Ramblin' Dan's Workshop

The Sanctum of Fine Art and Invention

Google SketchUp


This is one of my quick look first impression reviews. I have not purchased the professional version, SketchUp Pro 8 (~$495.00) but have spent time this weekend working with the free version identified as SketchUp 8. Networking versions are more expensive.

I toyed with earlier versions of the free Google version years ago and still had version 7 on my main computer. It is definitely not a replacement competition for AutoCAD but for many types of drawing users, it is a better and far less expensive choice.

The product is now owned by a company named Trimble so Google SketchUp is a misnomer. There are still strong ties to Google but I haven’t looked into the business relationship. I am more interested in the product. They have a blog entry that explains it all.

Just type sketchup in your browser and you’ll find the website, no problem.

The company goal is to sell the professional version, of course, no problem with that. The price is actually a steal. From what I can see and the “playing” with the free version, I would certainly buy Pro when I do have the need.

I did note the software does not yet take advantage of multiple processors. A super computer is not needed. I was running it on a 2.6 GHz dual processor 64 bit (program is 32 bit) Windows 8 (Beta) and all viewing moves were certainly fast. Of course I wasn’t drawing anything too complex.

Actually I have several applications I can think of where I would use SketchUp for my design program. Nothing in my CAD/CAM/CNC world but I have several other construction projects that do not need the complexity of full blown CAD software. Home remodeling and woodshop projects are perfect. I wouldn’t use SketchUp to draw a 3D design for carving or machining. I think I could, but Vectric and Rhino are already very familiar tools to me.

I viewed a demo where SketchUp was used to draw, in under an hour, a small wood cased antique radio with an acceptable degree of detail. Certainly enough to build from although the exercise was not to build a set of construction plans. I could see that certainly could be done.

I created a home addition drawing in Rhino a few years ago just so I could look at it in 3D. Free SketchUp can do the same work. The SketchUp Pro version would be perfect to then make construction 2D drawings if that was my business. It isn't worth $500 (to me) just to do that at this point. I find the free version generally adequate for doing normal shop design work.

Some nice additional drawing features (of the Pro version) are the Solid Works boolean tools. It's obvious to make SketchUp a serious construction tool, a real pro would be adding the Pro features to get the additional drawing tools as well as the 2D layout and the file exchange features.

The free version is a very good (and smart) introduction into how the SketchUp program operates. It is a great playground to see if you can live with the concept and the interface. There are many folks who have used the reduced tool set of the free version and produced some respectable work. The Pro version is available for a free demo period too, 8 hours of “unlimited” use. Wow! Don’t want to miss that opportunity.

I think SketchUp is well worth any time spent examining and using the free version. It’s a decent drawing tool for 3D design. The user interface sets a new standard and is a totally different “think” than conventional CAD. The hundreds of examples in the web site are wonderful. However, SketchUp is still just a tool. It enables but doesn’t do the creative work. It might just make it fun.

Free version highly recommended.

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