What’s up with SketchUp Make?

While web based modeling is a good offering to have in this day and age, eliminating the free version is going to cause loss of market share over time, I would think. Younger users may get used to it, but us older dogs like to have software on our computers (I am using SU Pro on 2014 MacBook Pro).

How would one make use of the many great extensions in a web version? There’s a lot of functionality that SU needs that the extension developers wonderfully provide. And many times, for free! Best community in the software world.

I understand from 3D Connexion that you haven’t built in the ability to use their drivers in the web version. A SpaceMouse is a must, in my view.

And, while I hate to rant all the time, and for the most part think SU is a great 3D tool, could you work, work hard, on making it a stable application? I’ve had Pro 2018 for 24 hours now, and it’s crashed on me 3 times! Doing mundane stuff - like saving! Pro 2017 crashed all the time, and while I know that was an issue with the 3Skeng plug in, according to Hans at 3Skeng, they worked for months to correct that. (That’s my most used plugin, so excuse me for being so adamant about it working!) I’m so invested in SU with all the time I’ve put in learning it and developing skills, I really don’t want to go look for another modeler, but if I ever have it crash during a presentation (not yet, fortunately), that may well be the infamous straw.



“The Make users haven’t got much room to complain. They haven’t made a financial investment in the development of SketchUp.”

I am a Pro user; have been from almost the start. But I am also an extension developer. Some of which I sell. So I am not immediately affected as a SketchUp user. As a SketchUp developer, my audience has will be much smaller.

To say that the Make users haven’t room to complain and have not made a financial investment in SketchUp is both incorrect and ignores the business model that SketchUp was founded on. When developed by @Last Software, SketchUp’s strategy was to create a market by appealing to hobbyists with free software. @Last Software understood that by doing so many of those free users would both evangelize SketchUp and in time become Pro users. In addition, many of them convinced the company they worked for to adopt SketchUp. Without the free version, SketchUp would never have made it out of @Last Software; it would have died in incubation. Even today, if a free version of SketchUp were not available SketchUp would likely die a slow death.

Your argument that SketchUp 2017 is still here and still working, misses the point. Even a novice can read the writing on the wall; eventually, even the Pro will be cloud-based and the free version is aimed at education. Without a Ruby interpreter and extensions, SketchUp Free is simply a toy; it can’t even produce a cut list for woodworkers.

I am sure there will be improvements to SketchUp Free in the future, though users may grow too frustrated in the meantime and walk. Your prediction that they will include a Ruby interpreter soon may be wishful thinking. If that were their intention they should have made an announcement that indicated their roadmap intentions instead of raising concerns with their customer base.

The analogy of purchasing a table saw every year to acquiring a new software license is lame. The functionality of the table saw has had only one change since the Shakers invented it; now it may not cut off your fingers. Software, on the other hand, is expected to improve and change functionality yearly and within a couple of years be markedly different. SketchUp 2017 still leaves a lot to be desired.

SketchUp would do well to listen to the feedback of its users.



Pro users do actually use extensions way more that Make users. I can’t recall the numbers but as an extension developer myself I don’t worry about this aspect.

Also, if I’m not mistaken, it was Google, not Last, that created the first free version. However I fully agree that SketchUp’s success likely very much caused by the free version. A lot of users have started as hobbyists and than become Pro users who’ve then converted others to SketchUp.

I sincerely do not hope the plan is to also force Pro users into the cloud though :frowning: .


Joe, you have your facts wrong. SketchUp was never available for free under @Last. The free version was released after Google purchased SketchUp. Their reason for offering a free version was related to Google Earth. They thought that by offering a free version of SketchUp, they could get the users to draw 3D buildings and submit them to populate Google Earth. Google did not make that a secret, either. Unfortunately for Google, most users of the free version found they could use SketchUp to draw other things like woodworking projects and cars and spaceships. Google resorted to using other technologies to create the 3D content in Google Earth. SketchUp no longer filled a need for them. Had Trimble not come along and purchased SketchUp, it would have likely gone the way of many other applications Google purchased, wrung out, and discard.

I understand that the market for your extensions and other materials has gotten narrower. Mine has, too. Still, I’m not blaming Trimble for that.


Hi Dave,

I stand corrected on when (and who) made the free version available. But my argument is still correct. Free version users made the success of SketchUp and became largely paying customers. That is still true.

I am not blaming Trimble. I am a big boy and they are a big company; they can take the feedback. I am simply pointing out that they may have made a big mistake here and might want to listen to customer feedback. Certainly you cannot argue that SketchUp Free, as it currently stands is anything but a toy. Remember when Microsoft decided to abandon the desktop and change their Windows user interface to large square icons? The user base forced them to give up on it a few releases later. SketchUp may be headed down a similar path.

I think SketchUp Make users always understood that one day they would have to pay for it. That would have been no surprise. I think a better move would have been for SketchUp to offer Make for $100 to $200, SketchUp Pro for $500 without LayOut and LayOut for $200 - $300. But leaving the Ruby interpreter out of SketchUp is a poor move.

That said, I have real work to do and I have registered my disappointment.



That’s my recollection. (I started with SU before Google bought it.) I think you’ve described the history exactly right. Google famously offers “free” stuff, whilst still making tons of money other ways. It has created expectations on consumers parts to get all kinds of stuff for free without understanding the real price.

I know a major reason the school where I teach SU chose it is because it didn’t cost them. I looked into education pricing for PowerCADD (which was discounted, but not trivial), and that was rejected. Now SU for Schools (essentially the same thing as Free) is more directly aimed at that market, but I still had to advise my students in yesterday’s final class that, if they really liked SU and wanted to get serious and go further with it, they should get SU Make 2017.

As a professional and long time SU Pro user, it’s been tolerable to keep paying upgrades, but surely for new users there’s a huge difference between free and $695. The situation screams for some other choice in between. The obvious thing would be for SU Make to be replaced by SU Lite (or something) with a price tag under $100.


At one time, “SU Make” wasn’t an actual separate program IIRC. There was just one version of SU to download and install, and if you wanted Pro features, you payed up and installed your key to unlock those features. They could return to that approach to implement the kind of tiered pricing you’re talking about.


That’s the way it’s been for the last couple years at least, but going back further, there was only one installer package to download for both the free and paid versions.


Thanks for your detailed reply!

Regarding web based applications I have a quite different view. However I first want to say I also use GSuite quite extensively and have abandoned MS Office completely. When switching computer some years ago I didn’t even bother trying to transfer my Office license. That said I use Open Office much more than GSuite. GSuite is great when you corporate on projects, e.g. for school, but I very much prefer having my own documents and the software I run locally on my own computer. It has several huge benefits.

As several other people have said you don’t always have a stable internet connection. Even if my internet connection is only down for a few minutes I find that extremely distracting when I need to access my documents. I can find it hard to get back into the flow after such an incident. And that is nothing compared to users who’s connection constantly fluctuate.

The other big disadvantage of web based apps is that they can be updated at any time. Don’t get me wrong, I love updates and I am probably one of the first people (not counting Trimble employees) to try the new SketchUp version each year. However I hate it when updates are forced upon me when I am trying to get something done. Even small changes like button being moved somewhere else or a change in the visual style can be extremely distracting and hinder productive. For desktop apps I sometimes turn of automatic updates just not to have the UI changing for me. Ironically, one of the reasons why it took me so long to reply to this was that Firefox forced an update onto me and I had problems browsing the web for some time before I could restore some key aspects of the interface (contrast, saving browsing sessions). I not only want but need to be in control over updates to my software. One of the things I absolutely love about [desktop] SketchUp is that I can install and try new versions while still having access to the old version. (Please don’t ever change that!)

The UI of SketchUp Free will be covered in another thread because of how much there is to say about it.

Concerning performance you need to squeeze out as much as possible from the computer for 3D modeling. Unlike e.g. a word processor any performance drop has large implications for the user. I think this isn’t any less true for hobby users who don’t have any deadlines but can just continue draw at the same project for how long they like, and who often have yet to learn how to properly organize a model with components and layers for best performance.

Edit: I’ve now created a new thread for the SketchUp Free interface:


I’m interested in what Trimble has to say regarding Ruby extensions? To pretend extensions aren’t a significant part of the product is foolish, and something which, if not addressed, will doom the cloud version fast, if not already.

I’ve been a Pro user since it was first offered by Google, and a paid user of the product before then. Still, I believe the loss of Make is a marketing blunder akin to the “New Coke.” Sure, you CAN use browser apps, but to severely cripple them the way Trimble is doing turns the free version into nothing more than a one-trick toy.

The reason I like Make is so that I can convince other users to use SU. The larger the overall userbase, the better the chance I can find others to help on projects-- not to mention the huge threat of a product like SketchUp collapsing under market pressures.

My prediction is unless Trimble changes their mind, SU will see a strong migration off of SU by both Make and Pro users alike. It’s more than clear, other than 64-bit compatibility, Trimble has done very little to keep SU current technology-wise: no native UVmapping, no navtive VR/AR export, poor materials, no native realistic rendering, no native animation. These are all things provided by 3rd party extensions, which of course are no longer available in the Free version.

If Trimble doesn’t rethink this…and fast… I, too, fear the product is doomed. I’m right now looking at other products.


They’ve already said that they want to be able to implement extensions in SketchUp Free. They are working on it. It may not involve Ruby but they are trying to work out a reliable way to get extensions to work.

I agree with the first part about a web app not being able to compare with a native app.

Regarding SketchUp’s development I can’t agree though. Much of SketchUp’s success lies in it’s simplicity. Users who want a renderer or other advanced tools can add that separately and new users don’t need to be bothered by it. The modular architecture is a key to SketchUp’s success.


Extensibility is at the heart of SketchUp, and has been since we decided to launch the first Ruby-based API over a dozen years ago in SketchUp 4.0. Since then, we’ve expanded and extended it multiple times, adding new methods and capabilities and guided by the wants and needs of our developer community. We will always maintain the openest possible APIs inside and outside of the the tools we make.

Given the way web browsers execute code, it hasn’t been possible for us to transparently port the Ruby API from our desktop application to the web. The security model is different and raw performance just isn’t where it needs to be yet. So we’re still working on it, nothing new to announce at this time. If you’ve been tracking our progress through the my.SketchUp beta you’ve seen we’re launching new features more or less continuously over time. We don’t have to wait for an annual release to make improvements. But this is a hard one, and I’m not prepared to predict how long it will take us to nail it.

We recognize the value folks place on extensions they use every day, even those working on personal (not professional) projects for fun. And for that reason (among others) we’re keeping SketchUp Make available to you while we work on alternative end-user development environments that will be able to work in the browser. Every extension you had installed in SketchUp Make yesterday still works in SketchUp Make today. You’re missing nothing by keeping Make 2017 running on your desktop side-by side with SketchUp Free.



Let me add one more thing to this argument- and I think it is an important point. Once you get the hang of them, Ruby extensions aren’t that hard to manage… but raw beginners do have a hard time getting started with them. Where possible and when it makes sense, we’ll try to bring the most popular features into the core SketchUp Free user interface so that beginners get the features they need (without cluttering the UI- I hear that concern) without needing to juggle complex installs.

You may have noticed, for example, that SketchUp Free has a built-in STL exporter. Soon, that will be accompanied by an STL importer. We observed that the most overwhelmingly popular extension among Make users has been the SketchUp STL import|export extension that is maintained by an open source project we sponsor (sketchup-stl on GitHub). Rather than wait for an interface compatible with desktop Ruby extensions in SketchUp Free, we just pulled features from that project into the core application.

Which Ruby extensions do you guys think are the most important ones for your personal projects? Are there features that you think are so critical that they should be built into the core?


(ps: I agree with the argument that SketchUp’s core should remain simple, with specialized features supported through end-user customization. In fact, I’ve given academic presentations on why that is the right strategy in the long term for any “high functionality application”. But I think there’s a little room still in the basic SketchUp UX for some things.)


It makes me glad to see you stressing this! :+1:

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Weld and the Sandbox tools (Add Location is possible so I guess/hope Sandbox stuff will follow :wink: ).

And I want the ability to customize keyboard shortcuts.

The Google perod notably marked me too. I wore out the Chromebook they gave me and replaced it with another Chromebook. It’s an interesting device but has some notable shortcomings - like not being able to add mouse drivers. I really like being able to assign my most used commands to buttons on my mouse: like Undo and Redo replaces back and forward, other buttons get Weld and Deselect All. I don’t like reaching far when I’m into doing something, especially if it’s sculptural in nature (use Sandbox tools a bit here) and only want to move my right thumb a little bit to switch tools in conjunction with left-handed use of keyboard modifiers and Space Navigator.

So when/if 3dconnexion device drivers can be used in this web app, don’t forget some Chromebook users could benefit if they can add mouse drivers. Chromebooks can use some cordless mice, Logitech sells a few that are compatible using the unifying receiver (M705 Marathon is one with long-lived batteries). But mice need additional software to be able to customize buttons.


I really hope you keep an option available for offline use, for a long time. I am a pro user mainly for the ability to use commercially and the Layout option, but started with the free version while designing my small house- used it for a couple years while I didn’t have reliable internet at home. Forget “legitimate need”, a lot of people outside of large cities don’t have good consistent internet and some who aren’t tech-savvy just don’t want to be connected 24/7 for security concerns- can you blame them? I loved Sketchup Make being free and really love the program as a whole, 3D warehouse and everything. The program fascinates me. That being said, if Trimble were to discontinue the availability of a free offline version, for philosophical reasons I’d look to spend my money with another company when time came to pay for an upgrade.


I think a better move would have been for SketchUp to offer Make for $100 to $200, SketchUp Pro for $500 without LayOut and LayOut for $200 - $300.

Great point. This would have been great to see when designing my house. I ended up having a need for commercial license AND layout so I bought Pro later, but I bet there are so many thousands of people who are designing a house or something non-commercially who would gladly pay the $200-$300 just to have layout but couldn’t stomach paying $695


That didn’t go unnoticed here, especially in a school/teaching environment with makerspaces and 3D printers.

Of course the important companion to STL output is Solid Inspector, but I suppose that depends on Thomthom’s underlying library.

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Solid Inspector like all of TT’s extensions is a Ruby-based extension, which won’t be available on SketchUp Free until some time after it implements an extension API.

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