Collaboration and Sharing in SketchUp - Let Us Know Your Needs!

Good morning! Kathy from SketchUp User Experience here!

COVID changed the way we ALL work - and increased not only the need to work remotely, but found many of us looking for creative ways to be more collaborative in our design processes.

I’ve been scouring the depths of the forums for ideas (thank you all for the wish lists, feature ideas, and general asks … please keep them coming as we are listening), but want to know what your most urgent needs are today for collaboration and sharing in SketchUp?

  • What does collaboration and sharing in SketchUp mean to you?
  • How might it improve your day-to-day workflow?
  • What specific needs for collaboration and sharing do you have?

Let us know your thoughts (and thank you in advance!).

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My number one would be to get back what we had, but better on the native M1:
IFC import
This was lost and now only available when starting 2022 in rosetta2 mode, which makes it slower.

It would be nice if there was a way to respect ‘SketchUp’ rules.
That is, when a certain object is repeated in a model but on different locations, it would be inserted as component with it’s internal axes on one of the bounding box corners and each compdef would be ‘instanced’ instead of now being a unique definition and with all internal axes on the model origin.

An IFC exporter that correctly exports attached data comes is the second :slight_smile:

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Mainly the ability to import and export DWG files. The import facility works pretty well for linework but strips out the paperspace stuff. Now if you could import into LO and then open the linework in SU, just as you do with a native SU drawing, that would be just fab. Similarly in reverse.

It would save a good deal of time.

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Collaboration would possibly mean more than one person working at the same model at the same time…

Sharing. At the moment I have basically given up on using SketchUp to model objects for use in BIM applications (Revit and Archicad) because numerous incompatibility issues. Revit is based on solids so SketchUp faces only work as sort of proxy objects. Archicad is a face modeller but neither it or Revit recognize SketchUp surfaces (smoothed geometry), nor is it possible to prepare any sort of parametrics in SketchUp that would work in BIM.

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Collaboration is clean and readable DWG files. Quick and lower MB pdf files.

Screen sharing enhancements may be addressed by others who are deeper into that.

Much of our presentation , which goes towards collaboration and sharing, is rendered images, so improvements there are nice, working with third party render devlopers etc.

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Thanks Bep ~

This ask was definitely on my list! When you say “…participate in a drawing session”, what would you expect/want this to include? Being able to ‘follow along’, create geometry in the same SKP file, be able to comment/markup/chat?

How deep would you foresee the permissioning system needing to be? Simple edit/view or something more complex?

Cheers ~
Kath

Thanks Anssi!

Do you think the ability to have multiple people working on the same model at the same time would be useful? If so - can you share some potential use cases where you see this fitting in?

Interoperability is definitely part of sharing and collaboration workflows - and something we’re chipping away at (as you noted, it’s a big challenge!)

Cheers ~
Kath

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Thanks simoncbevans! Duly noted on import and export of DWG.

Thanks MikeWayzovski! Adding your vote to the IFC import/export request. :slight_smile:

I really like your idea for smart components! Adding to the UX backlog for when we start to revisit component interactions.

Cheers ~
Kath

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Maybe a little more thought and effort at reference filing?

Right now, people are doing reference filing with saved components and importing them into other models. Even as a one man shop, I do that with some things, particularly building and landscape, but it’s one way of having multiple people work on a model. Each player has read/write control over their part, but needs to read in the other’s model parts for reference. I’m not an expert at this big office stuff, but I’m sure there are plenty others who can elaborate. @eneroth3 wrote some plugins to help with reference filing issues, so she might have more to say.

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I was writing a bit tongue in cheek, but some need exists. In most firms people share tasks that ultimately need to be combined into a single model. BIM applications have server based collaboration systems, but that would perhaps be overkill for SketchUp. Below, @RTCool writes about the need for a streamlined external reference system, and I think that would perhaps be a realistic goal.

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Great question to ask. I’ve definitely been sharing a huge amount more since lockdown.

Collaboration means my staff or those at other companies I work with (some are less experienced in sketchup) dont screw up my “master model” which is really large and complex (and if it’s screwed up, would cost a fortune to recover)!
Right now Im working on a really big masterplan for a community , and I work alongside ecologists, surveyors, engineers, landscape architects, urban designers, town planners, etc. Some work in SketchUp, others work in different software and send DWGs or IFCs, but I connect everything into the same 3d sketchup environment - then I can host design workshops with our clients (over Teams/Zoom) to review the design in a holistic manner.

Here’s an idea:
A “Tour mode” for SketchUp.
the purpose is to share our model over a Teams/Zoom environment (or even on a data projector).
It would share only the modelling window (could be a seperate Window and dragged into a seperate screen?)… but on our screen we would see the full interface (a bit like Powerpoint, where the presenter has notes and menus, but the viewers do not) .
In Tour Mode, using the WASD or Arrow Keys, and maybe the track pad, we could acheive SMOOTH fly-through animation (no 'stepping" in the scrollwheel zoom), or 3d-mouse-like capabilities, plus functions such as Strafe and up/down movement.
Tour Mode may even have an option to hide certain parts of the model from the viewer (eg I may have some text prompts in the model as Leader Text, which i dont want to be visible in the Tour). Or I could have the model edges visible on my screen, but not theirs.
Collaborating over top of the tour (eg whiteboard) would also be very cool. This is not unlike Trimble Connect, but would ideally be quick to generate from SKP itself (uploading to TC and rendering takes time, and it’s not editable).

Anyway, down to some specifics. I have 2 workflow issues.
These aren’t new ideas, and others have touched upon them, but I’ll try to explain them as thoroughly as possible.

Issue #1.
I think we need a robust reference manager for SketchUp - something that we can save out pieces of a model to other staff, and then easily re-sync them. I do use the Re-load function, but im talking about something better.

  • First - The Component Browser’s “in model” viewer needs improvement - Most of the info is there currently but it’s tedious to use if you have 500 components in your model. We need quick visibility of thethe Loaded Component’s file name, date, last modified date, size, author… right in the first tab of the detail view. I also want Loaded components to appear at the top of the “In Model” list, and next to each item have a handy image button to reload it quickly. (much like LayOuts reference manager).

  • Second - We need a more reliable way to send out and receiving pieces of a SKP model for editing by others. Right now we can only work on the same “master model” in one of two ways:

Current Method 1. We can export a single component as a SKP file that want somebody else to work on. This method doesn’t preserve any context, scenes, tags,or component hierarchy from the “master model”. It doesn’t even preserve the master model’s 0,0,0 location (so, when I reinsert it, it doesn’t go back in the original place)!

Current Method 2. We can send somebody else our entire model and they can edit just a part of it. This takes a lot more admin, file transfer, and explaining what they can edit and what they cant (eg don’t edit my tag names! or create duplicate materials!.) . Once editing has been completed at their end, we can’t just resync it easily as a reference file.

Im not 100% sure what the solution is to this challenge, but the current workflow makes me very nervous about collaborating on SKP files with other staff - there is so much that can potentially go wrong (and go unnoticed until it’s too late, causing significant liability risk). When you add in some fairly complex LayOut referencing and style-by-tag manipulation, it all gets a bit “too hard basket”.

Future State: I imagine being able to assign a number of entities within my model as “issued” (lets say 5 components, 2 groups and a number of Section Planes and a JPG). These could be provided to somebody else to edit t, and then I can seamlessly re-load them back in to my model later. I’d like the person who received my Issued data to be able to see the whole model (and update it from my source), except that non-issued parts of my model wouldn’t be editable (it would be locked).
At my end, once I have issued parts of my model to others, those entities would appear Locked (or “frozen”) to me. From time to time, each of us would need to be able to re-load/Sync the other’s information into their file.
This would happen across nested components, and include other types of data such as groups, jpg images, DWG imports, etc.

PS
I sometimes do use Trimble Connect, but mostly just as a markup/viewer and commenting tool - since our industry doesn’t use it so I’d be the only one in my firm. As a viewer/collab tool, it’s pretty cool, though I think it would be great if users (our clients and their staff) didnt have to sign up to a Trimble Account just to see the 3d render and add basic comments etc. Some sort of Guest sign in would be awesome. Having to sign-up puts most people off using it, as it’s not something we use all the time.

Issue #2:
We import and export files to other companies - and use DWG and IFC.
(SKP 2022 added the “export selected” feature which is a real lifesaver!)

DWG and IFC files are the commonly traded format in the AEC industry, but SketchUp doesn’t have good capabilities in this critical area. To assist interop between other staff, we need some type of compatible geolocation. It seems like all other AEC software seems to be able to work at a “real” coordinate, or a common project datum reference. SketchUp can’t move it’s origin basepoint without placing geometry too far away (and causing other issues) - so how about a 2nd type of basepoint that’s purely utilised as a reference (not the model origin, but a point entity placed within the model) (ps I know that this issue can be worked around by maintaining a second SKP file with a shifted origin, but this is a clunky workflow and few people know about it).

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Hi there,
We have been developing a process to use SketchUp as a BIM tool (VBO Workflow), in which the core of the process is the tag system to classify building components. We also develop our own plugin to automatically assign IFCs to already tagged components. Then export the IFC file to combine Structural (Tekla) and MEP (Revit) disciplines. We also used Trimble Connect as a CDE environment for collaborations.

However, there are also many other Structural and M&E partners that are still using CAD, so I propose the following requirements (and also coincide with the suggestions suggested in the comments above)

First: Improve the DWG/DXF exporter
Currently, we do design concept Layout directly in SketchUp, then pass this information to partners without going through SketchUp Layout to shorten the time. When exporting 2D Drawings > DWG/DXF, I used the “Color by tag” style to keep the color information, but I still want SketchUp to improve in the DWG/DWF exporter includes:

  • Keep tag system in 2D Graphic exporter like 3D model expoter

  • The outline of Group/Components should belong to the same tag as SketchUp

  • Tagging for the cuts through the Groups/Components that have been tagged. Create closed polylines for each.

  • Fixed the issue of seeing through curved surfaces, the further away the camera, the more error. (Figure 1)
    Figure 1.


    SketchUp

    CAD: see through at curve surface (randomly)

  • Handles well the arrangement of the display order of objects. Display color precedence order similar to SketchUp files. (Figure 2)
    Figure 2.


    SketchUp

    CAD: lines has change color to the entity below as marked

Second: Improved Text tool.
Instead of using 3D Text (many polygons make the model heavy and to edit 3D text requires Thomthom’s plugin, I need a text similar to the current Screen text, but can be attached to a fixed position in the model. , this helps me name the room, note the area right in SketchUp to help the subjects quickly grasp the design of Architecture.

Third: Reference feature
Although I have Save as and Reload, and even Import Visual Reference Model via Trimble Connect, I still want a tool to manage references to an external data source (SketchUp files, CAD files, images… .) is like Eneroth’s plugin but works more efficiently. You can even allow self-save to an external file when editing a referenced component (edit in-place).

Fourth: Crop View
Section planes can put inside a Group, but for some collaborations, it’s not enough. I wish could there be a section box, then scale that box for crop view.

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Absolutely Agreed!!!

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So this might boils down to two things:

  • Improved export/import of ancient file formats (.dwg) and modern (.ifc)
  • Improved references

As Brad mentioned in the early day’s, SketchUp’s intent is to ‘Work well with other’s, not replace CAD-tools’

The first is important to fix before diving into a new fangled collab-tool.
The second is somewhat related to a collab-tool, I think.

Not every collaborator (even knows or ) uses SketchUp.
Not everyone is prepared to go to a cloud solution.

Regardless of using a cloud solution like Trimble Connect (which actually covers about 90% of all the feature request here) one needs to think and act as a BIM-manager in order to have a workable system. That means teams or assignees, who get to see only or edit, has access to certain files, coordination of reference points, etc. etc.
If working on different (varying) locations, how would one control and verify these different permissions? What garantuees do you have if working at home that it is indeed the latest version (or part of the model) that you are editing? (darn, didn’t you received my email?)

There are some basic responsibilties and there has to be some discipline when collaborating, either way.

(not gonna expand on TC’s Collaboration manager)

SInce the Google days, SketchUp has been stuck with it’s coordinates system and Shadows/UTC tools. If we want to collaborate with others, a better Axes sytem is needed. We can set the location when doing a Predesign, in SketchUp and also in Trimble Connect.
That should only be done once, IMO

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Kathy, could you get someone who’s a coder actually look at Alfred Scott’s “Open Clip” proposal for a consortium for collaboration of developers around clipboard data exchange?

All methods of working between any two programs involves export/save_as some file type to disk like DWG and import/open in the other, but the idea of being able to select in one program, switch programs and paste in the other has a lot of appeal.

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I think components go a long way towards providing a collaboration tool. I don’t have a problem having to reload them or being watchful of their respective axis. Where it breaks down for me is this. Each model I work on has scenes,tags,tag folders in it both for working views and for exporting to layout. Lets say I have 2 buildings in my site model and they are components. If I edit one of them from inside the site model and then save it out all the scenes and tag folders are gone. Ideally the component would somehow still keep it’s own working environment. The only way I see around this at the moment would be to have the secondary models referenced into a whole different file that contains the working environment. This would be cumbersome at best. Maybe not all components behave this way maybe there is a new special file type like sub-model that behaves the way I’m describing.

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I’d like to see a way to post a model online and invite people to be able to view and fly around it. No downloading Sketchup Viewer or setting up a Trimble account or any other complex login shenanigans. Honestly just copy Sketchfab’s model preview feature from their site. It’s dead simple to use.

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I’m happy to see this thread, thank you @kathy_davies. I’ll keep this simple and on topic to collaboration

  • Ability to adjust curve segmentation on dwg import.
    It seems the default segmentation is at 96 - when importing topo contours created with curves, this gets out of hand.

  • I second @AK_SAM on the reference manager - I use the reload method which works great when one person is doing the edits, but would be nice to know when a reference component is out of date.

  • full screen presentation mode? Would be great for the zoom meetings

  • Point Cloud visibility & display settings in scene manager

  • Start this topic for Layout! Please invest in making some improvements to that program. It truly is the keystone that makes Sketchup usable in the AEC realm and it’s awful and needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. I would PAY MORE for a “Professional” version of that software that is more consistent with other software.

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