Shipping in September
Perhaps the biggest -- and saddest -- surprise from yesterday's interview with Vectorworks CEO Dr Biplab Sarkar is the news that the company is switching to selling only subscriptions to customers, as of January 2023, in English-speaking countries. If you have a permanent license, it'll keep working as long as your computer's operating systems supports it, either on Windows or MacOS.
When I suggested that permanent licenses are an advantageous marketing tactic, Mr Sarkar agreed that Vectorworks also used to promote that, but that it is easier on their back office system to deal with just one kind of license, and more updates more frequently, such as bug fixes and function updates. As well, "everyone else is moving to subscriptions" -- something I would disagree with.
The emphasis in Vectorworks 2023 is on reliability and performance. Also, it is the release in which several multi-year projects came to fruition, such as manipulating digital terrains for placing buildings; creating customized graphics legends by a single, multi-option command; and better rendering options, such as environment lighting and reflections.
Ralph Grabowski: Tell me more about the new (I think it is new) graphics engine -- Vectorworks Graphics Module (VGM) -- that your Web page says is 6x faster and uses 80% less memory.
Biplab Sarkar: It is not new but we have been improving it. OpenGL has become obsolete, and so we use the latest DirectX on Windows and Metal on OS X.
We improved the performance for updating sections. Calculations and processing were moved to background threads, so that users can continue working in Vectorworks while section viewports are being updated. Caching for section calculations was optimized to reduce the memory foot.
Grabowski: How is the coordination campaign going between Nemetschek's subsidiaries?
Sarkar: Vectorworks has links to some Nemetschek products, like Maxon whose Cinema 4D and Redshift rendering libraries are built into Vectorworks.
We have been working very closely with Solibri for model checking. This year we improved BCF [BIM Collaboration Format for transferring XML-formatted issue management data between programs], and added a BCF API. To communicate with other Nemetschek brands, we use IFC [industry foundation classes].
Grabowski: How dependent is Vectorworks on ODA [open design alliance] for advances in Revit and IFC compatibility, and how far does Vectorworks see itself going in Revit compatibility?
Sarkar: We are going in lockstep with them, so we support new entities as they come along, such as hardscape and landscape areas which are Revit floor objects. We are mapping them one-to-one, depending on the properties of these objects. We also create site models or site modifiers from Revit topography elements.
We are working closely with the ODA on the Revit stuff; it has taken three to four years to develop, and some things are still not supported by the ODA like stairs and rooms, and objects inside Revit families. We also work with them on Civil 3D.
Grabowski: ODA announced new MCAD initiative; is Vectorworks interested in it? For instance, for placing an MCAD product inside a building.
Sarkar: We can already place mechanical models in buildings since we are based on Parasolid, and we import STEP, IGES, and so on.
Grabowski: Are you the only architectural package using Parasolid as the modeling kernel?
Sarkar: Microstation also uses Parasolid.
Grabowski: The tag line on your Vectorworks 2023 landing page reads, "The Ultimate Software From Sketch To BIM," but aren't point clouds the new starting point?
Sarkar: We have good support for point clouds. We use an open source library inside Vectorworks. Customers like the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC make point-cloud scans to see how new exhibits would fit before they showcase them, We can import point clouds in chunks to over come size limitations.