Do I need to purchase a license just to develop/maintain an extension for Sketchup 2018?

I am the developer of this extension. It has a few thousand users. It is and always has been entirely free to use. Occasionally I get emails from people who need help using it or who have found bugs that I need to fix. For this reason I need to be able to open Sketchup to use, test, and develop my extension. I have no other reason to use Sketchup as I am not a designer or architect, so I have no personal need for a license.

It seems that if I want to ensure that my extension works correctly in Sketchup 2018 I have to buy a license. This does not seem fair. Maintaining my extension is something that Sketchup and its users benefit from, not me. Is there any workaround? A license for extension developers perhaps?

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Doubtful, if so then anybody (within reason) could produce a free plugin in order to get a free license.

Develop it on SU 2017 Make. Most of what runs on 2017 will run on 2018. If you’re not developing the extension for commercial purposes you should be fine testing your scripting on SU 2017 Make.

The plugin is several years old, has thousands of users, and its code has been reviewed before being allowed into the warehouse so it’s known to not be some trivial ‘fake’ plugin. It’s easy to tell that it wasn’t created just to get a free license.

Most of what runs on 2017 will run on 2018

That’s already a bad start. But what about three years from now? Will most of what runs on 2017 run on 2021?

Well I guess you’ll just have to fork out the $695 US then, remember that included in that price is support / maintenance for 12 months from date of purchase.

This has been brought up a few times since the dropping of Make from future development. Most people agree that there needs to be some sort of solution for developers and perhaps they will work out something before 2017 gets too long in the tooth.
I for one believe they should as it only makes good business sense if you want plugins to be a significant part of your external infrastructure.


This is a very important question that needs to be addressed, particularly since it is likely that future updates of the Ruby API and the embedded Ruby version will once again break some extensions. I also favor some kind of arrangement for developers.

But it has a lot of factors Trimble will need to take into consideration. For example:

  • Until Trimble figures out a way to let extensions run in SketchUp Free and SketchUp Shop, developers without a Pro license have no remaining motive to write anything. They won’t be able to run their own extensions!
  • Given that extensions are available from many sources outside the Extension Warehouse, I doubt Trimble can tell what fraction are written by Pro license holders vs Make. This will make it hard to get a good estimate of the number of comps they would give, hence of the cost of such a program. They could set a quota, but that would shut out some developers. Who would make the in/out decision?
  • It would be easy for people to game the system by writing a trivial extension to get a Pro license. Deciding what is “trivial” would be subjective and controversial. Many extensions work around a simple shortcoming in the main app without involving massive amounts of code or sophistication.
  • Number of downloads isn’t a good indicator of quality, as some extensions may be very specialized with a limited audience. Also, there are numerous extensions that do essentially the same thing, just with individual choices in UI and feature set, which dilutes the download count.

In the long term, this is a problem (that part of SketchUp’s developer base might break away).

There are two main points for testing an extension:

  1. Is the implementation correct (unit-tests) and does it use all API methods correctly as specified?
  2. Does it also work in different user environments (SketchUp versions, OS) or do API methods behave in an unexpected way (API bugs, regressions, same in different Ruby versions)?

In the short term of several upcoming years, it should be manageable if you keep using APIs < 2018 and test in SketchUp Make < 2018, because the SketchUp team does a relatively (compared to other projects) excellent job in keeping backwards compatibility. Newer versions of SketchUp have most of the time added methods to the API, rarely changed behavior and barely ever removed methods.

As long as you don’t release software exclusively for well-defined environments like docker containers or virtual machine images, there can always be problems on some user environments that you cannot test for, and that often is not even your fault if a user’s system is somehow garbled.

Also, as a long-time developer you should contact the SketchUp team for more infos about their Extension Developer Program.

There is another little spanner to throw into the works. The question of the difference between commercial and free extensions. Should a developer be obliged to buy Pro if they plan to make money from their plugins, but that flops over into the gray area then of free plugins getting donations or cookies, some may even make more than commercial plugins.
How do you balance that one out.

Indeed, this was what I meant with my original comment it is a big grey area.

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