Home > Features > Product Review: SketchUp 5

Sketchy Representation

From its inception, SketchUp has valued clear, accessible, non-photo realistic representations of models over photo-realism. This philosophy correlates with the architectural client's aversion towards cold, and seemingly finalized renderings in the early stages of the design process. Previous versions of SketchUp have offered real-time rendering styles for profiled lines, jittery lines, and line extensions. When used with restraint, these styles do create more engaging models. Having said that, these sketchy styles, when used incorrectly, resulted in models that could be considered too cartoonish for professional output. SketchUp 5 improves your chances for creating professional output by introducing an endpoint line style and "depth cued edges." (see image 05 and 06 below)

05 - Endpoint Render

The former style gives subtle clarity to endpoints and corners that hand drawn architectural sketches usually have. Depth cued edges produce line-weight variations depending on the proximity of the edge to the viewpoint. SketchUp's is certainly trying hard to mimic hand-drawn effects, but there will always be room for improvement in software's ability to replicate the human hand.

06 - Render Display Settings


Ruby Script Mania

Since the introduction of version 4, script files written with the Ruby programming language have extended SketchUp's capabilities. These downloadable scripts, written by advanced users, add features and streamline common modeling tasks. Parametric objects, basic cost estimation, splines, contour simplification, automatic window creation, and onion domes are all possible by adding Ruby scripts to SketchUp's Library folder. While Ruby scripts add valuable features to SketchUp, their increasing number, and script requirements make them inconvenient to discover and put to use for professional designers.

Apple had similar problems after the initial release of OS X (10.4 Tiger) with its Dashboard widgets. The widgets (mini applications) became so popular, Apple had to introduce a better solution for installing and managing them. The SketchUp Ruby Forum and other websites aid in finding and learning about different scripts; however, a Ruby script management feature within SketchUp would increase their accessibility for the average user.


Concluding Thoughts

SketchUp 5 has proven to be an extremely solid release. The improved speed for modeling operations like, push/pulling, and drawing are substantial. The makers of SketchUp have also held to their promise to play well with others. They have revised several of their importing and exporting file formats and collaborated with other software companies to produce plugins for both Graphisoft's ArchiCAD and Nemetschek's Vectorworks on the Mac.

SketchUp continues to make slow and complicated 3D modeling a thing of the past. The additional tools and the refining of existing features in version 5 are well worth the modest upgrade cost of $95.00 (US). With the beta release of the Google Earth Plugin, and Google's acquisition of SketchUp, we can't wait to see what the future holds for new features and applications.


Universal Version of SketchUp

SketchUp has not yet been released as an Universal application for running at native speeds on Apple's new Intel Macs. Google has stated their intention to release a native version but has not given a timeframe for a release. Our experience with running SketchUp 5 on an Intel Core Duo iMac (2.0 GHz and 2 GB of RAM) under Rosetta has been surprisingly stable and responsive. Complex models will slow down real-time rendering speeds and modeling, but for simple to moderately sized models, SketchUp 5 performs very well. --- KEMPER SMITH, Associate Editor.

For more information about the world of SketchUp, go to: www.sketchup.com

Published: 3 May 2006


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Home > Features > Product Review: SketchUp 5




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