Layout 2018 - not up to par with other drafting software



Hi, I have repeatedly tried to output construction documents using layout with no success. i can output a single page of one p[articular item like a joinery aspect, but see it totally fall over if attempting to output a full model. Text input and editing is near impossible to control and totally glitchy. Dimensions are not much better.Rendering times even on low resolution pages soon bog down the whole file to such an extent that its unworkable.Having used Sketchup for years as a great architectural design and communication tool, its extremely frustrating not to be able to get that modelling information back out on the pages of layout. Many of the examples used to show layouts abilities are so simplistic compared to whats required in the real world.Totally agree that Layout does not seem to be very capable of notating and outputting construction documents in any practical way, if it could I’d be its biggest fan. I currently end up screen shooting many sketchup views and adding those pngs to my cad files where I can dimension and notate easily. Great as it is to design with Sketchup is so letdown by Layout, which is what business needs to be able to output the work.


hi designnest
It is possible to get excellent construction docs out of layout (depending on your interpretation of construction docs), I do so every week but it is a very, very frustrating experience, mostly down to exceptionally sluggish performance - hardware doesn’t really make a difference, its all relative. To be fair I don’t do any detail or drafting work in layout, most of my details are modelled in the SU model and I expose them with Skalp scenes.
I use Layout for annotations / dimensioning, graphical tweaking in terms of patterns, linework etc.
So I totally get the the pain.

I don’t believe Layout was ever intended to be a drafting / drawing / ‘CAD’ application but as a presentation / communication/ drawing / output layer for SketchUp models and other media, and to some degree it does this exceptionally well.


Sketchup Pro (the partnership of Sketchup and Layout) is (now) billed / marketed as an Architectural design tool, even if you can’t read, just looking at the pages of the Sketchup website would indicate that this is primarily a product for Architectural design and drawing output. A significant amount of time is spent annotating, dimensioning, tweaking, and presenting the model in a form applicable to clients, contractors, local authorities, building control etc. This time is spent in Layout and in this sense (in my opinion) it is not up to par - it is sooo slow as soon as anything moderately complex is surfaced through a viewport in vector or hybrid mode, which are the only modes that can represent the detail required at the quality I wish to present it. Things take literally hours and hours longer than they should do. I can pretty much live with the feature set, I’d like a bit more flexibility over layers and masks and transparency, oh and gradients would be nice but I can get my drawings out.

Its also important for users to post views to threads like this one, its an extremely useful conversation/ debate. Poor old Layout doesn’t get too much airtime on the forum as SketchUp is the star of the show so its great to see the actual shopfront for our work get attention.

Dimensioning got ya

I agree with most of what you say here. The degree of LayOut annoyance / frustration is a product of the requirements of your workflow X the size/complexity of your drawing sets. By example from my own experience:

Case 1: For one product development client, I produce Letter-size drawing sets of 3-4 pages, based on a 3-5 MB SU model; no stacked viewports; no linework or pattern fills; no drawn 2D objects or details; minimal dimensioning; and a few notes and annotations. Typically a couple of plan views and a render or two suffices. In this case, working with LayOut is mostly fast and relatively pleasant.

Case 2: For a local cabinet-maker I produce Tabloid-size client presentations and shop drawings (mostly kitchen designs), which are considerably more involved, but still with models typically 8-12 MB. Drawing sets are 6-10 pages, with the presentations favouring styled rendered views, and the shop drawings primarily plans and elevations. Complexity goes up on each axis, and re-render times slow work — adding some annoyance — but it’s still within a mostly tolerable range. (aside from my ongoing dislike of many LO tool approaches / UI aspects)

Case 3: For a design/build firm, I produce ArchD size Construction Drawing sets of 12-15 pages from multiple models up to 50 MB; multiple/stacked viewports on each page; detailed section cuts; extensive linework with some pattern fills (need to buy Skalp!); fully dimensioned and annotated; notes and legends on each page etc, etc, etc… (anybody who produces these sets knows what’s involved)

In the most complex case, LayOut verges on being unusable, and so one resorts to work-around on top of work-around to sufficiently ameliorate the flaws and weaknesses of the application. (one of my main work-arounds is to split the master set into working subsets, in order to deal with the brutal performance issues)

I think the differences in these use cases illustrates the reasons for the varying (and passionate) opinions of different (experienced) users: if your workflow is relatively undemanding relative to LO’s hard limits then you will focus on your delight with what you can produce from SU and the quality of the output… but if you’re trying to generate Architectural / CD sets (SU Pro’s primary target market), you will likely be consumed with frustration by the gap between the ease of modelling in SU and the dis-ease of producing CD’s in LO.


Concur absolutely.
I’m a use case 3 sort of chap. Squarely the target market for SU Pro it seems but it’s not just construction drawings. Scheme drawings also suffer, if the model is complex LO goes into limp mode.


While open projects in any given time window will often include all three cases, 80-90% of my work time is spent on case 3 efforts.

…as a result, I spend way too much of my work week in a state of annoyance with LO’s UI / tools and frustration with LO’s severe performance limitations. From the reaction to this thread (and others like it), I can safely say that our’s is not an uncommon experience of SU’s pro AEC users.

As you noted further up the thread, it is encouraging that there are Trimble employees following and commenting on these threads — and interestingly they are less defensive and more acknowledging of LO’s known shortcomings than several of SU’s most expert users.


…I should also note that I am (relatively) optimistic that SU / LO 2019 will address many of these issues. Now that the needed ‘under-the-hood’ work seems have been addressed, we should start seeing the user-facing performance improvements and features that we’ve long been awaiting.

Plus, I’m eagerly awaiting the first wave of LO extensions that have the potential to automate and simplify much of the SU-to-LO workflow. I’m unclear why we have yet to see any: whether there’s still missing elements in the API/SDK that require the next release — or if it’s just a lot of new stuff for plugin authors to master, then code and de-bug. Fingers crossed that it’s the second and that we’ll see something exciting soon.


I’d be in heaven if I could output complex sketchup architectural models via Layout. In my case typical model 100 to 150MB, and output of 25 off A1 drawings 841x594mm (23x33inches ). I currently design and model in Sketchup, and output sheets in Vectorworks after redrawing the lot and including some screen shots from Sketchup. I cant get layout to manage output ( in any reasonable timeframe ) having tried repeatedly. Its an awkward catch22 = Can Design and model in sketchup easy, I can model in Vectorworks but dont find it intuitive enough to design in. So Process is currently 1 Design Sketchup / 2 Document Vectorworks / 3 Output Vectorworks. If layout was more workable I would rarely use vectorworks. I hope they get layout working well, its extremely frustrating to have a superb model, holding a ton of information and not being able to use that to get to documentation ( with any reasonable speed ). If layout could manage notation/ dimensioning / have symbols like sketchup does / not wind down to impossibly slow spinning wheel on a mac ( high powered ) then it would be great to use to output construction drawings. Its one thing to show how to document a chair or a kitchen in a how to use Layout book, but thats not a 2000m2 office that has lots of chairs and kitchens / joinery etc. If they end up getting layout to work, the icing on the cake would be layer visibility control right there in layout, not a separate control of these layer visibilities back on sketchup scenes.


I have not had the same problem in LO. Maybe it’s because I break my project down into smaller “bites” for LO to handle. I did two almost identical but mirrored 2 story commercial buildings (~11,000 sq. ft. ea.) in the same files. In other words all of the “100 series” base floor plans in one file (both buildings). The R.C. Plans in one file. The enlarged floor plans in one file etc. It would be nice if I didn’t need to do that, but it works pretty well.


Can you show us an example of your project? It would be interesting to see.


Ksarch has the right idea. Create multiple layout files for each drawing type.
I usually split mine into Cover/Notes, Site Plans, Plans, Elevations, Sections etc…
Further split them into sub-categories if there are more than about 10 sheets per file (system dependant).
You can then open multiple files at once so they show up tabbed across the top which I find great.

Quite a good way to work as it keeps things manageable but flexible.

I also heavily support the implementation of a layer type control from within layout. I would personally like to be able to assign a style type to each layer individually. This would give the ability to control line-weights, line colour and line style by object/layer, rather than by stacking scenes (which is just tedious).


Yes layer control in Layout would make a lot of difference. Ability to control line weight and colour of layers would be useful for plans to show existing / demolition / new etc. Most CAD users would also like the control to include greyed layers, so layer control is visible / greyed / hidden. I also note looking back through this tread that ones opinion of layout being workable or not really depends on what they are doing with it. One poster who says it works great when you look at whats being produced is doing a simple job of one table or one chair, and I agree that layout works for that. But thats a lot different to doing a full building model and outputting floor / furniture/ workstation / ceiling / services plans, and sections, and every internal / external elevation / details / door and window schedules. Maybe breaking up into multiple layout files helps but I found layout locking up completely just trying to output an elevations page of the model attached, and so had to redraw every elevation in vector works as attached. Layout was totally bogged down with just one page of elevations so I gave up.You can see that it apopears reasonable that that elevations page should have been achievable via layout, but it was not, let aloneall the fine detail pages where just model screenshots are used as layout wasn’t coping…D.04(B) [J.1 J.2 J.3 Sidewall Joinery Details].pdf (1.1 MB)

C.02(B) [Lev2 Elevations 1=50 208 209].pdf (1.7 MB)


Hi @designnest, I am one who does full building CDs, and as I have noted above, have not experienced many of the problems discussed in this thread (and others that have). I am interested to do a comparative and see what my experience is with your two files. Can you post your SU and LO file for us to test on our respective setups?

To Layout Team, I think this is a fabulous thread with lots of good insights on what the community sees as LO priorities and our challenges. I will add a suggestion to PS Bootcamp Wishlist in follow up.


Hi Lindsey,
For that (and most) project I have a sketchup file ( the file I design in, in this case 97.5mb ), I don’t have a layout file as I gave up on layout, could not get even a page of elevations out of it. The job is therefore re-documented in Vectorworks, and you see in example pdfs some image files shot of the sketchup model in that cad sheet pages. I’m new to the forum so not familiar with how to post big files other than dropbox. I can dropbox a sketchup model to you, would need an email address I guess, would be more interesting to also dropbox the actual pdf pages from vectortworks to show what sort of detail need be got out of a model thats way beyond just some plans and sections. Another thing I was thinking of when reading this thread of how others make layout work. I recall watching some of Nick Sonders instructional videos and if I recall correctly he used multiple layout files to do different types of drawings in smaller sets, plans / elevations / sections / details etc. But as far as I recall a lot of his work method was almost working around areas where Layout was prone to getting slow and failing eg, in layout using a viewport in raster mode and copying and pasting a section cut on top of the viewport rather than relying on Hybrid or vector to do that vector detail. So that only really works as a last step presentation method, in that its now not a live document that can manage changes. That section cut needs manual re-doing every time a change is made. The point at which I’d say layout is workable is when it can manage live without those sorts of workaround interventions that require one remembering what bits need manual updating post every change.


Hi designnest, from my experience using SU and LO (and for my setup) 97.5mb is a good sized file. Most recently I had a SU site file that was around 70mb and experienced some slowing over SU files of 20-30mb, however it remained very usable in LO.

I know there is a way to post a Dropbox link to this Forum (as there is a size limit on files posted directly to the forum, which yours exceeds), however, I have not personally done it, so not able to explain the process. As a result I will send you a Personal Message. Best.


It’s not a matter of size but of geometry. Your model above has a relativelly low file size, as I’ve used Layout with success fr more, but it seems to have intricate geometry in places where I doubt it’s really needed (chairs and computers),

I don’t know where you got those models and I also don’t know how much you actually need them as detailed as that, but when I have to present layouts like this I reduce their poly count and rely on Thea’s proxy system to do renderings of the model.

The building itself would be really easy to work with Layout.

Of course, if Layout was capable of easily manage this geometry, it would be great and this advice of mine wouldn’t be needed. The fact is that I always model and draft in Sketchup with Layout in mind and it’s still slow and cumbersome to use most of the time… and I still find it’s the best solution I have for Sketchup iteraction…


I wonder if we haven’t all just become a bit lazy and reliant on technology for all the solutions.
Like many, it wasn’t that long ago I was using T square, inkpens and razorblades to produce and amend contract drawings. Pencils, crayons and brushes to promote ideas.
Now we generate plans and presentations, insert specifications and details just with the push of a mouse and click of a button. Sometimes with great creativity, often not.
Yes, bells and whistles are great and no doubt ways to speed things up a bit more would be nice but doesn’t this just lead to more bloatware and errors? Trimble tread this path anyway to tempt us with the next must have killer feature and keep the revenue pot bubbling.
To my mind SU + LO (and all the extensions) do a great job just as they stand and I am talking lowly SU6Pro here. They are tools for a job. It’s up to us how we implement them and, judging from some of the posters here, are being satisfactorily implemented pretty well already.


Hi Paul
Isn’t that a bit like saying we are too reliant on chainsaws to chop down trees when an axe will suffice.
In some cases and scales and workflows, yes it is but commercially, surely you require the right tool for the job case and scale and workflow. In which case the chainsaw is the right (essential) tool for the job for those cases and companies and people build their businesses and workflows around it.

Not everyone needs SU Pro (the package of SU & LO) hence why there was SketchUp Make, now Sketchup Free. But the people that need SU Pro expect it to behave and Perform like a Pro application, currently 50% of the Pro package performs in that manner, the other 50% does not. It’s not bells and whistles and bloatware that most people are looking for, it’s efficiency and productivity in the tool.

This is just my opinion but to Trimbles great credit SU Pro is definitely not bloated, it has a very simple (but powerful) core toolset and an open API that allow developers to write extensions for additional tools for specific use cases - this puts control in the hands of the user to tailor the applications functionality and toolset to their specific workflow. Again this allows Trimble to streamline the software and improve this core toolset and yes add additional features when there is a specific benefit to the user base in it being part of that core toolset. SketchUp is wonderful in that sense, it’s fast, quick to load, simple, clear UI and powerful. To some extent Layout shares some of this wonder. It has a clear UI, it can be powerful, it’s simple but it’s but it’s not fast and productivity goes off a cliff in for many users in certain use cases (particularly users that are involved in this thread)

BTW I’m looking forward to SketchUp Pro 2030 when we generate plans and presentations, insert specifications and details just with the push of a mouse and click of a button :wink: :+1:


Mice? Buttons? By 2030 SketchUp Pro should be able to work as follows:

  1. Relax
  2. Close Eyes
  3. Imagine your design
  4. Open Eyes and see that
  5. Model is beautifully rendered holographically in front of you and
  6. Printer is already printing perfect submittal drawings

By 2035, if we add a geo location, then go there, we’ll find the building already built!


Yes, that sounds ideal. Surely more suited to the feature request thread? :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:a


Seems like the antipodean Plusspec or whatever its called is well on the way already!