Deciding on new software means thinking about what you need it to achieve. For an all-in-one, affordable 2D drafting solution, AutoCAD LT is a great choice, but if you want to add 3D drafting to your workflow, Vectorworks Fundamentals is the way to go.
We’ve weighed up the main points in favour of each program, so you can see which you should be looking at before you make an investment…
AutoCAD LT is promoted for entry level 2D drafting and detailing, but now offers everything you need for general CAD work. It can work with Xrefs, raster images, dynamic blocks and PDFs, and Autodesk have added new features to the most recent versions of LT that were previously reserved for bigger brother AutoCAD. These include support for the AutoCAD WS mobile and web app, the Sheet Set Manager organisational tool, and other powerful tools such as Associative Arrays (maintain relationships between arrayed objects), Multifunctional Grips (now for lines, arcs and dimensions) and Delete Duplicate Objects (removes unnecessary geometry).
You wouldn’t expect to see a professional modelling solution within an entry level program, but Vectorworks Fundamentals punches above its weight, providing conceptual design tools and powerful 3D modelling functionality for professional free-form solid modelling designs. In that sense, it should be compared to the full AutoCAD package’s range of 2D and 3D tools for drafting, modelling, annotation and presentation.
While LT doesn’t have solid modelling capability, it manages to produce some excellent 3D surface models in the hands of the capable user. There’s no rendering capability either, but again you wouldn’t have to look too far to find a compatible and affordable renderer such as Photoshop or Shaderlight for Google SketchUp. With Vectorworks,you have the option to add the Renderworks integrated renderer module, and the new CINEMA 4D rendering engine provides advanced functionality to produce quality photorealistic and artistic render images.
LT shares the same flexible user interface as the fully-featured AutoCAD and as it’s customisable, you can set up the screen to look and function how you want. Vectorworks also features a customisable GUI, with tool palettes and drop-down menus to suit the user’s way of working. Both programs pick up a point here for their layout and ease of use.
Since LT works in the native DWG format, it’s easier to use with AutoCAD users as it maintains the integrity of the DWG drawing and can be used for annotation and detailing on a drawing project. Vectorworks operates in its native .vwx format but also includes .dwg import and export functionality with mapping tools to allow Vectorworks users to work seamlessly and share drawing data with AutoCAD users.
Both Vectorworks and AutoCAD LT will also run on either Windows or Mac, which means they’re ideally suited to a drawing office where employees have a choice of platform.
Making a decision
AutoCAD LT was developed as a cheaper entry-level alternative to AutoCAD and has since grown to become the best-selling CAD software globally, even out-stripping AutoCAD. The full version does include enhanced 3D drafting and programming capabiliy, but if you’re only going to be using it for 2D drafting and detailing, it’s a solid all-in-one solution.
If you do need to work in 3D however, the modelling tools in Vectorworks Fundamentals mean it’s a cut above AutoCAD LT. For a similar price, you can take your project from conceptual design to parasolid 3D modelling. Even if you work primarily in 2D, being able to create quick 3D volumes during the concept stage provides big advantages, including the ability to take live sections, so it’s very useful to have these tools at your disposal.
Already a Vectorworks veteran or an AutoCAD convert? Let us know your opinions in the box below. For more info, call us on 03332 409 306, email CAD@Jigsaw24.com, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.