Home > Features > Product Review: SketchUp 5

[Editor's note: Since Google's purchase of @Last Software and subsequent announcement of Google SketchUp, this fee-based product is now referred to as SketchUp Pro 5. This review refers to that version.]

The application that many in the Macintosh architectural community could not imagine living without was updated to version 5.0 last year. The original creators of SketchUp, @Last Software (recently purchased by Google Inc.), have continually refined 3D modeling and design on the Macintosh since version 2. Now that SketchUp has been around for awhile, users are starting to take real-time 3D modeling and push/pulling for granted. Other popular CAD and 3D design software companies have felt the pressure and are introducing similar features to make modeling with their software easier. SketchUp 5, however, sets the bar even higher.

SketchUp's popularity and maturity has approached a level where we can accept user friendly, real-time 3D modeling and be critical about new capabilities and features. Like all application development, new versions of SketchUp must provide additional functionality while keeping existing capabilities easy to find and use. SketchUp 5 shows that you can introduce new features without adding complexity. Notable features that were introduced with version 5 are as follows:

  • Updated and unified user interface across Macintosh and Windows versions
  • The Sandbox: tools for creating and editing terrains
  • Improvements with displaying and managing model components
  • Modest improvements in real-time rendering styles
  • Ruby script improvements
  • Speed increases in some modeling operations
  • Significant import /export improvements
01 - Main Tools
02 - Sandbox Tools


Refining the Interface

The Mac version of SketchUp has sported an elegant, easy-to-use interface from the beginning. The Windows version's interface, while similar in functionality, differed from the Mac version. SketchUp's support staff and users switching between both platforms had a difficult time navigating the differences. SketchUp 5 has consolidated the two into one familiar interface. Luckily, the end result for Mac users hasn't changed much. Snappy palettes, and larger, more informative tool icons and cursors are the most apparent improvements to the Mac version's interface. These seemingly small improvements make the program more accessible to new users (see image 01 above). SketchUp 5's interface is still surprisingly simple for a professional 3D modeling application that must accommodate hundreds of settings. Such accommodation has been positively merited in previous Architosh reviews, as keeping powerful tools simple is a real challenge for developers and a virtue of the Macintosh experience.


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Home > Features > Product Review: SketchUp 5




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