By Greg Miller Macworld.com | on May 14, 2009
Price: 769 . 1049 . 1159 . 1449
Pros: New world-class 3-D modeling engine; Smart Cursor improvements; cool new Snap Loupe; snap to PDF; AutoCAD 2009 support.
Cons: Snap Loupe sometimes misses.
Smart Cursor changes
A Smart Cursor gives you visual and data feedback on screen at the location of your mouse as you move over your drawing, make selections, and draw objects. Vectorworks 2009 has several improvements to an already good Smart Cursor system. The most visible are Pre-selection Indicators. Objects are highlighted as the mouse passes over them, giving you visual feedback about which object would be selected if you click. Objects can now be highlighted in different colours, depending on whether they are on the active layer or other layers. This makes object selection on complex drawings much easier and faster.
There is also new visual feedback on all potential snapping points. Snapping points are specific spots on objects, such as corners and centre points; if you grab the object near one of these spots, the point on the object will snap to your cursor, allowing you to more precisely move or place that object. With Vectorworks 2009, the additional visual feedback makes it easier to know when your cursor is near one of these points. This improvement is particularly welcome for mid-points and other points along lines and edges of objects (corresponding to your current snap preferences), and I love the fact that I can now find these same points in the spaces between objects.
All of this visual feedback is fully customizable via the Interactive Appearance Settings dialog, where users can adjust all of the Smart Cursor elements, such as color, opacity, and size. There are 29 adjustable elements, and while their management might be a bit overwhelming for new users, designers who spend hours a day in Vectorworks will appreciate how such customization saves time and enhances the user experience day to day.
I highly recommend that current users take the time to adjust their snap settings. The default settings create a different feel than in Vectorworks 2008, and this can be frustrating at first, causing you to think that you've selected an object at a certain snap point only to find, once the object is placed, that you did not. Using the new Snap Loupe feature can also help.
One of the coolest new features in Vectorworks 2009 is the Snap Loupe. This works like a photographer's loupe to let you temporarily zoom into a precision operation, such as selecting an object at a very specific snap point or snapping that object to another specific point in a complex drawing. The snap loupe can be activated with a shortcut (the Z key) while you are moving your cursor or an object over the drawing. The zoomed portion of the drawing appears in a floating window and automatically goes away once you click your selection. I found that the Snap Loupe worked most of the time, but had some trouble with it when working with some overlapping objects and symbols. Nemetschek is aware of this intermittent problem and is working on an update.