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AECbytes Tips and Tricks Issue #7 (June 26, 2006)

Converting a VectorWorks Viewport to a Design Layer Object

Patrick Stanford
President, Coviana, Inc.

The addition of viewports in VectorWorks v.11 and section viewports in VectorWorks v.12 has greatly expanded the presentation capabilities of the program. In many cases, the use of viewports allows the user to create layouts that were impossible in previous versions of the software.

The annotation capabilities of viewports allows for detailing of many objects in a live linked view. However, in some cases, it may be more desirable to move the objects shown in the viewport back to a design layer to be able to use all of the drawing tools. One example is a detail that requires multiple line weights, when the overall plan must have all line weights the same.

This tutorial shows how to convert a viewport to an object that can be moved to a design layer for further modification while retaining its proper scale. We will use a section viewport for this example, but this tip can be used with standard viewports as well.

In this example, we will cut a section viewport of a portion of a 2 story garage/studio, shown below. In our sample file, we have used Layer Links to create a single 3D model out of four design layers. We will use the model layer to cut the section. Our section will be through the front wall, the extended front window, and the garage door. We are using the Architect workspace of Vectorworks 12.0.1 on the Macintosh. The process is the same on the Windows platform.

Creating a Section Viewport

1. First, we need to arrange the drawing so we can see where to cut the section. Set the Model layer to be active, the layer options to Active Only, and the current view to Top/Plan. Zoom in or out and pan as necessary so you can see the part of the drawing that you want to section.

2. Select Create Section Viewport from the View menu.

3. Click once below the wall to start the section line. Draw a vertical line up past the inside of the walls and make a second click. A large black triangle will appear. Move the mouse to put the triangle on the side you want to look toward. Click a third time at the same end point to complete the section line. If you miss the end point with your third click, double click to end the section marker.

4. After you have completed the section line, the Create Section Viewport dialog box will appear. Click OK to accept all the defaults.

5. A new viewport will be created and the view will move to be centered on the new viewport on the sheet layer.

6. By default, the section viewport cuts across all of the objects in the design layer. Let's limit the view to just the portion we marked with the section line. With the section viewport selected, click the Advanced Properties... button in the Obj Info palette.

7. This will bring up the Advanced Section Properties dialog box. Set the Length Range to Limited by Section Line Length, and set the Depth Range to Finite with a depth of 1". Click OK.

8. In the Obj Info palette, click the Update button to update the viewport. The viewport will now show only a small portion of the overall building and a very small depth of cut to hide the door on the interior wall that was visible earlier.

Moving the Section Information to a Design Layer

The objects in the viewport are scaled by the value set for the viewport Scale in the Obj Info palette. To move these to a design layer and have them be at real size, we must change the scale of the viewport before moving them.

1. Start by making a copy of the viewport. Select the viewport and go to the Edit menu and select Duplicate. With the copy selected, change the Scale in the Obj Info palette to be 1:1. This will cause the viewport to become very large. In order to see all of the viewport, zoom out.

2. Before we convert the 1:1 viewport, we want to change some of the attributes of the viewport. In the Obj Info palette, click the Advanced Properties button. Select the Attributes pane and set the Section Plane to Separate Cross Sections, and check the Use Attributes of Original Objects option.

3. Click OK and then click the Update button in the Obj Info palette. The section will display each component separately.

4. Finally, we will convert the viewport to objects that can be transferred to a design layer. Make sure the 1:1 viewport is selected and choose Convert to Polygons from the Modify menu. A group is created containing a polygon for each object in the viewport. If you edit the group (Modify menu > Edit Group), you can see all of the individual polygons.

5. Click the Exit Group button to get back to the sheet layer.

6. To move the group to a design layer, you can either use copy & paste, or you can change the layer in the Obj Info palette. Using the Obj Info palette, set the layer of the group to 2D-building sections. The group will disappear from the sheet layer.

7. Change the active layer to the 2D-building sections design layer. The group will be there, showing properly in the scale of the design layer. The section fits easily on the page, compared to the very large size of the 1:1 viewport we began with. You can now use all of the 2D tools to add details or modify the attributes of the polygons to create the image you need.

In this example, we cut a section of a single layer linked model. Instead, we could have placed the section marker on one of the design layers and then used the Layers... button in the Obj Info palette to add the other design layers to the viewport. The end result would be the same.


By using a simple workflow and a few built-in commands, you can easily transfer information from a sheet layer and viewport to a design layer. On the design layer, the objects will be to scale and readily modified. One important thing to remember is that the transferred objects will not be linked to the original model, so this technique is best suited for late in the design process for the generation of specific details that are difficult to achieve in the annotation of the viewport.

About the Author

Patrick Stanford is the President of Coviana, Inc., a VectorWorks consulting and training firm based in El Segundo, CA. Patrick has a degree in Electrical Engineering and has been using VectorWorks (and MiniCAD) since 1991. Patrick is also the leader of the Southern California VectorWorks Users Group. He can be reached at or at (310) 322-4205. The sample file used for this demo can be downloaded here.


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