gwheckendorn

Should I Make The Move To Chief From Vectorworks

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I am a residential designer/builder who started with AutoCad many years ago and then made a significant move to Vectorworks, self taught on both platforms.  Though very sophisticated, I have been very frustrated with the lack of productivity gains.  I feel that Vectorworks is a software geared towards the commercail architectural market, not so much the residential.  I have been researching CA but have yet to find information that compares CA against Vectorworks (ver. 13).  My fear is not knowing what I will lose versus gain by switching programs.  Any opinions, thoughts, advice I can get here would be greatly appreciated!  I'm very close to pulling the trigger but think I need some level of assurance that I'm doing the right thing.  

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I have been using Chief Architect since version 9. I came over from AutoCAD. In my opinion, nothing comes close to CA in residential design. It has everything a designer needs to complete a set of professional working drawings, and you can make great presentation renderings and walk-throughs to show your clients. CA X6 can now also be used with MAC. To find out for yourself you can get a free trial of CA on their website.

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Thank you for the feedback Terry.  I have been experimenting with the CA trial and have been impressed so far.  It appears to be a very intuitive program, but have run into some frustrations with confusing key strokes with that of Vectorworks...that will take some getting used to.  Some of my reservations come from colleagues (but they are commercial architects) have said that CA is not sophisticated enough to do complex residential projects.  They say that the program is more geared towards residential contractore and designers, not architects.  I think that may have been true a while back, but after reviewing the program in greater depth, I think CA might be quire the opposite now!  I'm looking for productivity...not complexity in user interface.  The latest home I completed was a 2700 sf, story and a half with a complex topography and a walk-out basement.  Vectorworks was so cumbersome to complete standard residential constrution details and items, and so residential symbol poor/weak, that it took me a rediculous amount of time to complete.  If I made $2.00/hour on that job I was lucky! 

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I switched from Vectorworks to Chief Architect four years ago and love.

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The hot keys are completely customizable so you can transfer a lot of your habits to the keyboard. I have not used Vectorworks so I have not input regarding your main question.

 

When I chose CA (about 8 years ago) it was based on the price for what it had to offer. I have been very pleased with my choice. For a residential design specific office it is a great program. You will need to some time to get up to speed but you will be able to be very productive once you have your main file set up to your specs.

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gw...:

 

I have been a Chief user since v7 in 2001.  In observing many users come on board (via ChiefTalk) after switching over from AC, VW, SP and others, it seems to me that in almost every case, those users have not looked back.  As with any software, Chief is not everything for everyone, but if your primary focus is doing home designs and construction plans, I think you will be pleased to be using Chief versus VW, AC, etc..  You have 30 days to give Chief a good test.  ChiefTalk is a great forum where you can fill in some gaps of information and/or techniques to use when designing with Chief.

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I would refute the notion that Chief  is not geared toward architects. (I have peers that still believe architecture can only happen with a pen - people can be wrong about lots of things.) I made the switch from ArchiCAD about 8 years ago and have not once second guessed the decision. The level of complexity you can impart on the design is limited only by your creativity, not the software (though familiarity with the tools will help you pull off the more complex solutions.) 

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Thank you all so much for your posts...I was really hoping to hear all that I have heard above!  I have a new project coming up and have discussed the potential of switching to a new software (and the associated & unknown learning curve I/we might have to endure) with the client.  After showing them several of the features I am absolutely impressed with, they are all for it...and the extra time it will take for me to complete their drawings.  Though I've invested a huge amount of time and money to get where I am with Vectorworks...I have great hopes that CA offers a much greater potential in productivity gains, as well as a much higher value output! 

 

And Kevin...I was the first of my group of fellow architects (college-mates) to see the value of CAD versus the mighty lead holder!  (though I have my MArch degree, and took the design portion of the FAIA exam many many years ago, for several reasons, I chose not to complete or pursue obtaining my registration).  Over the years, and one by one, they have joined the fray and now many claim to be self-proclaimed experts.  They all use a version of AutoCad and wished me luck with moving to Vectorworks.  Now I can't wait to tell them I'm making another move.  I only hope I can come up to speed soon enough to show off in front of them!  (lol)

 

Thank you all again...I will keep visiting this post to see if there is more positive anecdotes I can hear about the move to CA!

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Don't know your name gwheckendorn but if you are considering the move to CA go to www.Chieftutor.com NOW.

 

Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Do not think this program will come easily (it doesn't seem like you're deluding yourself in this regard) and

start studying videos now. The paradigm that CA uses is unlike any other ad you need to learn how CA does things and the sooner the better to avoid frustration.

 
Next, bookmark this page because you will be here a LOT learning Chief's idiosyncrasies of which there are many. The help here on this forum is phenomenal and one of the things that makes CA such a value as a product.
 
I think a lot of long time users (myself included started with CA 7) might forget what it took to learn this program and truly be proficient at it, Still waiting after many years but once you get the hang of it and re-learn your CAD chops using CA's tools it is truly a great tool for residential design.
 
I never learned any 'other CAD' so I had nothing to unlearn but seeing through the eyes of the developers to understand why they approach certain aspects of the program the way they do took a long time for me to understand. You may be a very quick study, and I may be slow but it's not an easy program and will take some pretty diligent study but the rewards are worth it IMO.
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Another short note. A lot of users (not so much on the forum) have no idea of the power underlying things like Anno Sets and Layer Sets and it's easy to forego learning those features to get going with the software. My advice is don't ignore those types of features when first learning. They are SO powerful that getting into the habit early will add immensely to your productivity.

 

And also don't forget tech support. I rely on the forum for many many things but in a pinch the tech support is absolutely fantastic. They've helped me out of a couple of jambs when I needed quick fixes or techniques. Highly recommended.

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When I first bought the software I also bought 4-6 hours of tutoring that I used in the first 2 weeks with the  software. I considered that an essential cost.

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I would also add that Terry Munsons new book on X6 would probably be a very good investment for getting up to speed on the basic functions of Chief as well as many of the more advanced topics as well.  I don't have the X6 book yet myself, but I have purchased books from him on X4 and X5.

 

Check out his web site for the details.

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Thank you for the insight Larry.  Especially your suggestion regarding the Anno Sets and Layer Sets.  I'm assuming these are features that once proficient, will provide for nice productivity gains, which is the "MAJOR" reason I am looking to make a change.  I did visit the ChiefTutor site, but noticed most of the videos and info are to earlier versions of the software.  I did not see any relating to the current version during my cursory search through the site.  I'm not sure how much CA has changed over the past several releases, but do feel the older videos will still be a good place to start?

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at this point I would say any videos for X4 or X5 would essentially be useful for X6

 

any older than that be aware that while the principles are probably the same

the tools may be different

 

CA use to release a new set of vids with each release but stopped with the X2 release

the vids for the X1 release cost over $1200 to purchase

 

now CA releases what's new vids and will try to re-do older vids if enough has changed

to warrant it

 

Lew

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I would refute the notion that Chief  is not geared toward architects. (I have peers that still believe architecture can only happen with a pen - people can be wrong about lots of things.) I made the switch from ArchiCAD about 8 years ago and have not once second guessed the decision. The level of complexity you can impart on the design is limited only by your creativity, not the software (though familiarity with the tools will help you pull off the more complex solutions.) 

Agreed, there are many things Chief does badly that most Architects on here would love to have but Chief plays to the numbers, Iguess as they should.

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Can you share some examples of what you feel Chief does badly (that most Architects would love to have)?

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Can you share some examples of what you feel Chief does badly (that most Architects would love to have)?

The 2d tools are very lacking compared to Vectorworks.

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CA's stated goal is to remove the need for 2D tools with better 3D tools

 

many think CA should strengthen the 2D tools until such a goal can be reached

 

CA claims lack of resources to do both

 

Lew

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I'm perfectly content with the 2D tools.

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The 2d tools are very lacking compared to Vectorworks.

What specifically is lacking? I'm generally familiar with differences between us and other CAD programs, but it is the specifics about what is lacking that I'm interested in. As I assume the original poster was curious about as well.

 

We always want to improve the program, including 2D tools. While eliminating the need to use 2D to fix up missing elements in lines generated from 3D is an important goal for us, we by no means want to ignore 2D. Annotation is a major part of creating working drawings.

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I am also perfectly content with the 2D tools and support Chief's objective to keep working on the automatically generated 2D representations of the 3D model for working drawings rather than "fixing" the 2D.

 

So much is said on this forum about "drafting" rather than designing in Chief.  Ultimately I think the goal should be to completely automate the "drafting" portion (eliminating the drudgery and enhancing the creativity) of the process which gives clients more design.  I have been using Chief for more than 15 years now and have never been shown any convincing evidence I should switch.  The only meaningful limitation I can see right now in Chief is the lack of out of plumb walls, although unless you are Frank Gehry I don't think 90% of architects even need this (which can actually be done in Chief with a lot of extra effort for the relative few times you might need it).

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What specifically is lacking? I'm generally familiar with differences between us and other CAD programs, but it is the specifics about what is lacking that I'm interested in. As I assume the original poster was curious about as well.

 

We always want to improve the program, including 2D tools. While eliminating the need to use 2D to fix up missing elements in lines generated from 3D is an important goal for us, we by no means want to ignore 2D. Annotation is a major part of creating working drawings.

 

Doug................Probably the one "cad thing" I miss most from coming from ACAD is the "stretch command". This is a very common command in almost all CAD programs.  Another area that could use improvement in the cad department is in the area of dimensioning. I get so-o-o frustrated at times when I'm trying to snap to a point with the dimension tool and it jumps to a point somewhere else (sometimes not even on the screen) when all my "Locate Objects" are all setup correctly.

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Doug................Probably the one "cad thing" I miss most from coming from ACAD is the "stretch command".

 

Yes. A stretch command would be nice.

 

I would also like an offset command. I know it's been requested before. Right now, offset can be accomplished using transform/replicate, but it takes a lot longer, especially if you're offsetting a line that you're unsure of the angle. It then becomes multi-click process (Open dbx of line you want to offset from, copy angle, close dbx, open transform/replicate dbx, click copy, click move, click polar, paste angle and add/subtract 90º, specify offset distance, click ok)

 

I think those are the only two I really miss. Other than that, CA's 2D tools are good enough for me!

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If you are doing all that to offset a line, you are doing it the hard way.  Try dragging the move handle and then hitting the tab key.

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Have you tried that Kilgore? When you do, be sure to start w/ a single non-orthogonal line. If you can get it to work using drag/tab, clue me in please & I'll be forever grateful.

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