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.
Vectorworks has allowed the import and export of PDF files for some time. In last year's update, they enhanced the export to PDF function allowing greater control over PDF options resulting in smaller files and better, automatic file naming. New in Vectorworks 2009 is the ability to snap to objects within an imported PDF file. Objects can be text, lines, or graphics. This makes it much easier to incorporate PDFs from the Web or from other team members into your presentation drawings. The Symmetric by Distance setting in the Scale Objects tool makes scaling PDF drawings more accurate. I tried snapping to various PDF files created in Excel, Word, Photoshop, and Vectorworks itself. Most of the objects in these documents ended up being snappable; the exception was a scanned photograph, which I did not expect to have any snap points.
3D object positioning
A new 3D feature allows you to place 3D objects such as doors and windows in walls more accurately the first time. You can use two reference points and an offset distance to set the position prior to inserting the object into a wall. You can also use an offset distance when moving objects and symbols already placed in walls. Lastly, there is a new Duplicate Array tool for objects in walls, allowing for equally spaced objects to be duplicated along a wall object.
Other improvements included in Vectorworks 2009 may be small, but they contribute daily to users' efficiency.
The Eyedropper Tool lets you control drawing visibility by turning an entire class or layer off just by clicking on a single object in that layer or class. This can save hours of work, especially when dealing with imported AutoCAD files that often appear with dozens or hundreds of classes or layers.
The Revision Cloud object, used to draw and outline around changes in drawings, has new features that give you more control over billow effects such as size, height, and variability.
A new shortcut switches the focus from the drawing to the Object Info palette. Users will often want to edit the properties of an object immediately after drawing it, and this little addition will likely be used a lot, saving hours over time.
The new Polyline mode allows you to draw polylines from a series of tangent arcs. This is a common practice in landscape design and is a welcome addition.
Import and export
The import and export capabilities of Vectorworks 2009 have been updated to include the latest AutoCAD 2009 DWG formats, essential when collaborating with engineers and other professionals who may not be using Vectorworks.
There is also a new feature that allows you to import files with drag and drop. This works with the following file formats: 3DS (.3ds), DXF/DWG (.dxf, .dwg), EPSF (.eps), IFC (.ifc, .ifcxml), IGES (.igs), image files (various file extensions), Metafile (.emf, Windows only), Parasolid (.x_t), PDF (.pdf), PICT (.pct, .pict), SAT (.sat), Shapefile (.shp), and SketchUp (.skp).
Macworld's buying advice
If you're in a profession targeted by one of Vectorworks' specific modules -- Architect, Spotlight, Landmark, or Machine Design -- you'll find Vectorworks 2009 to be a world-class CAD program at a price that, while expensive, still provides a great value, especially when compared to alternatives. Designer + Renderworks includes all of these modules and, if it fits your budget, is the best way to go.
If you're mainly interested in 2D drafting and basic 3D modelling, or if you are on a tighter budget, Vectorworks 2009 Fundamentals is the best value. In any case, for new users, I recommend taking advantage of the free training videos on the Nemetschek Web site, as well as the Training Guides and Training DVDs available for purchase.