What are you doing to your beautiful software?

By request, I’m reposting this from a private message I sent, exasperated, to customer support, not knowing where it should go.

Before I begin, I’d like to share some background.

I’m a programmer and artist. I have software libraries hosted in maven-central. I’ve

been using various 3D software packages since the 90s, from Adobe Dimensions all the way up to Cinema 4D and ZBrush. I’ve had occasion to build models for video games, architectural models, landscaping demos and real-world plant assets, and so on. I currently make software and hardware purchasing recommendations for a small landscaping and lawn irrigation company. In other words, I’m familiar with a lot of cross-cutting concerns here, I have stake in this industry and I’m invested in having good tools and technology at my disposal.

So I ask in all seriousness: What are you doing to your beautiful software?!

When I picked up this software for the first time, before it was divested from Google, it was simple, elegant, and made its value proposition immediately: You could take a floor plan, drop a quad on the floor of the correct size, set the texture of the quad to the floorplan, and pretty much just trace out the house or building, extruding it up and getting an effortless preview of how it would look. Implication lines make it easy to line features up, and keep them straight or straighten them. Other tools made it easy to generate information about real-world sizes or areas.

Today, I find the program hobbled. Texture mapping is a premium feature.

Texture mapping.

I find this offensive.

The cloud “features” have negative value to me. They’re a particularly pale shadow of Google Drive, and if I needed that feature I’d rather use Drive as I’m already familiar with the flow of granting other people access to files there. I’m not even sure whether you can do that in Trimble’s cloud. In fact, a sketchup viewer plugin for Drive might actually be a positive value.

Running in a browser has done nothing but awful things to the program. Firefox in particular doesn’t seem to supply it with sufficient information about the shift key, so panning and multi-selecting are often painful processes now. Even though it’s certainly an electron app, and may have always been, it’d be a much better user experience to download, run standalone, and save local skp files like before.

Feature selection for most packages is strange. As a personal user I have never asked for nor need email, phone, or forum support. As a personal user I don’t need an AR mobile viewer, although professionally I’ve had occasion to need this. I’m somewhat shocked at the drop of collada support, though STL is welcome. The lack of wavefront OBJ/MTL export has always been confusing and limited sketchp’s usefulness as a one-stop hard surface modeling tool. The license page and the free edition have completely failed to explain to me what “dynamic components” are. I assume these are distinct from ordinary Ruby extensions in some way I’m unclear on. Ruby, by the way, is a dying language, it already feels like plugins are written in Latin. Even if you have to webpack V8 to sandbox it, I strongly recommend migrating to js in the future.

At its current feature-set, the free version is just enough to whet your appetite for hard surface modeling, but then encourages export to Blender for cleanup, decimation, and export to whatever format is desired. I’m almost at the point of recommending to new artists just learning hard surface modeling in Blender and skipping SketchUp, which is a crying shame considering how bad Blender’s UI is. From the beginning SketchUp had an opportunity to step in and take the low-poly modeling crown, and so far we’re all just sitting there waiting for it to happen.

Pricing is problematic. With features available currently between all versions, if I could get a personal downloaded edition for $60, even if I had to pay for new versions I’d pick it up and recommend the same to others. Likewise, if a professional version hung around $119-299 perpetual, download, with the AR visualization tool, I’d probably wind up recommending the product. In order to hit the institutional pricing you’re asking for, a groundbreaking pencil tool is great but it just isn’t enough. If the platform doesn’t diversify somehow, eventually someone will recreate the pencil and Trimble will have nothing left to sell.

Take ZBrush. They started a trend of amazing high-detail soft-body sculpting tools. When mudbox came out, they had already stepped out into world-class vertex painting, decimation, and retopology tools. Even then, with its clear superiority and diversity, Zbrush currently has a single-user, perpetual download license allowing commercial use of ZBrushCore for $179.95.

For now, I’ll continue slowly migrating to Blender and FreeCAD for all my hard-surface 3D modeling needs. But please consider making some changes and staying relevant.