First launched in 2000, SketchUp is a popular CAD program that does its best to provide a simple, intuitive user interface. As described by their slogan “Think in 3D. Draw in 3D.”, most of the workflow is easy to grasp and can be learned in a matter of minutes.
SketchUp is owned by Trimble Inc., a mapping, surveying and navigation equipment company. There is an online library of free model assemblies (e.g. windows, doors, automobiles), 3D Warehouse, to which users may contribute models. The program includes drawing layout functionality, allows surface rendering in variable “styles”, supports third-party “plug-in” programs hosted on a site called Extension Warehouse to provide other capabilities (e.g. near photo-realistic rendering) and enables placement of its models within Google Earth.
There’s two versions of SketchUp: SketchUp Free and SketchUp Pro. The Free version is totally web-based and runs in almost any browser, while the Pro version ($695 for lifetime use) runs on Windows/Mac with added features and tools. Educator and student discounts are also available on their site.
SketchUp Pro includes the functionality of SketchUp Make plus importers and exporters to common 2D and 3D formats, access to LayOut (2D documentation software) and Style Builder (create custom edge styles for SketchUp models). SketchUp Pro 2016 has native integration with Trimble Connect, treat 3D Warehouse models as references, a totally rebuilt Generate Report and now LayOut offers web-friendly reference objects as well as a new LayOut API.
SketchUp Pro licensing is cross-platform and works on both Windows and Mac machines.
SketchUp Shop is a version of SketchUp specifically for DIY designers, makers, and woodworkers. It has a feature set designed to meet their needs (e.g. interface with 3D printers, CNC routers and other shop machines). A major difference between Shop and Pro is that SketchUp Shop is a web application that you run in a browser while connected to the Internet whereas SketchUp Pro is a downloadable application that you can use offline.
In November 2017, SketchUp Free was released as a web-based application which replaces SketchUp Make. Drawings can be saved to cloud, saved locally as native SKP file or exported as a STL file. Compared to Make, SketchUp Free does not support extensions and creation and editing of materials.
Sketchup Make (formerly SketchUp for Home and Personal Use), introduced in May 2013, is a free-of-charge version for home, personal and educational use. It begins with a 30-day trial of SketchUp Pro. After that time, users can agree to the Terms of Service and continue to use SketchUp Make for free. There will be no further releases of Make after November 2017; users are expected to migrate to SketchUp Free, though the installer remains available for download.
3D Warehouse is an open library in which SketchUp users may upload and download 3D models to share. The models can be downloaded right into the program without anything having to be saved onto your computer’s storage. File sizes of the models can be up to 50 MB. Anyone can make, modify and re-upload content to and from the 3D warehouse free of charge. All the models in 3D Warehouse are free, so anyone can download files for use in SketchUp or even other software such as AutoCAD, Revit and ArchiCAD – all of which have apps allowing the retrieval of models from 3D Warehouse. Since 2014 Trimble has launched a new version of 3D Warehouse where companies may have an official page with their own 3D catalog of products. Trimble is currently investing in creating 3D developer partners in order to have more professionally modeled products available in 3D Warehouse. According to the Trimble, 3D Warehouse is the most popular 3D content site on the web. SketchUp designers may visit 3D Warehouse to discover new products or for inspiration when designing their own.
SketchUp holds U.S. Patent 6,628,279, granted in September 2003, on its “Push/Pull” technology.
SketchUp 4 and later support software extensions written in the Ruby programming language, which add specialized functionality. Many such extensions are available to others on the Trimble Extension Warehouse and many other 3rd party websites as well. SketchUp has a Ruby console, an environment which allows experimentation with Ruby.
SketchUp Free, the web-based version, does not support extensions which severely limits the functionality of the tool.
SketchUp Viewer is a paid app released by Trimble. It is available on iOS, Android, and Microsoft HoloLens.
Cubits for iPad and iOS is a 3D interactive model viewer/renderer. It can view .kmz files from SketchUp either as attachments through e-mail or via Dropbox.
IrisVR Prospect software allows users to view SketchUp files in virtual reality with the use of head mounted displays such as the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift.
Kubity — the first mixed reality multiplex, is a system to instantly visualize 3D models on multiple devices: desktop computers, smartphones, tablets, augmented reality gear and virtual reality glasses. They also developed rvt2skp, a free plugin to export any Revit project to a .skp file.