Vectorworks 2021 Is Here! 6 Things BIM Users Will Love
Staff posted on October 15, 2020 |
Vectorworks 2021 sticks to the DNA of keeping it simple.
Smart Options display. (Image courtesy of Vectorworks.)
Smart Options display. (Image courtesy of Vectorworks.)

This September Vectorworks released its annual design and building information modeling (BIM) software solution Vectorworks 2021 for the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC); landscape architecture; and entertainment industries.

The Maryland-based company Vectorworks has been around since 1985 and has become somewhat of a favorite for architects working on Macs. It was acquired by AEC solutions provider Nemetschek Group in 2000. 

Biplab Sarkar, Vectorworks CEO. (Image courtesy of Vectorworks.)

Dr. Biplab Sarkar, Vectorworks CEO. (Image courtesy of Vectorworks.)

We recently caught up with Dr. Biplab Sarkar, CEO of Vectorworks, to get an update about the company, industry trends … and Vectorworks 2021.

Sarkar has been in software development since the ’80s and joined Vectorworks in 2000, serving as the CEO since 2016. 

“The DNA of Vectorworks is to keep it simple,” said Sarkar. That is the basis of this year’s theme of “simplicity to design the complex.”

Sarkar said the company focused on how to make Vectorworks 2021 more practical and easier to use, enabling users to perform complex tasks—all while keeping the workflow simple. 

For starters, users will notice a more modern user interface. Sarkar said the interface has been simplified to make it easier to locate things. For instance, with the Quick Search feature, users can quickly find and activate a tool or menu command by simply typing what they need. Vectorworks will also offer suggestions based on a user’s search history and most commonly used tools. 

Quick search. (Image courtesy of Vectorworks.)
Quick search. (Image courtesy of Vectorworks.)

Detachable palettes is another feature from customer wish lists that was included, but the main user request in the BIM world is performance and the need for handling large BIM files. 

In addition to quality and performance-focused features like the new Project Sharing server and multithreaded Vectorworks Graphics Module (VGM) cache that offers up to five times faster file loading, Vectorworks 2021 also has new interoperability capabilities with Excel Import/Export and PDF Drawing Marker Links. And with the Smart Options Display, users can stay in the modeling space without needing to move their mouse between the drawing area and tool palettes. Plus, its customizable so users can easily access their most used tool sets and their last-used tools. 

“The Smart Options Display is an innovative leap forward in Vectorworks’ user interface. I know that after a short period of time using it, everyone in the office will wonder how we ever did without it.”
–François Lévy, AIA, NCARB, principal at François Lévy Architecture + Interiors 

So, what else will AEC professionals be most excited about? There are six key features to take note of.

  1. Materials

The Materials feature allows Vectorworks to package collections of graphical attributes, physical properties, and other construction information related to actual materials in a new resource type. This will allow objects to be given a material and have the object take on the informational and graphical attributes of that material. For instance, users can calculate how many bricks they will need for a wall.

Materials. (Image courtesy of Vectorworks.)
Materials. (Image courtesy of Vectorworks.)
  1. Structural Grids

The new Grid Line tool lets users draw their grid in plan, and future changes will automatically appear in all views so there is no need to draw in multiple drawing views. Ultimately, this tool automates designing linear grids and angular grids of the structure. 

Structural grids. (Image courtesy of Vectorworks.)
Structural grids. (Image courtesy of Vectorworks.)
  1. Smart Markers 

Users will notice a boost to drawing markers in Vectorworks 2021. Section markers, reference markers, interior elevation markers, detail callouts and drawing labels are all consolidated into customizable tools. Users can simply click on a marker to view a specific building plan.

Plus, when they publish drawing sets as PDFs, the markers will automatically create hyperlinks. 

Smart markers. (Image courtesy of Vectorworks.)
Smart markers. (Image courtesy of Vectorworks.)
  1. Revit Export 2.0

Two years ago, Vectorworks started supporting Revit imports. Now Vectorworks supports Revit exports. This feature aims to improve Revit export functionality and provide cleaner 3D models, as well as supports colors.

Revit Export 2.0. (Image courtesy of Vectorworks.)
3D Models. (Image courtesy of Vectorworks.)
  1. Excel Import and Export 

This feature adds support for the import/export of native Excel files. Users can import Excel files as worksheets into Vectorworks, and export Vectorworks worksheets as native Excel files. Support for Excel files has also been added to the Site Model Survey Import and Existing Trees Survey Import features.

Worksheets. (Image courtesy of Vectorworks.)
Worksheets. (Image courtesy of Vectorworks.)
  1. Project Sharing

It’s all about teamwork. This feature enhances collaboration by eliminating problems caused by hardware dependencies and improperly configured network-attached storage (NAS) devices. In previous versions, users would get logged out due to an operating system issue, but now the Project Sharing server has increased stability so that is no longer the case.

Project sharing. (Image courtesy of Vectorworks.)
Project sharing. (Image courtesy of Vectorworks.)

In addition to these six features, users should look out for other improvements to space objects, windows, doors and railings.

New to Vectorworks? No problem. According to Sarkar, “there’s not much of a learning curve, but it depends on what you are trying to design. If you adopt a purely 2D workflow, it should not take you a lot of time to master Vectorworks. If you need to work in nonarchitectural 3D workflows or residential building designs, it also does not take a lot of time. For larger architectural/BIM workflows, the learning curve is slightly steeper, but I would like to think still much easier than the competition.”

Speaking of the competition, Sarkar said Vectorworks stands out from their competitors because the company supports both Mac and PC users. “We focus on design rather than documentation. We offer a built-in solid modeling engine, free-form modeling, energy analysis, photo realistic rendering, algorithms-aided design, and we support SDK and scripting to create your own objects, Python scripting—making it a full-fledged CAD/BIM platform.”

Vectorworks also believes in openBIM, a collaboration process that is vendor neutral. As noted earlier, Vectorworks offers Revit import/export and supports DWG and the IFC format for compatibility with other BIM tools. 

If you’re ready to give Vectorworks a go, it is now available in English and will begin to roll out in other languages in October through early 2021. 

This latest release includes Vectorworks FundamentalsArchitect, Landmark, Spotlight, and Designer.

Vectorworks Fundamentals is the company’s basic design software package that offers 2D/3D capabilities for modeling and documentation.

Vectorworks Architect offers everything you need for conceptual design to fully coordinated BIM models and construction documents.

Vectorworks Landmark is ideal for landscape architecture and offers tools for analyzing pre- and post-development site conditions.

Vectorworks Spotlight, which includes tools for drafting and modeling and making realistic renderings, is particularly appropriate for the entertainment industry, such as lighting, exhibit or stage design. 

Customers can pay for the solution that best suits their needs based on the chart below or get the Designer package, which includes all the solutions.

Vectorworks solution pricing chart. (Image courtesy of Vectorworks.)

The products are offered as desktop solutions, although the company offers Vectorworks Cloud Services and Vectorworks Nomad, which support viewing and marking up Vectorworks documents, 3D walk-throughs, augmented reality (AR), and support for several desktop features that can be submitted to Vectorworks Cloud Services for computing needs, such as animation and rendering. 

To accommodate remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic, Vectorworks is allowing customers to activate two computers per license, in addition to offering extended payment terms, waiving cancellation fees, and offering regular free online learning seminars.

What are its customers saying about the new release?

“My jaw dropped to the floor when I realized that the full component section for Landscape Area soil components now interacts with Site Models when used as a texture bed modifier. This is a game changer because it allows us to better understand the effects of a full section on our cut/fill grading and site modeling workflows.” –Eric Berg, senior associate at Pacific Coast Land Design 

“The Smart Options Display is an innovative leap forward in Vectorworks’ user interface. I know that after a short period of time using it, everyone in the office will wonder how we ever did without it.”
–François Lévy, AIA, NCARB, principal at François Lévy Architecture + Interiors 

“The new structural grid tool is a huge leap forward in coordinated drawings. There is a sense of magic about the tool.” –Ion Webster, principal of Pults & Associates, LLP 

 “I see Excel Import/Export becoming an important part of practice for pretty much any Vectorworks user to use data from their drawings to prepare takeoffs, cost estimates, schedules, etc.”
–Stephen Schrader, PLA, ASLA, GRP, landscape architect at Renta Urban Land Design 

Customers heard directly from Vectorworks at the company’s virtual event, Design Day, on October 6, where Sarkar discussed Vectorworks 2021 and this year’s theme of simplicity.

The event include presentations from industry experts and global Vectorworks users, such as:

“We’re honored to present at this year’s Vectorworks Design Day,” said Gerner. “As a Vectorworks user for more than 25 years, we will explain how as a firm, we have evolved with the platform and now lead the path to a full integration with utilizing other BIM platforms. I look forward to sharing with attendees how Vectorworks allows us to be on the cutting edge of design and productivity with their flexible and intuitive tools.” 

To learn more about Vectorworks 2021, visit .

Beyond that, what’s in store for Vectorworks going forward? Customers can certainly expect updates to Vectorworks throughout the year through the company’s service packs.

Plus, Sarkar said the company has its eye on industry trends such as artificial intelligence (AI) and AR. and is keeping those trends in mind for future product development.

One thing he mentioned is that the company is looking at a predictive interface, in terms of AI, which he said is an important component for the construction industry. 

Another big trend he talked about was the influence of the game industry and how the game engine is the foundation upon which VR and AR technologies are built.

“VR and AR are considered to be the next innovations to transform the AEC industry, impacting everything from design reviews and construction planning to training simulations and on-the-job collaboration,” Sarkar added. 

“I imagine that we will have an AR app which can be used on a phone or a tablet to look and point at equipment in a building to access the building maintenance data, manufacturer’s records, etc.”

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