VectorWorks vs AutoCAD: Head to Head Review

Once again, AutoCAD is pinned up against Nemetschek's Vectorworks CAD package. Another great tool and strong contender popular in the theater and lighting design, VectorWorks was initially known as MiniCAD back when it was conceived in 1985. This is the first review where AutoCAD's two decades worth of legacy, reign and experience-based evolution falls short. In terms of years of operation, VectorWorks is AutoCAD's elder brother. Lets see how and in what discipline they fair in this review of VectorWorks vs Autocad!

For those who have no idea what VectorWorks is then check out the following introduction video:

VectorWorks vs AutoCAD: Head to Head

Before moving on you can also have a look at our previous articles Revit vs AutoCADCorelCAD vs AutoCADAutoCAD vs Draftsight and AutoCAD vs Inventor where we covered AutoCAD in detail as well. So lets get back to business. Look at the brief overview of the two softwares:

Comparison AutoCAD VectorWorks
Industry construction, pre/post-production Construction, architecture
Strength Drafting, illustration, design and documentation Drafting, designing, rendering, BIM
Discipline Mechanical, civil, automotive preliminary civil
Users Engineering designers, drafters, students, hobbyist Construction designers, builders
Learning curve Long, but beneficial Short

What do both have to offer?

autodesk autocad logoAutoCAD, as we all know is the default choice of the professional market for a number of disciplines and from space craft parts to the Nike beneath your feat, AutoCAD has you covered for the design and illustration part. VectorWorks however enjoys a far smaller share of the market, and that too mutually with AutoCAD to some extent, that being the light development and design market. Specifically stage management, space and lighting design (church/house/theater/hall illumination design and rendering) make the VectorWorks package a clear choice for any purpose of illumination. Talking about 2D illustration and 3D design, both offer pretty much the same features but with a significant learning curve and marginal work efficacy.

AutoCAD is considered the default standard, hence in comparison VectorWorks seems to be more attuned towards design in the aesthetic sense rather than the engineering sense of AutoCAD. That said, one must never forget that AutoCAD has proven its rather long learning curve in the past, however, a large extent of users of both packages vote for AutoCAD's straightforwardness such as with the command dialogue. “arc” means arc and it will draw that, with offsets, lines and even your custom macros mapped to simple commands makes the job way easier for those who have the patience and the stomach to digest AutoCAD's capabilities. Also, every professional drafter has to agree, drafting with AutoCAD is the swiftest way possible. Unless your job requires you to use VectorWorks, or any other CAD package, the AutoCAD user base is large and the interface/work methodologies are common.

vectorworks review

Strongest Areas And Limitations?

It is interesting to note, AutoCAD enjoys its dominance over the market even against the only product with more years under the belt. It does so by being the first to introduce new technology and having created standards for the industry. With a host of packages ranging from Inventor to Revit and so on, AutoCAD has its roots rooted deep within the industry in almost every market.

The reason why VectorWorks couldn't out do AutoCAD is the fact that AutoCAD is the best package for structural, large-scale design. VectorWorks is a good drafting/illustrating/rendering tool but is limited in its design to cater to projects on a comparatively smaller scale. Hence the theater market, the interior design market and the production industry heavily rely on VectorWorks outstanding charms of rendering and lighting design where as the structure or construction oriented engineer will always be inclined to AutoCAD. Because of this and the fact that AutoCAD has other suites enabling you with the tools to construct, build, manufacture and even demolish the building, the other all consensus for a large construction or manufacturing corporation would be AutoCAD.

What to use where?

By now, the idea pretty much is that if you want to take a skyscraper from a drawing on paper and turn it into a real tower of concrete and steel, you're going to use AutoCAD. Want to design a theme park ride (or the theme park itself!), use AutoCAD. But, VectorWorks also has a bag of tricks. An arsenal of suites, only 3 in number but enough to cater to the engineering designers & drafters, architects and landmark development. VectorWorks website shows a few projects that show the prowess of the suite, VectorWorks Landmark. But with the number of file formats supported more on AutoCAD's plate, the collaborative potential increases exponentially hence finding people whose work can be imported into your project and CAD package format is an influential factor.

However, VectorWorks is the choice when it comes to renders, 3D printing and BIM information as it has built in BIM capabilities. On that note, some argue that VectorWorks should not be compared to AutoCAD instead should be compared to Revit because that is the BIM specific suite in Autodesk's product catalog. But the fact is that VectorWorks is a drafting, designing and rendering tool that further has documentation capabilities, those contributed to by the BIM engine built into it.

Costing, Conclusion and Overview of Specifications

Last but certainly not least, Vector works is almost the same as AutoCAD in terms of price. Its license and costing details can be ordered by getting in touch with the sales team on the website with a lot of accommodations for students and the academic sector.

For those of you wish to design with lights or specifically would like to use VectorWorks SpotLight, please go to and read the important stuff and no literally, its entitled “Important” because there's a lot of important gibberish about graphics cards and GPU specificity due the nature of the work and the software's own design.

This VectorWorks vs AutoCAD should have given you a general idea of the two software. Visit their respective websites to see the pricing and which package is ultimately going to suit your needs.

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