Curious: How viable is Layout as a 2D CAD software?

Layout on its own is indeed pretty useless, but alongside SU, how it’s meant to be, it is A L M O S T perfect. It still misses some functions and snappiness to make it perfect. For instance, if only I could update the texture size for each screen in SU I would have section fills in each section on the backside of the materials…When it comes to detailing with SU and LO you always must find workarounds to get things done the right way. They haven’t finished this yet.

For my requirements (the 2D domestic residential planning and construction documents side of things) I could quite easily just rely on Layout.

In fact I almost do for the construction documents.

I can’t image going back to traditional CAD software.

It’s a very viable software for any scale of architectural projects IF you know what you’re doing.

That is a great if.

However it is not comparable with AutoCAD and Draftsight as, to use it effectively, you need a whole different process. Don’t you think that you can use Layout as you use 2D cad, it’s possible but barely.

Even so, it’s so far the best way I know of to output construction documentation from a Sketchup model. You just have to do it completely different than what you used to and you have to think that the best way to 2D draft in Layout is 2D draft in Sketchup instead and just send the draft to Layout as a viewport. That works incredibly well.

So just start drafting in Sketchup and see if you can do it. If so, present it all in Layout. It will be great output.


Layout was a promising application when it was released in Beta with SketchUp 6 by Last Software.
Despite its limitations, I embarked with Layout on a building permit on a house from a great architect who had won me congratulations from the city, which is very rare (for the quality of the work and communication).
Layout with SketchUp 7 was optimal. There were also to be honest some important additions under Trimble era such as improved dimensions, auto-texts, persistent geometry IDs which improved associative dimensions.
While SketchUp has been totally underdeveloped for 11 years, Layout has been a little less so, but the latest versions after 2018 have been unstable, buggy, and slow. To give an idea, the 2020 version was slow on recent computers and optimal on an older machine …
To top it off, if I understand correctly, Layout 2021 is nothing new, other than maybe some fixes.

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Hey JQL,
It strikes me that you have stated another conundrum of LayOut: " … the best way to 2D draft in Layout is 2D draft in Sketchup". Isn’t it ironic that to get decent 2D output in LayOut, you basically have to use a superb 3D program, but only drawing in a 2D axis space?
I’ve done this exact “work around” for years, but it’s still frustrating that the two programs (mostly LayOut) can’t advance together, especially now with all this subscription revenue Trimble is sucking up!
They need to seriously invest in the development of LayOut, or at the very least, tell us honestly that they aren’t going to!

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Hi @Beamer2

I actually like drafting in SketchUp much more than I did in CAD. Why don’t you look at Layout as CAD paperspace and SketchUp as model space. If you do you know that you only drafted on model space, never on paperspace.

I like to keep things separate.

Layout has lots of frustration pits, but most of them can be easily avoidable. The ones we can’t avoid still cause a lot of pain, but overall it allows great output and a very tightly integrated workflow with SketchUp that just pays off.


All this discussion of 2D drafting in Sketchup or in Layout…I’m not sure what to say. Sketchup as I understand it is a 3D modeling software with Layout as its 2D and presentation mode partner. I design large scale custom homes completely with Sketchup and Layout and have for some years now. Layout is quirky and underdeveloped, but, as one of you said above, if you really take the time and patience to learn it, it does more than you probably think. I have gradually learned that the secret—for my own work flow at least—is to always go back to the model itself. Make it more and more detailed and you will discover the benefit when you go to Layout. For example, in the beginning I drafted light fixtures into reflected ceiling plans in Layout (as I had always done in AutoCad) but now I have learned to take the time and install those fixtures directly into my Sketchup model: many benefits all around and worth the time. Where I draw the line, so to speak, is with large scale details. I now draw them as individual 3D models in Sketchup separate from my main model and import them into Layout, often in both a 2D and a Perspective view. I use Layout tables with reasonable success for all of my schedules.

I am an architect who learned first to hand draft, transitioned to AutoCad for many years, and now work only in Sketchup and Layout, except for exporting views into AutoCad for my consultants. I loved hand drafting but grew to despise AutoCad and all 2D drafting, especially once I discovered the pleasure of work ]ing fully in 3D—which is what I had always wanted from the very beginning.

That said, I totally support advances in Layout, It is not good enough. But the goal should remain model based drawings, from start to finish.


William, you should likely first have a look at your process before moving on. I can tell you first hand that I am far more profitable using SU and LO than I ever was with ACAD.

As for LO as a stand alone 2D, that is not its intended use, so other options would likely be better. In combination with SU it is a very powerful tool…with its quirks of course.


I think where my workflow differs from yours is that I draw 2D details on top of the 3D model, using section cut faces. I find 3D details too dificult to model as all my projects are done with different construction methodologies and I cannot reuse standard 3D details.

I love to see those 3D details though.

An take a look at Sonder’s too. I don’t follow it, but he’s the one that opened my eyes to what could be done with Layout, in a couple of interviews for sketchup.

There are different ways of using Layout, but Sonder’s proves that it’s clearly possible, if you know very well how to use Sketchup in order to take advantage from it in Layout.


Not so different, actually. I do the very same thing: begin with a section cut face from the full 3D model. Of course, there are many things to add that are not in the main model: membranes, flashing, sealants, etc. But I have discovered that, rather than just draw over it for a 2D detail, it is quite simple to push/pull all the parts back, say 12” or 18’’ inches or so, whatever is appropriate, and, boom, now I have a 3D model of a detail. I always think I will make a library of such details but it never happens. Each house is too different from the one before in some way or another.


I heard somewhere you can purchase a whole Library of details;)


Perhaps. But even if not, I would find it useful to use a similar system but in reverse. What I mean is that the default is still to look for all snaps but have the ability to limit it to a specific snap in cases where there is conflict. At present, you generally have to keep zooming in and out to deal with conflicts and that can be wearing.

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Well you can move precisely, though it’s slows productivity:
Move the central dot to the point you want the object to be moved, then move the whole object. It will snap to the desired destination.
I do agree this is not a completely satisfying but it does the job.

Generally I’ve always wondered why Layout wasn’t built as 2D Sketchup, in the same spirit as the 3D side. Supposedly 2D is lighter than 3D, or am I missing somthing?
What’s more puzzling is that there really isn’t that many issues (there are a few) that would make the SKP/LO duo a really powerfull and compelling design tool.
As a house builder, I can actually intergrate the full design and planning process with the SkP/LO duo but right now at great time cost. The result is as precise and sure as the CAD specialised in woodstructures I hav used previously that costs 9000€ lI’m in France). With some extensions the process is eased in SKP automated even, though through experience automation is rarely a good solution if you design a variety of structures. Why not have extentions in LO?
I’m not a programmer so I have no clue the amount of time it takes but still it seems to me that the short term effect would be worth effort.

Well you can move precisely, it is a rather slow process but it does the job:
Move the central dot to the point you want the object to be moved, then move the whole object. It will snap to the desired destination.
I do agree this is not a completely satisfying but it does the job.

For Vietnam ? :slight_smile:

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I’ve used LayOut for construction docs on several residential projects, and I will continue to use it for the foreseeable future. I’m only somewhat familiar with the Revit doc workflow. LayOut works, and has really nifty features, but I do find it frustrating and slow compared to SketchUp. Just laggy in lots of little ways which add up when I’m trying to work quickly – even with a fast computer (5900X / 1080ti). This can be helped somewhat by disabling auto-render, and setting render resolution to low (while leaving output resolution high). I also find the interface tedious to navigate, even more so than the SketchUp UI. I have considered switching to Bluebeam Revu (export PDF from SketchUp, mark it up in Bluebeam) but I would definitely miss the SketchUp integration features. Another LayOut issue: resizing viewports is weird when toggling “Preserve Scale on Resize”.

I hope that LayOut soon gets the same level of polish as SketchUp (and that both get a UI overhaul… maybe even dark mode?), but I’m not getting my hopes up. In the meantime, I have adapted and I do manage to enjoy using it.

It has worked especially well for me with the concept phase – rapid prototyping of variations on a design. Once I’ve established a sort of template for a project, I can swap in different models / scenes relatively quickly. And with recent updates I can tweak the styles and layers within LayOut, without adding another dozen scenes to SketchUp.

I’ve just started playing with the Skalp section fill extension, which will hopefully bring my documents on par with the competition. That is another feature which would be nice in SU / LO: More section fill options. And line color per layer (not just dashes).

In case it’s helpful, here is a summary of my typical workflow. As someone said, most of the work happens in SketchUp.

  • Create model in SketchUp, with groups and tags tailored for LayOut usage. I also sometimes make 2D objects that will be rendered only in 2D views (e.g. my door components contains a 3D door tagged with “Doors_3D” and a 2D door swing graphic tagged with “Doors_2D”… and it’s easy to move the whole unit.)
  • Make one or more scenes for each Layout viewport (e.g. sometimes a foreground model in black, with background in grey). Assign styles from my collection of custom styles. Scenes include camera settings, tag visibility, styles, shadow settings, etc, section cuts and their styles, etc…
  • Load my custom LayOut template, and insert the SketchUp model. Do a lot of copy-pasting of viewports for each page (and then assign each viewport a SketchUp scene).
  • Add dimensions, labels, callouts, page notes, etc. Layer management requires a bit more effort than tags in SU, and works more like Photoshop layers (moves objects forward or back in the paper space).
  • Bounce back and forth between SU and LO making tweaks
  • Export PDF

I have found many instances where the snaps are confused in Layout and it doesn’t work. It happens too often. BTW anyone look at my drawings on here to see how I work.

Have you uploaded a Layout file any where William?

I’ve seen some of you drawings on the other thread (which are good looking) and had a look at those SketchUp files.

I don’t draw 2D details in SketchUp - I’d do it in Layout.

If you are asking for comment on “how you work” in respect of your take on Layout, then we can’t comment without a Layout file to look at

The layout files are too large to post. I saw your drawings–completely different than what we do here in the USA