Sketchup — a 3D modeling program — was originally developed by @Last Software, and debuted in August of 2000. Attracted to a Google Earth plugin @Last was developing, Google acquired the company in March of 2006.
In June of 2012, Trimble bought Sketchup from Google, and have held on to it ever since.
Originally, Sketchup was a Windows-only program. Today, there’s a Mac OS version. While there is no Linux version, the program does work quite well using Wine (if you’re a Linux user, you know what that is).
So why am I talking about this program on a Google Chrome blog? Because Trimble recently announced a Sketchup web-app, called my.sketchup.com. This means the program should be usable on any desktop OS with a modern web browser.
The app is invite-only beta at the moment. I requested my invite, and received it about 2 days later, so it doesn’t seem too hard to get an invite. There were no requirements or prerequisites. Just gave them my name and email and waited.
The app of course isn’t as fully-featured as the Windows/Mac desktop version, called Sketchup Pro. But it seems to work well on my Asus Chromebox with an i3 processor and 8GB of RAM.
The web app looks like the desktop version, but with far fewer buttons. Here’s a quick screenshot of the options you have with the Sketchup web app:
There’s also a few options on the right-hand side of the screen:
I’m not going to go through each one and tell you what they do. Partly because that would just take too much time, but mostly because I don’t know what they all do.
If you’re familiar with Sketchup Pro, you probably recognize the icons. If you don’t, you can click that small icon of a graduation cap on the right side for some quick explanations.
Some things I noticed while playing with the app:
Things don’t always snap when I think they should. For instance, if I create a box, and I want to create another box the exact same size, my cursor never “snaps” to align with the edge of the first box. I’m left to just eyeball it. But other times my cursor does snap, particularly to corners. Which is annoying. If I’m trying to create a box, within a box, and I want the second box to be almost as big as the original, I can’t really do that because if my cursor get’s close to the edge of the first box, it snaps to that edge.
I can’t seem to select a plane. This little GIF they made clearly shows planes being selected, filling the plane with dots and a slight blue hue. But I was unable to actually reproduce this behavior in the app.
I also struggle to create “holes” inside shapes. I can create recesses inside shapes, but if I want to carry this recess all the way through the shape, it ends up extending a shape beyond the plane. I’ll try to explain what I mean with some screenshots:
Here’s my original shape. Just a box.
So my plan is to draw another box on the side, and use the push/pull tool to push that new plane all the way through the original box, creating a hole all the way through, effectively turning my box into a box-shaped tunnel. Let’s try it and see what happens.
So far so good. You can see I drew the box like I said I would, and I’ve started to push that new plane through the shape. But I don’t want to just create this little “cubby hole”, I want to push it all the way through the shape. Let’s try it.
So as you can see, if you continue to push that plane all the way through, it ends up creating a new box and extending it out however far you push it. Not the effect I was going for.
This is something that’s quite easy in the free web app called TinkerCad, so it’s rather frustrating that I don’t seem to be able to do it in the Sketchup web app. This could be due to my lack of familiarity with Sketchup, but I’m not exactly an idiot when it comes to this sort of thing, so I feel like if I can’t figure it out, it’s either not possible, or it’s just not very intuitive.
I’ve since been able to create the desired holes. It turns out you just have to make sure you don’t push the plane back further than the end of the object. This is fairly difficult to achieve sometimes, considering the size/shape of the object and your current angle, but it can be done. I was able to create my boxy tunnel.
I’ve also had some trouble with deleting lines. For instance, if I create a box next to a box, and I want to delete the line in between them so it looks like one solid box, it ends up deleting an entire plane when I try to delete a line. Again, this could just be me not knowing how to use this program, but in the tutorial I watched, it seemed pretty easy to delete a line.
One feature I like about Tinkercad is the ability to manipulate objects. Once I’ve created a shape, I can rotate it, spin it, shrink it, grow it etc. I don’t seem to have the same privilege in the Sketchup web app. I can drag edges around to kind of re-shape a shape, but that’s about it.
All in all though, I have to admit it’s rather impressive for a beta release web app that’s free. It seems to work well, it wasn’t sluggish or buggy for me. I was also impressed that it auto-saved my project, and the next time I logged in, it asked me if I wanted to load that project.
For now, if I need to create any 3D objects, I’ll stick to TinkerCad, but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on my.sketchup.com. It will be interesting to see how much effort they put into it, and how many features they’re going to let us play with in the web app and which ones they’ll withhold for the Pro product.
If you have any advice, or tips for using my.sketchup.com please leave those tips in the comments! We love to share knowledge =]
Thanks to Mike from across the pond for the sketchup web-app tip.