MiniCAD has long been a stalwart of the Mac-using architectural community. Its release on the windows platform saw it begin to challenge AutoCAD LT in the midrange market, and now Diehl Graphisoft has released MiniCAD VectorWorks, the much-anticipated successor to MiniCAD 7.
MiniCAD 8.0 has a new name, VectorWorks, and now incorporates object-based technology and improved visualisation functionality.
The new name is part of the plan to lose the image of a low-end Mac-based CAD application.
VectorWorks builds on the strengths of MiniCAD, its flexibility and ease of use, while developing object-based technology simular to that used by both Bentley and AutoDesk. The impact of objectbased technology on the AEC, mechanical engineering, lighting, and landscape design markets is becoming profound. 'This technology will be the basis for a substantial amount of our future product development efforts and we believe it will be the cornerstone of our growth and success into the future, ' said CEO Richard Diehl.
Already, VectorWorks has won industry accolades, recently winning first place in the 'Most CostEffective' category at the International 3D Designers CAD Shootout for the third consecutive year.
The object-based technology streamlines the design process by enabling users easily to create design elements, such as doors, by selecting a preformatted tool and entering the object's real-world parameters. Object-based design represents a shift away from designing with basic CAD geometry, such as lines, arcs and circles, to designing with dynamic representations of real-world objects. This approach streamlines the design process by making it easy to create design elements such as doors, windows, and cabinets by simply clicking a tool and entering its real-world parameters. Designing with objects eliminates the timeconsuming process of drawing design elements with basic CAD geometry. Best of all, these objects are 'intelligent' in that they behave like the real-world objects they represent.
Making changes to an object is easy. Just open the Object Info Palette and type in your changes. If you need a six-panel door instead of a two-panel door, just type a '6' in the panel field and VectorWorks will create the new door for you.
The new VectorScript programming language is the power behind the new object technology.
VectorScript allows users easily to create specialised objects for vertical markets such as:
architecture, space planning, landscape, and theatre design. As VectorScript is an open environment, users along with third-party developers can create their own custom objects or modify those that are shipped with the program.
VectorScript can also be used to automate tasks or even to create custom tools.
The scripting language is robust enough to carry out very high-level tasks but straightforward enough for non-programmers to use. That said, like any complex scripting language it takes time to master.
Commands are not 'hard coded'; developers can adapt the scripts that come with the program or use them as templates to create their own solutions that 'plug into' VectorWorks' powerful CAD engine.
The new Workspace Editor makes it easy to create custom workspaces on both platforms without having to exit the program. Formerly known as Overlays, Workspaces logically organises VectorWorks' tools and commands into industry-specific sets. The Workspace Editor allows you to create new tool palettes and menus, delete unused ones, or rearrange their order and location.
You can also assign, modify, or delete keyboard shortcuts to tools and commands. VectorWorks ships with a number of industryspecific Workspaces.
One area of weakness in MiniCAD was the lack of collaborative tools to allow teambased working. Workgroup Referencing makes it easy to coordinate and collaborate your design ideas when working in a team environment. Final drawings can now be assembled by linking separate component drawings that other members of the design team may be working on. Workgroup Referencing also ensures that all members of the design team are adhering to the same design standards. Like AutoCAD and MicroStation, the use of reference files greatly extends the functionality of the application, making it a far more professional tool.
As well as the major new features, VectorWorks has numerous enhancements. Round walls are now easy to create as they have the same functionality as straight walls. You can specify a wall's separation, height, offsets, caps, and cavities, add wall peaks, insert symbols and automatically join them to straight walls. Wall Styles have also been extended to produce different wall styles that automatically assign class and graphical information. The sketch design phase has been help by the Walls from Polygons tool. With this you can use simple polygons to block out spaces and then VectorWorks will automatically create walls that follow the outline of your design.
VectorWorks ships with templates for several industries.
Each template is designed to give maximum flexibility while providing the drawing structure new users need to get up and running quickly. Additionally, the new A/E/C Set-up Wizard makes it easy to set up new architectural drawing files with the correct layer, class and sheet organisation.
The new RenderWorks rendering module 'plugs in' to VectorWorks, enabling users to create photorealistic renderings from within the main drawing area in a simular way to Avent's Art. lantis. RenderWorks eliminates the time spent on exporting and reapplying textures in other rendering programs. An extensive library of predefined materials ships with RenderWorks, or custom textures can be created by users. You can use image files such as PICT, BMP, and GIF, and use a variety of provided shaders to create custom textures that easily map on to any object. RenderWorks includes both LightWork's RayMaker for photorealistic raytrace rendering and QuickDraw3D's interactive rendering technology. While RenderWorks does feature full control over the texture mapping, anti-aliasing, hard and soft shadows, transparency, reflection and refraction, it is not as good a rendering solution as Art. lantis.
VectorWorks is backwardscompatible with previous versions of MiniCAD, and also now supports AutoCAD R14 DWG/DXF files.
The new Import/Export command gives you detailed control over how DWG/DXF drawings translate into and out of VectorWorks.
With VectorWorks, Diehl Graphisoft has taken MiniCAD a long way forward. In its price bracket, there is nothing on the market that comes close to its ease of use and its toolset. While it offers some 3D, it is still basically a 2D package but, that said, the 3D is good enough to produce some convincing visualisation material. If you are new to CAD, VectorWorks is a great place to start; if you are using AutoCAD LT, I'd suggest you take a look at this application the next time you are upgrading.
VectorWorks System Requirements: Windows, Any 80486 processor or greater, (Pentium required for QuickDraw 3D), 20 MB RAM, Microsoft Windows 95,98 or NT 4.0; Macintosh Any 68020 processor or greater, (PowerPC required for QuickDraw 3D), System 7.5 or greater, 20 MB RAM
RenderWorks System Requirements: Windows, Pentium processor, 32 MB RAM, Microsoft Windows 95,98 or NT 4.0; Macintosh, PowerPC processor, System 7.5 or greater, 32 MB RAM Pricing £595.00, upgrades from 7.0 £150.00