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Vectorworks Spotlight 2011 Highlights

David K H Elliott • Feature • November 1, 2010

One of the upgrades in Vectorworks Spotlight 2011 include lighting instruments in 3D renderings that are now aligned correctly to their focus points for a more realistic model.

One of the upgrades in Vectorworks Spotlight 2011 include lighting instruments in 3D renderings that are now aligned correctly to their focus points for a more realistic model.

A quick look at what upgrades you can expect in this version of the popular CAD software.

You know it’s fall when the leaves are turning, the air begins to have a bit of nip to it and the next major upgrade of Vectorworks is released.

As with each of their major releases, there are big improvements and numerous smaller ones. This time there’s major news on two fronts. For scenes that are indirectly lit, rendering speeds have bumped up and are now five to seven times faster. Rendering is smoother and more accurate as well. This was accomplished by incorporating Cinema 4D into the program as the render engine. Along with the speed bump comes the ability to easily exchange files between the two programs.

In other news, working in 3D continues to become easier as the 2D and 3D worlds merge into a unified working environment. Now one cursor does all and works in either mode. On a more substantive level, a new Push/Pull tool for editing solid faces and planar objects, an Extract Planar Objects tool, improved face selection feedback, better 3D snaps and the ability to dimension objects in any plane all combine to increase the ease and power of working in 3D. 2D planar objects can be edited in a Top/Plan view as always or just as readily edited in 3D. The environment is unified.

As always there’s a bundle of smaller, more focused new and revised tools.

If you’re even just a little bit compulsive about how your text looks, the new text capabilities will have you smiling. A text style can be created in the Resource Browser, applied to selected text on the active drawing and later imported into another file to maintain a consistency of style across files. Spelling can now be checked from a contextual menu, text can be justified, rotated and edited while rotated. It’s called “Perfect Preview” text editing. The text maintains formatting, positioning and rotation while being edited. You can see how it looks as you go.

In a somewhat related area, one of the little things that made you crazy has been fixed: worksheets are now number intelligent when sorting so that 10 now comes after 9 rather than after 1!

Among the many new features are the Quik Prefs buttons that can be added to the right side of the mode bar for direct access to commonly used settings, a Select Connected Objects command, an Even Divide command and a Line from Center mode. Rendering settings can now be saved as part of a Saved View. Direct access to the Vectorworks and user libraries has been added to the Resource Browser. Now getting to one of the stock libraries included with Vectorworks  is one drop-down menu away.

If you work on larger projects that entail multiple vendors, some of whom work in a different CAD program, file exchange continues to be simplified and improved. File sizes for imported DXF/DWG files with a large number of 2D polygons with line or arc segments, 3D polygons and circles and complex hatched objects are now considerably smaller, planar objects now export and display properly, Design Layer Viewports can export to DWG referenced files or be bound to a DXF/DWG master. The import/export of Arc Length Dimensions is now fully supported.

Changes in Spotlight will improve your workflow, the drawings you produce and the models you present to directors and clients. Lighting instruments in 3D renderings are now aligned correctly to their focus points creating a more realistic model. There are several graphics to choose from for the Focus Point object including circles, ovals and rectangles of different sizes. Focus Point text can now be hidden. New instruments added in Lightwright now appear correctly between the existing units on a lighting position. Ganging Tool preferences can be set in advance in a dialog box before being created. For event planning, new options have been added to the seating layout tool to display the section name, seating count and seat numbers. Additional seating layout default content is available. And the Pantone colors have been updated.
Vectorworks 2011 is a major release with powerful new features and lots of handy new and refined tools. It’s an upgrade worth having.

David K H Elliott is a lighting designer and educator. You can reach him via e-mail at

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