Here is a quote from a review of Nick Sonder’s book on Amazon that parallels some of my own thinking. The reviewer first touched on his use of the book but his final remarks regarding SketchUp and design work really hits home:
This books has a lot of different tips when working with SketchUP. But I have to say, after going through many weeks thinking I was able to use this for production drawings I was sadly mistaken. By time I was able to get everything exported out to Layout, the drawings just did not look good at all. The resolution was way too grainy for my liking. The vector overlay was too bulky and raster was too pixelated. I am sure there is a way to fix this, however the next part made me re-think the whole process. Layout was so slow to regenerate the image. Each time I would pan it would pulse the screen and my workstation grade computer was just not able to do what Layout was requesting of it. My computer and workstation graphics card is not by any stretch old or limited. The thing runs all other software great. This was a huge disappointment…
All around if you are thinking about transition from your existing software to Sketchup Layout I would recommend some hesitation. However, if you want to learn a decent way of putting a Sketchup model together, I do recommend the author’s techniques. I still use them for normal Sketchup use, I just cannot see investing in the time and patience with regards to Layout work. If someone is thinking of transitioning it might be better to look at an actual BIM software and if you are like me Chief Architect seems much more appropriate. I want to love this, because I think Sketchup is by far the most flexible software when it comes to heads up design. You are not stuck in dialog boxes, which for design flow and immersing yourself in the architecture SketchUP is great. I wish Trimble would take a few notes from a software like Chief Architect and simply some of their rules and plop them into Sketchup. I also think if Sketchup spent more time thinking how Architects might use Layout as full production drawings would be great, you really should not have to go through some of these crazy steps to get great drawings from SKUP. It’s just not quite there, and this process does not make it that much smoother.
I’m not wanting to disparage Nick Sonder’s work or his workflow, I think out of anyone his is some of the best. My concern is with Layout and SketchUp itself as an architectural tool. I feel like the plugins are starting to bridge the gap or parametric edge that Chief Architect has had over SketchUp (with a fair distance to go yet). However, the other area we are falling down in is the creation of construction drawings and documents.
I am excited to start work on the automation of this piece of the puzzle and really dig into the Layout API, however at the same time I am genuinely concerned with Layout itself, and how well it functions as the 2D engine underneath the hood. SketchUp’s recent updates to Layout in the last two years/iterations have been tepid at best. We really need a solid 2D drawing environment, something that can go toe-to-toe with AutoCAD. I realize that this is a big ask, but it needs to happen.
I’ve already invested a considerable amount of my time into developing these plugins and I will continue to invest more. I’ve been full time at it since April of this year and rather than work a salary man’s job I chose to pursue this much more interesting path (we will see whether this was foolish on my part in the months to come).
As I continue to develop these plugins I think it will not only benefit myself and the designers who use the software but also SketchUp itself as more architects, engineers, designers, contractors and draftsmen are able to utilize SketchUp as their primary design tool. The work I do, as well as others like PlusSpec and John Brock to name a few, is helping put SketchUp on the map in the architectural design world. We are helping pull users of other design software, such as Revit and Chief Architect, and converting them to SU. We are trying to do our part.
It is now up to SketchUp to boost the Layout development and do their part. We need a world class 2D engine. Without it, we can’t compete, it doesn’t matter how good my 3D models are, they have to translate into construction documents, and it has to be seamless and effortless and a joy to use. Unless Layout is brought up to par I will be forced to go alternative routes such as exporting floor plans to DXF etc… This is really not the route I want to go but right now I am seriously considering it.