Vectorworks 2019 Focuses on Usability and Performance
Michael Molitch-Hou posted on September 27, 2018 |

Ahead of its annual Design Summit, Vectorworks has released the latest update to its BIM software. The company has implemented a number of changes in Vectorworks 2019 that took user feedback and translated it into major improvements in usability and performance. To learn more about this year’s update, engineering.com spoke to Vectorworks CEO Biplab Sarkar.

In Vectorworks 2019, clip cube can now be used on sheet layer viewports, making it possible to quickly create cutaways for presentations and other purposes. (Image courtesy of Vectorworks.)
In Vectorworks 2019, clip cube can now be used on sheet layer viewports, making it possible to quickly create cutaways for presentations and other purposes. (Image courtesy of Vectorworks.)

Sarkar wasn’t only able to enlighten us about Vectorworks 2019, but he also shed light on how he sees his company fitting into the larger architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) landscape as it undergoes significant changes associated with industrialization, reality capture and virtual and augmented reality.

Vectorworks 2019

Sarkar confirmed what is already well-known within the industry: Vectorworks has a very close relationship with its users. This relationship, according to the executive, actually surprised him when he started with the company about 18 years ago.

“When I joined the company in 2000, that was one of the first things that I noticed: our developers are really close to the customers,” Sarkar said. “It was kind of surprising to me because I came from an environment where that was not the case. The philosophy from the beginning was to add functionality only if we can improve the customer’s workflow.”

To generate the information required for a new release, Vectorworks collects user feedback through its user groups, community boards, the company’s customer success team and product marketing team. This information is then placed into an enhancement database, prioritized and implemented.

According to Sarkar, all of the improvements made to the software were meant only to improve user experience, without any extraneous or cumbersome features. As a result, users will notice a variety of new functions that make the workflow much smoother.

This includes the ability to create 2D drawings from 3D models instantly and from multiple angles. Viewport image effects can also be edited directly within the software, without the need to use an external image editing tool like Photoshop. The Clip Cube tool further improves presentation creation as it allows users to cut away any part of a 3D model for cutaway effects within sheet layer viewports.

“We basically believe that design freedom is very important for the users,” Sarkar said. “Maintaining an edge in the presentation and drawings is very important to the users. In order to have that freedom and exploration of design alternatives, you need to be able to efficiently draw everything much faster. The product and the files need to launch much faster, and the view changes should happen faster.”

Sarkar also pointed out that one of the software’s unique methods for improving design time actually relies on a computer’s own hardware. The Vectorworks Graphics Module uses what the company refers to as “intelligent on-demand object tessellation,” with which only objects that need to be shown are shown. File viewing and loading is made significantly faster by this technology.

“In some cases, we are using the graphics card to store all of the geometry while you are navigating,” Sarkar explained. “Then, when you let your mouse go, the final geometry is getting drawn with multiple cores from the CPU on the machine.” This makes it possible to pan and zoom at the same speed, whether on a sheet layer or a design layer.

Other improvements include a new data tag tool designed so that users can tag objects, individually or collectively; a keyword-searchable layer and class list; custom IFC export; and better integration with Revit. A more complete list of new features can be found at the Vectorworks website.

The Evolution of Vectorworks and AEC

In our interview, we discussed a number of trends occurring in the AEC industry, ranging from increased remote collaboration through the cloud, 4D and 5D BIM, reality capture and augmented and virtual reality. Sarkar emphasized that, in all of these spaces, Vectorworks is advancing as well, if not directly then through connections with sister companies also owned by the Nemetschek Group.

For instance, Vectorworks already offers Vectorworks Cloud Services, which allows users to view, markup and share project files. To incorporate further document management, the company will work with sister company Bluebeam, known for its PDF-based document management tool. Nemetschek announced earlier this year the development of a common data environment (CDE) that would make it possible for all data associated with a project, such as changes and sign-offs, to be hosted in a single, shared repository. This larger CDE strategy from Nemetschek will weave together products under the group’s umbrella, from Vectorworks to Graphisoft to Allplan.

Sarkar explained that, similarly, by working with Allplan or NEVARIS, it will be possible to tie into 4D and 5D BIM features offered by these sister companies. NEVARIS, for instance, recently acquired 123erfasst.de GmbH, which develops time tracking, project management and construction site documentation software. As NEVARIS advances 5D BIM, including project time and costs, Vectorworks users will ultimately be able to tie into those features from a design perspective.

All of this is aided in part by Vectorworks’ open approach to BIM, according to Sarkar: “We believe in the openBIM philosophy. So, we always use the open IFC standard. It works pretty well with our sister companies. We don’t have any plans to develop these kinds of [4D and 5D] solutions inside of our tools, but we want to use partnerships with other products under the Nemetschek umbrella.”

Vectorworks’ graphical scripting tool, Marionette, also enables generative design. (Image courtesy of Vectorworks.)
Vectorworks’ graphical scripting tool, Marionette, also enables generative design. (Image courtesy of Vectorworks.)

For its part, Vectorworks is developing its own unique technology in-house, notably including machine learning. “We actually created a neural network that is in direct control of cloud to stylize rendered images of Vectorworks,” Sarkar said. “That trained data can then be brought to Vectorworks using our algorithmic design tool, which is Marionette.So, Marionette can be used to stylize images within Vectorworks.”

Similarly, Vectorworks takes user-provided data to train a machine learning algorithm for predictive design. By tracking user workflow, the algorithm can anticipate what tool a user might deploy or what action a user might take next and automatically select that tool or command as the user’s next step.

Sarkar explained that Vectorworks has been steadily improving compatibility with new AR and VR technologies, as well. The software already has support for most mainstream headsets, like HTC Vive and Google Daydream, which rely on WebGL to experience designs, mostly for immersive presentation purposes. Apple’s ARKit is also supported via Vectorwork’s Nomad mobile app and the company will be announcing support for AR on Android in the very near future.

Our interview with Sarkar concluded with a question regarding the impact that his company has had on the larger AEC industry, to which he responded: “When it comes to little BIM, architectural design coordination and working with multiple users across multiple platforms, I think we do a good job and we cover, I’d say, about 85 percent of what is needed at this time,” Sarkar concluded.

To learn more about the latest release of Vectorworks, visit the company website.


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