Is this software appropriate for my use-cases?

Background: I just bought an old house that I will be renovating significantly, and mostly with my own two hands. I have an architect buddy who will create CAD drawings for me (plus stamped engineering drawings for the permit office) if I provide a DXF or DWG file with accurate measurements. He suggested I use Sketchup because he said it would export the files correctly and was “intuitive”. Ha! Well, although I am highly skilled with software and mathematics, my brain is distinctly 2D in its wiring. From the moment I first launched the program, I was dumbfounded by the lack of gridlines and labeled dimensions. And the concept of placing the origin anywhere other than an extreme corner of the paper is very distracting.

What I want to do:

  1. Take the measurements of my property, structures (inside and out), and major flora, then build a baseline drawing to pass off to the architect.
  2. Use the baseline drawing on my own to plan my landscaping: irrigation lines, planting locations, fencing, etc.
  3. Work with my architect to create engineering layers for things like total rewiring, replumbing (gas & 3 types of water), totally new HVAC ductwork with zones, etc. [This item may be be better accomplished directly in Autodesk].

How I want to do it (ideally):

  1. Generate an inventory of objects of known dimensions that I can simply place at an (x,y) location on the basemap. Typing the characteristics of these objects directly into a table is a million times easier for me than f-ing around with a mouse.
  2. Set the program to automatically label every line I draw with its length, and every point I drop with its (x,y) coordinate. So far, I have found it tedious to actually get dimensions labeled in this software.
  3. Lock the property lines as the limit of visible area on my screen. I do not want to be able to zoom out past the point where land beyond the lot lines becomes visible. I can’t seem to prevent this from happening.
  4. Do it all in a 2D planview perspective, with the z-axis metadata embedded, but totally invisible to me. I don’t want to see a “pretty” 3D picture of my own ■■■■ house. I want to see line drawings that I can use to purchase and cut materials against.

I’ve read about 3 hours worth of previous threads on this forum, but nothing really helps me address the issues above. This makes me suspicious that the software is not appropriate for what I want to do. The problem is that more cheapo software doesn’t capture the level of precision that I need to input (+/-1cm), and/or export in a DWG/DXF format.

If you REALLY, REALLY don’t want to see your house in 3D, then SketchUp may not be the best program to use.

It is designed for building 3D models.

You CAN do 2D drawing in SU, and there are several things that might help you get started:

  • work in Camera/Parallel perspective
  • work in Camera/Standard views/Top view (so you are looking straight down)
  • show the Large Toolbar, and turn off the Getting Started toolbar (from the View/Toolbars menu)
  • draw a rectangle the size of your plot (or the shape of the plot if it isn’t rectangular). Place its lower left corner at the origin. Make it a Group, then Lock it (R-click to select the plot area then choose Lock)
  • then to see all of your plot, but no more, click Zoom Extents.

That will help you start.

You can get close to this, but not exactly.

  • make up your list in a spreadsheet, for reference
  • draw a rectangle (or other shape) the right size, at the origin, using the Rectangle tool, roughly the right size. WITHOUT clicking or moving the mouse afterwards, just type the exact dimensions as X,Y where X is the x-dimension, then a comma, then Y which is your y-dimension. That will get you the right size of object, but at the origin. Make it a component, so its geometry doesn’t ‘stick’ to other geometry (triple click on it to select all of what you have just drawn, press g to bring up the Component dialogue, give a meaningful name, then click [Create])
  • to move it exactly to your chosen position, press m to select the Move tool. Then click on the origin to select the ‘move from’ point, type a comma, then type in the destination location as [x-value, y-value,0] in square brackets as shown, and the object will move where you want.

Use the Text tool and click on each corner point. It will (normally) show the coordinates, including Z (which should always be 0).

You can do this ‘almost’ automatically. Select the line. Choose the Dimension tool (you can assign a shortcut to this). Click on the line to get the measurement, and place the dimension, offset in the direction you choose.

See above.

`‘Plan view’ and ‘perspective’ are mutually contradictory. There isn’t any perspective if you are only looking from the top, and the plan has no thickness. Work in Parallel projection, as suggested above.

How will you input the z-data? If you put the ends of lines at a non-zero z value you will distort the plan unusably. If you want to show it, edit the text labels you placed at corner points and put in the z-value.

Hope some of that helps. If you can’t do it this way in SU, try another program.

To export to DWG or DXF format, you need to get the Pro version, though there are free plugins which will IMPORT DXF files to Make.

Yo could also try the 2D tools plugin.


The simple answer is, Yes the software can do all you want and much more… If you take the time to learn how to use it.

However it should be pointed out it is a 3d modeling program first and foremost, but it will produce excellent 2d construction drawings.
Either manually or linked through the companion program Layout.

If you just want 2d line drawings then use an appropriate 2d graphic software.

Your post reads as if you have already decided it’s not for you. We are happy to help those that want help.


[quote=“john_mcclenahan, post:2, topic:42405”]
You CAN do 2D drawing in SU, and there are several things that might help you get started:[/quote]
Much thanks for the tips you provide. I was hoping someone would help me configure the program and my drawing template in a way that helps alleviate some of the culture shock with what is (for me) a totally unintuitive GUI environment. Whenever I use a new program for the first time, I always go through every setting and customization before even creating my first document/file/whatever; but the settings and preferences menus are very spare in SU. I will incorporate your tips and see if that gives me some encouragement.

These objects have properties, right? These properties must be encoded by SU in a class like an ArrayList. Is there no way to access the ArrayList (quasi-)directly by opening up a window or tab along the likes of the “Properties” window in Visual Studio or in the “Developer” tab in MS Office? I could take my notepad full of measurements and hammer out hundreds of objects in just a few minutes in SU simply by typing directly into the table of the properties and tabbing from field to field. To answer your question, z-axis dimension would be simply another property to populate with data.

[quote=“Box, post:3, topic:42405”]If you just want 2d line drawings then use an appropriate 2d graphic software.

Your post reads as if you have already decided it’s not for you. We are happy to help those that want help.[/quote]

If you can recommend a cheap or free 2D drawing application that has the robustness I need, I’d love to hear it. Up to this point in my life, I have never had any use for computer-based drawing applications, so I have no knowledge of what’s out there.

No need to be snarky. When I decide it’s not for me, I won’t visit this site anymore. There are many levels of pessimism before deciding to punch out. Why would I register for an account, scour the existing posts for 3 hours, then post my own question if I didn’t want help?

I don’t know much about the internal workings of SU. But the normal graphical user interface exposes only a few properties of a drawing element (line aka edge, face, arc, circle, curve (all these are collections of edges with additional meta properties), a component (or group - a special case of component) via the Entity Info panel.

For example:

  • Line: length, layer, whether softened or smooth (the latter two only relevant when embedded in a multi-face surface)
  • Circle, Arc: radius, number of segments, layer; when you show the extra properties, also length (or perimeter), whether hidden, and whether it casts shadows
  • Face: material (front and back), layer, area, and whether hidden, casts shadows or receive shadows
  • Component: like facxe, plus definition name, instance name, whether locked, and (if solid) volume.

Rather than just reading the posts here (for which much credit) have you tried any of the Help tutorials or videos for SU? They would get you going.

As for your drawing template, there’s a built-in range to choose from, one of which should get you started in the right units and settings, or you can start from one of those and adapt it yourself.

I have no recent direct personal knowledge of 2D CAD software. But a quick google search for ‘free 2D CAD software’ brought up this, which may be helpful:

A few of the selections are indeed 2D-only (though many are not) and one or two seem to be entirely free. Others have free trials.

Ones which mention ‘parametric’ seem more likely to allow direct input and revision of of measurements, which you say you want.

Or look at the more general results of a search for ‘free 2D CAD software’.

One leading CAD company, AutoDesk, has 2D AutoCAD Lite for a few hundred pounds (or equivalent in other currencies). It’s easier than its much more expensive big brother AutoCAD, but I have to say found the latter MUCH less intuitive that SketchUp.

nanoCAD is another downloadable 3D program with a free version but with paid for pro versions - hundreds of dollars.

There are also some on-line-only programs such as OnShape (3D like SketchUp Make, and also free I think), and SoftCAD (monthly usage fee around $15 which might not be bad value if you finish your project in a few months only).

There’s also (free) online my.sketchup but it is very similar to the installable SU program, with limitations as it is still only beta software.

If you DO come back to SU, I think with a bit of application you will find it one of the easier CAD programs to use.

Easier said than done. I prepay by the kb for internet access at home using a USB 3G/4G modem, which is finite, costly, and slow. I can’t afford to waste bandwidth watching videos and certainly not to run a cloud-based SaaS application (which probably wouldn’t work anyway with my browser’s strict privacy and security settings). Plus, videos are not random-access the way a manual allows you to look up specific information any time you want. But I won’t get off on a rant about the sorry state of software these days .

One clarification: I still need 3D data to be incorporated into the project files (remember, I’m having them converted to professional CAD drawings later). I just don’t want to look at it constantly. It’s a drain on processing and memory, non-intuitive relative to my blueprint-based preconceptions, and my own uses of the drawing are very 2D in nature (e.g., laying irrigation lines).


Then perhaps try the pages which are text based, and shouldn’t tax your bandwidth so much.

If you can run SU 2016 and it works fast, the addition of simple 3D information isn’t likely to be a problem.

Where are you located? Your forum profile doesn’t say.

Without being snarky, and based on the way you want to work, I would suggest that SketchUp is probably not the right tool for you.

Its strength is in quickly modelling 3D shapes directly (which can be done parametrically and with great accuracy — if so desired — but not in the way you want).

It is not meant to be, or to be used as, a 2D CAD program. There are workarounds for approaching it that way, as described above… but if that’s what you’re looking for, there are much more suitable options.

Given the way you’ve described your brain working, plus all the unmet expectations of how you think SU should work, I suspect that you’d spend most of your learning curve in extreme frustration.

If you think you’d be able to let go of your pre-conceptions and re-wire your brain to 3D, then SU is absolutely the best tool to accomplish what you’re setting out to do.

But I think you would likely get there faster and with less grief by finding a 2D CAD program that can produce 3D output. SU is exactly the inverse.

Hope this helps.


This topic was automatically closed after 91 days. New replies are no longer allowed.