectorworks ?
Vectorworks is a Computer Aided Design (CAD) package that is suitable for use by a Garden Designer or Landscape Architect. There are other packages around, each with their own specialist areas, but Vectorworks provides a comprehensive all round package that is easy to get started, can provide professional results and you will not out grow of. Vectorworks can be used at all stages of the design process, from survey, design, detailing, and planting plans through to client presentation in both 2D and 3D and photo realism if the budget allows. You only have one package to learn.
Vectorworks can be used in conjunction with other packages, such as Google Sketchup, AutoCAD, Microstation, Adobe Photoshop and Acrobat and Apple Quicktime allowing you to collaborate with others both in the design and presentation stages, including your own web site. You can even mix and match traditionally design techniques with computer assisted elements - what ever works best for you.
Best of all, Vectorworks allows you to build up an electronic library that can be used in future projects. The ability to reuse elements can be a big time saver.
For the garden designer, the following Vectorworks 2009 products are likely to be of interest:
Vectorworks 2009 Fundamentals
Vectorworks 2009 Landmark
Vectorworks 2009 Architect
Vectorworks 2009 Designer
Vectorworks 2009 Renderworks add on module
For students undertaking a formal Garden Design or Landscape Architecture course, subject to approval:
Vectorworks 2009 Designer with Renderworks One Year Student License
How do I buy Vectorworks ?
Please note that I am no longer a reseller for Computers Unlimited. Internet based sales has made it easier for people to shop around for the best price and I am unable to compete against resellers who are able to sell the product cheaper than I can buy it from the distributers.
I do however still offer training and mentoring.
A heavily discounted, time limited student version of Vectorworks 2009 Designer/Renderworks may be available to full and part time design students who meet the education criteria. The student edition prints with a watermark indicating and are generally time limited to one year or the duration of the course. Educational editions cannot be used for commercial purposes and cannot be upgraded to later versions of Vectorworks or to a commercial version.
Vectorworks can only be used on one computer at a time but it is possible to install it simultaneously on both a desktop and a laptop PC. The supplied USB dongle is required to be inserted in a functional USB socket of the Mac/PC that Vectorworks is being used on for the whole duration that Vectorworks is in use.
Printed manuals are no longer supplied from Vectorworks 2009 onwards. Electronic and online documentation is available for use with Vectorworks 2009 including student editions and upgrades.
The Road to Hell ?
OK, so I have just been listening to Chris Rea, but hell Vectorworks certainly is not. Everyone has their own preferences and requirements. Vectorworks or even CAD in general may not be to everyone's requirements or budget.
You can't hide from the fact that Vectorworks is the best selling cross platform professional CAD software package and is used by many thousands of Architects, Garden Designers and Landscape Architects around the world. Vectorworks has a large and active online user community so you will have access to other peoples assistance 24/7 - great for those late nights when you have 'designers block' and know there must be an easier way of doing something.
I have been a Vectorworks user since 2004. Since then, Vectorworks had gone from Vectorworks v11, v11.5, through 12, v12.5 and 2008 and a couple of maintenance releases in between. With every release, it has got better and better and more intuitive to use and major version upgrades, such a v11 to v11.5, and maintenance updates have always been free.
Vectorworks 12 bought us layer transparency which gave us the ability to overlay layers and still see information that would otherwise be hidden.
Vectorworks 2008 improved on the layer transparency in Vectorworks 12 by allowing transparency to be defined on an object by object basis. As a garden designer, I have made much use of this as it provides the ability to layer information far more intuitively. Vectorworks 2008 Design Series also bought us Design Layer Viewports and file referencing. In short, these allowed different stages of a design to be organised in different files, but grouped for presentation. A must have feature if you have ever imported survey data produced in AutoCAD and found your design file to be cluttered with strange looking classes. Vectorworks 2008 Landmark (and Designer) also bought changes to the plant tool and, for UK versions, additional plant data supplied by Coblands Nurseries.
What's new in 2009?
Now that Vectorworks 2009 has been released, even more improvements are here so see. Check out the new feature matrix and new feature overview to see what has changed. But it is what you cannot see that is potentially the most exciting. Vectorworks 2009 incorporates a new advanced solid modeling Kernel called Parasolid®. The new Parasolid kernel provides users with high performance, extremely stable, consistent and accurate modeling capabilities. If you have ever designed something with a surface, like a terrace, path, lawn etc, the new Parasolid kernel will make life more intuitive, and that is before even thinking in 3D. Quite simply, your elements in your model will be treated as a whole, rather than a set of joined geometric shapes. No more visual artifacts where shapes join, no more frustration as you move one shape, then have to tweak many more.
There are a number of different versions of Vectorworks 2009 that are likely to be suitable for Garden Designers and Landscape Architects:
Vectorworks Fundamentals is a fully featured CAD package offering both 2D and 3D capability. It does not include more advanced features that are useful to various design professionals, such as, but not exclusively, plant tools, site models, architectural elements, drawing notations and design layer viewports. These are covered in various Vectorworks Design Series products, including Vectorworks Spotlight - for lighting specialists, Vectorworks Machine Design - for machine designers, Vectorworks Landmark - for Garden Designers and Landscape Architects, Vectorworks Architect - for Architects and Vectorworks Designer - a version that covers the functionality of all the Vectorworks Design Series products.
Vectorworks Fundamentals (and Design Series) can do 3D modeling, but the render (display) modes are limited to Wireframe, OpenGL, Hidden Line and Polygon Based render modes. To use high quality textures and image props (as supplied on a product by product basis) and have photo realistic capabilities, you need to use the optional Vectorworks Renderworks module, or use a third party render package.
Vectorworks Landmark, in addition to the Vectorworks Design Series functionality such a design layer viewports, contains additional functionality that would be useful to Garden Designers and Landscape Architects. Plant tools, hardscapes and additional graphic symbols. In the UK version of Vectorworks 2008/09 Landmark, Coblands supplied an additional plant database that can be used to compliment or supercede the default database that has a non European bias - try looking up Verbena bonariensis for example.
View Vectorworks 2009 Landmark brochure - it even contains an example of my own work!
Vectorworks Architect is aimed at architects. It contains many of the additional tools provided in Vectorworks Landmark, but would also appear to be more feature rich. If you would be willing to forgo some of the Vectorworks Landmark specific tools, such as the plant and hardscape tools, then it may be worth taking a look at Vectorworks Architect if you expect to work on designs that contain structures. A safer bet though is Vectorworks Designer.
View Vectorworks 2009 Architect brochure
Not to be confused with Vectorworks Design Series, Vectorworks Designer contains all the elements of the Vectorworks Design Series products. It is also, along with the Renderworks add on module, the basis of the Student Edition, so if you are using the Student Edition and have become reliant on a couple of non Vectorworks Landmark tools, Vectorworks Designer and Renderworks may be a good choice, albeit at a small premium.
The student edition is a fully functional version of Vectorworks Designer/Renderworks, but is time limited and prints with a visible watermark on the page. The student license does not cover commercial use and cannot be upgraded to later versions of Vectorworks or to a commercial version. If you know in advance that you are going to use Vectorworks for commercial use, it may be cheaper and easier in the long term to opt for a full commercial license from the outset. Some educational versions are incompatible with commercial versions. In order to use files produced in an educational version in a commercial version, it may be necessary to send files created in educational versions to Nemetschek to remove the watermark otherwise the watermark will still display when it (in part or in whole) is printed from a commercial version of Vectorworks.
View Vectorworks 2009 Designer brochure!
Vectorworks Renderworks provides Vectorworks with an integrated, photo realistic capable render package. It is an add on module available for Vectorworks Fundamentals or any of the Vectorworks Design Series products. It adds photo realistic render capability, such as ray tracing and photo realistic textures and images and some useful modes for 3D visualisation. It is possible to use Vectorworks with third party render packages, such as Artlantis or Piranesi, but lack of tight integration with Vectorworks can affect the workflow. Third party render packages can however offer some benefits, Piranesi for example allows a basic 3D model to be textured and painted on by the user in 3D space, providing a hand drawn look if desired.