SketchUp in 2019: where great ideas get to work

LOL, you right click on a toolbar to open another one and click on the “X” to close it. At least on my copy of 2019 it is and been that way since the Tab/Panel system was introduced.



Just as a heads up, this still shows up as “Use & Create” Dynamic Components the pricing page.

Plans and Pricing - Professional

I have no interest in the online version in its current form, but I do think focusing on developing the online platform is a priority. As you can see from my other posts, when we are able to actually use dynamic components with Shop, I’ll sign up 5 of my coworkers for the Shop license and I’ll move over to the new Pro subscription vs the Classic Pro I have now. Dynamic components make it easier to get unskilled modelers to produce useable content, assuming they are more assembling a model vs doing actual modeling. I’m thinking there are a number of industries similar to my own that aren’t using SketchUp as much for 3D modeling as for layouts using their existing 3D assets.

Basically, I think you’re moving in the right direction here. Have a downloaded offline option that plays nice with a more collaborative online environment. Offline for folks like me, who actually create the 3D assets and online for the folks who are more just arranging existing 3D assets or tweaking them a bit here and there.


A very good point. In a production environment who has time to model every thing up or even wants to. This is where pre-configured components (3D assets) and extensions come in. A lot of the times you probably don’t even want your unskilled workers trying to create 3D models, you can’t guarantee they will be precise or full of errors.

This is the true strength of SketchUp, you can have your cake and eat it too. If you need to get into the model and create some geometry, you can easily do that unlike other architectural software. However, if you are in a production type environment you can leverage the ability to create components and plugins (API) to automate most of your tasks. This is the power of SketchUp.

Lately I’ve been contacted almost weekly by individuals and corporations who are looking to automate a certain task or process within SketchUp. Business is about getting things done quicker and hence with less money. There are so many industries that could potentially benefit from the automation made available by SketchUp and its API that its staggering. Here are just a few:

  • Reinforced Concrete Bridges
  • MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing)
  • Structural Engineering (Steel, Concrete, Wood, Cold Formed Steel etc…)
  • Steel and Wood Framing
  • Agricultural Implements
  • Bicycles
  • Steel and Aluminum Weldments
  • Aerospace Tooling

I recently had the opportunity to work on a large civil project where we replaced a failing timber bridge with a new single span pre-stressed concrete bridge. The engineering company that did the bridge design had actually modeled the entire bridge and its earthwork in SketchUp. I would love to share their model but because of confidentiality issues I probably should not. After some discussion with their principal designer it became clear to me that they would benefit significantly if they could generate this geometry with a plugin versus manually drawing each bridge, allowing them to more easily try various “what if” scenarios. Who knows, there may be a future bridge plugin.

About 12 years ago I was working at a crane company in Olympia, WA. I was designing and engineering knuckle boom cranes for offshore oil rigs. I used Excel spreadsheets to completely automate the engineering portion of the design of the cranes (which was a monumental task in and of itself). The goal then was to somehow automatically generate a full 3D model of the crane geometry (steel weldments) in AutoCad or Solidworks based on this tabulated data. If I had known then what I know now about SketchUp I could have made this become a reality for this company.


If you don’t need the power of plugins, then Trimble has the perfect answer. Use the cloud version.

I remember when people argued about adding new features to MacWrite in the early days saying it’s simplicity is it’s charm. If course it never changed and the minute MS Word and Wordperfect got on the Mac, it was doomed.

Simple is better for simple things. I think you conflate powerful features with their cost to the interface, which is certainly understandable as a SketchUp plugin developer.

SketchUp allows for only two standard interface elements for plugin developers: a button and a menuitem. So of course our toolbards get 17 rows tall!

This lack of decent integration has over the years created this “mini-app” quality to plugins. Many are modal, each with it’s own interpretation of what colors buttons are, what features to expose, how to apply and exit, etc… it really is a horrendous mess by ANY UI standard.

If you want to see a much better thought out API for plugin interfaces, check out Blender. They integrate plugins much cleaner and more seamlessly, plus they already have many, many standard features, like bevels and round corners (I know you don’t think they should be standard in SketchUp) as well as vertex modeling (aka Thom Thom’s Vertex tools).

You have only a single font to work with and buttons are scaled per the users request. In fact you can scale the entire interface, buttons, plugins and all with a simple preferences setting.

And the code is open source, so Trimble can peek inside to learn how to actually create an interface that works for devs and users alike.


Edited to add: I know you’re thinking “Blender, really?” And you would have a point for versions previous to 2.8. But then Blender listened to users (novel concept for Trimble), and hired some world class UI folks, and opened up an online discussion to go over proposed changes, and the result is stupendous.

This program has mostly best-in-class tech to do:

  1. Modeling including SubD and top tier Boolean modeling AND the amazing non-destructive modifier modeling (you have to see to believe)

  2. Sculpting with dynamic subdivision. Ever want to add that last wrinkle to a pillow. Easy to do and all within your workflow).

  3. Great cloth tools that work fast. And fluid simulations that are crazy easy and good!

  4. Particles for fire, smoke, and other stuff.

  5. Super material node editor with true deformation mapping and PBR working.

  6. Both the unbiased photorealistic renderer, Cycles, and the realtime renderer, EEVEE. All with bloom, dof, motion blurring and more.

  7. Animation nodes for easy and procedural scripting of an animations.

  8. Traditional timeline editing with keyframes, spline velocity controls, multiple cameras, and more.

  9. Full per frame compositing for color toning, image compositing, and other post effects.

  10. A full working non-linear video editing system.

That’s a ton of features, probably 100-1000x the features of SketchUp. How to attack such a UX problem? They do so by providing workspaces.

There’s a workspace for modeling, one for sculpting, one for animation, etc… Once you understand this, you start to find the same commands work across all workspaces.

For instance, the G command moves selected geometry in modeling, moves selected nodes in the shader and compositor, moves selected keyframes in to the animation workspace.

The point of all of this? When you know users will be spending more than a few minutes in a program per month, you can build progressive disclosure interfaces that allow you to take on new features/functions as you’re ready.

And Blender still opens 10X faster than SU on my PC. So I don’t think there’s an issue of bloatware. It’s download size is surprisingly small-- currently 2.8 is under 130Mb


Everything Chip said :ok_hand:

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As someone who shaves (on good days), I take issue with your comments!

There’s a simplicity and directness to Sketchup that is at its core. It’s also part of the problem. The tools are limited. I love using the program because I can go from model to output with Layout quickly and still be in direct control of the section, 3d details, etc… The program is limited as it quite handy and productive. But…my layout drawings bog down to a crawl at the end of a project and make it very difficult to meet deadlines and keep budgets… That’s a problem which needs addressing NOW!


I am hopefully not being too presumptive in stating you are probably not a professional UX/UI designer. When I talk to customers and end users, I want to understand their concerns, the issues they are having. I never ask them for the solution. You conflate an easy to use interface with one that is less powerful. Not always the case.

I recently did a 3-day “teach the professors” workshop at the great Art Center in LA. The goal was to have them build a simple room, then add textures and play it back in VR. They had great computers, 6 HTC Vive stations and students (the professors) eager to learn how VR can help in the design process.

The tools I had them preload on all workstations were SketchUp and Unity, thinking this was the simplest way to do things. Wow, what a learning experience for me. Trying to get folks up and running in SketchUp, when they learned on other systems was stunning. SketchUp was extremely foreign to them! A couple of them refused and used Modo.

Those trying Sketchup would draw out a plane, then a square on the plane, then push/pull it to a cube. And then they couldn’t figure out how to move the cube around on the plane because it all moved at once! I had to explain the concept of grouping ,the plane frist and the cube next, which was quite foreign.

In Blender (and most other 3d poly modelers) you add a plane, then a cube, and you just select the cube or plane and a handy gizmo shows up in it’s center with arrows and you’re already in move mode without having to explicitly state “I want to move something”-- as you do in SketchUp. You can also rotate or scale the object right there with the same gizmo. Much simpler. Also in SketchUp, when you add a cube or plane, they are already in Group mode. You tab into them to get into “edit” mode. At anytime you can edit the bounding size via it’s properties. Just type the numbers in. That too would be nice-to-have in SketchUp as well. If you know a wall is 8’ high you just type 8 into the Z field.

So, it really is what you’re used to. If you have a hammer, solutions all look like nails. If a screwdriver, then screws.

I started out in AutoCad v1 a totally 2d CAD product. I got a Mac and started using a CAD product called MGMS. AutoCad had this command DIST which prompted to click on one point, then another, then it showed the resulting value in it’s command line.

I mentioned to the MGMS author he needed this command. He replied we do: temporary dimensions. Click on one point then the other and a dimension line showed on the screen with the proper number. Seemed weird and different to me…then I thought about it and it was BETTER. There were the dimensions PLUS arrows and lead lines showing EXACTLY where I had clicked.

I learned a valuable lesson that day, one that I remember 30+ years later. Don’t judge too fast an interface decision. Wait until you have enough time with the package. Just imagine how cool SU would be if when you clicked on an object you could instantly have a move/rotate/scale gizmo attached to it!

And then if you moved it, you could type in the VCB how far to move, just like Blender does.

PS Gizmos were invented a number of years ago and are pretty much standard UI these days in 3D. Thom thom believes so as he implemented Gizmos in his most excellent Vertex Tools. To me, it just shows how “behind the times” and extremely “long in the tooth” SketchUp has become.


We are drifting off topic onto familiar debates here but it’s still relevant discussion I think…(but mods feel free to split into new topic)

I wanted to give a summary of the “logic” with respect to the way SketchUp handles its extensions.

Extensions that are bundled with SketchUp Pro will not lead to cluttering of the interface…they offer toolsets that can be turned on/off just as Sandbox Tools comes turned off by default.

Bundling them however does give a few important advantages:

  • Making them official/supported, with quality control of the functions, interop and interface.

  • Less admin to manage the install/licensing/upgrade issues.

  • Consistency across numerous users (E.G. how cool would it be if SketchUp had an official renderer which everyone used - all the support, resources, community discussion , etc could be focussed not spread around 8 different renderers…the ‘barrier to entry’ to rendering would be much lower.

Trimble are already bundling VR Tools, Seifera, Trimble Connect, Dynamic Components, etc, anyway.

What is cluttering the interface is when I have all sorts of misarranged buttons doing overlapping functions; e.g.:

  • Sketchup’s Section tool in addition to Skalp.
  • Sketchup’s layers pallete in addition to Layer Organizer
  • Solid Tools plus Solid Inspector plus Architect Tools
  • Multiple ways to do scheduling/reporting, and none of them talk to each other (Wisext, Plot Labeller, Report Generator, Profile Builder, etc.)
  • Two or more materials pallets with some properties of materials edited in each.
  • Similar functions aren’t grouped together (eg i have tools to annotate gradients, plot numbers, and various other annotations but they aren’t together in an “annotations” panel)
  • Nothing is integrated with Entity Info (so lets say i have something with Construction Phases, I cant see that by looking at Entity Info)

So when we use SketchUp for larger/complex projects, with more sophisticated extensions (“mini-apps”), SketchUp becomes more like a series of mismatched toolsets, and is a very confusing to all.

Having lots of simple and discreet plugins is easy and fun for people who like to dabble, but (unfortunately) Pros do require consistency, integration, efficiency and reliability.

Take the 30 or so top extensions in each of the industry categories of “Architecture” “Landscape” “Heavy Civil” “Film and Stage”, etc, and bundle them as the “Architecture Pack” -make them all “official”, iron out any bugs then work on an integrated user interface that makes sense. Charge for this pack if necessary and pay a small royalty to any developer whose extension was incorporated into the pack. Match these categories to 3d warehouse categories also, and include an online materials warehouse. And a decent renderer (realtime if poss, cloud or local).
For the remaining extensions, make sure that they can be managed/deployed across users easily and efficiently (centralised, eg Adobe CC license manager). Should be easy now with subscription-based pricing, right?


All good points Sam. Thanks for chiming in :slight_smile:

Yes, yes, yes… and yes!


To clarify, I have no problem with Trimble releasing their own House Builder extension or such. I think that could be a good idea. However I don’t want there too be a bunch of native (core) functionality that is only relevant for a specific field. As long as these features are implemented as extensions so they don’t bother, say interior designers or set designers, I’m all in favor.

A lot of the clutter with extension seems to stem from extensions doing more than one thing, and therefore partly overlapping. What if ProfileBuilder didn’t have it’s own report tool, but simply wrote the relevant data to attributes using a shared protocol, say IFC. Then another extension could generate a report based on that data, and include things drawn by both ProfileBuilder and all other extensions that adhere to this standard protocol. This report extension could be maintained by Trimble, but be open source so other developers can add updates to it when needed, and of course be a standard extension replacing the current Generate Report.

I don’t think the solution though is to make big industry extensions. What if someone needs a third of the tools for Set Design and half of the tools from Architecture? I suppose several tools would exist in both toolsets and having both installed would lead to a lot of duplications and clutter. What if a third party extension implements one of the functions in the Architecture toolset but does it much better so you want to use that instead? Then you’d want to get rid of the corresponding feature you already had.

Instead of large industry specific extensions I propose we stick to smaller extensions with a clearly defined scope (DOTADIW) but in addition to that improve the extension management.

There could be a single button to add the full Architecture Suite or Set Design Suite to your extension list and install all extensions in that suite. Removing a suite from your list could uninstall only extensions unique to it, and extensions shared with another suite would be kept until that suite is uninstalled. You could create your own suites and share with coworkers, either from scratch or from modifying a copy of an existing suite.


Sorry, I disagree with almost everything you’re continually saying. SU at the moment is a directionless mess as it appeals to everybody generally but no one specifically (without the clunky use of plug-ins)…the solution is simple; (as Sam says) bundle all the best architectural extensions together and unify them so they’re genuinely integrated into SU (and talk to each other) then streamline and release a separate version of SU called something like SketchUp Architecture, but whilst keeping the original vanilla SketchUp Pro for the dabblers/interior designers/model makers etc. Job done.


I just got word from the community manager. They are threatening to kick me off this board if I mention Blender again.

So, if I go, consider following this discussion on YouTube, a well as on Sketchucation.

My goal is not to see all SU users leave for another program. It is threefold:

  1. To put pressure on Trimble to actually provide meaningful feature updates to the Pro product which I own and use.
  2. To ask them to be forthright with their userbase and tell us enough of their future plans (as many publicly traded companies do already), so we can make our own informed plans as well.
  3. To provide community members with a course to help them render not model their SU scenes. I would think this is not an overt threat to Trimble, but I am told otherwise.

Odd, as @jbacus frequently supports the use of other software?


Not every app can be everything to any one person , somebody or something is left out.

And how MUCH are you willing to pay for that option?

The ability to customize to MY needs is possible due to the plugins.

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We will be starting a full Blender forum at Sketchucation soon, will need your help there as we learn to work with both softwares. Always a good idea to have more tools and Blender is a serious tool when mastered.


Love SketchUp to the core, and I am the #1 fan, but I do not like censorship.

I want to add that I don’t agree with @chippwalters methods in “pressuring” SketchUp to his ideal company but even if I disagree he should speak his mind.

Note: Just read @jody post bellow and I agree fully with his statement.

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As the guy who sent said message, I’ll go ahead and be public with my statement and clarify that this is, in fact, not what I said.

I have advised you, @chippwalters, to keep your proselytization of Blender training to our training forums. You can (and do) talk about Blender plenty, and we take no issue with that. What you were warned against was to stop interrupting topics with a cry to “abandon SketchUp” and to be civil, constructive and non-combative in the topics which you’re participating. Definitely take your agenda to “move everyone from SketchUp to Blender” to SketchUcation or YouTube, that’s great and certainly your prerogative.

Regarding your goals, please be aware that your desire for these things does not make others wrong for not embracing them. As has been stated in this thread many times, we don’t talk about our future. We didn’t do it when we were @Last, we didn’t do it when we were Google, we don’t do it at Trimble… you might notice, it’s a trend. Just because someone else DOES talk about these things, doesn’t mean we’re obligated to do so.

I will offer this final statement regarding your participation in this community, if you want to help people prepare their SketchUp models for rendering in Blender, that’s great. You can do that in the appropriate forum. If you want to offer constructive feedback, you can do that in the appropriate topic. Please do not use this forum as a platform to belittle this community, it’s members, the software it’s devoted to or the team that develops it.

I won’t be responding to the private message you sent, as this seems to be where you’d prefer to discuss this, hopefully this is enough to put the matter to bed.


Yeah I fully agree - keep the core functionality universal and make sure any Industry Pack is itself an addon - a new flavour or toolbar for Sketchup.

And yes I 100% agree that sketchup extensions are best if they are just one tool - like most of yours are. I’m guessing the reason many of the more powerful ones aren’t like this is that SketchUp’s core functionality seems to be a bit rigid (particularly layer organisation, scenes, entity info, reporting, etc).
We definitely want SketchUp to be universal, but also very versatile; it currently achieves “universal” by being as simple as possible (but this cause the extensions to be much more complicated, which adds cost and ultimately makes it less universal)
I’d imagine that the developers of ProfileBuilder didn’t actually want to create a reporting tool - it was done out of necessity. And I’m sure they would love it if their reporting tool could interact with Meedek Wall, or Cutlist, etc. Hopefully they will back me up here :slight_smile:

If available, I would probably install the “Industry Packs” for architecture, urban planning, landscape, civil, and maybe more - and I would expect to see an enhancement of toolsets, not duplication.

I wonder if Trimble are reading this thinking “oh great we could do this” or “nope, lets keep sketchup simple and limit the features”.